Ratzinger backs bishops’ statement

Ratzinger backs bishops’ statement

It was very apparent upon reading Cardinal Ratzinger’s letter to Cardinal McCarrick, which was leaked last week, that McCarrick had misrepresented what Ratzinger’s letter had to say about denying Communion to pro-abort pols. Yet, how then do we explain this letter from Ratzinger to McCarrick, addressed to him but intended for public consumption saying that Ratzinger supports the US bishops’ statement on the matter. Now, for one thing, a distinction should be made between what McCarrick said and what the bishops eventually adopted. Ratzinger is clearly giving approval to the bishops’ statement, not McCarrick’s report that misrepresented Ratzinger’s letter. Even so, Ratzinger is apparently backtracking here to save McCarrick. Why?

For one thing, maybe McCarrick was miffed that Ratzinger’s letter leaked out of the German cardinal’s office in Rome, and he demanded some payback. Maybe this was Ratzinger’s attempt to mend fences. For another, I notice that while the note is addressed to McCarrick, it says nothing about what McCarrick said, only the bishops’ statement. Yet the bishops’ conference puts McCarrick’s name on this whole thing very prominently, making it appear to be a vindication of McCarrick.

Whatever the case, I’m saddened to see that the cause of truth and clarity has taken a hit here. So which position are we to follow here? McCarrick’s task force, the US bishops’ statement, or Ratzinger’s original letter?

  • Remember that the “Statement” does strongly condemn abortion and its proponents. The sentence that gives the appeasers their “wiggle room” is “Bishops can legitimately make different judgments on the most prudent course of pastoral action”. This does not mean the Bishops can legitimately ignore clear canon law and tradition. This means that the Bishop can say privately rebuke the offenders rather than castigate them on the evening news. It is McCarrick’s other comments that have caused the problems.


  • I’m not sure there’s a conflict.  It seems to me that Dom’s correct to note the distinction between on the one hand countenancing McCarrick’s characterizations of Ratzinger’s views, and on the other hand finding the USCCB’s Statement to be “in harmony” with the CDF’s “general principles.”  As Dom notes, Ratzinger’s latest letter is silent on the former. 

    I think a fair way to read all this is as follows:

    (1) The CDF’s view as expressed in the “general prinicples” stands.

    (2) The USCCB’s excoriation of pols who support abortion, while leaving it to each bishop to deal appropriately with pols in his diocese also stands, and does not contradict the CDF’s view.

    (3) The CDF’s view, as expressed in the “general principles” should be the guide for individual bishops as they undertake the process of meeting with and correcting wayward pols.  (That is, the CDF trumps McCarrick’s statements as to how individual bishops should handle pols who take objectively sinful public positions.)

  • “So which position are we to follow here?”

    It would seem that we are to follow the Holy See and those statements that are in accord with it.

    The statement from Cardinal Ratzinger is clear, we have ascertained that.  The teaching from the US bishops has no explicit dubium in it.  Therefore, since the two are not in opposition.  We are to defer to the teachings of our local ordinaries. 

    The reason; we don’t have any reason not to, except personal feelings.  Those should not enter into it.

    So, in short, the answer, obey the Magisterium.  It is becoming more clear every day.  Cardinal Ratzinger and the US bishops are not in opposition. 

    Cardinal McCarrick’s statement, however, has a serious dubium in it and needs clarification.


  • The only thing that required a clear resolution was ducked: whether the discretion in applying canon 915 is absolute and therefore possibly disregarded in entirety for any reason or no reason, or whether there are cases under 915 that can obligate the bishop to act.

  • Looks like Ratzinger’s original instruction disappeared down the same rabbit hole as the Pope’s “It is as it was” pronouncement on Mel Gibson’s movie. When statements issued by authoritative sources at the height of the Church no longer suits the perceived interests of the Church, they get unsaid. What confidence our leaders inspire.

  • Rod, in what sense did the CDF’s statement “disappear”?  That sounds like wishful thinking from Cdl. McCarrick, whose face remains prominently covered in egg.  There’s been no denial or withdrawal of the leaked statement by Cdl. Ratzinger.  To the contrary, it is reaffirmed in his latest letter.   

  • Here is an idea put forth from a CNS article about this very topic.  Ineteresting:  “While the bishops’ statement and Cardinal McCarrick’s comments on the topic emphasized the necessity of prudential pastoral judgments assessing the facts and circumstances in each case, the memo from Cardinal Ratzinger on general principles did not discuss the aspect of how a bishop should apply the principles in specific cases.

    A number of news reports on the memo, ignoring that context, inferred that the memo posed an absolute rule that all Catholic politicians who campaign and vote for permissive abortion or euthanasia laws must be barred from Communion if they continue to hold that position after being instructed that it is contrary to church teaching and warned that they should not receive Communion until they change their views.”

    It also says, ” L’Espresso and numerous other news reports characterized the U.S. bishops’ statement—which said a prudential judgment and decision whether to withhold Communion in particular cases rests “with the individual bishop” and “bishops can legitimately make different judgments” in individual cases—as conflicting with the principles outlined in the memo.”  This simply isn’t the case.  It has been made clear by Ratzinger, now.

    BTW, I give about as much credence to L’Espresso; as I do to People Magazine in the States.  They are on the same level.  Suprise, Suprise……


  • Gee, Catholic News Service is the official news agency of the US bishops’ conference. How surprising they would voice the company line.

    The story you quote, as you say, clearly contradicts Ratzinger’s letter. As for what you compare L’Espresso to, all I know is that they have broken a number of news stories on the Church. Besides, apart from their reporting, they simply printed Ratzinger’s letter, and that speaks for itself.

  • CNS has been deficient in so many ways for so long that’s its hard to understand in what way the USCCB can contend that it’s relevant, useful or providing any service not already being better provided by numerous Catholic periodicals.  If it’s there merely to help diocesan papers fill out their pages, then there’s got to be a better way and a better service.

    As for L’espresso,  I know nothing about the magazine itself, but I believe that its vaticanista, Sandro Magister (who had the by-line on the Ratzinger story) is fairly well respected. 

  • Mr. Bettinelli,

    Regardless of what Signore Magister or anyone else has reported, the fact remains that the bishops are coming together on this very important issue.

    It is clear that Cardinal Ratzinger supports the position of the USCCB.  I still wonder about Cardinal McCarrick, however, the letter that you cite is addressed to him, so I think that perhaps Cardinal Ratzinger may not be so opposed to what he has said.  It is not enough proof yet, but I think that we’ll see in the next week or so.

    Although, Cardinal Ratzinger seems to implicitly support “The task force.”  He says, “It is hoped that this dialogue can continue as the Task Force carries on
    its important work.”

    I think that the clarification is becoming clearer.  I still stand by my statements above and prior to on this issue.


  • Look at what Bishop Steinbock wrote (see the other blog entry). That doesn’t look like they’re “coming together” on anything. All we have is the vague statement of the US bishops’ conference, Ratzinger’s letter, and McCarrick’s report, all of which say something different, even though they all claim to be in agreement. I don’t think it’s any clearer at all.

  • Mr. Bettinelli,

    A question or two.  Does Cardinal Ratzinger affirm the US bishops position?  Does Cardinal Ratzinger find merit in Cardinal McCarricks task force?

    I think that it is becoming clearer.  Is it totally clear?  Nope.  Are things being worked out?  Yep.  Are we possibly putting the cart before the horse?  I think so.


  • We will have to see how the “Right to Murder Heresy” suit in the Arch. of Boston is going to be resolved. Canon lawyer Marc Balistieri (Spelling) has shown laudable courage in initiating, from what I have read the first suit of this nature since the Canon Code of 1983 was established. Please keep him in your Prayers according to Peter Vere (Canon lawyer) Marc is exper. “persecution” (financial, may have lost his job ect…) in relation to this action.

  • So I’ve read all the news stories and tons of comments on this subject and I’ve come to the knowledge that the bishops have individual juristiction of their dioceses and the Vatican supports them in this decision of individual autonomy.

    What confuses me is when one bishop takes a particular stand on an issue and his brother bishop takes a totally different stand on that same issue. If the Vatican says that bishops have total juristiction over their diocese, is there a right and wrong here? It almost reminds me of St. Paul ‘withstanding St. Paul to his face’—was St. Paul wrong to do that if there is this collegiality and autonomy thing going on?

  • Coll,

    “Illions” are leaving the Church—and if they do, what’s Rome or any Bishop to do about it?  No Bishop, priest, or Pope can save YOUR soul.

    Secondly, the release of the document to the Italian press IS the proverbial 2×4 across the mule’s nose.  “Romanita” is analagous to a different language—we have to learn it to understand what’s being said.

    It is apparently the judgment in Rome that a sudden ‘orthodox crackdown’ is not the best tactical course.

    Personally, I would do it differently; but that’s above my paygrade.

  • “Are the bishops acting in the Person of Christ here?  Some are.  But very few. “

    An apt summary of the whole degrading mess our Church is in.

  • Ninenot,

    I agree with this premise completely….
    “No Bishop, priest, or Pope can save YOUR soul.”

    Also, as one who has had a lot of contact with Roman clergy and those close to Roman clergy, I totally agree with the assessment of Romanita.  This is so true: “ off the pneumonia and her blood pressure has stabilized. They tried to take her off the ventilator but she is not strong enough yet so please pray that her lungs and breathing mechanisms will soon be strong enough for that! She is not out of the woods yet but each day beings greater hope. Today, she is one week old and that is great news!

    My sister Clara is doing well, she is such a strong person. She is reading up on preemie babies and has bought a book of child bedtime stories to read to Mia in the NICU. Eric, Mia’s dad, had to leave for California today to start his new job tomorrow as an ER doctor. He will fly back to Connecticut as he can. Please keep him and Clara in your prayers.

    Thanks for your prayers.


    2004-07-12 14:24:45
    2004-07-12 18:24:45


    2004-07-12 22:41:42
    2004-07-13 02:41:42
    Still prayin

  • From Zoe:

    Mia continues to have little ups and downs each day but it’s mostly good. Right now, we are praying for her liver, kidneys, and stomach to develop and heal since they are the critical organs right now and vulnerable to damage from some of the medications. She may also need another blood transfusion- she’s already had two. (When they take blood from her she can not replace her blood count fast enough.) On Monday she’ll be four weeks old, but she
    still has a way to go. She’s up to 2lbs and 11 oz… each ounce is good news.