thou art the man

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jan 22, 2007

Via Amy: the Archbishop of Washington Donald Wuerl fields the hot question of the hour:

When [Wuerl] took questions, a woman asked how be would respond to Catholic politicians who support legal abortion.

His response was "teach."

"That is what Jesus did," he said. "Did everyone accept that teaching? No. ... But he didn't stop teaching. We are in this for the long haul."

It's hard to think of an instance in which episcopal teaching has in fact caused a pro-abortion Catholic pol to soften his stance (still less repent of it), but let's take Wuerl at his word. The follow-up question is: by "teach" do you intend simply to restate the doctrine, or do you include personal admonishment of those Catholics who reject it?

In view of today's anniversary -- 34 years since the Roe v Wade decision -- let's flash back a further three decades to look at another "life issue" in the balance, viz., the fate of Jews in Nazi Germany. Was the proper role of Christian churchmen -- in Germany, in 1943 -- one of education (by stressing the positive and giving good example) or one that included personal rebuke of individuals who outraged the moral law?

In her book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, Hannah Arendt discusses the initiative taken by a group of Protestant clergymen, led by one Pastor Heinrich Grüber, to intervene with the Nazi authorities "on behalf of [Jews] who had been wounded in the course of the First World War and of those who had been awarded high military decorations; on behalf of the old and on behalf of the widows of those who were killed in World War I." These categories of Jews (which Grüber proposed to be exempted from shipment to concentration camps) correspond to those originally exempted by the Nazis themselves but who later (after the Wannsee Conference) were fed into the killing machinery like the others. Arendt admires Grüber, and holds him up for our admiration as well, but then makes this disturbing point with reference to an episode in Eichmann's post-war trial for "crimes against humanity" in which Grüber was in the witness stand:

Eichmann's defense attorney Dr. Robert Servatius for once took the initiative and asked the witness a highly pertinent question: "Did you try to influence [Eichmann]? Did you, as a clergyman, try to appeal to his feelings, preach to him, and tell him that his conduct was contrary to morality?" Of course, the very courageous pastor had done nothing of the sort, and his answers now were highly embarrassing. He said that "deeds are more effective that words," and that "words would have been useless"; he spoke in clichés that had nothing to do with the reality of the situation, where "mere words" would have been deeds, and where it had perhaps been the duty of a clergyman to test the "uselessness of words." Even more pertinent than Dr. Servatius' question was what Eichmann said about this episode in his last statement: "Nobody," he repeated, "came to me and reproached me for anything in the performance of my duties. Not even Pastor Grüber claims to have done so." He then added, "he came to me and sought the alleviation of suffering, but he did not actually object to the very performance of my duties as such."

Nobody came to me and reproached me for anything in the performance of my duties. Would it have made a difference if Grüber had done so? Maybe, maybe not. But as Arendt laconically remarks, we're inclined to think that a clergyman, more than other citizens, might have disregarded the calculus of political probabilities and -- like the prophet Nathan in the presence of King David -- delivered a rebuke simply because it's true. Looking back on the Nazi crisis from this distance, which course do we wish our clergy had taken?

If Wuerl were to admonish pro-abortion Catholics individually, ought he make the fact of the admonishment public himself? Not necessarily. He may judge it well to give it some time to sink in. But to keep it mum serves -- and only serves -- the purposes of the malignant.

So, Archbishop, teach by all means. But don't lose sight of the 4,000 wrong answers given daily. It matters.

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  • Posted by: - Jan. 26, 2007 10:41 AM ET USA

    Another point re Wuerl, McC, Can 915, & Land 'o Lakes. Many readers know this detail, but it bears reiteration: The "priest with faculties" Wuerl spoke of was - yes - Fr. Robert Drinan, S. J. (See my 1st post below.) And notice that Wuerl, in referring to "faculties," is fully aware of Canon Law. It is sad that, in the present decadent situation of Catholicism in the U. S., Canon Law serves to do little more than print 'club' membership cards for dissidents & toss out annulments like candy.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 25, 2007 7:49 PM ET USA

    "Silence is the ally of atrocity?" Well, he should know, especially in the light of his own silence at Pelosi's sacrilege not three weeks prior! Sheesh!!

  • Posted by: - Jan. 25, 2007 2:16 PM ET USA

    Land o' Lakes has everything to do with the present situation of Catholicism in America &, in particular, the Canon 915 controversy. Compare the Land o' Lakes quote I posted with this defense by Wuerl of his non-action as Trinity feted Rep. Pelosi, or 'Nancy' as she is known to His Ex. “That was a matter between the university & Nancy. They were offering their location, & the Mass was celebrated by a priest with faculties, & there was no reason to make any comment.” Cal Cath Daily 1/15/07.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 24, 2007 12:19 PM ET USA

    Compare this line from Land o' Lakes, '67, signed by McCarrick & many Jesuit university presidents, with Roe v. Wade's basic premise: "[T]he Catholic university must have a true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical, external to the academic community itself ..." The elimination or minimalization of the role of Canon Law is closely tied to the Americanism that Leo XIII condemned in 1899. See Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae at

  • Posted by: - Jan. 24, 2007 10:02 AM ET USA

    I & many others here agree wholeheartedly, SentimentalGent. The teaching you are describing is what the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth called teaching 'by example' at the Catholic grammar school my 7 siblings & I attended in the Arch. of Boston in the 60's & 70's. Canon 915 obligates bishops to 'make examples' of the pols in question. When they fail in that duty, the bishops acquiesce in Satan's teaching by example in marching these pols up to the minister of Holy Communion for all to see.

  • Posted by: SentimentalGent - Jan. 23, 2007 10:21 PM ET USA

    Yes, it is important to teach, but there are different types of teaching. Speaking to a crowd of the evils of abortion is teaching. But so is refusing Holy Communion, the precious Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, to someone who publically supports the so-called legal right to abortion. It is good to teach as Jesus did, but Jesus also called the religious leaders of the time white-washed sepulchres. Teaching. He also taught by throwing the money-changers out of the temple. That's also teaching.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 23, 2007 1:08 PM ET USA

    I could not help but be struck by the of the idea of "saving a few." Substitute "late term" for "WWI Vet" and you'll see what I mean. All Abortion is evil. Does focusing on a "winnable" battle lessen our overall effectiveness in the war? B.T.W. Bishop Wuerl, Jesus told them "Go and sin no more." Pilot asked them to examine "What is truth?" Who's 'style' are you going to imitate?

  • Posted by: - Jan. 23, 2007 12:45 PM ET USA

    Our parish bulletin insert last week explained that the USCCB called for a recognition of "violence" the week before Jan. 22. We are to take a family pledge against all forms of "violence": harsh words, not listening to one another... Am I the only one who sees this as a wa

  • Posted by: - Jan. 23, 2007 11:03 AM ET USA

    Arch, Wuerl presided yesterday at the Pro-Life Mass at the Verizon Ctr in D. C. He did not urge the 20K before him to overturn Roe v. Wade. I know of no published appeal by McCarrick or Wuerl to overturn Roe. The U. S. bishops published a statement on Nov 15 2000 demanding Roe's reversal. They did it again on Nov 11 2002. I think M & W agree with Fr. Drinan, &, hence, refuse to enforce Canon 915. URGENT: Can anybody point me to a published statement by M or W clearly urging Roe's reversal?

  • Posted by: - Jan. 23, 2007 9:47 AM ET USA

    florentine, Did the good Bishop Wuerl go outside on the marchers stage and address all the people there? Did he denounce the politicians that claim that they are Catholic and yet keep voting to keep abortion alive? Did he beg of them, please do not show-up for Holy Communion until they have publicly denounced abortion because they are" not in Communion" with the Catholic Church? If Bishop Wuerl did not do that, anything short of that, is not courages, because he was merely teaching the choir.

  • Posted by: Eagle - Jan. 23, 2007 7:03 AM ET USA

    I think it's helpful to remember how a priest is chosen to be a bishop: it's a question of politics, not principles. Further, promotion from being an auxiliary bishop in a large city, or promotion from being an Ordinary in a rural diocese, again involves politics, not principles. If our ecclesiastical leaders are chosen in that manner, why should one expect a metamorphosis from politician to prophet when politics were the basis for the original attainment of the eminent position?

  • Posted by: - Jan. 23, 2007 6:19 AM ET USA

    The situation with Wuerl is not completely the same as with Pius XII. However, the point in the article is that clergy should "disregarded the calculus of political probabilities." Diogenes makes a comparison with Heinrich Grüber that is very relevant for Piux XII. If, as he suggests, Gruber should have been more direct in 1943, in Germany itself, then it must necessarily draw comparison with Pius XII, in 1939, in Rome.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 23, 2007 12:47 AM ET USA

    Absolutely BRILLIANT!

  • Posted by: - Jan. 22, 2007 11:11 PM ET USA

    Will Wuerl become Cardinal Comfortable the Second?

  • Posted by: - Jan. 22, 2007 11:01 PM ET USA

    Exekiel 3:16-21 tells of being appointed a "watchman" over the house of Israel-a responsibility carring consequenses for both the watchman and the watchee. It's not just an interesting idea, but something that describes a reality that WILL happen. Our responsibility is to intercede for an "intervention" by the Lord Himself to bring Revival to the Church, short of that we don't get what don't ask for.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 22, 2007 9:23 PM ET USA

    I followed the same sort of righteous indignation in the Wanderer off and on for the better part of thirty years. It accomplished nothing except perhaps to heighten the anger of many people. Where in Diogenes' post or in any of the commentaries are exhortations to prayer or penance? As I recall, Our Lady of Fatima urged prayer and fasting as remedies for the sins of our age. How many pounds have we lost in fasting and praying for our bishops, O voluble soldiers of Jesus Christ? Oremus

  • Posted by: florentine - Jan. 22, 2007 9:03 PM ET USA

    I hate to shock you Uncle Di, but Arbp. Wuerl shocked me this morning as I listened to his homily in preparation for the March for Life in D C ... he really did teach, and was very courageous, forceful about the horror of abortion and the importance of standing strong in support of life from conception to death. Wuerl also drew the abortion/ Holocaust comp. saying "SILENCE IS THE ALLY OF ATROCITY." This kind of teaching WILL change hearts and minds and we need to voice appreciation and support.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Jan. 22, 2007 7:40 PM ET USA

    wvcatholic, the situations are not completely analogous. The Nazis were in the process of overrunning Europe, killing anybody who stood in their way. Publicly excommunicating Catholic Nazis would have meant instant death to even more millions. How many hours would it have taken for Hitler to seize the Vatican? Maybe the pope should have died a martyr. Abp. Wuerl is in no physical danger from Kennedy, Kerry, Pelosi &al. The only people they are killing are those yet unborn.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 22, 2007 7:35 PM ET USA

    A true successor to Cardinal McCarrick. Speak and say nothing. Protect the Democrat party at all costs. Meanwhile 3000 babies per day are dying and this Bishop is going to "teach". Teach what? It's been 34 years since Roe V Wade; where has all the teaching gone? Maybe after another 34 years of "teaching" we will see our bishops start to confront the "Catholic" politicos who support, abet and espouse killing innocent babies. Keep e mailing the Vatican!

  • Posted by: - Jan. 22, 2007 7:34 PM ET USA

    I wonder how our shepherds are handling their place in promoting scandal? As defined in the CCC, they become responsible for any wrong done by others as a result of that scandal. Theirs is truly a weighty position when dealing with such issues. The Apostles weren't the greatest group of individuals when Christ called them, but they sure did present a solid and consistent front after Pentecost. Maybe the Holy Spirit needs to use the winds and tongues of fire again to reassure them.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 22, 2007 6:40 PM ET USA

    This raises the obvious question - was Pius XII negligent in the fact that he did not publically excommunicate every member of the Nazi party? It seems very obvious that if you thing Wuerl is negligent now, then Pius XII was negligent in the 30's and 40's.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 22, 2007 6:08 PM ET USA

    When they finally came for me....

  • Posted by: - Jan. 22, 2007 5:53 PM ET USA

    But do not forget what happened in Rome after the Wannsee decision: cf. Silva's "The Confessor." AMDG

  • Posted by: - Jan. 22, 2007 5:03 PM ET USA

    All moral dilemmas are a conundrum to a man with no principles. -- GK Chesterton, I think.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Jan. 22, 2007 5:03 PM ET USA

    And we can't forget that Abp. Wuerl is not unique. He is, in fact, typical of our bishops, archbishops and Cardinals. There are exceptions, but you can probably count them on the fingers of your two hands.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 22, 2007 3:35 PM ET USA

    Yeah, Uncle Di, keep the hits coming. And we should start (I've never stopped) emailing the Vatican with our DISCONTENT about the quality of the bishops we're STILL getting.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 22, 2007 3:21 PM ET USA

    Eleazar: I had an e-mail exchange with Ann Rogers during the '04 campaign over her fawning editorial treatment of John Kerry and the failure of then-Bp. Wuerl to confront Kerry over the Communion issue. Rogers knows nothing of authentic Catholicism and relies on whatever the diocesan mouthpiece tells her. Yes, she--like most Pittsburghers--is a Dem, a flaming liberal, and, apparently, a supporter of abortion. God bless the Calif. woman that asked and exposed Wuerl for the weakling that he is!

  • Posted by: - Jan. 22, 2007 2:55 PM ET USA

    It just amazes me that Bishop Wuerl is going to teach. What is he saying? All these years ,that Cardinal McCarrick was there , there was no teaching. Yet, Bishop Wuerl is using the "same style" as Cardinal McCarrick. I call it the "easy-way-out style" which is very harmful to the unborn. Anybody can be for "social justice" when you stand for Nothing! it is very easy to go along and get along. There is no courage in taking the stand to have more respect for pro-abortion politcians than Jesus.

  • Posted by: sparch - Jan. 22, 2007 2:01 PM ET USA

    Another example of one who has the power to make a diffrence trying to hide behind words that mean nothing. Congress is full of people like this. Apparently so is our church (the bishops at any rate). What are we going to do?

  • Posted by: - Jan. 22, 2007 1:45 PM ET USA

    May I remind his Excellency that while Jesus taught, so did those opposing pharisees and scribes. It would seem more appropriate for the Archbishop to compare himself in true Christlike humility with those whom he most resembles. In the case of his gross negligence of pastoral duty and lack of moral exhortation, it may be in the best interest of his Excellency's immortal soul to look to the pharisees as his more likely mentors. That is, if he actually believes in his own soul.

  • Posted by: Sir William - Jan. 22, 2007 1:27 PM ET USA

    The Pitts. P-G has always been a liberal-speak paper, so no shock at the slant. But the words of the Abp. leave me quite sad. Perhaps he forgets that half of teaching is making sure your 'students' understand and apply the lesson - a student's failure (and this 'class' is many) is often a reflection of the teacher's methods. These days, every student gets a star on the forehead and a pat on the back for 'trying' -even failures. I don't recall Jesus' words to the Pharisees being very affirming

  • Posted by: - Jan. 22, 2007 12:32 PM ET USA

    What would it take for Bishop Wuerl to have a money changers moment?

  • Posted by: Eleazar - Jan. 22, 2007 12:32 PM ET USA

    I was stunned by the way that Ann Rodgers (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) slanted this piece (far-right edge of the Catholic blogosphere, conservative wing of the anti-abortion movement, etc) Clearly she is a liberal demoncrat (er democrat) who doesn’t like her hero Nancy Pelosi held accountable for her apostasy. Abp Wuerl is correct, Jesus did teach; but he also enjoined the woman caught in adultery to “sin no more” and violently expelled the money-changers for defiling the Temple.

  • Posted by: - Jan. 22, 2007 11:46 AM ET USA

    Don't stop, uncle Di, don't stop! Keep the hits coming!