The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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May 19, 2000 Issue

Looking around

Deceased cardinal, new archbishop and fictional president all attract attention

By Tony Staley
Compass Editor

From time-to-time, several things strike my fancy, rather than one. This is one of those times.

The death of Card. John O'Connor takes a real prince of the church from our midst. He was someone who made non-Catholics - particularly in the media - scratch their heads because they couldn't pigeon-hole him. For example, he was a longtime U.S. Navy chaplain, but he also played a key role in writing the U.S. bishops' pastoral letter on peace. He opposed both abortion and capital punishment. He was an outspoken opponent of homosexual behavior, but often worked personally with dying AIDS patients.

I suspect that unlike the media, Jesus would see such behavior as consistent with his own life. As one whose mother was single when he was conceived, Jesus today would be an ideal target for abortion; he also was a victim of capital punishment, so I can't imagine Jesus favoring either practice. While Jesus was an outspoken champion of peace in both words - "Peace be with you" - and actions - directing his followers to put their weapons away when he was arrested - Jesus ministered to a Roman centurion by healing his daughter. And while he often told people to sin no more, he often said he came to help sinners, not the saved.

On a personal note, I'm not sure if I ever saw Card. O'Connor in person, but I did talk about him with some of the staff at Catholic New York, his newspaper. They told me how he would sleep only four or five hours a night, then read, write and do other tasks bishops do. They said he opened the front door to St. Patrick's Cathedral every morning where the New York press corps, eagerly awaited a quote for their daily reports.

What would Jesus do? I think he would do much as Card. O'Connor did - uphold the law, minister to the needy and banter with the press.

When it was announced Thursday morning that Bp. Edward Egan of Bridgeport, Conn., had been named the new Archbishop of New York, I had to chuckle. The news reports called him a conservative and a staunch Vatican supporter who opposes abortion, ordaining women and homosexual activity. Could anyone possibly have expected the Vatican to name as Archbishop of New York (or bishop of anywhere else) someone with the opposite views on any of these issues. If there is anyone who thinks that way, they probably should be allowed in public only under close supervision.

While I seem to have a knack for dooming TV shows by endorsing them, I'm going to try it again. Regular readers may recall that a couple of years ago I strongly recommended Nothing Sacred, the ABC program that was unjustifiably savaged by the Catholic League, whose merciless and baseless attacks convinced numerous people not to watch despite the assurances of saner heads. Then, a few weeks back, before I could even write urging people to watch NBC's animated series, God, the Devil and Bob, the local affiliate and the network both pulled the plug. (And for the reverse, a few years back when NYPD Blue first went on the air, amidst controversy, I wrote that no one should get upset because it wouldn't last more than a few weeks.)

Anyway, because I'm a slower learner (and because it's already proven itself to be a ratings success), I'm recommending another program - The West Wing (8 p.m. Wednesday on WGBA, channel 26). The NBC series stars Martin Sheen as a fictional U.S. president Josiah Bartlet, sort of a combination Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Unlike Clinton, Bartlet has a conscience and morals, and is not an opportunist.

And Bartlet, like Sheen, is a staunch Catholic. Sheen told the Associated Press that Bartlet "is not Catholic by accident. We added that so that he would have a moral frame of reference, and take personal responsibility for sin."

If you haven't watched it yet, try it for a few weeks. It's the kind of program that makes me feel proud to be a Catholic and an American while giving me hope about politics.

And one final note. On May 5, we printed an eight-page supplement on the Green Bay Diocese's parish planning process. We're looking at the possibility of printing additional copies for sale to parishes. To place an order, phone Barb Gauthier at (920)437-7531 or 1-877-500-3580, ext. 8208.

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