Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Use Your Inside Voice: The High Pitch of Pro-Life Advocacy Could Heed Some Old-Fashioned Parental Guidance

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Use Your Inside Voice: The High Pitch of Pro-Life Advocacy Could Heed Some Old-Fashioned Parental Guidance

Article excerpt

"I BELIEVE IN COLLABORATION." THAT RHETORICAL DUD normally wouldn't pass as an applause line, but Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe, New Mexico gets a standing-O from me for it anyway. His church-shaking profession of faith, voiced in an interview with the National Catholic Reporter, came on the heels of yet another showdown in the perpetual series of run-ins between Catholic political figures and a boisterous group of Catholic bishops and laypeople, some of whom, I am convinced, don't think anyone who ever pulled a ballot for a Democrat should go to Communion, even in danger of death.

The contretemps in this case was whether the late Senator Edward Kennedy, a Catholic, pro-choice (and pro-poor, pro-affirmative action, pro-health care, pro-environment) Democrat, should receive a public Catholic funeral, and, if so, whether Boston's Cardinal Sean O'Malley should participate in it.

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O'Malley, himself no liberal, gave a blunt answer to those who criticized his appearance along with President Obama: "At times, even in the church, zeal can lead people to issue harsh judgments and impute the worst motives to one another. These attitudes and practices do irreparable damage to the communion of the church." Yes, he said irreparable.

It's become obvious that certain voices in the U.S. Catholic Church, including a minority of our bishops, have so narrowed the definition of the word Catholic that many believers are starting to doubt their place among the People of God. The desire of some to deny a dead man a Catholic funeral is a sign of how serious that vocal minority is about a leaner, meaner, "purer" church.

That's not news, though. The headline here is that finally--finally--moderate voices among the bishops are speaking up and acknowledging the obvious: "Hysterical activity doesn't bear fruit, and there's been some hysteria in these areas," said Sheehan, speaking of the pro-life cause. "We'd be like the Amish, you know, kind of isolated from society, if we kept pulling back because of a single issue."

Sheehan had a perfect example of a successful engagement with opponents: "We've gotten more done on the pro-life issue in New Mexico by talking to people that don't agree with us on everything. …

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