Cardinal Dolan, is it going to be the pain of discipline or regret?

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February 9, 2019 by eneubauer

Frankly, I am tired of all the name calling, blaming and shaming swirling around the internet, especially on Catholic Twitter, regarding New York’s legislation S240, the Reproductive Health Act. This bill passed with significant public fanfare and has been in the works for the past decade, each time temporally blocked by New York Republicans.

A key provision in this bill is the inclusion of abortion on demand after 24 weeks if it is determined by a doctor that a woman’s life or “health” is at risk. The key term “health” is important because it radically increases the number of reasons why a doctor could deem a late-term abortion appropriate. This abortion would kill a child that could live outside the womb. Finally, with the passage of S240 abortions no longer have to be facilitated by a medical doctor but can be performed by “licensed nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and licensed midwives.”

Now, this post is not a debate about the merits of abortion law or access but is a commentary about the Catholic Church’s response to professed Catholics public promotion and celebration of this bill. In addition to the bills creation, promotion, and passage Governor Cuomo’s stated desire is to work for its adoption as a NY State Constitutional Amendment. The question among Catholics and other Christians of good will is what if any recourse does the Church have to discipline a professed member of the faith when they act, in a very public way, contrary to foundational doctrines of the faith? 

Among Catholics, there have been calls for excommunication. I am not here to debate whether or not that is the right course of action. What I am here to do is to highlight, that no matter what the appropriate discipline is for those creating this very public scandal, it is the inaction of Bishop Scharfenberger of Albany and Cardinal Archbishop Dolan of New York City that is of concern. Catholic’s voice concern and the Catholic Bishops react by pastoring the flock through a press release.

Simply stated, Catholics and other Christian communities are grappling with a secular culture pushing for the most radical laws that allow for the killing of the most vulnerable among us. Look at the trend line:

It is in this context that Catholics want a constructive conversation with its leaders around these and other pressing issues. Also, when a public scandal occurs of this magnitude, we are asking for the appropriate Church discipline to be used against the offending Catholic public figure.

Let me say this loud and clear. There are so very few folks that want Bishop Scharfenberger and Cardinal Dolan to fail. On every issue there will always be the radical few on the margins saying horrendous things. However, the truth is that Catholics simply want their leaders to be successful and morally consistent. Whether you are a private or public person, if you profess the faith the job of the local Bishop is to both teach and discipline. If I am acting contrary to the faith I want my family, friends and ordained to call me out. When it comes to the fundamentals of the faith, what it means to be a Catholic, a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ – I want the discipline of the Church to assit me to get back on the right path.

One thing is for sure, if the Church does not employ discipline, in hindsight, there will be regret. Watch out, it is coming!

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