Bring It On!

Rick Majerus & The Long Arm Of The Archbishop

January 24th, 2008 | by Daniel DiRito |

Rick Majerus has been a college basketball coach for many years and he currently works for St. Louis University, a Catholic University under the auspices of the Jesuits. Majerus has always been a colorful figure but one wouldn’t expect his off the cuff comments to a news reporter at a Hillary Clinton rally to be the reason the coach finds himself in hot water.

Enter Archbishop Raymond Burke and the typically heavy hand of the Catholic Church. Majerus is being assailed by Burke for voicing his support for a woman’s right to choose as well as favoring embryonic stem cell research. You can see video of his comments here.

Clearly, Majerus wasn’t at the rally representing the University and it’s obvious he didn’t seek out a reporter to voice his opinions. Regardless, the Archbishop believes Majerus should be disciplined for his breech of Catholic doctrine. Burke is no stranger to asserting his reach. During the 2004 election, he took it upon himself to state that he would deny John Kerry Holy Communion.

From Catholic News Agency:

Archbishop of St. Louis Raymond Burke, speaking to the St. Louis Post-Dispatc h newspaper before the March for Life in Washington, D.C. strongly criticized the coach’s statements.

“It’s not possible to be a Catholic and hold those positions,” Burke said. “When you take a position in a Catholic university, you don’t have to embrace everything the Catholic Church teaches. But you can’t make statements which call into question the identity and mission of the Catholic Church.”

Archbishop Burke said the coach should be disciplined, saying, “I’m confident [the university] will deal with the question of a public representati ve making declarations that are inconsistent with the Catholic faith,” Burke said. “When you take a position in a Catholic university, you don’t have to embrace everything the Catholic Church teaches. But you can’t make statements which call into question that identity and mission of the Catholic Church.”

The archbishop was concerned the coach’s statements would cause scandal, defined in the Catholic catechism as “an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil.”

Some St. Louis University faculty members were not happy with the archbishop’s remarks.

“If SLU wants to have a policy of, ‘you have to be Catholic and believe the Catholic way,’ SLU wouldn’t exist,” Laura Willingham, research assistant in SLU’s School of Medicine, said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatc h. “Should [Majerus] have said it publicly? There’s freedom of speech.”

Jeff Fowler, a spokesman for the university, emphasized the coach was speaking in a private capacity.

“Rick’s comments were his own personal view,” he said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatc h. “They were made at an event he did not attend as a university representati ve. It was his own personal visit to the rally.”

Archbishop Burke has no direct control over St. Louis University. The Jesuit-found ed university itself is nominally Catholic, but a 2007 Supreme Court decision ruled that the school “is not controlled by a religious creed,” making the school’s new arena eligible for $80 million in public funding. In the Supreme Court brief, the school’s lawyers said the university is not controlled or owned by the Society of Jesus and does not require employees or students “to aspire to Jesuit ideals, to be Catholic or to otherwise have any specific religious affiliation. ”

Less than 35 of the 1,275 St. Louis University faculty and staff are Jesuits, and fewer than half of the students are Catholic.

So in reality, the Archbishop decided to inject himself into the situation despite the fact that he has no actual authority over the school. Note the Archbishop’s definition of “scandal”. Apparently the Catholic Church believes that it is more important to focus on the personal opinions and statements of an employee (because it might lead others to do evil) than to acknowledge and atone for decades of sexual abuse upon innocent children by members of their own clergy.

Nothing like a super-sized serving of hypocrisy. Perhaps I simply don’t understand the meaning of evil? Then again, the storied history of the Catholic Church is littered with similar inconsistenc ies. The one prevailing constant has been their insistence that the focus of their moral compass always point outward. In my many years of contact with Catholic clergy, I’ve always been taken aback by their belief that simply being part of the clergy connotes absolute authority and moral supremacy. Unfortunatel y, that is a fully flawed construct given their own immoral legacy.

Granted, I respect their right to their beliefs and their right to freely express them. However, their long-establi shed efforts to stifle the same in others simply demonstrates their propensity to trample the rights of those who disagree. I’m even content to accept their right to condemn others (declare them to be sinners) who do not uphold Church doctrine…so long as those condemnation s don’t abridge the rights granted to those individuals by the government.

Sadly, zealots are rarely satisfied to be the masters of their own domain; instead they seek to enslave all of humanity within the confines of their dominion. Irreverent as this may be, I think the Catholic Church would do well to respect the personal space of others and keep their meandering mittens to themselves. God knows the millions of dollars (and they do like money) they would have saved had they only demonstrated the decency to do so in the past.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Tags: , , , , , , Abortion, Archbishop Raymond Burke, , Child Molestation, Dogma, Embryonic Stem Cells, Hypocrisy, , Rick Majerus, Saint Louis University

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