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Saturday, July 31, 2004



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CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
San Francisco Archbishop William Levada is here to meet with diocese officials.


Dialogue
and dogmatism


Some American bishops advocate denying Communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion, same-sex marriage or other issues that violate church teaching.

The prelate who leads the geographical province that includes Hawaii's Catholics says, "Let's talk."

"Many of us as bishops are newly committed to seeking a path of dialogue in these areas," said Archbishop William Levada of San Francisco. "You don't start that path of dialogue by telling people you are going to refuse them Communion."

Levada, in Hawaii on a two-week vacation, met Thursday with the Rev. Thomas Gross and the committee of 10 priests who chose him as diocesan administrator until a new Catholic bishop is selected.

"Things are in capable hands," Levada said in a Thursday interview.

He estimated it will be nine months to a year before Pope John Paul II names a successor to Bishop Francis DiLorenzo, who was reassigned to Richmond, Va.

Levada is on the seven-member Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians created last year by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to study what steps might be taken against Catholics in public life who support positions at odds with church teaching.

art
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
San Francisco Archbishop William Levada is here to meet with diocese officials.


The task force chairman, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C., met earlier this year with Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, a Catholic, who has voted for abortion and gay marriage.

The controversy -- set off by a few American bishops threatening sanctions, and followed by politicians and other Catholics' indignant response -- "has caused all of us, as bishops, and many in the church to reflect on the intersection of people's political lives and their faith lives."

It is not a violation of the constitutional principle that prohibits government from fostering organized religion for voters to learn about, and for politicians to share, the religious beliefs behind their actions, the archbishop said.

"In terms of basic morality, good and evil, how we live our lives, how society should be structured ... those involve the religious dimension of a person. It should not be off limits that a president like Bush would explain his own feelings about religion, that Kerry would say what his religious sensibilities are.

"We have not had effective ways of gauging our Catholics in political life," he said. "There are a lot of challenges facing them. Like all politicians, it is a matter of making compromises in how to get legislation through: 'This may not be perfect, but (it's) better than if we didn't have it.'"

In comments to American bishops last month, the archbishop said "Catholic teachers and bishops need to hear from our Catholics in political life, the challenges they face in the application of just moral principles in the arena of American political life, constitutional issues and party politics."

Levada was one of three task force members to speak at the bishops' retreat in Colorado. He told them, "We are called to shepherd the unity of the church, in all its diversity."

The debate arose during this election year "not by design ... but started by a bishop feeling an obligation about speaking out," Levada said.

The idea of sanctioning believers by banning them from the central act of worship at a Roman Catholic Mass has put individuals in the national media spotlight.

"I'm not so sure that is a good thing," said Levada. "Catholics' sensitivity about how they are living their lives and whether they should receive Holy Communion really isn't the media's business. I think there is a tendency in the media to look for the controversial, the unusual, and that's understandable. But in this area where we are talking about the direction of life, the purpose of life, how we should live our lives, I don't think the media grapples with these issues at the best and deepest level.

"It isn't so much trying to get inside a person's feeling. It is a question about objective moral issues.

"When we talk about abortion, from the perspective of many of us, we are talking about an issue of human life and justice toward unborn human beings. Our teaching from the beginning of Christianity has been that God forms life in the mother's womb, and it should be respected and protected."

Levada said that preserving the established concept of marriage "is an important, fundamental, bedrock societal issue. Looking at marriage and family in terms of tradition through the generations, if you change the definition of marriage, what are you saying to the next generation of children ... about their goals and their ability, their desire to do what it takes to bear the costs of marriage and family? It costs people sacrifices to raise a family.

"I think it is one of most significant challenges to American culture that has arisen in quite a while. We should debate it with as much insight as we can. I think it will undermine a key foundation of society, marriage and family if same-sex marriage is approved."

Levada said that when he returns to San Francisco, he will launch the dialogue he advocates.

"I have contacted people in my archdiocese who have been prominent in political life, to talk about how such a dialogue should be structured. We will grapple with the issues."



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