Out of contact

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Oct 19, 2004

The Catholic News Service-- which is subsidized by the US bishops' conference-- has a very different take on the story that has stirred up such a ruckus on CWN.

Did a California canon lawyer seek a response from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith?

"The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has had no contact with Mr. (Marc) Balestrieri," said Dominican Father Augustine DiNoia, undersecretary of the congregation.

That looks like a strong, sweeping statement. He had "no contact."

The CNS story continues:

The questions Balestrieri wrote in Latin and sent to the congregation asked whether the church's condemnation of abortion is a matter of Catholic faith and dogma for which opposition would constitute heresy.

So he did write to the CDF. (He also went to the office, sat down with a CDF official, and talked for a while.) Still, he had "no contact."

Kinda makes you wonder what "contact" actually means.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Brad - Oct. 20, 2004 7:25 AM ET USA

    Don Vicente - Kerry has already provided the pretext for his own excommunication. Publicly rebuking the Bishops on the issue of abortion while at the same time emphasizing his Catholicism is scandal of the most severe form and also obstinant heresy. It is shameful and detestable. This is not about politics - it is a challenge to those that say are supposed to act "in persona Christi" to act like a man if not like Christ Himself.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 20, 2004 12:54 AM ET USA

    IMHO, the wobble in Fr. DiNoia's statement isn't about the meaning of the word 'contact' but about the meaning of 'the Congregation'. The staffers at CDF aren't members of the 'Congregation'; only the appointed bishops are.

  • Posted by: extremeCatholic - Oct. 19, 2004 4:17 PM ET USA

    In December 2003, Peggy Noonan received e-mails from Joaquin Navarro-Valls, head of the Vatican press office who later denied having contact with her giving her permission to make public comments spoken to Steve McEveety giving the Holy Father's opinion of The Passion of the Christ. As far as I know, JNV never retracted the denial and its implication that Noonan and/or McEveety were liars.

  • Posted by: Don Vicente - Oct. 19, 2004 3:01 PM ET USA

    I would suggest checking out Ed Peters' excellent blog site on this matter: http://mywebpages.comcast.net/enpeters/blog.htm (Ed is both a civil and canon lawyer, and a solid Catholic.) I think that a lot of people are reading their own dreams into a personal letter expressing a personal theological opinion. It must be said: Clearly, the CDF is NOT, and has not been, looking for some sort of pretext to excommunicate Kerry. Folks, wake up and smell the coffee.

  • Posted by: - Oct. 19, 2004 12:39 PM ET USA

    "Contact" means different things to different people, Phil. These days, it might be wise for all Church officials to deny contact with any layman--if you take my meaning. Of course, I could be wrong and this might simply be a mistake in translation of the Latin text of Fr. DeNoia's statement. Perhaps DeNoia and Balestrieri only had a "close encounter." In any case, we should consult a leading prelate, don't you think? Cardinal McKarrick has experience interpreting CDF statements...

  • Posted by: - Oct. 19, 2004 12:21 PM ET USA

    According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "contact" is "the state or condition of touching" and it can be construed to mean "to meet, come across, be brought into practical connexion with." Now I suppose Mr. Balestrieri might not have touched the Congregation. Indeed, how does one touch a Congregation? But it sounds like he was "brought into practical connexion with" the Congregation. Once again we find unprincipled people playing both sides against the middle. "Yes for yes, No for no."

  • Posted by: - Oct. 19, 2004 11:57 AM ET USA

    The Vatican soup kitchen is back in business. Bon appetit.