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New bishop praised Pope's handling of abuse scandal, criticized ‘Eucharistic sanctions’ against pro-abortion politicians

July 06, 2010

Pope Benedict on July 6 named Msgr. Robert W. McElroy, a priest of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, as auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese.

An alumnus of Harvard University and Stanford University-- from which he received his Ph.D. in political science-- the 56-year-old priest is the author of The Search for an American Public Theology: The Role of John Courtney Murray (1989) and Morality and American Foreign Policy: The Role of Ethics in International Affairs (1992).

In an April 2010 homily, Msgr. McElroy defended Pope Benedict and criticized bishops who failed to discipline abusive priests. “I believe that the failure to protect children in our Church arose not from callousness or indifference, but from the fact that for too many years the Church looked at cases of molestation through two defective lenses which have distorted its ability to address the abuse of children in a Christlike manner: the lens of psychological illness and the lens of forgiveness,” he said.

The lens of psychological illness led bishops and the Church to primarily approach the abuse of children as a mental illness of the abuser. During the period from 1950 to 1980 leading members of the psychological community told bishops that those who had abused children could frequently, with proper therapy, be healed so that they no longer posed a threat to children. By the 1980’s therapists no longer stated that abusers had been healed, but many therapists still advised bishops that abusers could safely be reassigned to positions which did not involve children, especially if their initial abuse had been linked to alcohol.

On the other hand, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, as prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “had already come to reject vehemently the lenses of mental illness and forgiveness which had hobbled the Church’s efforts to combat what he termed ‘moral filth’ in the life of the Church,” said Msgr. McElroy. He continued:

And he has become the most ardent advocate for genuine reform on this issue in the Church throughout the world. Recent criticisms of the Pope’s past actions seem to me to reflect more western culture’s preoccupation with finding flaws in institutions and their leaders, at the expense of the wider truth that the current Pope has been the Church’s most vigorous exponent of reform in the global Church and has paid a heavy price for doing so. It is fair to criticize the Pope for actions that he personally took; it is not fair to condemn his moral character for actions in either the Archdiocese of Munich or the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for which he was not responsible.

In a 2007 America article, Msgr. McElroy argued from the just-war tradition for the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. In a 2005 America article, Msgr. McElroy criticized Archbishop John Myers of Newark and others who wished to impose “Eucharistic sanctions” against pro-abortion politicians.

Characterizing members of “the sanction camp” as proponents of a“new eucharistic theology,” Msgr. McElroy wrote, “The imposition of eucharistic sanctions solely on candidates who support abortion legislation will inevitably transform the church in the United States, in the minds of many, into a partisan, Republican-oriented institution and thus sacrifice the role that the church has played almost alone in American society in advocating a moral agenda that transcends the political divide.”


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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: filioque - Jul. 06, 2010 10:30 PM ET USA

    Perhaps we can hope that under Card. Ouellet we will get some bishops who have a better understanding of their jobs.

  • Posted by: - Jul. 06, 2010 8:21 PM ET USA

    Do I read: If Republicans supported abortion as much as Democrats then Eucharistic sanctions would apply to pro-abortion politicians??

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Jul. 06, 2010 7:02 PM ET USA

    If you spend any time at all at Stanford (I just had a year for an MA) you marinate in far-left liberal thinking. It's stimulating, but if you aren't constantly studying your Catholic faith, you come up with nonsense like "barring communion with public sinners is counterproductive." Let's pray for this one lest the San Francisco fever carry him away.

  • Posted by: New Sister - Jul. 06, 2010 7:24 AM ET USA

    Sorry, but this priest seems to be in la-la land...I think Msgr McElroy's efforts to prevent sending the wrong message "in the minds of many" is, in fact, sending the wrong message. He should take care not to be more concerned about public opinion/perception than he is with defending and reinforcing Truth "in the minds of many." It is a scandal to all Catholic Faithful to see Pelosi receive Holy Communion. Banning her would do far more to instruct us than Msgr's publishing of books!