Reading Between the Hats

Pope Benedict XVI has announced the 24 men who will become cardinals next month. There are two Americans in the group: Archbishop Burke of St. Louis and Archbishop Wuerl of Washington D.C.

It seems pretty clear that this is, in part, a stinging loss for those Catholics on the left who have attempted to deride Burke and other hardline Catholics on the abortion issue as being “out of touch with the Vatican.” Obviously, Burke’s viewpoints are not so distasteful and Calvinist to the Pope. Considering how vocal Burke has been on the issue, it would stretch credulity to think that the Pope did not think that Burke’s interpretation of the meaning of the abortion issue in the voting decision is an acceptable Catholic position.

However, with the appointment of Wuerl the pope seems to be suggesting that Burke’s position is not the only one. In a papacy that has confounded left and right, the pope does so again by elevating one of the more vocal bishops on determining withholding of communion on an individual basis in regards to pro-abortion politicians. Wuerl was however also extremely vocal in opposing DC’s move to same-sex marriage.

While neither “side” can claim victory with these two appointments, what has been defeated is the idea that the Vatican has a right answer. That the Vatican secretly disdains all these Republican voters or that the Pope wishes he could excommunicate everyone cannot be held except by the severest of ideologues. Instead, the Pope is sending a message that, as he did in Caritas in Veritate, he wants the different sides of the aisle in American to be dialoguing with each other and this debate, far from being an example of silly American politics, may be one that the rest of the world needs to be engaged in. So while neither side can claim victory, both sides seem to be encouraged in coming to the table to present their arguments.

17 Responses to Reading Between the Hats

  • I think you’re right to an extent, Michael.

    But I’m not sure it actually represents some sort of “compromise” on whether those who publicly dissent from Church teaching on issues such as abortion, same-sex “marriage”, torture, etc. should be permitted to receive Communion. On matters of Canon Law, Abp. Burke is the expert, not Abp. Wuerl. The fact that not only does Abp. Burke serve as the Church’s chief canon lawyer but has now been raised to the status of Cardinal, in my mind, argues that someone in high places thinks Abp. Burke knows his Canon Law stuff.

    In addition, I don’t think Abp. Wuerl’s being raised to a Cardinal can necessarily be seen as a defeat for those on the so-called “right”; whereas Abp. Burke’s being raised to a Cardinal is a clear and resounding defeat for his detractors on the “left”.

  • I for one am ecstatic for both announcements. I don’t see this as any sort of mixed message. While Wuerl does take a less hard-line approach than some would want, his preaching has been consistent and clear throughout his tenure here in DC. I am very happy to see him finally get his red hat.

  • I should say that I’m very happy to see Abp. Wuerl get a red hat, as well. Somewhat surprised Abp. Dolan didn’t get one, though.

  • Somewhat surprised Abp. Dolan didn’t get one, though.

    Me, too.

  • Yeah, it’s not a mixed message but it’s not a clear endorsement of “Burke is right about excommunication.” Both bishops have been good in arguing in defense of life however.

    I too was surprised Dolan didn’t get a nod. Perhaps he is too new to his post?

  • Dolan did not get one for the reason many did not. That is technically a few of these American Sees as well as elsewhere have a Former Cardinal under the age of 80 and can still vote. Dolan should be up next year.

    I actually like Wuerl a lot. I think his stance during the recent DC debate on the gay issues and Church services was a strong one.

    Further he seesm to be taking care of business. Vocations are up, little by little CUA is gaining their Catholic ID again. I get the sense of a very Orthodox Archdiocese on the whole.

    Further having him as Cardinal will help even more the new Anglo Catholic structure that is coming on line that he is head of.

  • How old is Cdl. McCarrick? Is he already 75?

  • Sorry, 80, not 75, is the cutoff age for voting.

  • And McCarrick just turned 80 in July.

  • I think you are reading this too much through the prism of American politics; in reality, it was a bureacratic decision. McCarrick turned 80, making space for Wuerl. And Burke’s job typically comes with the red hat, like him or not.

    I was happiest with Abp. Marx of Munich, one of the leading authorities on Catholic social teaching. Marx has criticized the tendency of “reducing Christianity to religious ideology propping up the market economy” and had praised the German model of “a welfare state that works: insurance for the unemployed, benefits for those laid off, support for those with odd jobs, public health care.”

  • praised the German model of “a welfare state that works: insurance for the unemployed, benefits for those laid off, support for those with odd jobs, public health care

    The first two on the list have been provided by state governments in this country since the 1930s. The last has been provided by the state and federal governments since 1965. As for the 3d, perhaps one of our attorneys recalls when the Earned Income Tax Credit was enacted.

  • The Archdiocese of Washington is a diocese that is traditionally led by a Cardinal. It was just a matter of time that Archbishop Wuerl would receive the red hat.

    From his many years serving as bishop of his home Diocese of Pittsburgh, Cardinal-designate Wuerl was known as being very adept in dealing with all sorts of people from the most politically powerful to the captains of industry. He angered many in the Pittsburgh Diocese when certain old ethnic parishes that had declining membership and severe financial problems were closed, but those decisions were the right ones to make.

    On the other hand, Archbishop Wuerl was not known to be overly friendly to the Pittsburgh Latin Mass Community. He disappointed me when he gave permission for John Kerry, who is married to John Heinz’ widow, to receive Communion despite Kerry’s abortionist stance. Teresa Heinz inherited a vast sum from her late husband (but she is not in control of H. J. Heinz Company) and owns an estate in the north suburbs of Pittsburgh.

    Priestly vocations have struggled here during and after Cardinal-designate Wuerl was here, which is a little odd because Pittsburgh is one of the 20 biggest dioceses in the US (almost 800K Catholics).

    Pittsburgh will now have two representatives in the College of Cardinals. Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston is the other “yunzer” – he grew up in suburban Pittsburgh but was born in Steubenville, Ohio (36 miles from the Point).

    Congratulations to both Cardinal-designate Burke (whom I admire and respect greatly) and Cardinal-designate Wuerl.

  • Good man, Art! I am most gratified by your endorsement of the social democratic gains from the New Deal onwards. I am sure you are vigorously opposing the GOP attempt to cut unemployment benefits amidst the biggest economic slowdown since the Great Depression. And I am sure you support universal healthcare, though would you go as far as Cardinal Marx and call for public provision?

  • MM & Art:

    Nope. not here; not in my thread. You guys can go fight elsewhere.

    And Burke’s job typically comes with the red hat, like him or not.

    Yes, but that fact that Burke has the job + the hat shows that Burke’s views are not nearly as far-fetched to the Vatican and the Pope as some have suggested. While Burke’s appointment doesn’t mean the Pope agrees with Burke on everything, it gives his thoughts a little more credibility than many have given them.

  • The naming of cardinals is like the Roman Catholic version of Calvinball (would that make it deSalesball?). Everyone invents their own way of keeping score, and most people seem to win.

  • Cardinal Wuerl is a world-class catechist. Bravo and congratulations.

    I also like Cardinal Burke, and whatever else one makes of his appointment to Rome, he hardly seems to have been silenced by it.

    I imagine those recently appointed to sees which traditionally have cardinals will get them once their emeriti turn 80–Dolan, Vigneron, etc. Abp. Gomez will have the longest wait.

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