InsideCatholic on "Archbishop Burke, Father Euteneuer, and Catholic Charity"
Marjorie Campbell writes at InsideCatholic:
On January 21, Coach Rick Majerus of Saint Louis University told a pressing radio interviewer during a pro-Hillary Clinton rally, "I'm pro-choice personally."(emphasis added)
Predictably -- no doubt as the interviewer hoped -- the coach's remarks set off a flurry of controversy, punctuated by Saint Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke's immediate response: "It's not possible to be a Catholic and hold those positions . . . which call into question the identity and mission of the Catholic church."
Later, on February 1, during an interview with St. Louis Review, the archbishop used the incident as a springboard to discuss core Catholic teachings and public dissent. He emphasized his desire that Catholics not be scandalized or mislead by public misrepresentations of core Catholic teachings, and that, on the level of dissident persons like Majerus, the figure "first has to be dealt with pastorally." The archbishop declined to pronounce dramatic disciplinary consequences such as the denial of communion or excommunication, but rather encouraged confused, doubtful, or insolent Catholics "to seek the help of a spiritual director to clarify these things" and to "get the help to rectify your conscience."
If the matter rested there, within the charitable, uncompromised, and educational contours of the archbishop's remarks, there would be little to add. Archbishop Burke was, after all, addressing the personal political remarks of a member of the athletics faculty at a college whose president only recently "testified that the university is not owned or controlled by the Roman Catholic Church, the St. Louis archdiocese or any other church and . . . does not require its students or employees to aspire to [Jesuit] ideals or to have any specific religious affiliation."
But the matter didn't end there. For reasons both unclear and unfortunate, Coach Majerus's remarks became fodder for a flurry of Catholic blogging activity -- flamed by a quote attributed to Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, president of Human Life International:Rick Majerus is more of a basket case than a basketball coach. His sicknesses all fit so neatly together: He has a modern anti-Catholic "Jesuit" education; he embraces superficial, undigested rhetoric about the issues; he is a jock pretending to be a scientist; and he exhibits a defiant disobedience to religious authority. Dante would have a field day -- no pun intended -- putting this guy in the pit of hell. He should be excommunicated along with all the Jesuits who "educated" him.A wide range of Catholic bloggers seized upon Father Euteneuer's characterization of Coach Majerus and the Jesuits, commending Father for the "Quote of the Day"; for speaking "forcefully on key moral issues, unlike many of the clergy today;" saying "it so well" in a "compact, yet powerful paragraph." Many other bloggers -- including young orthodox Catholics no doubt weary of sharing pews and airwaves with communion-going Clintonian Catholics -- picked up and linked to Father Euteneuer's blast.
Each new blog spot deepened my distress. I nurtured hope that someone would temper the words attributed to Father Euteneuer, particularly calling a baptized member of the Body of Christ "a basket case" with "sicknesses," "a jock pretending to be a scientist," and advocating that he be put "in the pit of hell" and "excommunicated." But the words spread and echoed through the Internet -- like an ivy overtaking and choking Archbishop Burke's tone and message, threatening to poison our theological concept of Catholic charity...
I posted the following response to Campbell's piece at InsideCatholic:
"If the matter rested there, within the charitable, uncompromised, and educational contours of the archbishop's remarks, there would be little to add... But the matter didn't end there. For reasons both unclear and unfortunate, Coach Majerus's remarks became fodder for a flurry of Catholic blogging activity ..."
I agree that charity should reign on the blogosphere when commenting about these situations. And I agree that Fr. Euteneuer's comments are quite unfortunate in this regard. But I'm a little confused by some aspects of your column.
First is the timeline. You attribute Abp. Burke's declining to "pronounce dramatic disciplinary consequences such as the denial of communion or excommunication" to his Feb. 1 interview with the St. Louis Review, and then go on to say that the matter should have ended there, but didn't. But, in fact, most of the blogging activity on this story (including the posts to which you link) took place BEFORE the Archbishop's Feb. 1 interview.
Second, you left out a key part of the story to which most bloggers were responding: Majerus' defiant rejoinder to Abp. Burke's immediate response that "It's not possible to be a Catholic and hold those positions . . . which call into question the identity and mission of the Catholic church." Majerus' rejoinder, which, among other things, demonized the Archbishop for upsetting Majerus' "elderly mother" who was afraid her son would be excommunicated or denied Communion, was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Jan. 23. THAT'S what many if not most bloggers were responding to.
Third, the vast majority of blogging I saw on the subject was completely without reference to Fr. Euteneuer's comments (I didn't even know of them until now). Your column gives the impression that it is unfortunate that ANYONE blogged on this story for ANY reason, and implies that all the bloggers who did so are tainted by association with Fr. Euteneuer's intemperate remarks. In fact, there was much responsible blogging that focused on (1) defending the Archbishop's perogatives in this situation rather than on telling the Archbishop what he "ought" to do, and/or (2) the political aspects of a prominent Catholic voting for a candidate precisely BECAUSE that candidate is pro-abortion and pro-ESCR. Surely that is fair game for Catholic blogs.
The fact is, when a Catholic with a public persona uses his or her celebrity and/or position at a Catholic institution to call into question the Church's teaching or to publicly defy his Bishop, that is going to draw fire from the blogosphere. One would hope, however, that your call for charitable commentary would prevail and that bloggers wouldn't act as combox pontiffs pronouncing excommunication upon the offending party.
Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Basketball Coach Majerus Defiant Toward Archbishop Burke on Abortion and ESCR