gamesmanship

By Diogenes ( articles ) | May 29, 2004

Remember David Duke, the cheerfully race-baiting Louisiana Klansman who caused a stir as a presidential candidate in 1992? Imagine for a moment that he were a Catholic as well as a Klansman and were running for office, and that he presented himself for communion. Is there is a single U.S. bishop who would allow him to receive it? Of course not. More to the point, is there a single U.S. bishop who would see his refusing Duke as "politicizing the sacrament" à la Keeler? It's more likely that the bishops would be puzzled by the question: "We're not the ones who are playing politics with the sacrament," they'd say, "David Duke is. Catholic teaching is clear." And not a single liberal columnist -- Catholic or heathen -- would utter a peep of demurral.

Or take Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, the Wyoming men who bound, robbed, and pistol-whipped Matthew Shepard and left him to die, making of him a gay martyr. Suppose activists in the Montana Freemen tradition (after suitable advance publicity) were to present themselves for communion wearing sashes reading "Free McKinney and Henderson!" or "Liberty for the Laramie Brothers!" Would they receive an episcopal welcome ("Our Church believes in giving people a second chance") in the dioceses currently open to the Rainbow Sash brigade? Would attempts to deny the agitators communion be roundly denounced as exclusionary or politically punitive?

Somehow I doubt it.

Just as some men hold their personal dogmas so uncritically that they think they hold no dogmas at all, so unimaginative people identify so completely with their politics that they don't recognize them as politics. Almost anyone not in violent revolt against 90% of what he sees on television belongs to the latter group. Cardinal Keeler and his colleagues are probably sincere in thinking that Archbishop Burke is "politicizing" the Eucharist by denying it to John Kerry -- not that they disagree with Church teaching, but, like Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw and the editors of the NCR, they see opposition to abortion as a partisan stance and, e.g., opposition to the death penalty as simple common sense.

Remember too that, for a bishop as for anyone else, life is considerably easier when one accepts the dominant world-view on its own terms and speaks its language. In explaining his reluctance to deny communion to pro-aborts, Cardinal McCarrick was not being fanciful in putting his "comfort" front and center.

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