Seeing things in shades of gray

By | May 13, 2009

What made Adams so successful was his understanding of light; that between black and white, many subtle shades of light and darkness exist. Knowing what range or zone to use in a photographic exposure brought out stunning details of light and contrast in his scenes.

Sometimes it seems we Catholics could use a zone system. Too often we like things black and white, even though shades of gray permeate the scene. We like to pretend we’re the Ansel Adamses of the church and point fingers at fellow Catholics who do not see things the way we do. The finger pointing becomes more pronounced when it’s pointed at a church leader.

Recently, an East Coast archbishop has been the subject of finger pointing from Catholics who say he is not responding to an issue the way they see fit.

The target: Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. The issue: His position on withholding Communion from a Catholic politician. The protesting group: The American Life League.

In a statement issued May 8, ALL’s Michael Hichborn criticized the archbishop for refusing to withhold Communion from Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

“By allowing pro-abortion ‘Catholic’ politicians like Nancy Pelosi to receive holy Communion, Archbishop Wuerl is not only disobeying church law, he is ignoring the sacrilege being perpetrated against the body of Christ in holy Communion…” states Hichborn.

ALL claims that Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law requires such a consequence.

Archbishop Wuerl, who was chairman of the editorial oversight board that developed the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults, does not need ALL to explain the Code of Canon Law to him.

In an interview with “Politics Daily,” Archbishop Wuerl said that he is disappointed to see Communion being used as a bargaining chip.

“That’s the new way now to make your point. We never – the church just didn’t use Communion this way. It wasn’t a part of the way we do things, and it wasn’t a way we convinced Catholic politicians to appropriate the faith and live it and apply it; the challenge has always been to convince people,” he said.

Archbishop Wuerl noted that two different approaches have been used to bring Catholic politicians in line with church teaching.

“One is the pastoral, teaching mode, and the other is the canonical approach,” he said. “I have yet to see where the canonical approach has changed anyone’s heart. … The teaching approach that we’ve used for centuries requires patience, persistence and insistence, but I believe if we teach our people, we will not have a problem with our politicians.”

What concerns Archbishop Wuerl even more is the negativity expressed by critics. In a column for his archdiocesan newspaper, the “Catholic Standard,” he explained that he does not like the way Catholics freely judge others.

“It is not enough that we know or believe something to be true. We must express truth in charity, with respect for others so that the bonds between us can be strengthened in building up the Church of Christ,” he wrote.

As anyone who listens to talk radio or reads online blogs knows, the venom spouted these days – even by Catholic talking heads – can be toxic. What’s missing is perspective and wisdom, the kind Archbishop Wuerl has displayed.

As Ansel Adams proved, there are many shades of gray between black and white. Archbishop Wuerl understands this. He knows there are other ways to shepherd a flock than just a heavy handed, legalistic approach.

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