Friday, September 23, 2011

Is There a Discipline Double-Standard in Catholic Church? By James Todd


Over the last year, three prominent priests, all outspokenly pro-life, have been the subject of disciplinary actions by their bishop or immediate superior. Fr. Frank Pavone is the latest of these. The other two are of course, Fr. Corapi and Fr. Euteneuer. It is not my intent to lump these three together in terms of guilt or innocence; rather it is only to illustrate that in each case a very public action was initiated against them.

To be clear, I am NOT criticizing a Bishop's right or obligation to discipline. As lay Catholics from the outside looking in, we may not always understand or even agree with the actions taken by the Church hierarchy. However, we do acknowledge that one of the duties of a spiritual shepherd is to reprove and correct all of the faithful under their care, whether priest or layperson.

According to the website that tracks Catholic politicians and their votes, as of 2009 there were 161 Catholics serving in Congress. Twenty-six had a 100% voting record on all life issue votes and twenty-eight have never taken a pro-life position, earning a 0% voting record. Thirty four Catholic lawmakers co-sponsored the Freedom of Choice Act of 2007. Seventy-five Catholic members of Congress accepted campaign donations from groups that advocated for unrestricted abortion rights.

Unfortunately, there appears to be double standard within the hierarchy when it comes to meting out discipline. In the three cases mentioned above, highly public steps were taken where a problem was perceived to have existed. Would it be that equally decisive action were taken to correct and reprove Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Andrew Cuomo, Rudy Giuliani, John Kerry, and other prominent pro-abortion Catholics politicians in public life.

Catholics understand and support the behind-the-scenes dialogue and diplomacy that Bishops and others within the Church hierarchy must use with prominent Catholic officials. Most Catholics would prefer to have such issues resolved in this way and not to air our dirty laundry in public. However, when public dissent by prominent Catholics continues for years and in some cases decades - as is the case with many politicians - some kind of public disciplinary action is necessary.

I can think of only one instance in the last five years where a Bishop actually took a public position against a Catholic politician. That instance was when Archbishop Joseph Naumann publicly requested that then Gov. Kathleen Sebelius not receive Holy Communion due to her pro-abortion position. That's it, and though public, one can argue that this wasn't a disciplinary action - but that's beside the point. The point is, out of dozens of very prominent Catholics in the Congress and State Houses, there is ONLY one example of a bishop taking action in response to their dissent.

Many faithful Catholics see a double standard here. If public action is called for when prominent pro-life priests who have strayed from the path, surely there is an equal need to take a public stand against prominent pro-abortion Catholics who have dissented for years or even decades - and remain unrepentant to this very day.