Another Bishop Shreds the Seamless Garment


A small Catholic college that invited Victoria Reggie Kennedy to speak at its spring commencement has rescinded the offer under pressure from the Worcester bishop, who described her apparent political views as out of line with Catholic teachings.

Anna Maria College in Paxton, west of Worcester, released a statement today placing the decision at the feet of Bishop Robert J. McManus and saying it still believes Kennedy is an appropriate choice.

However, the statement continued, “after hours of discerning and struggling with elements of all sides of this issue, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees decided with deep regret to withdraw its invitation.”

Anna Maria, a independent liberal arts college with 1,100 students, is deeply entwined with the diocese; last night, its president attended a dinner with McManus. Its statement notes that “as a small, Catholic college that relies heavily on the good will of its relationship with the Bishop and the larger Catholic community, its options are limited.”

Kennedy, the wife of the late US Senator Edward M. Kennedy, published her own statement noting that the bishop refused to meet with her despite her overtures.

“He has not consulted with my pastor to learn more about me or my faith,” read the statement. “Yet by objecting to my appearance at Anna Maria College he has made a judgment about my worthiness as a Catholic. This is a sad day for me and an even sadder one for the Church I love.”

McManus declined to comment, but diocese spokesman Ray Delisle said his actions were consistent with the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ ruling “that Catholic institutions should not be honoring Catholics who take positions publicly which are contrary to the Catholic faith’s most fundamental principles, particularly on the dignity of life from conception and the sanctity of marriage.”

As they say, read the whole thing.  The bishop also seems very concerned about health coverage for contraception.

Note, of course, that the Bishops’ injunction does not seem to apply to Republicans.  Caring for the poor, social solidarity, even the death penalty are irrelevant.  Readers who have information about Republicans being denied similar venues, or being threatened with the withdrawal of the Eucharist for their anti-Catholic views on these issues, are encouraged to send them in. In the meantime. given that rebranding is all the rage these days, the bishops might need a new slogan:

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: The Tea Party At Prayer

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

29 thoughts on “Another Bishop Shreds the Seamless Garment”

  1. Liberal arts college censoring the diversity of thought and idea? Nothing liberal nor artful for such an action taken by a holy man who is wholly abased when it comes to acceptance of otherness, and the varied thought and idea that can come from such interactions he dares not allow!

    1. It would be unconscionable only if it were not so predictable. Actually, I think it might be a good thing for bishops to get in the face of the Victoria Reggies and Joe Bidens and E.J. Dionnes of the world, so they can drop the pretense that the Church is something other than what the bishops say it is. MaryQ’s comment was dead on. Every donation made pays for some bishop in a developing country to spread misinformation about and effectively impede access to contraception by women who can’t fight back. Women in the U.S. CAN and SHOULD fight back, and with these clowns, the only thing that women have that actually “speaks” to them is money.

  2. Aww cr*p.

    Also, I think the word “independent” no longer applies. At least they don’t call themselves a university. Can you stay accredited and pull this kind of thing? Federal funding? What the bleep.

  3. I believe an organization can officially say one candidate is evil incarnate and the other is the Second Coming without imperiling their tax-exempt status – so long as they don’t actually say people should vote for or against either. On legislation and other public policy questions that aren’t candidacies I think they can even go further, though they still can’t recommend voting out the legislation’s supporters.

    1. You’re probably right. It just seems a bit much to not even let someone talk. It seems rather incompatible with higher learning.

      Btw, I don’t know if you got a chance to check back, but we were talking about LA transit a while ago, and my transit friend said there’s a non-stop LAX Fly-Away bus from Union Station. It supposedly takes just over an hour. There used to be one from Pasadena itself. Hope that helps.

  4. Is there any subject on which the Roman Chickenhawk Church is more compromised, and less credible, than sexual morality? How can any reasonable person take the pronouncements of that Man-Boy-Love-Association seriously?

    1. That’s unfair! There is no evidence that the bishops are the Man-Boy-Love Association. However, there is considerable evidence that the bishops have been the Man-Boy-Love Protection Committee. The episcopal response it to blame it on the 1960’s.

    2. It’s a bit like the banksters lecturing the rest of us on risk and financial responsibility.

  5. Jonathon, you left out torture and gross violations of just war doctrine.

    And cronyism (basically, bribery and embezzlement).

    1. And the theft and sale of children. (in Italy, by the Roman Catholic Church, within the last two decades).

      The church hierarchy is a very well-run and well-protected international crime syndicate.

  6. In the fall Saint Francis College, not far from me and not previously known for its concern over doctrinal purity, canceled a speech by the columnist Ellen Goodman. If we scratched hard enough I bet we’d find a raft of crackdowns like these two. I don’t know whether the American bishops are marching to their own tune or following the steps of little red shoes, but they sure seem intent on turning the clock back about 130 years as far as church-state relations goes, and in a way I don’t believe the Catholic Church as ever attempted in this country before now. It’s all of a piece with the bishops’ attack on the administration, thematic and coordinated. I’m reminded of the purges at the pontifical universities back when, in the 80s? Internal purification on the one hand, overt political meddling on the other. Truly, we live in remarkable times.

    1. You know, I wasn’t going to say anything before, but now I wonder if there is a gender discrimination aspect, underneath the authoritarian/know-nothingism. Not many data points here, but still.

  7. Is Catholicism so tenuous that one commencement speaker can rend it?

    I never thought that a graduation speaker’s words were that of the school itself, and would hope the students would not take any speaker’s words as gospel.

    1. Apparently so, at least if you listen to the Bishops.

      In the US. They tailor the message for other places. (For those complaining about the pedophilia and the torture, ahem, just look at the church history. This is what they have done over millennia.)

      It was really amusing to see Andrew Sullivan dust it up over What Jesus Means recently.

  8. FYI, the “seamless garment” was NEVER really accepted by a consensus of bishops in the U.S., never reflected official church doctrine. Can we get over this trope about caring for the poor — Caring for the poor, civil rights, just wages, etc. are part of yesterday’s Church, not today’s. Of course there are many people within the Church structure who pine for what was, very briefly, seen as the future direction of the Church, and many who are still committed to acts of mercy (e.g., charity), but just as there is no longer anything specifically “Catholic” about helping one’s neighbor, helping one’s neighbor is no longer central to Catholic identity. Catholic identity is about fertility and f’ing in conformance with Church doctrine. Wish it weren’t so, but it’s hard to hear a decade of thundering jeremiads on anything that makes female reproduction something other than the province of church prelates and still take seriously the mewing of dissenters who promise us that this isn’t the real Church. I have news for you, it is now, that’s why I left.

    1. I respect your decision.

      I think it is good though that others choose to stay and do what they can to push back. There are a lot more of us than them, and I don’t see why we should have to be the ones to leave.

      There can be some very interesting legal questions. I wonder who actually owns the churches. Locally there was a big hoohah amongst the Episcopalians (I think?), and the conservatives lost the property in court. Who does own a church, I wonder? A parish I suppose, or even the diocese, but is that a corporation?

      ‘Course, I don’t think things will ever get that far here. It’s just interesting to think about.

      1. NCG, in all the years I went to church I never saw anybody push back, not in any meaningful way. The deck is stacked, the Church is not a democracy, and the notion that people are pushing back is mostly wishful thinking. Mostly, they stay because it provides a useful vehicle for carrying out projects that it seems like no one else does. However, if you look around, you will find that there are people and groups who parallel the church’s good works in the developing world and even in the U.S., whether it is providing health care in Haiti or gang intervention in the United States.

        1. I agree that people don’t tend to talk back during Mass. What they do is, they patronize certain churches and not others, and direct their resources likewise. My sense is that this goes on quite consistently and I’m sure the hierarchy notice it. There is actually quite a bit of variety in terms of the line priests choose to take (unless one lives in a small town, where they might be stuck).

          While the church can clamp down on it, they also know what will happen if they come down too hard. People in the US don’t take orders anymore, and I think the rest of the world will soon follow.

          But if other people don’t want to bother fighting, that’s fine too. I agree that there are a lot of people trying to do good things.

  9. My mom, a cradle Catholic who hates what has happened to the Church in the last decade or so, reads this stuff and says something like “and they wonder why the pews are so empty”, to which I bite my tongue to keep me from saying “And I wonder why they are so full. No, I know why they are so full. Because people like you, mom, and like Victoria Kennedy and Andrew Sullivan and countless other salad bar Catholics keep dropping money in the collection baskets so that it can pay for the legal defense of child rapists and pay the salaries of the likes of Bishop McManus, who, by the way, hates you”! There are many fine churches out there where you can sing similar songs and pray similar prayers and talk about the same Jesus, that do not require you to look the other way at your leaders’ behavior, or sit through insulting sermons or accuse the President that you love of fighting a religious war. The door swings both ways, and many of these fine churches would be happy to have your butt in the pew and your money in the collection basket, and it won’t be funding this crap.

    1. Oh, but what is all that when compared to eternal damnation.

      Mind control is a beautiful thing.

      1. This reminds me that Pascal’s Wager doesn’t work anymore if you have multiple denominations/religions with mutually incompatible requirements for avoiding eternal damnation.

        1. It works fine. It’s just harder to know which theology to bet on. But one can still bet that *some* horse will win the race, even in a crowded field. (That there is no testable evidence that there is a race or a finish line was true in Pascal’s day and in ours … His bet was that there is a race. Our bet is that there is a race and that X is the horse to back.)

  10. Didn’t some palestinian socialist say something about this a while back? I seem to remember the terms “whited sepulchre” and “den of thieves”.

  11. The message here is simple. If you’re a thinking individual, get the hell out of the Catholic church. They need you more than you need them.

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