Catholic Culture News
Catholic Culture News

not my job description

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Feb 09, 2007

The negation of leadership. Asked tough but timely questions about pro-abortion Catholic pols, San Francisco Archbishop George Niederauer stammers, panics, and retreats into the high grass (from California Catholic Daily):

Vision Book Cover Prints
Rebecca Corral: And if you're still having the conversation, and, and the Catholic believes a certain principle in her own heart, the dialog is still ongoing, what does it mean, where does it go? Can you still get Communion?

Archbishop Niederauer: I think that when I stand at Communion time, in front of the altar, to distribute Communion, I, like all priests and bishops, I believe, am counting on the individual communicant who's coming forward to receive Communion, to decide whether he or she is worthy of Communion and is ready to receive it, this Sacrament. I am not there principally as a gatekeeper. I am there as a priest and a celebrant to give forth the Eucharist.

The question wasn't directed at you as a parish communion minister, Excellency, but as the archbishop of a metropolitan see who directs his own clergy and who must instruct the faithful. As for the pathetically lame "I'm not a gatekeeper" excuse, I don't know where you locate yourself in John 10:3 ("whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep; the gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice"), but it's obvious that some keeping of the gate is necessary, and if you find the task personally uncongenial you should appoint a less conflicted Catholic to make sure it gets done. The interview resumes:

Ed Cavagnaro: Now, one of your own flock, a Catholic woman from San Francisco, is now one of the most powerful people in all the country. Nancy Pelosi, a Catholic from San Francisco, is the Speaker of the House. She is not only pro-choice, but she would be someone who would be working to try to keep abortion legal. In your view is she less of a Catholic because of that?

Archbishop Niederauer: Well, I have met on one occasion, with Speaker Pelosi, before she was Speaker Pelosi. It was last year. And I -- we've -- exchanged viewpoints on a number of things. At that time, it was last spring, and it was principally about immigration, because that was very much the hot-button topic of the time. We haven't had an opportunity to talk about the life issues. I would very much welcome that opportunity, but I don't believe that I am in a position to say what I understand her stand to be, if I haven't had a chance to talk to her about it.

Well, Archbishop, NARAL awards Pelosi a 100% approval rating plus a positively drooling endorsement, which should give you a hint as to her stand. Is there any San Francisco Catholic, yourself included, whose position on abortion is better known?

Were Niederauer ambushed by reporters when leaving Wendy's half an hour after the first announcement of his bishopric, his squishy and panicked non-answers would be understandable -- dismaying, but pardonable in the circumstances. But this was an interview to which he'd agreed in advance (did he think he'd be asked for his shortbread recipe?) and the questions put to him treat of an issue that has been on the front burner since before the 2004 elections, with eminently intelligible "guidelines" provided by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, and plenty of time to work out a cogent and articulate response. Had his interviewers taxed Niederauer on the morality of the minimum wage or gender-exclusive pronouns, they would have touched on the sort of topics bishops can get excited about, and they'd have gotten in response not only an unambiguous answer, but one that had some moral enthusiasm behind it. But clearly he has no appetite for studying, still less defending, Church teaching on "the life issues." Small wonder he preferred to talk to Pelosi about immigration.

So the faithful of San Francisco are saddled with another five years of leadership by dialogue -- the dialogue, i.e., their bishop always hopes will take place in the near future. The solution? There is none -- no fix from above, at any rate. Those committed Catholics stuck with bishops that are morally weightless, a variety of styrofoam packing peanuts, should move forward the pro-family and pro-life initiatives like an 18-wheeler, which will pull along some of the flakes of styrofoam in the vacuum created by its forward rush. By their own insistence they're not policemen, they're not gatekeepers, they're not watchdogs, they're not comfortable saying no, but they are successors of the apostles, after all, and make decorative appearances at weddings and funerals.

P.S. As church, we are opposed to spouse-abuse.

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