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Exclusive Interview: Three Bishops refute flawed theology of Fr. Andrew Greeley


8/20/2004 - 4:00 PM PST


© Barbara Kralis 2004
Catholic Online (

No other Vatican memorandum has caused so much controversy in recent times as has that written by the head of the Vatican’s second most important dicastery of the Roman Curia.

Moreover, one Cardinal and one Catholic priest are at the forefront of this controversy, namely Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., and retired sociologist Father Andrew M. Greeley, Ph.D.

The First Controversy

The first controversy, perpetuated by Cardinal McCarrick, took place at the United Stated Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) plenary meeting, June 14-19, 2004, in Denver, Colorado.

Knowing well the U.S. Bishops’ need to correct the scandal of over 500 ‘Catholic’ politicians in the U.S. who promote procured abortion, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, wrote two USCCB heads a directive memorandum.

Cardinal Ratzinger wrote the memo in English expressly to the attention of Cardinal McCarrick and Bishop Wilton Gregory, President of the USCCB. The memo was to be shared with the Conference of Bishops and used as a guideline representing firmly defined Church teaching and law on this issue.

Cardinal Ratzinger, in his memorandum entitled “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion – General Principles,” said without ambiguity:

“The minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it” when warning and counsel given to the manifest sinner “have not had their effect.” [1]

As chair of the USCCB’s ‘Task Force’ committee, Cardinal McCarrick gave the remaining 189 U.S. Bishops his own recommendations regarding Catholic politicians who promote procured abortion.

Not unexpectedly, Cardinal McCarrick’s recommendations departed from clearly defined Church teachings and Canon Law. McCarrick said his “Task Force does not advocate the denial of Communion from Catholic Politicians or Catholic voters.” [2]

In addition, Cardinal McCarrick unfortunately did not share the contents of Cardinal Ratzinger’s memorandum with the Conference of Bishops.  Moreover, the Committee of Bishops [3] who composed the ensuing controversial statement, “Catholics in Political Life” were also not given the contents of Ratzinger’s memorandum.[4]

Because of McCarrick’s withholding of Vatican directives, the Conference of Bishops was led to believe Cardinal Ratzinger was recommending them to take action contrary to Vatican documents and laws,[5] some written by Cardinal Ratzinger himself. 

Confusion reigned and the Conference of Bishops remains divided over this controversy even more so today.

The Second Controversy

Fr. Andrew Greeley perpetuated the second controversy regarding the same memorandum from Cardinal Ratzinger.

None would dispute that Fr. Greeley is the ‘Catholic’ darling of the secular media. Whenever the major news marketers require an interviewee regarding Catholic Church issues, they indisputably call upon the ubiquitous Fr. Greeley.

Author of numerous nigh on pornographic novels, Father Greeley is under the authority of Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago. It is not known if Cardinal George has imposed any disciplines upon the aging hippy Father Greeley whose behavior is not consistent with the ordained priesthood.

True to form, in an August 10, 2004 New York Daily News article, Fr. Greeley crafted a column that disparaged faithful Bishops and used the deceitful headline “Catholics can vote for Kerry.”

In this article, Fr. Greeley dishonestly stated that His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said that Catholics could vote for Presidential candidate John Kerry who promotes procured abortion.

Fr. Greeley was fraudulently referring to the Cardinal Ratzinger memorandum.

A scandalous excerpt from Father Andrew Greeley’s article read as follows:

“It is as close to an official statement on the subject as one is likely to get. It says that Catholics are not obliged to vote on one issue, no matter how important the issue might be. They may vote for Kerry “for other reasons” so long as they are not supporting him merely for his pro-choice stance. That ought to settle the matter. Catholics who have been confused by the insistence of a few bishops, some priests and some pro-life laity that they must vote against Kerry now know that they are free to make their choice balancing all issues – just as they always have been. The theory of ‘indirect material cooperation’ is traditional Catholic moral teaching. Apparently, the few bishops who threaten to exclude Catholics from Communion if they vote for Kerry don’t know much traditional moral theology, which shows what the qualifications are for the bishopric these days.”

That disparaging excerpt is malicious but not surprising coming from a priest who makes a living writing steamy, enticing novels that are either an ‘occasion of sin’ or ‘blatantly sinful to read.

Three Bishops refute Greeley’s theology

According to three U.S. Bishops, Father Andrew Greeley has distorted the words of Cardinal Ratzinger.

The three Bishops are:

~Bishop Robert Francis Vasa, M.Div., J.C.L., Bishop of Baker, Oregon

~Bishop Michael J. Sheridan, Bishop of Colorado Springs, Colorado

~ Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, D.D., S.T.D., Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska

They have granted this writer and Catholic exclusive statements that strongly disagree with Fr. Greeley.

Bishop Robert Francis Vasa, M.Div., J.C.L.

When asked if he agreed with Father Greeley’s assessment of Cardinal Ratzinger’s statement, Bishop Vasa gave the following statement:

“I see little sense in entering into a debate about the theological merits of Father Andrew Greeley’s statement in the New York Daily News article of August 10, 2004. I do believe his interpretation of Cardinal Ratzinger’s June Statement is erroneous.

“While it is an interesting intellectual exercise to debate whether Catholics, under certain very limited circumstances, may or may not vote for candidates who favor procured abortion, the more important practical question is whether practicing Catholics should, in fact, vote for a candidate who openly, consistently and even aggressively defends the killing of pre-born children when there are Pro-Life alternatives.

“Whether a Catholic may or may not vote for a candidate who favors procured abortion, when there are pro-life alternatives available, can be debated. Whether he should or should not, in my mind, is very clear. Pre-born human life in our country is under consistent and vicious attack and those lives must be defended. As I have said elsewhere, these little ones have no vote but mine and I will use it for them at every opportunity.”

Bishop Michael J. Sheridan

Bishop Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs gave the following statement:

“It is my opinion that Fr. Andrew Greeley’s reading of Cardinal Ratzinger’s memorandum is very incorrect. Nowhere does Fr. Greeley even attempt to deal with the qualifying phrase: “…in the presence of proportionate reasons.”

“I would ask Fr. Greeley to provide those reasons that could even begin to justify voting for an avowedly pro-abortion candidate.  Put another way: How do we balance out the murder of more than one million babies each year with any good or series of goods?

“Also, if Fr. Greeley’s reading of the memo is correct, we would have to throw out other magisterial teachings; for example, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s own statement: “Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life.” [6]

Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, D.D., S.T.D.

When asked if he agreed with Father Greeley’s assessment of Cardinal Ratzinger’s statement, Bishop Bruskewitz conveyed through his Vicar General, Monsignor Timothy J. Thorburn, J.C.L., the following assertion:

“No Catholics of any sense will take any pastoral advice from Father Andrew Greeley, a superficial writer who appears to spend his time promoting himself to various elements in the secular media.

“It is often said by priests and people in his native region of Chicago that he long ago published all his thoughts, and in the last decades has been publishing his fantasies.

“In his article in the New York Daily news, fostering a pro-abortion vote (‘so long as it is not merely for that…’), he seems to strongly indicate not only a tragic indifference to abortion, which the Second Vatican Council called ‘an abominable crime,’ but a shallowness of mind akin to a harlequin.

“In his self-important buffoonery, he has appointed himself as instructor to Bishops and to Catholics nationwide. In doing this, he merely announces to every thoughtful Catholic that his views are totally self serving and undeserving of any serious consideration.

“Father Greeley even appointed himself to be an interpreter and spokesman for Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, to the great amusement of all who really know the Cardinal.

“My advice to any Catholics who would ask me about that Greeley article would be to give it the same view as you would the words and acts of a clown.”

Labra lege! Catholics cannot follow Father Greeley’s bad advice and vote for John Kerry.

If you would like to express your gratitude to the three bishops, contact them as follows:

~Bishop Bruskewitz’s email at:

~Bishop Sheridan’s email at:

~Bishop Vasa’s email at:

 © Barbara Kralis 2004 All Rights Reserved
Catholic Online -


[1] Cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration ‘Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics,’ by Cardinal Julián Herranz, President, nos. 3-4, June 2000.

[2] USCCB, 6/15/04, “Interim Reflections: Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians,” by Cardinal McCarrick.

[3] The committee was comprised of Cardinal George, Bishop Wuerl, and members of the ‘task force,’ including Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Chaput, Bishop Galante, Bishop Wenski, Bishop Trautman, and Bishop Ricard.

[4] Cf. “Cardinal Ratzinger said ‘The minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it.’ He did not say ‘could,’ or ‘may,’ but that he ‘must.’” By Barbara Kralis, July 9, 2004:

[5] The Code of Canon Law, c.915 exhorts: “Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.” Canon Law is Divine Law and supersedes all other Church teachings.

[6] This 18-page Doctrinal Note “is directed to the Bishops of the Catholic church and, in a particular way, to Catholic politicians and all lay members of the faithful called to participate in the political life of democratic societies,” November 21, 2002 by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect.

Barbara Kralis, the article's author, writes for various Christian and conservative publications. She is a regular columnist at Catholic Online,, Intellectual Conservative, Life Issues, The Wanderer newspaper, Phil Brennan’s WOW, New Oxford Review Magazine, Washington Dispatch, Catholic Citizens, Illinois Leader, NewsBull, MichNews, and others. Her first journalism position was with Boston Herald Traveler, l964. Barbara published and edited 'Semper Fidelis' Catholic print newsletter. She and her husband, Mitch, live in the great State of Texas, and co-direct the Jesus Through Mary Catholic Foundation. She can be reached at:



Copyright © 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved