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Tear Off The Scab, Heal The Wound

September 4, 2018 Frontpage No Comments

By CHRISTOPHER MANION

The statement released by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò on August 25, reprinted in its entirety in this issue, is required reading. The fallout (yes, fallout, because it was a devastating blast) still continues. Predictions?
Alas, we have entered a new stage of what Msgr. George Kelly called “The Battle for the American Church” forty years ago. Only now the battle is worldwide, and all cards are on the table, turning face-up, one at a time.
When Pope Francis gave his blessing at his audience on August 29, he was met with chants of “Viganò! Viganò!” This is simply unprecedented. And so is the continuing rage that followed the release of the report of the Pennsylvania attorney general regarding the decades of abuse in dioceses there. Like Viganò’s statement, it contained too many verifiable facts to dismiss, to “bury and move on.”
New particulars emerge by the hour. Here we examine one fundamental theme that focuses on the cardinal who plays a central role in both Viganò’s statement and the Pennsylvania report. The conflict presented here is central to the battle that continues today, and its resolution will depend on what happens when the dust slowly settles, as our vision clears and the catastrophe abides. It concerns two cardinals who represent two forces within the Church that are now in full battle mode.

A Momentary Victory
Brings Lasting Damage

When Pope Francis was elevated to the throne of Peter in March 2013, he took his time in reviewing the membership of the Vatican’s various congregations.
Finally, in December 2013, Pope Francis appointed Donald Cardinal Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C., to replace Raymond Cardinal Burke as the only American member of the congregation that reviews the candidates for bishop whose names will be submitted to Pope Francis.
The change was not insignificant. In particular, the two cardinals differ profoundly on the application of canon 915 in the case of American public figures.
Cardinal Wuerl has long maintained a “pastoral approach” regarding the many prominent Catholic politicians in his archdiocese who publicly advocate abortion.
The cardinal articulated this view during a speech to the John Carroll Society at the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, Md., on March 11, 2012.
Asked to explain when Communion should be denied under canon 915, “he repeated his earlier position that only in extremely rare cases after an individual has been publicly excommunicated” should it be denied, reported the National Catholic Register.
Cardinal Wuerl’s “earlier position” on canon 915 had been on the record since he was bishop of Pittsburgh.
In a 2004 speech that was later published by the USCCB, Bishop Wuerl said, “Given the longstanding practice of not making a public judgment about the state of the soul of those who present themselves for Holy Communion, it does not seem that it is sufficiently clear that in the matter of voting for legislation that supports abortion such a judgment necessarily follows. The pastoral tradition of the church places the responsibility of such a judgment first on those presenting themselves for Holy Communion.”
In 2007, one year before Pope Benedict appointed him to head the Vatican’s highest court, then-Archbishop Burke published “The Discipline Regarding the Denial of Holy Communion to Those Obstinately Persevering in Manifest Grave Sin,” a lengthy exposition on Canon 915.
There he delivered what can only be called a scathing critique of Bishop Wuerl’s view.
Relying on a declaration issued by the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts on June 24, 2000, Cardinal Burke referred specifically to Bishop Wuerl’s speech, charging that it “effectively, in the language of the Declaration, would make it impossible to apply can. 915. It confuses the norm of can. 916 with the norm of can. 915 in a way which makes can. 915 superfluous.”
While canon 915 applies to the minister of Communion, canon 916 applies to the recipient. It requires that a Catholic who is conscious of mortal sin may not receive the Holy Eucharist without prior sacramental Confession when this is possible (and it usually is possible). Canon 916 applies to the person’s own sense of the state of his soul.
That’s why Cardinal Wuerl is mistaken, Archbishop Burke insists: applying canon 915 “is not a judgment on the subjective state of the soul of the person approaching to receive Holy Communion, but a judgment regarding the objective condition of serious sin in a person who, after due admonition from his pastor, persists in cooperating formally with intrinsically evil acts like procured abortion.”
Burke’s article appeared in Periodica De Re Canonica, a prestigious journal published by Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University. It is required reading for canon lawyers and prelates around the world. Cardinal Wuerl undoubtedly took note.
And Cardinal Burke undoubtedly took some heat.
In fact, he admitted as much when EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo asked him about it in an interview that aired on December 11, 2013.
“I’ve received very severe criticism,” he said. “But…it’s a consistent discipline from the time of St. Paul from the very first years of the Church and it makes perfect sense.”
Ironically, five days after the interview aired, the Pope’s decision to replace Cardinal Burke with Cardinal Wuerl on the Congregation for Bishops was made public by the Vatican.

The Fallout Continues

Ten months later, Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York confirmed Bishop Wuerl’s interpretation of canon 915. “Most [bishops] don’t think it’s something for which we have to go to the mat,” he said.
But what he didn’t say was just as important: “Most bishops who were in office covered up for abusers in one way or another. None of those bishops quit — and their number is legion — well over a hundred. If they start criticizing politicians for supporting abortion, you can bet that the pols will retaliate, big time. And that’s something none of us want.”
Of course, few bishops did want that — but now, a growing number of bishops have finally said, “No more cover-ups.” Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, one of the first, called for a full investigation and “urge[d] that its findings demand accountability of all found to be culpable even at the highest levels of the Church.”
Of course, that’s what The Wanderer has urged for over thirty years. Cardinal Wuerl’s temporary “victory” has meant defeat for the American faithful. As the comments of Cardinals Wuerl and Dolan indicate, the doctrinal arm of the body of American bishops has been anaesthetized by fear, its moral voice silenced by voluntary “laryngitis,” its spine removed. That doesn’t leave much, frankly, but what remains cowers there in countless chanceries, quaking at the prospect that what many prelates have been able to dodge for years will now come to pass.
Blase Cardinal Cupich of Chicago, in what has to be one of the most craven and cynical public statements ever heard from an American cleric, has dismissed the possibility of pursuing Archbishop Viganò’s allegations as “go[ing] down a rabbit hole.” Pope Francis has a “bigger agenda” and wants to move on to important issues like “the environment and protecting migrants,” he told Chicago’s NBC 5.
Sorry, Blase. That won’t work anymore. It’s over.

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