Cardinal Wuerl on Fox News Sunday – A Reflection and Commentary

This morning on Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace interviewed Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, and also my Archbishop, and, lest we forget, the sponsor of this blog! The full video of the interview is at the bottom of this post and I encourage you to see it all. However, here, I would like to focus on a few issues and and add, if I be so bold, my own commentary as well to the remarks of Cardinal Wuerl. As always in such formats,  I will present the original questions and answers in bold, black, italic font. My own remarks in normal text red.

WALLACE: As you look across America, let’s talk about the spiritual state of our union as we approach 2011. I know one of the things that concerns you are all the shouting, talking heads on TV, and all the divisive blogs, and you say they come out of the same mentality as road rage. Explain.

WUERL: I think what happens is when people don’t feel they are accountable for what they’re saying — and that often happens when there is no one there to challenge what you are saying — people can — some people tend to say things that really need to be modified. They need to be contextualized. I think what we have to say to ourselves, as we look at this great country and all of the wonderful things that are a part of our history and our life together, we need to be respectful of each other. We need to be talking to each other out of the same tone that we would if we were directly across the table from someone. And that — that is a little bit of a challenge today because with blogs and with all the ease of communications, we sometimes forget directly across the table from usI personally experience a rather bifurcated life in this matter. I think the Cardinal is quite right in noting that certain settings feature a rather terse and harsh tone, e.g.  on certain blogs, on the Internet, talk radio and to some extent on TV “talking head” panels. But in person I often experience the opposite issue in that people don’t often speak as directly as I would like. I can sit in specific meetings and many people do not come right out and say what they mean. They hedge, “beat around the bush” and equivocate rather than speak directly to the issue and express their opinion clearly. This happnes interpersonally at times also.

One thing I admire about Cardinal Wuerl is that in his meetings, and I sit on many Archdiocesan panels and boards, the Cardinal encourages frank discussion and the airing of differing views. It helps us craft a realistic policies and responses to situations when all the views are on the table and there are no “pink elephants” in the room that every one ignores. Certainly there is an insistence on civil discourse in these sorts of meetings. But in the end, frank, honest, candid discussion is helpful. In many cases however I think that such discussions are rarer in our wider culture than I would wish.

Perhaps this is why some are so strident in settings where their true identity may not be known and where they don’t personally interact with their “interlocutors.” In effect they celebrate a kind of freedom,  to the extreme,  that they do not feel comfortable doing face to face.  There is thus some value to the  “protected” and “incognito” or faceless quality of Internet discussion. However, the Cardinal is right in pointing out that accountability is often less in such settings. This is true in terms of both tone and content. In relationships that involve real, physical presence we can be held accountable for being unkind and, because we cannot so easily “sign-off” from discussions or relationships of this sort,  we will tend to be more careful how we treat others.

It is also true, that Internet discussions are really back and forth monologues more than real conversations. Right now I am typing and you will later (now) read and perhaps type back. Right now I have a monologue going and you cannot interrupt me, or challenge me, either on my tone or content. I might, as the Cardinal points out, need to modify what I am saying or how I am saying it based on your feedback. Further, as the Cardinal notes, one-sided conversations that occur especially in opinion based blogs often lack context. Talking about an issue is fine but context is important and recounting the “rest of the story” is not often respected.

An additional factor of opinion based blogs, radio shows, and news channels,  is that they tend to attract people of like mind so that the conversation lacks depth and many of these subsets become increasingly isolated and opaque. What therefore touts itself to be a wide open discussion increasingly appears as a closed circle of like-minded people in the  corner of the room at a cocktail party saying things to each other and going unchallenged in any substantial way.

In terms of this blog, we are discussing ways of widening the conversation and bringing more people to the table. Fr. Robert Barron is very good at doing this. He is able to engage people in a conversation who would never THINK of going to a Catholic blog. He does this by going out into the culture and commenting on things that most Catholic bloggers don’t (e.g. Bob Dylan as theologian, movie commentaries, etc.) At any rate we’re thinking of bring a lively conversation of the culture to bear more and more here and yours truly (age 49.5) is challenged to keep up with all the latest cultural stuff, especially among the young. More on these ideas later.

WALLACE:…Cardinal, the church does have some problems. And I want to pull up some polls. According to surveys, 75 percent of Catholics attended church weekly, back in the 1950s. That’s now down to 45 percent. And while 31 percent of Americans say they were raised in a Catholic family, only 24 percent now describe themselves as Catholic. Question, how do you account for that?

WUERL: I think what we’re facing is the erosion because of the heavy, heavy influence of secularism. We live in a world, and particularly, our country, that is awash in the continuous repetition of the secular view. And all these statistics say to me is, I’m not doing as good a job as I should in preaching the Gospels. I am not doing as good a job as I need to do in getting the rest of the story out there. And the rest of the story is it’s wonderful to live in a technologically advanced, highly scientific world, but with that is also the gift of faith, and what faith brings to that whole world. Those statistics simply say to me I need to be, the church needs to be much more effective in telling the story of Jesus. I like this answer. We DO have to be sober about the secularization of our society as the chief cause of the erosion of our numbers. But, as the Cardinal points out, this is an explanation, it is not excuse. It simply means that we will have to redouble our efforts and do a better, more effective job of preaching the gospel. We have talked about that a lot on this blog and will talk of it more!

WALLACE: Cardinal, even during the Christmas season, this is still a Sunday morning talk show, so I’m going to ask you about a political issue which has a strong moral component. How do you feel about the repeal of “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell,” the ban on gays serving openly in the military?

WUERL: You have to put that in context of what the church would be concerned about. When we’re dealing with the question of military readiness or morale, those are issues that we have to really hear from others on. What the church is concerned about and what it brings to this debate, this discussion, are two realities. One, the understanding the long, long teaching of the church that every human being is worthy of respect. Every person must be embraced and respected and treated with fairness. Then you also have to take the rest of the Gospel message, the rest of Jesus’s message that human sexuality has a purpose. And this is not for simply personal satisfaction. Human sexually has to be seen in the context of the great gift of love, marriage, family. And so when the church addresses any of these issues that touch on sexuality, that is our starting point. And that’s why we often times are viewed, I think, as an opposition voice, because this is a highly, highly focused society on the pleasures of life. And the church is saying that’s true, but there is also responsible sexuality. – An excellent response and distinction: respect for the person, but clarity on moral issues. We live in a culture where many people insist that the Church do what she cannot. We simply cannot set aside Biblical and Dogmatic teaching on moral issues. We can surely respect that people struggle with them. But many people insist that, until we approve of what they do, we do not really respect them, that somehow, in our disapproval of something they do we intend to offend or disrespect them. But this not so. That someone takes offense at something you or I say does not mean we actually gave offense and even less that we intended to give offense.

The Catholic Church is careful to distinguish between a person’s orientation and their behavior. We also distinguish between temptation and sin. For  example, that someone struggles with and is often tempted to anger does not make them a bad person. However, we cannot give approval to the unrighteous venting of anger. The temptation or orientation to anger is, of itself,  morally neutral, the giving way to that anger in a harmful way is not morally neutral. It is the same with sexuality. Most people suffer some degree of sexual temptation. This is not, of itself, sinful. What is sinful is to give way to it, whether through fornication, adultery, pornography, masturbation, etc. Thus, the homosexual person is not bad because of an orientation and the manner in which they are tempted sexually. Rather, what is bad is, not the person, but the acts that flow from the temptation by yielding to it.

I understand that even with this distinction (respect for the sinner, clarity about sin) many Gay people are not satisfied. What they want is approval of the acts. But the Church cannot give this. Yet, as the Cardinal says, and that is every human being is worthy of respect even if we cannot approval all of what every human being does, starting with the man or woman in the mirror. We do not intend therefore any disrespect, we do not intend to offend. That some do take offense and feel disrespected is regrettable and we in the Church  invite them to consider that our concerns are rooted in sincerely held Christian principles, rooted in biblical revelation, and the teaching of the ancient Church, and that we cannot simply cast aside what we sincerely believe to be reveled by God in this matter.

WALLACE: So are you in favor or against the repeal of “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell”?

WUERL: That is a question that has to be worked out politically. And there isn’t a specific Catholic Church position, but whatever happens, it has to be seen in terms of the church’s teaching position. And that is, human sexuality is something that is supposed to be exercised responsibly and within the context of marriage. It is good for the Cardinal to avoid getting into a policy discussion of exactly how the US military should handle this. In this blog many have remarked with anger how they consider the US Bishops often transgress their role by getting involved in matters of policy. It is clear that the Bishops must advocate moral principles and set forth a Biblical and Christian vision regarding matters of justice and the moral life. But that does not mean that they should comment on every specific issue regarding policy.

The Cardinal has articulated clearly enough that the Church insists upon sexual responsibility for all people. How the military chooses to regulate itself or its members around possible threats to military discipline related to sexual matters involves prudential judgments, judgments that they are best fit to make.

It is also possible in this answer that Cardinal Wuerl is deferring to Archbishop Timothy Broglio who is the Archbishop for Military Services and may have more of a reason to comment directly on policy matters in this regard since his priests who serve in the military are directly impacted by the decision. You can read his statment here:

WALLACE: And we have — and I apologize. We have about 45 seconds. In this special season, what message do you have for Christians and non-Christians alike?

WUERL: Christmas is a time when we all can look with hope to the future. That’s part of the message of Christmas. There is the best in each one of us. And we’re all capable of bringing out the best. And to do that together with one another, in a very pluralistic society, says that we can look to the future with hope, because if we respect and love one another, there is nothing we can’t accomplish. Yes, hope is the best note on which to end. The Pope also does this very well in his book Light of the World. In that Book Peter Seewald is often alarmist, but the Pope always goes back to the hope that is rooted in the promise of Jesus Christ that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church. Cardinal Wuerl has the same principled balance: sober about the challenges we face, but rooted in hope for we serve a Lord who said: “In this world you shall have tribulation, but have confidence. I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

33 Replies to “Cardinal Wuerl on Fox News Sunday – A Reflection and Commentary”

  1. This is another great post. I have made a point of mentioning to family and friends who think that the Catholic Church is opposed to the homosexual orientation that there is a Gay and Lesbian Ministry at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, which is I believe Cardinal Wuerl’s see in the Archdiocese of Washington (did I use correct terminology for that?). This, to me, proves that the Church is not against the homosexual orientation at all, but just as with anyone unmarried, that we should be practicing celibacy. I see both sides of the story, and there is more to it than meets the eye, as with many topics, but I do believe and see that the Church is not against the homosexual orientation.

    I also agree with the point that blogs and articles make it much easier to argue a point loudly and opinionatedly (if that is a word) than if we were to discuss this matter in person. Of course, on the other side of things, I’ve also seen people who appear to have no brain-to-mouth filter, and can be just as loud and offensive, even, in person. On the good side of blogs, like blogs such as this one, they can bring people together on a topic who may or may not have ever met in person, and provide some good debate.

  2. Dear Msgr. Pope:
    I enjoyed very much reading your thoughtful blog about Cardinal Wuerl’s interview by Chris Wallace. I especially liked the way he dealt with the questions, and also your comments about this. I found your last paragraph (above) truly comforting in this frightening day! Many thanks for the wisdom you shared in this blog.
    I’ve been disappointed occasionally that various protestant churches have failed to take a stand on anything involving morals or values, and many of their spokespersons don’t seem to have anything they will take a stand on any more. I believe your and Cardinal Wuerl’s) unwillingness to act against your basic beliefs will be much in your favor over time. I was brought up in a protestant church where my mother was the secretary for many years, and I never knew her to be reluctant to take a stand against behavior that she knew was wrong. Mother told me that her father attended a Catholic school as a child, his mother’s parents having immigrated either from Elsas (now part of Alsace-Lorraine) or from Germany. I’m tracing my family history — is there any way of learning where the records from that school are now kept? This family lived in Ft. Smith, Arkansas, and Granddaddy would have been in school before 1900.
    The following quote was on a message a correspondent sent to me today, but I don’t know who the author Jim Lawrence is. I think the statement has a lot of impact:
    “The woman who would have discovered the cure for breast cancer was aborted yesterday; Allow every living
    thing to develop its’ fullest potential”.
    – Jim Lawrence
    We need all the good we can find in the present world, so keep discussing your values openly.
    Happy New Year and very best wishes,
    Jane Bledsoe

  3. Thank you for that link to the interview. I especially liked how Cardinal Wuerl explained that the Church is here to serve everybody. He didn’t explicitly say, “All sinners are welcome” but that’s how I view it. He is so calm and he radiates peace.

  4. With regards to the first question by Wallace, it is fair enough to say that there is stridency among Catholics online and in other media.

    I also agree, Monsignor, with your point about anonymity. The most vile comments left on my blog are by people who use “anonymous” or obvious nicknames. I originally started out this way myself, paranoid of having my name “out there”. However, I found even within myself, that it was easy to say things in ways I would not if my real name were against the comment or post. So, that became the driving force for the practice of blogging under my own name, or at least using my blogname with my first name, making it easy enough for my identity to be found when commenting.

    While I think it is good for bishops to call for respectful dialogue (it too is a part of our faith), I would very much like bishops to also speak out against Catholics who make use of “Catholic” media to spread false teachings about our faith. I would like for them to challenge secular news sources to consult legitimate Catholic sources for information. Most often, secular media will consult sources like the National Catholic Reporter. This leads to frustration on the part of the faithful and it goes unchallenged (thought Archbishop Dolan has done a pretty good job of going after the NY Times). The National Catholic Reporter was condemned in 1968 by Bishop Helmsing. In part, his statement reads:

    NOW, AS a last resort, I am forced as bishop to issue a condemnation of the National Catholic Reporter for its disregard and denial of the most sacred values of our Catholic faith. Within recent months the National Catholic Reporter has expressed itself in belittling the basic truths expressed in the Creed of Pope Paul VI; it has made itself a platform for the airing of heretical views on the Church and its divinely constituted structure, as taught by the First and Second Vatican Councils. Vehemently to be reprobated was the airing in recent editions of an attack on the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the virgin birth of Christ, by one of its contributors.
    Finally, it has given lengthy space to a blasphemous and heretical attack on the Vicar of Christ. It is difficult to see how well instructed writers who deliberately deny and ridicule dogmas of our Catholic faith can possibly escape the guilt of the crime defined in Canon 1325 on heresy, and how they can escape the penalties of automatic excommunication entailed thereby.

    Today, that same paper, carrying the Catholic name, openly promotes homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion, contraception, and many other things which are not aligned with Catholic teaching.

    I think the frustration level will go down amongst loyal Catholics, who act stridently, when the bishops go after these things too. People will be more willing to listen to the call for respectful dialogue when bishops confront these things and make it known that these things which are contrary to Catholicism are also challenged. I’m not excusing stridency – they are two separate issues. But part of the stridency comes from nearly 40 years of silence to obvious assaults on our Catholic faith and the loss of friends and loved ones to the artifices.

  5. @ Diane. I agree with you. I do believe however, as stated in Msgr Pope’s commentary that the message must be presented in it’s fullness. One of my deepest concerns today is for our youth. The “way” or the “how” the faith was communicated and taught 20 years ago was effective then. As a faith community we must be open to new ways of conveying these same truths and realities with a “tone” that is civil and respected. The discussions, can not just be related to ancient times but to the times in which we live in. We can’t live in an ivory tower. Priest as well as lay faithful should engage in conversations of the day. Media I think will become the key in doing this. For example, topics of discussion may include TV shows such as “GLEE”, entertainers “Lady Gaga”, athletes, politicians and the like. This would not be an assault on any of these venues but to have open dialogue on how they impact our thinking and influence our moral decisions.

    I think this blog has done a good job at beginning this effort but must continue to open itself to more dialogue from the younger population. I don’t know about the rest of you bloggers, but I’m getting older and the future of our Church relies on the next generation.

  6. We have the Pope decrying the violence inflicted on Christians abroad as blood covers the land on Christmas and the cardinal of the most powerful Christian nation is talking about good manners and right conduct in the blogosphere. We have the administration circumventing the people’s will by regulations that curtail freedom and processes that introduce death panels; yet, one gets the impression that Church leaders are oblivious to these threats. The Liberals in Church are challenging Her teachings on life as “Catholic” hospitals provide abortion and we get a commentary on DADT. No wonder the people are not inspired and the numbers go down. What is good is that through the blogosphere the Church can look at other bishops for a better and more courageous witness to the Word and won’t be limited to the one that they are stuck with.

      1. Both. The cardinal’s handlers has input in these matters. It was not an impromptu event.

        These softball questions show superficiality, intellectual weakness and a severe defficiency of intestinal fortitude vis-a-vis what faces the Church here and abroad. The Church in DC is of immense political influence that can mean the survival of the Christians in the banana republics. But we choose to stay out of the fire-storm. We don’t even try to meet with the Catholics in the House, Senate and the White House for a tete-a-tete. It is as though we’re ostriches with our heads in the sand. And I, for the love of God, don’t understand why.

      2. *** Well again, you really ought to write to Chris Wallace on these matters. If you think the Cardinal’s “handlers” as you call them have input I can tell you they would LOVE to have the input you say they have. I have been on National Live Television (CNN, PBS, and local coverage of any number of events incluing TV and radio) and I can assure you that there are no advance copies of questions and negotiations on content. What the ADW staff do well is to prepare us for what MIGHT be asked but there is no certainty as to what WILL be asked. I remember one TV producer talking with me in the Green Room and he was the producer mind you, but he said to me: “Well here is what the anchor may ask you but we never know for sure if they will ask these sorts of things or something else. We only propose but they do the interview.” Thus, even the producers are often uncertain where the Anchor will go and what they will choose to emphasize.

        You also are very flattering in your description of the “immense political influence” that the Church in DC has. Sadly this is no tthe case and I will tell you why: the Catholic Laity are divided politically. We do meet all the time with POLs. I have personally sat in the offices of some pretty powerful people at both Federal and District levels and had them say to me something like this: “Father, I hear your poistion on this. But I’m a politician and I know how to read polls. Your people aren’t with you on this, you don’t represent most of them on this, I do. Thanks for stopping Msgr. By the way how is your dear, sainted mother? Oh! She died?! I’m sorry I didn’t know that. Awful sorry Msgr., God bless you now, stop by any time.”

        So Ricky I want to challenge you, as a lay person, to go out and start rallying the Catholic faithful and get them foursquare behind us on abortion, gay “marriage” issues. Politically organize them Ricky, call for a Rally that will overwhelm washington (do you know that if only 10% of Catholics showed up for the March for life there would be 7,700,000 people in DC?). And then I tell you the Pols would quake in their boots if any Catholic bishop knocked on the door. There are 77 million Catholics and it belongs to the laity to politically organize. I am asking you Ricky to lead the charge and unify this disparate group. If we were united on any issue the pols would be calling us. Please start the movement, we are sadly divided. Shepherding Catholics is often like herding cats. Help us.

  7. With all due respect to Cardinal Donald Wuerl, The Catholic Church views homosexuality as a disordered sexual inclination. It is precisely because The Catholic Church teaches that we must respect the dignity of every person that homosexual sexual acts must never be condoned.

      1. My remarks reflect the official teaching of The Catholic Church in regards to homosexuality and thus in regards to dadt. To be clear, referring to oneself or someone else as an object of sexual desire (heterosexual, homosexual…) is demeaning, and is in direct conflict with Christ’s teaching regarding the sin of adultery and lust. Our complementary nature as male and female has been endowed to us from God from The Beginning. God created us male and female to live in a communion of Love while calling us to The Perfect Communion of Love, simultaneously. We are husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. Those who insist on defining themselves or others as homosexual, heterosexual, etc., do so in order that it may appear as if those of us who refuse to condone homosexual sexual acts or any sexual act that does not respect the Dignity of the human person are discriminating against a person, when in fact, we are discriminating against demeaning sexual acts. It is precisely because The Catholic Church teaches that we must respect the Dignity of the human person that homosexual sexual acts must never be condoned. Refusing to condone demeaning sexual acts because they do not respect the dignity of the human person is an act of Love.

      2. I agree with you but am not sure that the repeal of DADT amounts to condoning or not. I am on record as saying I think the repeal is a bad idea. However, I say this a private citizen who is opposed to the prudential judgement of military officials about how best to deal with the presence of Gay service members. But prudential decisions are debatable matters ipso facto. Hence, I think as a priest I should not try to draw the Church into this matter since we do not have dogmas related to prudential judgements that I can think of. Rather, the best we can do is to restate principles as you have done, and also the Cardinal. Please understand Nancy that I take this position not because I agree with the repeal of DADT (I do not) but because I think that bishops and priests ought to be very careful about opining on matters outside their realm. Had the Cardinal strongly denounced the repeal of DADT you would cheer him (others would deride him) but I strongly suspect that you would be far less cheerful if he were to advocate passage of the DREAM act (as some bishops did) or were to weigh in on budget cuts related to HHS (as some Bishops did), or opine on the particulars of the Arizona Immigration Law (As some bishops did). When the bishops weighed in on such matters many of the same folks demanding the Cradinal “Say something” about DADT were excoriating bishops for getting involved in politics, and policy and they should stay out of such things even though the Church has some very strong teachings on Immigration, Care for the poor etc. The bottom line is that it’s a “no-win” scenario when Bishops do such stuff and it is a prudential judgment about when to speak and how specific to be. You obviously want the Cardinal to speicifically denounce the appeal of DADT (fine, but will you support him at other times when his admonishment might challenge your position on an issue?) But as for me I understand and respect that his prudential judgment is to restate Catholic principles (Homosexual acts are sinful) and to avoid being drawn into the specific policy question by a member of the media. You seem to couch the issue that the only way the Cardinal can refuse to condone homosexual activity is to denounce the repeal of DADT. But here I would differ with you and say that he was very clear that the Church cannot and does not condone homosexual activity. It is not absolutely necessary to accept your terms. It is possible for the Church to teach on her own terms and avoid the specifics of a politically charged issue wherein not every one is speaking on principled moral grounds but some speak from other agendas that are not the Church’s agenda. There may be a prudence in avoiding being lumped in with others when it comes to this sort of public debate. In the end the Cardinal was clear: Homosexual activity is sinful, it is wrong.

  8. The Cardinal is an amazing witness in his expression of true compassion, acceptance and Christ’s message of dignity of all people. Unfortunately, as the news cycle has progressed since Sunday’s show, the Cardinal’s comments have been construed to indicate neutrality on behalf of the Catholic Church regarding the repeal of DADT.

    Archbishop Broglio’s statement, referenced above, strongly urges that the DADT policy not be repealed. He indicates in the conclusion of his statement:

    The Archdiocese for the Military Services–the only jurisdiction charged with the pastoral care of all Catholics in the military, VA Administration, and at the service of the Federal Government outside of the boundaries of the United States, which is also charged with endorsing Roman Catholic priests urges the Congress not to repeal the current policy for the Armed Forces.

    What the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will ultimately signify time will tell. The regrettable extension of the similar ‘non-discrimination” regulations and statutes have led to unforeseen hostility and a steadily decreasing role for the Catholic Church. As the Cardinal recognized during the Fox News interview, our own diocese was required to withdrawal from its eighty year old foster care ministry when “marriage” was redefined in the District

  9. Chris Wallace was respectful, but had to ask a second time for the Cardinal’s view of the “DADT” repeal. Sadly, even then, the Cardinal demurred. He seemed unwilling to apply a definitive moral evaluation of this particular Government action to normalize homosexual behavioral categories. Meanwhile, he seemed unaware that professing Catholic Christians have been among the most influential military and congressional sponsors of repeal as a morally “right thing to do”. — It could be argued that political leaders and laity have become the arbiters of moral righteousness under the vigorous influence of activist lobbies, but without much advice or warning from their Shepherds regarding real accountability under Almighty God. Perhaps I’m missing something?

    1. Well, for reasons I stated in the article, Cardinal Wuerl has made a prudential judgment to stay out of a specific policy matter (i.e. how to handle the presence of Gay people in the services) and chosen instead to annunciate a clear reiteration of Church teaching on the the moral principles involved. There is no Church teaching stating that Gays must be excluded from military service but there is Church teaching insisting on the sinfulness of homosexual acts and also teaching on the personal respect due to every human person. Exactly how the military works out the matter is up to them. The Cardinal reiterated what we can and do say and leaves internal policy matters regarding troop readiness and morale up to the military. A similar approach is stated in the matter of Just War wherein the Church cearly annunucates principles but ultimately remands to the decision to Go to War to the Civil Authority to whose competance the matter belongs. Thus, to use your description, in this matter it would seem that political leaders, and laity (to include military leaders) are in fact the “arbiters” of this issue. But not of the moral righteousness of the matter (which the Cardinal taught clearly on) but of the practical and prudential application of moral teaching to the given situation. Reasonable people differ on whether and how openly Gay people can serve in the military. The final resolution will ultimately involve involve a vigorous discussion that includes political, military and other elements.

      Prudence may well counsel caution in terms of commenting here since reasonable people differ on hwo the military should handle the matter. The principle of subsidiarity applies here as well in two senses. 1. That the decision is made at the appropriate level by the appropriate people, in this case the military and its civilian “controllers” and 2. That Archbishop Timothy Broglio is Archbishop for military services and does have some role in commenting more directly on the issue since it will involve the priests who serve under his authority. This principle may also have a lot to do with the nature of the Cardinal’s remarks.

      1. Msgr. Pope, while it is true that in order to protect our lives from those who wish to do us harm, The Catholic Church recognizes that reasonable people may disagree as to the best way to fight a just war, The Catholic Church teaches that out of Love and respect for the Dignity of the human person, homosexual sexual acts and sexual relationships must never be condoned and thus it is unreasonable to suggest that one can condone homosexual behavior while showing our Love and respect for the Dignity of the human person, simultaneously.

  10. +Broglio has spoken forcefully about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and he is the one that has primary jurisdiction on the matter. Cardinal Wuerl should have referenced his statements when asked.

    1. You are correct that Archbishop Broglio has primary jurisdiction. I will only say there are many things I “should” have done in interviews as well I can always think of how I should have said this or referenced that. I will not presume that the Cardinal intentionally neglected to mention Archbishop Broglio. Also, Ab Broglio’s remarks were made prior to the vote in congress. I wonder if he has issued a followup given the vote? While it is true that DADT was repealed it is also true that the military was given a lot of leeway in implementing any new policy. I know that Archbishop Broglio had a great concern that more study be made as to the possible implications of a change and I wonder what is reaction to the actual bill is?

  11. Thanks for the link and your clear comments.

    I agree; like people speak to like people and rather than engage in candid conversations for the purpose of reaching a reasoned and well thought out position, they merely agree with each other or lash out at bloggers or authors of various communication avenues on the internet.

    I think this happens on line and in real life, as well.

    On the other hand, the internet is a great opportunity for people to learn. People who find it hard to speak up in a crowded room. People who feel uncomfortable asking a question with all eyes on them. People who rarely, if ever, comment or respond to blogs and such. These are the quiet readers. This group is probably a lot larger than the group who constantly respond to blogs and such.

    Its for those quiet readers that I am grateful to Msgr. Pope for the link and discussion.

    So, thanks again for the link.

  12. Msgr. Pope: Help me help you. To consolidate the Church in DC, we must be faithful in administering Her first and foremost – without regard to the popularity of our decisions. If we try to please everyone to gain their support, we end up pleasing no one and compromising the Divine trust placed upon us. For instance, if we don’t discipline the faithless within our jurisdiction, then we scandalize the faithful. We lose both.

    When Bishop Olmstead yanked the Catholic status of that hospital, he rallied the faithful and drew the line with the faithless. That is also what makes Archbishop Chaput edifying; he is not caught up in human politics. He strives to keep the purity of doctrine and defend the Church from the obfuscations of the Liberals.

    Here, we seem to try to accommodate the Liberals, not alienate them but slowly wean them to the truth. However, after 60 million dead babies, I think it’s about time to change tactics. I am just a layman and I cannot excommunicate anyone who supports abortion for instance. And if others, see Church leaders being chummy with pro-abortion pols and dissenting intellectual elites, then they start thinking that abortion may be OK depending on the situation. So, unless you, ordained ministers , start swinging your staff to drive out the wolves then the Pelosis and Bidens will continue to rip apart the flock with their pop theology and the babies continue to be slaughtered. BTW, happy (?) feastday of the Holy Innocents. God bless.

    1. Ricky, are you aware that Bishop Olmstead was in a 7 year dialogue with the hospital over this issue? He didn’t exactly rush to the rescue.

      Are you aware that Bishop Chaput supported the Dream Act. If you want Bishops to be involved in commenting on the validity of certain policies expect to have you conservative ox gored too. Catholicism. And when it is I wonder if you will be so serene about the Bishops interjecting themselves into politics when your ox is gored.

      Now you as a layman are able and encouraged to get into politics, comment vigorously on policy, form and/or join political movements, seek to sway policy decisions etc. That is you role. I think that clergy however need to be very prudent and reticient to enter the policy debates – especially when reasonable men differ. In terms of DADT, which was the current policy, (opposed by conservatives by the way when it was enacted), was simply a policy of how the Military would deal with the presence of Gays. There have always been Gay members of the armed forces and under DADT there were Gays. So what we have is a policy of how to deal with that fact. If the military, or its civilian leaders want to deal with that more openly now, or in some different matter it seems that is a policy matter that they are best equipped to decide. They of course will have to assess the new policy’s impact on troop morale and discipline. But that is their concern. As for the Bishops it seems clear that they must rearticulate that homosexual acts are wrong. Further that it is wrong for the military or the state to abridge religious freedom and require Catholic Chaplains to teach otherwise or to facilitate so called gay marriage. But there is no Church teaching saying that gays cannot serve in the military or that the military must exclude them. So I am not sure why you want Cardinal Wuerl or other Bishops to mount pulpits and denounce the repeal of DADT. It is a policy matter, not a teaching matter. Catholic teaching being intact, the political process and the policy wonks have hammered out a different policy. I am not so sure that it won’t cause more trouble in the long run and I personally think it WILL negatively impact military discipline but it is ulitmately up to others to make such decisions. Frankly there are a LOT of problems in the US military related to sex and they seriously impact moral and readiness. There are huge numbers of women getting preganant outside marriage, there is fornication among the troops, STDs are rampant, and the divorce rate among military families is very high. A lot of this is attributable to having women in more widespread roles in the military. I am not blaming women for the problems, but having men and women in close quarters, often out to sea or in distant lands, and human nature being what it is, we get a lot of “distractions.” The decision to include women in more front line positions was a also policy decision. I personally think it has created a lot of distractions among the troops, especially those in combat areas, but again, I am not a general, I am not even in the military. It is just my opinion. But in the end, Catholic clergy are not to lead the faithful in matters of their opinion, but in matters of the faith.

      Now as for you Ricky, you are more free. You are able to lead movements based on your opinion and gather those of like mind. You obviously think the Church is in need of reform and should be more conservative and less liberal (I am not sure if you mean this poilitically or theologically or both since repeal of DADT is largely an initiative of political liberals). But what ever the case, reform in the Church most often is from the grassroots. So get started Ricky. Don’t worry about the those “liberals,” just get started and overwhelm them. Unify the Church around your vision. I live for the day when the Catholic faithful are unitied on anything. If we were we would be a force to reckoned with. And remember when it comes to the temporal order YOU are the leader, not the clergy . Read your theology, it is the laity who are tasked with the renewal of the temporal order, not the clergy who are counselled and warned to stay aloof from politics and to prudently set forth Catholic teaching in a way that empowers the laity to their task of taking Catholic teaching into the political and social realm. By the authority invested in me by the Sacred Councils of the Church and the utterances of many recent Popes I hereby anoint you Ricky as leader in the movement to renew the temporal order. Don’t wait for the clergy to be perfect or more conservative, if so you’ll be waiting a long time for the perfect bishop or priest. No Ricky, you are hereby anointed to go out and organize the faith and take on this hell-bound sin-soaked and confused world. 🙂 You are the man.

  13. Dear Monsignor

    Many faithful Catholics sympathize with the frustration expressed in Mr. Vines posting above. The President and the proponents of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell have demonstrably and repeatedly hailed the repeal as a moral good. I quote, “It is the right thing to do” and, “an advancement of the civil rights movement”. If lifting the ban secures a “civil right”, rights recognized by our founding documents as having been endowed by our Creator, is there not a moral dimension that desperately needs to be defined? After all, each individual in the military is and was protected from indignity and mistreatment before the ban was repealed. Having lifted the ban, a new “civil right” is advanced based on conduct the Church finds sinful, disordered and destructive to the individual.

    How the clash between this new found, expanding “right” and the Church’s teaching on morality will play out will be long, protracted and I fear painful. I am not old enough to have experienced the manner in which the new “right” of abortion rolled out across the land but I am sure its consequences were both known – slaughter of innocent life and unanticipated – embryonic stem cell research, intrusive sexual education programs and the envelopment by a “Culture of Death”.

    Respectfully, faithful lay Catholics struggle mightily to influence the culture. They organize pro-life movements and marches, support colleges and universities faithful to the magisterial authority of the Church, homeschool in instances where good Catholic education is either unavailable of the financial sacrifice too great and lobby representatives in accordance with our faith. It was the faithful laity who discovered the pro-abortion/anti-family CCHD scandal and brought it to the attention of the Catholic bishops.

    I have great respect for the humility and dedication you and others like you evidence when sitting down with politicians, particularly Catholic politicians, who are dismissive of both their faith and the will of the people. How infuriating for all the faithful when the Catholic Speaker of the House misconstrues the Church’s teaching on the sanctity of life. Yet, because we are faithful Catholics, because we believe in the Magisterium, the principle of subsidiarity and the teaching authority of the Church, we look to the leaders of the Church for strong pronouncements on faith and morals.

    All too often statements by the American Catholic leadership are so parsed by committee or, so carefully nuanced by the individual; they mean everything to everyone and are therefore meaningless. As my mother would often state in rebuke to some rational we children would offer up for bad behavior, “Something is or it is not”. Either abortion is an intrinsic evil or a faithful Catholic can side with Nancy or Ted or Joe champion the ‘civil right of choice’. Active homosexual conduct is either a sinful, disordered state destructive to the individual, separating him or her from God or it is a newly discovered ‘civil right’ unalienable but endowed by what creator?.

    The “shepherding” would be easier if the shepherds, aided by good formation and catechesis of the faithful, would but point the way.

    1. I am sympathetic to your concerns for better leadership and realize that we can do a better job at every level in the Church. However I am also realistic that Church leaders going back to biblical times were always imperfect. In the early Church it took many years for them to leave Jersualem and begin to evangelize the nations. The Lord finally had to allow a perecution to scatter them. It took ten Chapters of Acts and perhaps as long as a dozen years for the first Gentile to be baptized (Cornelius) and even then there were deabtes on how to handle Gentile converts (cf Acts 15). Peter resolved the matter but even he had later to be rebuked by Paul, for alothough Peter taught rightly, he did not live out the teaching fully enough and seemed to favor Jewish converts. etc…

      As for more current things. The Bishops and priests can be excoriated on any number of different levels. However, it is also true that Catholics are very divided politically. And it so happens that many of the issues today break out along political lines. It is not just abortion and gay stuff, it is also immigration issues and care for the poor, etc. Now many on the political right applaud the bishops for weighing in on the life and moral issues but are angry that they “inject themselves into politics” when it comes to matters of immigration, poverty, etc. The Right will often also say that the moral issues are clear whereas the justice issues are just principles open to wide interpretations. But the fact is the Social teachings of the Church are not just vague principles and they do have actual application and there are just times when the clergy ought to remind the faithful of them. The Left also says we are being too political when it comes to abortion etc. Hence, some prudence is required for the clergy. There are times when we simply overstep whether to the right or the left. Now prudence is a matter of judgement and prudential judgments are not always exact. On-going correction etc and changing conditions are all factors that the clergy have to consider. Our job is preach the gospel not affirm Left wing agendas or right wing agendas and the lanscape is very complicated in this regard since the electorate is divided out along partisan lines when it comes to many matters of the Gospel.

      I say all this not to excuse what you rightly point out about clergy but only to explain the cautious attitude you notice. At some level we just have to be realistic that the hierarchy is by nature cautious and measured. I note no period of Church history where this has been very different. Currently, the Catholic population is very divided. THis too may be the fault of the clergy but I suspect that other things are also operative.

      But in the end Lay people are simply more free when it comes to organizing around issues. They are not limited as to political involvement and since there is a strong political component to the problems we face it seems, like most reform in the Church, it will be from the bottom up. I am trying to ask people to be realistic. It is fine to criticise the clergy, plenty of blame can be heaped on, but in the end, we still have nothing happening if all we do is criticize and wait for the clergy to snap to. There is nothing to prevent lay Catholics from organizing politically and socially.

      Some years ago I priest with whom I am familiar saw a desperate need for reform in religious life. Rather than simply declare, “Why doesn’t Rome do something to clean up religious life” he founded a new order. faithful to th tenents of religious. He taught that reform in the Church doesn’t begin with the Bishop or with Rome, it begins with me. And he found others demanding reform and challenged them to join him. There is now also a women’s branch of the order and both branches are thriving. There are other stories that you have related about Catholics founding new Univerisities and movements etc. I am just trying to be realistic as I say all this. Reform begins with me. I can blame “the bishops” or “Rome” or whoever. But as a Pastor, what about me? What about my parish. Where can I begin? Reform and reunification in the Church begins with me.

      I therefore realistically enourage you, as well as others to begin the process with the man in the mirror. Then sit down with others of like mind. Have house meetings, organize, join others. Form movements. Reunify the Church. Why not set a goal that within the next 10 years we will have 7 million people descend on Washington for the pro-life march (that is only 10% of the Catholic population). Whatever goal you set. I understand your frustration, really I do. But as a realist I must say, don’t wait for the clergy, the temporal order is yours – go to work now, don’t wait one more day for the clergy to be the heros you want. By nature the clergy, espeically the hierarchy have always been cautious, careful and nuanced. Perhaps this is what they are supposed to be, I don’t know, but this is the nature of the beast. Despite all this you are free to bodly shout, who will stand with me!? My advice to all is stop waiting and just get to work.

      I personally think that Cardinal Wuerl was very clear on Catholic teaching. I understand that he is reticent to be drawn into a debate about a particular policy matter of exactly how the military will mangage the presence of Gay service members. Again there IS no Catholic teaching saying that Gays are unfit for military service or that they should be excluded from it. They, like heterosexuals must live lives in conformity to biblical and Catholic teaching on sexuality. Many do. How the military intends to enforce discipline for all their members is up to them. The Cardinal led a fight against Gay marriage here in DC and is no wilting flower in the matter of the more strident attempts of Gay activists to redefine marriage and even to rob us of our religious liberty. But in this matter I think it is OK if the Cardinal does not weigh in on the DADT debate which is a matter more internal to the military and their civilian overseers.

  14. I watched Sunday’s program from my in-laws’ home in a suburb of Raleigh, NC. The region is not particularly accustomed to 6+ inches of snow, and thus watching Cardinal Wuerl was as close as we got to Mass that day. [Those in northern climes like to make fun of us DC folks…I enjoyed a brief moment of Snow Superiority over NC folks.]

    An additional topic mentioned during the course of the interview was the Church’s response to allegations of sexual abuse. I think the Church is wise to refer any allegations to civil authorities for investigation and, if appropriate, prosecution. Cardinal Wuerl stated that any priests against whom allegations were “credible” would be removed from ministry. It wasn’t clear (and perhaps I should watch the interview again) to me who determined whether allegations were “credible.” Church or civil authorities? And what, exactly, does “credible” mean, and how does it compare to the “beyond a reasonable doubt” threshold required of a jury in our court system? It is perhaps better to err on the side of protecting youth, but I am concerned that in the Church’s efforts to avoid the appearance of further scandal, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. One accused should be treated in accordance with the particulars of his case, not punished for the transgressions of others, nor thrown under the bus to make a point (which in any case would be lost on a public convinced that the Church can do no right when in comes to addressing sexual abuse).

    Also mentioned in the interview was the “Find the Perfect Gift” campaign, and its dual purpose of reminding people of the “Reason for the Season” and of encouraging those reared as Catholics to return to the Church. After we watched the interview, my mother-in-law mentioned that the priest at her church, to which he has been assigned for over three years, has never addressed her by name. Were my mother-in-law not actively involved in her parish she would, to be fair to the priest, have no cause for complaint. However, she attends Mass every weekend, she regularly serves as a Eucharistic Minister, she sings with the “Memorial Choir” at funeral Masses and she helps with counting collections every week. My father-in-law also is very active in the parish. They have had the priest AT THEIR HOUSE FOR DINNER. There is NO WAY the priest is ignorant of my in-laws’ names. But he won’t use them.

    My mother-in-law, a retired teacher, went on to reminesce (sp?) about a former colleague of hers that addressed all of her students as “honey” and “sweetie” – not as expressions of affection, but because she didn’t care enough about them to learn their names. (My husband, himself a middle-school teacher with over a hundred students, makes a point of being able to connect faces and names by the second week of the school year.)

    Who knows whether the priest is as uncaring as my mother-in-law believes, or socially inept as my husband suggested. The end result is the same: My mother-in-law does not see the priest as a Father. Certainly I would not assert that this priest is typical of the clergy but one man can be all it takes to turn someone off the Church, or dissuade someone from returning – thus undermining the Church’s efforts to bring its sheep back into the fold.

    1. Monsignor:

      I think it important to first state how important our priests, bishops and other religious are to the laity. My parish priest is no mere “presider” but is the head of our spiritual haven and an important part of my family. There is much to be admired and thankful when it comes to our bishops as well. I beg to disagree with you and would point out that there have been many periods where the bishop’s direction has been decisive and clear. World War II, for example, saw incredible acts of heroism and sacrifice by the clergy when speaking out against the evils of Fascism and human suffering. The abuse scandal focused on the worse behavior of a very small minority of religious and, based on some of the experiences I have heard from priests, some days it takes real courage to put on the collar. It is time to champion the majority – so thank you for heeding the call of your vocation.

      Casting terms of right and left are meaningless when it comes to Church doctrine which should be transcendent of partisan allegiance. The protection of defenseless life in all of its stages should be paramount. When it comes to Church teaching there should be no right or left there just is the truth that all life is sacred. Sadly, more than fifty percent of Catholics ended up voting for one of the most pro-abortion candidates for president to have ever run. His candidacy and the morality he represented transcended partisan allegiance of right and left but the supreme importance of the protection of life did not

      I agree, Cardinal Wuerl was clear on Catholic teaching but his comments have been construed as conclusive that the Catholic church’s position is neutral when it comes to the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. (Cardinal: Church has no position on gays in military ). I can sympathize with producing an answer on the spur of the moment; it may have been a better choice to defer to the Archbishop of the Military Diocese and his statement. But the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is no mere policy decision. It also embodies those transcendent truths not defined by the right or left and has deep implications for the faithful and homosexual individuals.

      The Cardinal during his appearance on Fox News placed the Church’s “line in the sand” on a redefinition of marriage. Certainly the repeal of DADT is a predicate for court challenges regarding the extension of domestic partnership benefits and ultimately an assault on marriage. But with all due compassion for the homosexual individual and respect for the Cardinal, might it be better to consider the repeal in the context of entrenching in policy a behavioral “identity” which distances the individual from God? As for myself, I have a whole host of personal inadequacies which interfere with my relationship with God but the Church teaches they are not my “identity” and encourages my attempts to perfect my relationship with the Almighty.

      Marriage is a target but the freedom of expression and belief also are a major concern, in society generally, but particularly in the military where dissent from an order or military policy is not tolerated. Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. General Bostick, a member of the DADT repeal study group, addressing troops in Europe stated:

      “But these people opposing this new policy will need to get with the program, and if they can’t, they need to get out. No matter how much training and education of those in opposition, you’re always going to have those that oppose this on moral and religious grounds just like you still have racists today.”

      Religious liberty rights and the homosexual rights movement have collided with the impact just beginning to be felt in this country. The Cardinal, a signatory to the Manhattan Declaration, must have felt the tremors as Apple pulled down the Manhattan Declaration Iphone App for its “anti-gay content”. University students have been denied the ability to pursue higher education, churches have lost their charitable status for refusing to permit “commitment ceremonies” and business owners fined for refusing to deny their firmly held religious beliefs.

      In the 1960’s the laity certainly played a big part in the fight for equality for persons of all color but it was the clergy that spoke with the moral authority to win over the day. This new movement based on homosexual, bi-sexual and transgendered behavior is not the fight of the 1960’s and we need clear, authoritative and informed expressions of morality and compassion from the clergy to confront its demands.

      1. Richard, I second your motion for the need for clear, authoritive and informed expressions of morality and compassion from the clergy to confront these demands. Although it is true that all men and women, regardless of race or ethnicity, are equal as persons and complementary as male and female, it is absurd to claim that all sexual acts and sexual relationships are equal and that our Constitution provides for the protection and affirmation of the equality of sexual acts. Although The Catholic Church recognizes that men and women who suffer from a disordered sexual inclination may not be personally fully responsible for their disorder because it is a disorder, this does not change the fact that those who Love and respect men and women with a homosexual inclination would never approve of homosexual sexual behavior or the legal recognition of homosexual unions because such behavior demeans the Dignity of the human person. It is not the role of our Military to protect and affirm sexual behavior that demeans the human person but rather to create and sustain the unity of our troops through a morale that reflects the integrety that can only be found through the Love that respects the inherent Dignity of our men and women who are equal as persons while being complementary as male and female.

    2. Cynthia:

      If I made the decision to marry my wife based on the quirky behaviors of my wife’s relatives I would still be single. I would encourage anyone to look beyond social ineptitude to find what it really important in terms of the Church and its sacraments. That and maybe compulsory wearing of name tags in the parish.

      I too have a terrible time remembering names, it is not a sign of indifference or rudeness and it makes me very uncomfortable and I am sure I appear awkward .

      1. Richard, I’m just lucky my husband make a decision based on the quirkiness of MY relatives! I’m not sure where you got that I thought my in-laws are quirky.

        I totally get that remembering names can be difficult, and I made a point of stating that a priest couldn’t be expected to attach names to ALL of his parishioners’ faces. In the case with my mother-in-law’s priest, however, there is really no excuse for his failure to address her by name. She is very active in a not-particularly-large parish. My mother-in-law feels insulted, and were I in her shoes, I would, too.

  15. As an Episcoopal priest, I apprecitate your blog and respect Cardinal Wuerl’s comments. A very sound response by him and I appreciate the Roman Catholic church’s clarity when my branch of the church is rather fuzzy. Keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks for the link John. I was unaware that the CDF had issued any opinion on a matter such as this. However, your own reaction may be a bit strong. Even if you won’t listen to my nuance perhaps you might learn from Fr. Z’s rather careful response in the article you quote: So, it is not exactly the case that the Church has no position about homosexuals in the military. This document does not say there must be discrimination. It says that it is not unjust to discriminate.

      So in effect we are still dealing with prudential judgment here and there is no teaching of the Church saying “Gays can’t serve in the military.” Rather only that it is not ipso facto “unjust discrimnation” if the Military should choose that as a policy.

      If you have read my comments to others you know that I peronally have concerns that the repeal of DADT is going to cause problems. But AS A PRIEST I cannot say, well it is wrong to repeal DADT on the basis of Church teaching. About all I could say, even with this additional information is that DADT was not, as it stood, ipso facto unjust.

      When the clergy, esp. Bishops, are asked to opine on such matters I can certainly understand Cardinal Wuerl’s reticence to specifically rule on the matter. I can assure you John that you would be far less appreciative or wishful of hearing all the bishops weighing in on policy matters if they did not agree with your perspective. For example would you have been excited if the Cardinal opined in support of the DREAM act? What should he have done if asked to speak to this matter? Would it be best for him to give the thumbs up, or the thumbs down or just to say that he should not become involved in a policy debate in the US congress? Surely he could state some principles from the catechism regarding Church teaching on immigration but do you think he should have commented on the act specifically to indicate support or non support? If so would that have been prudent? And what if his position disagreed with yours? If you want bishops opining on policy matters, fine, but expect to get your ox gored as much or more than getting your view affirmed. It’s a sticky wicket if you ask me and clergy have to be very careful before being drawn into policy debates. I have learned that if I am viewed as getting involved with political matters or in policies wherein reasonable Catholics may differ, I will have 50% of any given congreation hating me at any given moment. I know many Catholics, esp conservatives who have left the Church because they were sick of hearing clergy opine on things considered political or policy orientented. As for me I understand well the reticence of the Cardinal to be drawn into the specific matter. It may well have been better for him to state principles as he did.

      As a prudential judgment, the matter is always debatable about what is best in each case. Other bishops may decide differently. You may have wanted the Cardinal to support DADT. But I think I understand and respect the Cardinal’s prudential decision here even if I have personal feelings about the matter (we all do).

      In the end I think Fr. Z handled the matter tactfully by quoting the document, of which I was unaware and no one else has raised till now, but also retiterating what the document affirms and what it does not.

      Thanks for this info John and Fr. Z!

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