- The Washington Times - Monday, September 8, 2003

Roman Catholic leaders should stop rewarding dissenting Catholics with choice committee positions and be more forthcoming about homosexual priests, 39 conservative Catholics told five bishops at a closed-door summit yesterday.

“It doesn’t help instruct the faithful when publicly dissenting Catholics are rewarded with positions of participation in official roles in the church, when they’re asked to keynote Catholic dinners,” said Crisis magazine publisher Deal Hudson, one of the summit conveners. “We asked them to think about what criteria they are using when they invite … Catholic leaders who are dissenting, especially on the issue of life.”

Particularly nettlesome, five of the participants said at a press conference afterward, was the appointment of former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta to the National Review Board, a panel to address the clergy’s sexual-abuse crisis.

“Panetta’s record in Congress and then as chief of staff to President Clinton when President Clinton vetoed the partial-birth abortion ban makes clear that Panetta just fundamentally rejects the teaching of the church on the sanctity of human life,” said Robert George, a Princeton University politics professor.

“It sends a message we’re not taking this teaching [on abortion] too seriously when we turn around and appoint to a position of great trust, indeed a position with which to advise the church on how to deal with a moral crisis, somebody who publicly, very prominently believes what is incompatible with Catholic teaching.”

Also discussed, said John Klink, a former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, was what he called a “Catholics need not apply” standard in American society in light of recent Senate filibusters of Catholic nominees for judicial positions.

The summit was a response to a July 7 meeting among several bishops and centrist and liberal Catholics. The five bishops at yesterday’s gathering, held at the Cosmos Club in the District, were Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of the Archdiocese of Washington; Bishop William Friend of the Archdiocese of Shreveport, La.; Bishop William Skylstad of the Archdiocese of Spokane, Wash.; and Bishop Robert Lynch of the Archdiocese of St. Petersburg, Fla.

These bishops showed “no resistance,” Mr. George said, to conservatives’ pleas to “call the evil by name” in terms of the clergy’s sexual-abuse crisis.

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