Friday, August 10, 2012
I posted yesterday regarding Ed Mechmann's blog post, on the website of the Archdiocese of New York, defending Cardinal Dolan's decision to invite President Obama to be a keynote speaker at this year's Al Smith Dinner. When Mr. Mechmann wrote to me to express some dissatisfaction with my post (which I subsequently revised), I asked him whether he had consulted or received permission before he added his post to the Archdiocese's website. Here, with his permission, is Mr. Mechmann's reply:
"I can in fact tell you that I consulted with nobody about my blog post prior to putting it up online. When I was asked to do the blog several years ago, the understanding was that I could post on whatever I wanted, so long as I did not contradict Church teaching, and that I did not require permission from anyone before posting it."
I am grateful for the clarification.
The problem, then, turns out to be slightly different from the one I had first suspected. An employee of the Archdiocese is using its official website unofficially to communicate unofficial positions on a most contentious matter that the Archdiocese has refused officially to address (or redress). I cannot conclude that it is a good idea for the Archdiocese of New York -- or any diocese -- to pay people to publish through an official diocesan organ matter that the Ordinary does not support. Yes, I would require permission from the competent diocesan authority, for the common good of the Church. The disclaimers in the sidebar do not remedy -- and in some ways exacerbate -- the problem I perceive. The amalgam of silence and quasi-official messages is confusing and disorienting. These are confused times, and what good Catholics need from the hierarchy is clear and consistent teaching and adherence to that teaching, not quasi-official sponsorship of one more voice in the blogosphere.
In any event, and with all due respect, I do not think that Mr. Mechmann's analysis -- according to which the Al Smith Dinner is not, in the relevant sense, "religious" -- is sustainable as a matter of Catholic ecclesiology and theology. Sure, the Al Smith Dinner is not a sacrament or even a sacramental, but the work of Catholic Charities is the work of the Church (see the encyclical Deus Caritas Est Nos. 19-25), which surely is religious. As I explained to Mr. Mechmann in email, the pseudo-logic of compartmentalization is a major part of what got the Church into this trouble in the first place, except that hitherto it was never the Church that said (unofficially, of course) that what the Church doesn't do in the sanctuary or sacristy is not religious, it was, instead, the state. The turning of these tables is a dark sign of the times.