The National Catholic Review

Last night in Scranton, Pa., Bishop Joseph Martino arrived unexpectedly at a church-sponsored forum on the presidential election and, as the local newspaper puts it, "vehemently expressed his distaste for what was said about the church’s stance" on voting for pro-choice candidates.  When Sister Margaret Gannon of Marywood University cited "Faithful Citizenship," the document issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Martino replied: “No USCCB document is relevant in this diocese,” said Martino. "The USCCB doesn’t speak for me."

“The only relevant document ... is my letter,” said the bishop, who had earlier issued a letter to the diocese on the topic.  “There is one teacher in this diocese, and these points are not debatable.”

The Wayne Independent described the meeting ending as follows: "Martino also said that he wanted to persuade Father Martin Boylan, of St. John’s [parish], to cancel the forum.  After his comments, most of the audience stood and clapped loudly while some were angry that the bishop usurped the forum.  About a quarter of the audience left after the bishop’s comments, which preceded the last half of the forum, a question and answer session with the panelists. Martino exited shortly after his comments."

H/T: Dotcommonweal and Whispers in the Loggia (Photo: Wayne Independent story.)

James Martin, SJ

Comments

Anonymous | 10/28/2008 - 1:01pm
Dear Fr. Martin and Richard, I think your cites of canonical and magisterial documents are a little off the mark. The issue in the article addresses teaching, not governing. The teaching authority of episcopal conferences is addressed by canon 753 and is further constrained by Art. 1-4 of Apostolos suos. The teaching authority of individual diocesan bishops is also specified in canon 753 but it not further constrained by Apostolos suos. When placed in this light then, ''Faithful Citizenship'' is not an official magisterial document of the USCCB because it fails the following requirements established in Apostolos suos: 1. It was not unanimously approved nor was it approved in a plenary session followed by recognitio from the Holy See. Thus it fails the requirement of art. 1. 2. It was redacted and approved by various committees and approved for publication by the general secretary of the USCCB. Thus, it fails the requirement of art. 2 3. It did not meet the requirement for ''other statements'' outlined in art. 3 of Apostolos suos (''Doctrinal Commission of the Conference of Bishops must be authorized explicitly by the Permanent Council of the Conference''). What I've seen of bishop Martino's letter, on the other hand, clearly complies with a bishop's ordinary magisterial authority. His promulgation makes it clear that he intends it read and circulated throughout the diocese. As a result, it should be accorded by Scranton catholics that ''religious submission of the soul'' (''religioso animi obsequio'') that the law (canon 753) requires. As an aside, Lumen gentium and Christus dominus remain foundational documents for our Faith. On the other hand, their whatever legislative authority they might have had was abrogated by the promulgation of the 1983 code and subsequent legislation (e.g. Apostolos suos etc.) I hope this is helpful. Federico.
Anonymous | 10/23/2008 - 4:02pm
Where in Canon Law, or any other Vatican document, is the USCCB defined or established as an official Church governing body? According to the Vatican documents I've read regarding the primary Church authority within a diocese or archdiocese is exactly as stated by Bishop Martino. If anyone can show where this is defined as not being the case at www.vatican.va please let me know. Thanks. Please explain how a Bishop can be 'sneaking around' in his own diocese? If you are out in your own backyard is that 'sneaking around your own yard' too? A few of you should spend some time educating yourselves on what the Catholic Church actually teaches and believes rather than your opinions on this topic. See www.vatican.va for more info. Oh, and if you disagree with the Dogma or Canon Law perhaps you should reconsider your affiliation. Contrary to popular belief, the Church is not a democracy. Pax vobiscum
Anonymous | 10/22/2008 - 6:26pm
I am very concerned about a Bishop who renounces the collegial aspect of the United States Catholic Bishops Conference with his bombastic remarks against the Catholic spirit of the pastoral letters and the tradition of the teaching magisterium of the Church we all believe. For a bishop to storm into a public forum the way he did and rant and rave like he did should set off the ALARM BELLS IN THE VATICAN EMBASSY AND THE VATICAN. I am saddened and disgusted with the tactics of Martino and will pray for him and the good people of Scranton Diocese.
Anonymous | 10/22/2008 - 2:47pm
I hope this persuades Catholics in Bishop Martino's diocese to vote for Obama. I think it might. We have an under-class of about 14 million people in bondage to our violent immigration policy. I think they have more of a chance with Obama and the Democrats.
Anonymous | 10/21/2008 - 8:26pm
Unfortunately, Bishop Martino has resorted to sneaking around his own Diocese causing disruption. He has really been a problem for the Diocese. Todd Benson Hazleton, PA
Anonymous | 10/21/2008 - 4:42pm
About a month ago I sent a letter to America that was not chosen for publication predicting that some high profile bishops in swing states would react around the abortion issue in the waning days of the campaign and skirt by their own 'Faithful Citizenship' document. But I didn't picture such a clear outright rejection! One thing you can say for Bishop Martino is that he doesn't pussyfoot around, doggone it! You betcha that he thinks he's the only voice worth listening to in his fiefdom --vox principi, lex populi! Ironically, it may well be these one-issue prelates impressed with their own investitures will discredit the whole system of increasingly irrelevant episcopal teachings. And will that "bonfire of the vanities" see any phoenix?
Anonymous | 10/21/2008 - 2:49pm
They walked away from Jesus too when He preached a message they did not want to hear.
Anonymous | 10/26/2008 - 8:28pm
Once the bishops and the Pope get off the sexuality focus, they and all of Catholicism is more in line with the Democractic Party. The Pope is anti-gun, anti -death penalty, pro environment, a proponent of better distribution of wealth -- all supported by the Democratic Party and opposed to what Republican propose. I've believed for a long time that the sex thing is a non-issue, makes people feel guilty unnecessarily, and diverts us from the real issues of the day. A Catholic couple I know are living together (like 99 percent of all young people today). They want to get married in the church and went in to see the parish priest at the local church in Germantown, Maryland (Archdiocese of Washington, DC). He told them they were "living in sin" and showed them the door. What kind of pastoral guidance is this??? These young people are seeking to have the church's blessing and are turned away.
Anonymous | 10/25/2008 - 7:40pm
RE: 'A few of you should spend some time educating yourselves on what the Catholic Church actually teaches and believes rather than your opinions on this topic." There is an excellent letter from (Rev) Franklyn J. Bergen of Tucson, Arizona in the current edition of America. Rev. Bergen pretty well addresses the issue in this specific Scanton incident: 'As long as such people find their educational experience and their commitment to becoming true followers of Christ contradicted by what they are told from the pulpit and from their bishop's pronouncements, my non-authoritative, non-binding advice to them would be to say a prayer for perhaps the beknighted, doubtless overworked parish priest, and another for the bishop who has not the slightest notion that there is a world of difference between 'teaching' and 'laying down the law.'' There were always some teachers who tried to just read from the book in class without having to resort to real teaching. The failure here perhaps seems to be in the teaching methods, a laziness in just laying down the law. Maybe rather than have elections, we should just resort to forcing Catholics to grant their votes to bishops and let national elections, votes in governing bodies, be determined by the percentage of those of a given religion in a nation. That way a bishop would never have to worry about how well he was doing getting the message across, to Catholics or non-Catholics. It is my own theory that this is one reason that modern Europeans have fallen away from the Roman Catholic Church that had a direct say in temporal power for too long. Nowhere in my reading does it say access to the Kingdom will be restricted to one nationality, one religion, or those from one political party. Somehow I expect we all will survive, no matter who is elected, and no matter how bad the teaching methods in Scranton and elsewhere on the law and its meaning.
Anonymous | 10/22/2008 - 11:04am
The either/or mentality continues to plague us. I found the article in the current issue of America, 'Intrinsic Evil and Political Responsibility' by M. Cathleen Kaveny really helpful. As I grow older I am more and more aware of how complex things are. We have more and more voices to listen to-- and we need to listen. I am becoming more impressed with the Asian approach to dialogue-- deep respectt for everyone, even when one disagrees intensely.
Anonymous | 10/24/2008 - 12:28am
Thank you Fr. Martin, for this link. I stand corrected on this matter. It appears I also need to take my own advice! :) In this same section of Canon Law (Chapter IV. Conferences of Bishops), Canon 455.2 states, ''§2. The decrees mentioned in §1, in order to be enacted validly in a plenary meeting, must be passed by at least a two thirds vote of the prelates who belong to the conference and possess a deliberative vote. They do not obtain binding force unless they have been legitimately promulgated after having been reviewed by the Apostolic See.'' and, ''Can. 456 When a plenary meeting of a conference of bishops has ended, the president is to send a report of the acts of the conference and its decrees to the Apostolic See so that the acts are brought to its notice and it can review the decrees if there are any.'' Has the USCCB guidelines to voters at the heart of this dispute been approved by the Apostolic See? If not, they are not binding as stated above. I also was unable to find any Canon Law that states a Conference of Bishops may override a bishop's decisions within and for his own diocese. Bishop Martino's statements and actions are well within the bounds of his position. If binding, how would that limit a bishop's authority and autonomy within his own diocese? Frankly, I find most statements from the USCCB vague leaving much too much room for individual interpretation. For example, enforcement of Canon 915 for public figures who profess to be Catholic yet public promote and support murder of unborn (and even those who manage to survive botched attempts at murder). It would certainly be refreshing to see a USCCB statement that was direct, unequivocal and devoid of ambiguity.
Anonymous | 10/23/2008 - 6:19pm
To answer Richard's question about Canon Law, here is the relevant citation from the Code of Canon Law (canon 447): 'The conference of bishops . . . is a grouping of bishops of a given nation. . . whereby, according to the norm of law, they jointly exercise certain pastoral functions on behalf of the Christian faithful of their territory in view of promoting that greater good which the Church offers humankind, especially through forms and programs of the apostolate which are fittingly adapted to the circumstances of the time and place.' And from the USCCB's website, here is their statement of mission, with some helpful references to Vatican documents: 'The mission of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (see CIC, c. 447) is to support the ministry of bishops with an emphasis on evangelization, by which the bishops exercise in a communal and collegial manner certain pastoral functions entrusted to them by the Lord Jesus of sanctifying, teaching, and governing (see Lumen gentium, no. 21). This mission calls the Conference to: Act collaboratively and consistently on vital issues confronting the Church and society (see Christus Dominus, no. 38.1) Foster communion with the Church in other nations, within the Church universal, under the leadership of its supreme pastor, the Roman Pontiff Offer appropriate assistance to each bishop in fulfilling his particular ministry in the local Church (Cf. Apostolos suos, 1998.)'
Anonymous | 10/23/2008 - 3:38pm
Bishop Martino is a 'problem' that I would welcome in my diocese. The USCCB has no one but themselves to blame for his renunciation of their so-called 'teaching document'. Their 'collegiality' does not trump the authority of any individual bishop in his diocese. Bishop Martino saw 'Faithful Citizenship' for what it was: A document that attempted to please everyone by stating the truth in way that could be interpreted in more than one way. But that's not what the Catholic Church teaches. Abortion is ALWAYS wrong and the body count from the War on the Unborn is nearly at 50 million. Liberal Volvo Catholics who are more concerned with global warming and reducing the US military might find it distasteful, but the truth is, there are no social justice issues that come close in gravity to the national sin of abortion. Our bishops have been silent for too long and I, for one, am grateful for bishops like Martino. If we had 100 more like him, 'Catholics' like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi wouldn't dare peddle their political lies about the Church. I think the pope has a terrific potential replacement for Cardinal Egan.
Anonymous | 10/23/2008 - 3:19pm
I am very concerned about a Bishop who renounces the collegial aspect .. Yes, maybe he should have pussyfooted around and met with other bishops to discuss it in committee next year and see how to compromise with INTRINSIC evils. Intrinsic evils which can never be embraced for any specious reasons. Dissent if you will from Church teachings but God will not be mocked in the end and He is the Author of Life.
Anonymous | 10/23/2008 - 2:58pm
How dare any of you speak ill of this bishop: he is one of the few with some spin left in him. Catholics for Obama should instead label themselves as Catholics for abortion. How could Catholics who claim to follow church teaching ignore the basic right to life when it comes to voting? Bishop Martino is right in what he has done. The USCCB does not speak for all the bishops; it isn't a governing body by the rules that some so-called Catholics claim to follow oh so closely.
Anonymous | 10/22/2008 - 4:25pm
God and God only has control and the right to control life in this world. When man controls this or anything else there will be chaos. Trying to fit into this world and being a good Catholic who chooses to follow the Catholic Cathechism to the letter of the law just doesn't work. Why do we have to try and fit in and placate the rest of the world or those Catholics who choose to bend God's law for their convenience? I'd rather stand out as one different from the others, but on my way to eternity with the Good Lord. My thanks to a Bishop who stood up for God's way. I'm not very good at arguing this point in an eloquent manner, but I appreciate where the Bishop's heart is going and I believe my heart must follow his for my soul to find the path to heaven. Eternity is a long time. I don't want to gamble.