With enemies like Neumayr, Wuerl needs no friends,
by Dr. Edward Peters
When an ecclesiastic like Washington’s Cardinal Wuerl is attacked so meanly and repeatedly by a writer like George Neumayr, the prelate needs no friends to rush to his defense. Instead, it suffices that folks simply read what Neumayr wrote, a la:
-The word ‘pastoral’ dribbles from the lips of a bishop like Wuerl;
-who regularly exposes his flock to wolves;
-while wallowing in a worldly game of ring-kissing;
-and leaves the Church’s gates open to her fiercest enemies;
-and uses ‘clericalist tentacles’ (what a phrase!) to menace Neumayr, so on.
Most of this reads like something out of a 19th century Nativist tract! Seriously, does any of this language satisfy the laxest interpretation of Canon 212 § 3? Does Neumayr think that screeds like this are going to win him a hearing in Rome? I thought him more savvy than that.
Neumayr seems better at reacting than he does at reading. For example, he still taunts Wuerl for approving the admission of a “self-described lesbian and Buddhist” to holy Communion, when anyone with eyes to read knows I have amply demonstrated that the first factor is totally irrelevant to the reception of Communion, and that the second characterization flatly fails under canon law of this case.
Having difficulty with arguments, Neumayr resorts to labeling those who criticizes his treatment of Wuerl as being Wuerl’s “surrogates” and chums. How funny. I’ve met Wuerl twice in 30 years (doubtless he would recall neither brief exchange) and I have disagreed, publicly and repeatedly, with Wuerl’s general position on Canon 915. If I am a surrogate or chum of Wuerl’s, it’s only in Neumayr’s imagination.
That said, though, I will cut Neumayr a little slack and grieve with him that the word “pastoral” was hijacked by the heterodox in the decades after Vatican II. When I read what nonsense sometimes gets excused under the cover of “pastoral”, I cast an apologetic glace at my well-worn set of Henry Davis’ pre-conciliar Moral and Pastoral Theology and sigh to myself that some of these guys would not recognize “pastoral” if it walked up to them and punched them in the nose (which, I have a feeling, is exactly what a 1940s British Jesuit would do).
But to dismiss the word “pastoral” from the Church’s lexicon? No, don’t dismiss it! I say, reclaim it. The Church’s mission on earth is fundamentally “pastoral” and Neumayr’s likening “pastoral” to spittle dribbling from an old man’s lips is not to help us reclaim it, but to help others trash it.
Finally, as I have noted many times, canon lawyers (qua canon lawyers) do not enforce law, but they do explain it, often, to an audience that has no idea what it says. Some canon lawyers sign their names to their views, others laugh anonymously with journalists who seem primed and looking for more jibes at bishops. But it doesn’t change what the law says and, one of these days, my repeated calls for bishops to take in hand, say, Canons 1369 and 1373 will, Deo volente, be acted upon. Neumayr and his chuckling confreres should read those norms. Any Catholic who writes what Neumayr writes, and proudly who “apologize[s] for nothing”, and loudly proclaims that “the faithful have not only a right but a duty to resist heterodox [sic] bishops”, seems to be asking for it. +