Thursday, April 26, 2007

Archbishop Burke Takes a Step Backwards

This story received a lot of coverage today, from Rocco Palmo, Open Book, and Evangelical Catholicism among others. It turns out that Archbishop Burke of St. Louis picked a fight with singer Sheryl Crow! The latter was supposed to appear at a benefit concert to aid a Catholic hospital in the area. The archbishop, citing Crow's support for abortion and embryonic stem-cell research, protested and asked for her invitation to rescinded. The institution (SSM Cardinal Glennon Children's Medical Center) refused and Burke resigned from the board of governors and issued a statement saying that:

"When, for economic gain, a Catholic institution associates itself with such a high profile proponent of the destruction of innocent lives, members of the Church and other people of good will have the right to be confirmed in their commitment to the Gospel of Life."
Burke clarified that his opposition was based not on Crow's personal beliefs, but on her public advocacy for these issues. First of all, calling it "economic gain" is callous. I believe the benefit was designed to raise money for sick children. If Burke really wanted to rail against immoral "economic gain", he could have a field day with the Bush administration's corruption...But I digress. So where to begin? For a start, this was a pretty stupid move. If the aim is to promote Catholic teaching on these topics, it clearly backfired. This kind of ham-fisted intervention just creates sympathy for Crow.

My main problem, though, is the inconsistency. Yet again, we have criticism of a public figure (I suppose an entertainer qualifies as a public figure!) based on opposition to selective moral principles, in this case, abortion and embryonic stem-cell research. Of course, one could argue that, unlike issues like tax policy and poverty, there is no room for diversity of opinion among Catholics. They are wrong in their object, irrespective of intent or circumstance. But as I've said over and over and over and over, so are many other issues. The illicitness of using nuclear weapons is non-negotiable, but would Burke call for a boycott of conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly for saying things like the "atomic bomb is a marvelous gift that was given to our country by a wise God" (see here for the story and argument). And what about torture? So many public officials and backers of the Bush administration today defend torture on consequentialist grounds. Would Burke issue a blanket ban? And remember before Northern Ireland peace process when Sinn Fein still supported horrendously-evil terrorist acts, and were still invited to march in the New York St. Patrick's Day parade, right past the cathedral? Were was the outrage then?

To be consistent, the Church would be shunning a lot of people! But here's the rub: it should not be making these kind of personal attacks in the first place. Yes, the Church needs to speak clearly and not to compromise on its moral teachings, but it needs to do so in a consistent manner. Its main selling point is that it offers a consistent ethic of life that transcends secular categories of "liberal" and "conservative". The key is to persuade, and nobody who is inconsistent can persuade. It needs to persuade those who today are not persuaded. It benefits nobody to preach to the choir, making a bunch of conservatives feel good about themselves. Instead, the Church needs to challenge secular humanists to recognize the virtue of the consistent ethic of life, the seamless garment. Cherrypicking the issues simply won't wash.


Anonymous said...

Is Sheryl Crowe Catholic? I googled her and found nothing that mentions her religion. I'd be interested to know because if she isn't Catholic and never was Catholic, then we're crossing into new territory with condemnation that goes beyond the standard "Catholic politician" stuff. Most likely the people who booked her for the benefit were unaware of her personal beliefs and never imagined it would become an issue in something like this.

Franklin Jennings said...

If the people who booked her were unaware that she had recorded a commercial spot supporting a mendacious ESCR amendment in their own state less than two years ago, well, let's just say they should pay more attention.

However, before the good Archbishop resigned, he tried to bring this to their attention, to make them see it was an issue. they refused to address it, and he did the only thing his conscience would allow.

Wake me when Phyllis Schaffly is scheduled to take the stage. But I am glad to see that the intellectual quality of this blog doesn't change; it is...consistent, sad as that may be.

Anonymous said...

But I am glad to see that the intellectual quality of this blog doesn't change; it is...consistent, sad as that may be.

Yet something draws you to it, like a fly to a light bulb.

Franklin Jennings said...

Moths are drawn to light bulbs.

Flies are drawn to feces.

But I think your fly analogy is still fitting.

Morning's Minion said...

I've a pretty high tolerance for criticism, but I'm certainly not going to put up with infantile name-calling. Franklin Jennings-- one more commment like that and you're out.

Franklin Jennings said...

Anyone who knows anything about flies knows that that is a factual statement. I can't help it if anonymous doesn't know much about flies.

Katherine said...

I remember several years ago (okay, decade) opening the New York Times to see a full page ad by the Archdiocese of New York asking for contributions to the Catholic schools scholarship fund. Cardinal O'Connor was then Archbishop. Setting aside the issue of the Times' editorial policy on abortion, the ad included a testimonial by Ambassador Jeanne Kilpatrick. Given Dr. Kilpatrick was a supporter of abortion rights, not a hackle was raised by anyone, save a few liberals discontent with her views on foriegn policy.

I think the late Cardinal was also willing to use former Mayor Koch (pro-choice) as well.

Franklin Jennings said...

The Times needs to be set aside in your example because the Archdiocese was paying to place an ad in the paper of record.

Kilpatrick, to the best of my knowledge, has never been involved in fundraising or politicking for abortion or ESCR.

Ditto Ed Koch (although the Archbishop shouldn't be using anyone. You use things, not people.)

Anyone got anything that actually begins to compare?

Katherine said...

Franklin, you are mistaken about both Dr. Kilpatrick and Mayor Koch. Both advocated abortion.

As for the Times, it seems to me that taking from a person who does not share our views on life (Ms. Crow's time and talent) for a pro-life cause, is better than giving to a pro-abortion advocate (The Times) the tens of thousands of Archdiocesan dollars a full page ad costs.

Or is it okay to pay for an ad in the Times because the ends justifies the means?

Chris said...

Anyone who sees himself as the proverbial fly attracted to dung, would appear to be in desperate need of a new hobby.

Franklin Jennings said...

I didn't say either never advocated abortion. I said something much more specific.

Franklin Jennings said...

Actually, it is anonymous who sees this. I'm just hoping the Minion will see the errors of its ways.