Thursday, August 03, 2006

The meaning of moderation

This is what George Weigel and Cardinal Theodore McCarrick have been debating lately in a rather public forum.

Weigel, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and biographer of Pope John Paul II, launched the interchange with this column, "Truth at the fifty-yard line?," which ran in several diocesan newspapers in the United States.


In a series of talks and interviews surrounding the announcement of his retirement as archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick frequently told his favorite John Paul II story: the story of the Pope walking up the center aisle of the Newark cathedral in October 1995, touching people on both sides.

This, Cardinal McCarrick suggested, was how priests and bishops ought to act --- sticking to the "middle," in order to be in touch with everyone. Or, as he told National Public Radio, "The job of a priest always forces you to the middle.… We've got to be in the middle so that we don't let those on the left or the right get lost." ...

It's not easy to know what Cardinal McCarrick means by his oft-repeated admonition to moderation...

To stand in the center of the aisle and claim to be in communion of mind and heart with people who both affirm and deny [that Jesus Christ is the Son of God] is to confess to severe intellectual confusion. Is a validly ordained priest necessary for the valid consecration of the Eucharist, or isn't he? It's hard to believe that Cardinal McCarrick would have wanted his archdiocesan vocation director to stand in the center of the aisle on that one...

Cardinal McCarrick, the recently retired archbishop of Washington, responded to Weigel's column with this letter to the editor that recently ran in the Denver Catholic Register.

The cardinal seemed offended at Weigel's column, describing it as "at the minimum, deceptive journalism." In the end, he responded to the charges against him that he felt Weigel had made in his column:

I will continue to call for moderation and civility, and to reach out and talk with everyone, regardless of what side of the aisle they are on. That doesn’t mean compromising our faith and our teachings, but it does mean that we treat each other with respect as befits the dignity of our brothers and sisters, avoid name calling and personal attacks and be careful that what we say is always true both in its expression and its implication.

In response to Cardinal McCarrick's letter, Weigel wrote one of his own, in which he attempted to explain the purpose of his original column:

My point — which seemed clear enough to the many people, from all states of life in the Church, who have thanked me for what I wrote — was that a pastoral strategy that encourages priests and bishops to stand “in the center of the aisle” may serve certain purposes, but cannot be effective when core doctrinal issues are at stake.

He also seemed to invited Cardinal McCarrick to review his original column, writing that a "fair-minded reading, or perhaps re-reading, of the column will, I hope, demonstrate" its purpose stated above.

So, what is the meaning of moderation in discussions in the Church and in the broader society? Share your views on the topic...with a moderate tone if you please.


Quinn Olinger said...

We need priests who fight for the family and the preborn. We need to guide them around the corner of doubt to the right :)

Matt said...

We need them (priests) to be faithful to Christ and His teachings. That means that the priest must disregard where he is viewed to be standing by those whom he wishes to lead.

I tend to agree with Mr. Weigel. By using the anecdote of the "center of the aisle", His Emminence tacitly employs the left vs. right comparison that is rarely helpful in eccesial matters.

Even if he doesn't mean it, Cardinal McCarrick uses very nuanced language that in the end muddles (cf. his handling of the 'Eucharist to Pro-Abort politicians' issue).

Let us pray for these priests and bishops. They are people too, just like us. Who need salvation, just like us.

God bless them all.