It is time for Deal Hudson to change the name of his site from InsideCatholic.com to InsideRepublican.com. His partisan attack on Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was received today by Pope Benedict XVI, puts him in an odd place: Hudson is now, officially, more Catholic than the Pope.
Hudson, who has long served as the point man for cooperation between the GOP and conservative Catholics, tries to defend the Pope’s decision to meet with Pelosi as mere diplomatic protocol, the kind of thing Benedict must do as head of state. He even acknowledges that grace may be present: "It’s a good idea for Benedict to meet with Pelosi, because one can never underestimate the impact of being in his presence." Actually, the Master promised to be present wherever two or three are gathered in his name, and did not specify that one of the two or three had to be the Bishop of Rome. I can understand why conservatives oppose "cheap grace" but must they replace it with "sparse grace"?
But, Hudson is not content to ostensibly praise the Holy Father. He goes on to tell him to do his job. Hudson writes: "Pelosi, of course, should be denied communion, but it is unlikely to happen. Any priest who celebrates Mass with Pelosi present will be carefully chosen beforehand in order to avoid embarrassment to the Speaker and her entourage." Actually, the priest may or may not be chosen by Pelosi. She could just attend whatever Mass is being said at the church closest to her hotel. But, that priest will most definitely have been chosen by the Bishop of Rome to serve the spiritual needs of the city. And in the Eternal City, there is no such policy of denying communion to politicians because of political disagreement.
Not content to tell the Pope to do his job, Hudson also has instructions for the Archbishop of San Francisco. "Given the publicity Pelosi will receive during this trip, Archbishop Niederauer should issue another public statement reiterating his criticism of her position on abortion -- and that, furthermore, if she presents herself for communion, he will deny it to her," Hudson opines. "If he were to remain silent, he would experience the embarrassment of having other U.S. bishops responding to Pelosi, in his place, on behalf of the Church." I am not sure if it bothers anyone else, but it strikes me as passing strange to not only tell the kind Archbishop Niederauer how to do his job but also how to feel about it, that his appropriate emotional response should be embarrassment. This is creepy. If I received this essay from a student I would have circled this paragraph and written the word "Boundaries" in the margin.
Speaker Pelosi made a hash of Catholic theology last summer on "Meet the Press" and her Archbishop set the record straight without guessing her motives and without diminishing his affection for her as a child of God and a daughter of the Church. Pope Benedict has made it clear that he will leave the denial of communion to local ordinaries where it properly rests. Hudson should listen to the Q-and-A at Marquette Law School with Archbishop Timothy Dolan on the subject: The man widely expected to be named Archbishop of New York later this week made clear that the "no communion" approach was not his. If Pope Benedict really wanted to endorse the effort to turn the communion rail into a battlefront in the culture wars, he would have named someone else to the cathedra in St. Patrick’s.
Mr. Hudson is no doubt a sincere Catholic and a sincere Republican. But, his interest in promoting his party continues to lead him down intellectual paths that are at odds with the most basic of Catholic principles. We bloggers are entitled to be a little churlish, to even indulge a little ad hominem vitriol in the interest of spicy prose, to encourage the "clash" of ideas rather than the calm, charitable sharing of theological discussion. But, as we approach the communion rail, shouldn’t we have something on our mind other than the state of the soul of the person next to us in the line? And, where does InsideCatholic get off telling the Pope how to run his diocese or Archbishop Niederauer how to feel when running his?