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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Priests are Vulnerable to Authority if They Speak Out

A Personal Story

Years ago I challenged Theodore Cardinal McCarrick on his policy of giving Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians. Indeed, I lamented that his public friendship and collaboration with officials like the late Senator Ted Kennedy gave the impression that there had been a normalization of a sorts about abortion and the expansion of proposed rights for active homosexuals (two causes he most championed).  I tried not to pay any attention to gossip about the cardinal as no one in my small circle offered evidence of wrongdoing.  Nevertheless, while I was ignorant of any abuse of children, many of us were disturbed all the same by what filtered down regarding possible homosexuality and young clergy. The moral issue that I had focused on for much of my priesthood and even my years as a seminarian was that of the unborn and abortion. Organizations like the American Life League were making national news in challenging his policy of giving the Eucharist to pro-abortion politicians.  At a meeting of the Priests Council, he made his case and I guess he wanted our support.  But when the vote was taken by the clergy, the count fell one short of a perfect consensus, 24 to 1.  I cannot remember if this was before or after the notorious memo from Ratzinger that was falsified by him before the USCCB.  He seemed untouchable in those days.  When he first came to Washington he told us that he wanted to hear what we honestly thought.  I took him for his word.  This would cost me.  I was the holdout in the discussion about giving the sacrament to pro-abortion politicians. A couple of the guys saw what was coming down and tried to keep me quiet.  No, I said, I was going to say what I felt needed to be said.  As best as I can remember, it went like this:

“If Adolf Hitler had practiced the Catholicism into which he was baptized by his grandmother, and given that he personally never killed anyone but simply fanned the flames of antisemitism leading to the extermination of six million Jews, would you give him Holy Communion if he came up to you? I think not.  If a southern white supremacist who had never killed a person of color but nevertheless supplied the rope and the politics of hate leading to such crimes came up to you in the communion line, would you give him Holy Communion? No, in both cases I think not, but when those who have enabled the murder of fifty million or more children through abortion come up, you say YES to communion because you do not want a clash at the altar, arguing that we need such people when it comes to other issues. Speaking frankly, some of us are sick and tired of you bishops kissing up to these baby-killing bast-rds!”

I was chastised (given the vulgarity maybe rightly so) and I was charged with embarrassing the Cardinal. But I had my say and to this day I believe my argument was just before the Lord. I was off the council after that and a subsidy for my poor struggling parish was rescinded.  Not anticipating that my little parish would be hurt for my sounding off, I would use my small salary to defray the help I forfeited to the church.  Punishing me was one thing, but it pained me that he would take it out on my struggling faith community.   Never did I feel so alone.

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