Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, reporting yesterday before the plenary of the USCCB on his job as President of the Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians, blamed the media and partisan activists for unjustly attacking bishops who spoke out this election year on whether dissenting Catholic politicians should receive Communion.
In a speech delivered behind closed doors and released Wednesday, McCarrick also announced that the Task Force will follow the spirit of the agreement reached last June by the USCCB in Denver.
The Cardinal noted positively that there has been a “great deal of attention paid to the role of Catholics in political life during the last few months” which has forced Catholics to grapple with what it means to be a Cahtolic and a citizen, a voter.
Despite the media and partisan attempts to “pit one bishop against another,” he stated that the US bishops “are united in our defense of life and the dignity of the human person—the two great causes of our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II--and we have continued to work together to preach the “Gospel of Life” in all its dimensions.”
Referring to the Denver agreement, Cardinal McCarrick said that “bishops can come to different prudential and pastoral judgments on how to apply our teaching to public policy. Our task is to help our Conference move forward, reflecting our unity in our teaching and respecting diversity in pastoral practice in a spirit of collegiality.”
The cardinal also clarified the conference’s position on moral claims that featured prominently during the elections: “We do not believe that our commitment to human life and dignity and our pursuit of justice and peace are competing causes,” he said.
“While we do not believe that all issues have equal moral claims,” he continued, “we will work to protect those whose lives are destroyed by abortion and those who are dying of hunger, we will strive to protect human life from the moment of conception until the moment God calls us home and we will strive to pursue peace. We will work for human life and dignity, for justice and peace.”
He outlined steps that the Task Force has taken in order to fulfill the commitments made in Denver which consist of:
1. An investigation by the Committee on Doctrine and the Committee on Pastoral Practices, into Church teaching on the proper disposition to receive Holy Communion
2. Continuing consultation on theological and canonical aspects of these matters within the Conference and with the Holy See.
3. The develoment of resources and tools to help bishops in carrying out the Task Force commitments:
the development of a “Reader on Catholics in Public Life” with excerpts from Papal, Conciliar and USCCB statements on the responsibilities of Catholics in public life, “to be used by bishops as a basis of teaching, dialogue, and persuasion."
efforts to “persuade” Catholics to defend human dignity in public life according to Catholic principles.
“a commitment to maintain communication with public officials who make decisions every day that touch issues of human life and dignity,” in order to explain Catholic principles and “dialogue with them.”
consultation with leaders in Catholic education, Catholic health care, and Catholic social services to discuss how to fulfill the USCCB affirmation that “the Catholic community and Catholic institutions should “not honor” those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.
In concluding, Cardinal McCarrick said that “we welcome and affirm the discussion of the “culture of life” in the campaign, and the focus on “moral values” in the exit polls,” and hoped that it would lead to “real action to protect unborn children, defend marriage, protect the lives and dignity of all those who are poor and vulnerable and promote peace in a violent world.”