National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Inside NCR
Issue Date:  June 18, 2004

From the Editor's Desk

Misplaced compassion

The summer schedule at NCR was devised, I am told, to allow employees to take vacation. I like the policy. In fact, I’m off for two weeks to the East Coast and ultimately a chance to walk a beach and stick a toe or two into the ocean, something one simply cannot do in Kansas or Missouri.

But the notion of downtime is born of a simpler era when news and life in general slowed in summer months. That seems no longer to be the case. So we encourage you, in the “off weeks,” to keep an eye on the Web site. When there’s breaking news we’ll post stories immediately.

You’ll still get coverage in the paper, but inveterate newshounds can get a quick initial dose at

~ ~ ~

I’m writing this at the end of one of those busy “off weeks,” which included news that Cardinal Bernard Law had been appointed archpriest of St. Mary Major in Rome, complete with a stipend -- not nearly as grand as first reported (see story) -- which would cover household help, a car and driver.

There is a Roman take on this story that would hold that the appointment is low profile and represents an act of compassion by the pope for a longtime, faithful friend. It is difficult, of course, to appreciate the compassion in the gesture. The pope has yet to meet with any victims; no bishop has come forward to take responsibility for any portion of the scandal; and no prelate has demanded the kind of investigation that other areas of society would require in the light of such mismanagement and lapses in leadership.

One risks appearing the common scold by making the same point repeatedly, but this latest development with Law drives home again, at least in U.S. circles, the fact that no one has been held accountable. Bishops, particularly, have simply held themselves above the fray, and what has become frustratingly clear to lay people and priests is that there is no mechanism available in the church for holding them accountable to the community for their actions.

~ ~ ~

That said, the church is, as we are wont to point out, a big-tent, long-haul operation that holds examples of grace and insight and deep humanity. So it has been with the increasingly visible debate over Catholic politicians whose votes don’t always satisfy the demands of church teaching. While those who would use the Eucharist to make a political point receive the most attention, a larger number of senior church leaders, cardinals included, have declared that the altar rail is not the place for confrontation, judgment or discipline ( see story).

One of the more eloquent statements I’ve recently read on the issue is by Bishop John F. Kinney of the St. Cloud, Minn., diocese and can be found online at Kinney begins with the words so familiar to us: “Oh Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.” Lately, however, “some Catholics have been asking whether some others are so ‘not worthy’ that they should be denied the sacrament,” he writes. Kinney says he refuses “to allow the Eucharistic liturgy to become politicized.”

In ending he notes that the prayer states, “ ‘I am not worthy.’ It does not say, ‘Oh Lord, my neighbor is not worthy.’ ”

-- Tom Roberts

National Catholic Reporter, June 18, 2004

This Week's Stories | Home Page | Top of Page
Copyright  © The National Catholic Reporter Publishing  Company, 115 E. Armour Blvd., Kansas City, MO   64111
All rights reserved.
TEL:  816-531-0538     FAX:  1-816-968-2280   Send comments about this Web site to: