Bishop Gracida responds
Bishop Rene Gracida has written in response to my Commentary article, When Bishops Disagree, and given permission to reproduce these comments:
Phil, I would like to offer a few of observations to complement your article.
First, while it is true that each Ordinary is the teacher on faith and morals for his diocese, he cannot teach in isolation from the teaching of the Vicar of Christ; there must be more than a minimum of conformity. Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI have taught with clarity that the taking of innocent life preempts all other social issues. Their teaching on the subject has been a clear refutation of the "Seamless Garment" argument.
Next, the issue of voting for a pro-abortion candidate is primarily a moral issue rather than a political issue. Therefore, every Ordinary has an obligation to teach the people entrusted to his pastoral care without ambiguity that a Catholic cannot vote for a pro-abortion candidate.
You will note that I have referred to the obligation of Ordinaries. In the United States the danger of losing the tax-exempt status of the Church may perhaps be seen as justification for caution on the part of Ordinaries, it ought not to be a factor in the actions of bishops who, like myself, do not hold any official position in the Church. As a retired Bishop I do not speak for any entity of the Church. While my civil rights may have been held in self-imposed restraint during the years I was an Ordinary, I did not lose them with ordination and I am now free to exercise them to the fullest.
Finally, with regard to the official position papers of the USCCB, the positions of that body have always represented compromise positions on burning social and political issues. I was a new bishop attending my first plenary session of the NCCB when Cardinal Bernardin and Archbishop O'Connor had their great debate in Chicago on nuclear armaments. The end result of that debate was a compromise. Similary, the Denver Statement on the implementation of Canon 915 was a compromise. While the Conference may compromise in its statements, Ordinaries do not have that freedom when the question is basically one of faith and morals.
The question of an Ordinary jeopardizing the tax exempt status of his Diocese is a very complex one which does not admit of a simple answer. As far as I know, no diocese has ever lost its tax exempt status. However, the enemies of the Church have certainly tried through litigation to cause that to happen. It would be wrong for an Ordinary to jeopardize the tax exempt status of his Diocese for any reason short of the most important, the defense of innocent human life. Therefore, I do believe that abortion is a great enough threat to our society to justify an Ordinary taking a strong stand against the candidacy of such a pro-abortion candidate as Barack Hussein Obama. An Ordinary need not name the candidate by name, as I have done, but surely the Ordinary possesses the literary skills to condemn the candidacy on moral grounds in such a way as to leave absolutely no doubt in the reader's mind as to the identity of the candidate whose candidacy is being condemned.
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