Column: From the Pastor
An epitaph on the tomb of Bishop Miler Magrath of Cashel in Ireland (d. 1622) reads: “Here where I am placed I am not. I am not where I am not. Nor am I in both places, but I am in each.” His problem was that he had called himself a Catholic bishop as well as a Protestant bishop.
Bishop Magrath’s ingenuity for rationalizing brings to mind his contemporary in England, Simon Aleyn, who was unable to maintain the duplicity of practicing two religions at the same time. To retain his position as vicar of an affluent parish in Berkshire, whatever might be the religion of the reigning monarch, he declared himself consecutively Protestant, Catholic, Protestant, and Catholic again, inspiring a caustic ballad:
And this is law, I will maintain
Unto my Dying Day, Sir.
That whatsoever King may reign,
I will be the Vicar of Bray, Sir!
There is a political parallel to this malleability in a former Vice President who has decided to run for the actual Presidency as a Catholic independent of the strictures of Catholicism.
As Vice President, he officiated at the civil “marriage” of two men in 2016, although he had voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. In 2006 he threatened that if anyone said he was not Catholic, “I’m gonna shove my rosary beads down their throat.” The Bishop of Cashel and the Vicar of Bray could not have said it more eloquently.
Recently, this candidate reversed overnight his longstanding support of the Hyde Amendment, which blocks federal subsidies for abortions. We remember the United States senator who said in 2004 that he voted for a bill before he voted against it, and the Australian senator who explained her position on a tax-cut proposal in 2018: “I said no originally, then I said yes. Then I have said no, and I’ve stuck to it.”
For Bismarck, “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable – the art of the next best.”
I was fortunate to know Congressman Henry Hyde, who counted his amendment his greatest achievement, and I also knew Judge Robert Bork who was slandered by the rancorous attacks of the aforementioned vice president. Both were aware that no one can survive in public life if he naively denies that situations can require compromise and even reversals. But they also knew that when the flip-flop is a matter of life or death, accommodation takes on an ominous character.
The Bourbon King Henry IV, baptized Catholic but reared Protestant and the champion of a Protestant army, became king of France by cutting a deal: he would declare himself Catholic. “Paris vaut bien une messe.” He decided that Paris was well worth a Mass, but the Church does not consider him worthy of sainthood. Less saintly is anyone who calculates that Washington, D.C. is worth more than a Mass.
Fr. George W. Rutler, S.T.D., is a brilliant scholar, author, convert, former pastor of Our Saviour in Midtown Manhattan, the closest Catholic parish near the site of 9-11, and now pastor of St Michael’s parish in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City. A donation of any amount may be made to the parish at: www.StMichaelNYC.com.
View Articles Father Rutler was ordained to the diaconate in Rome by His Eminence William Cardinal Baum in 1980 and received priestly ordination in St. Patrick's... MORE »