January 25, 2013

Bill Nemitz: Uh-oh, bishop, what have you gotten yourself into?

By Bill Nemitz bnemitz@pressherald.com

(Continued from page 1)

At the same time, he said, cooperation can be distinguished by behavior: "Is it formal? Or is it material? Are we directly engaged in the activity formally? Or are we involved, but our action is not direct?"

The fact that the church collects rent from Rite Aid derived in part from the sale of contraceptives, Daniels said, is sufficiently "indirect" to pass moral muster.

That said, he conceded, "I would imagine that there would be Catholics who would reflect on this and find it somewhat troubling."

To those confused communicants, Daniels said, he would point out that Rite Aid's inventory extends far beyond contraceptives, that the Congress Street store serves as a much-needed retail "anchor" to the surrounding neighborhood, and that the diocese has a moral obligation to maintain "good stewardship of diocesan resources."

All well and good -- if not a tad slippery.

In a 1995 article titled "The Principle of Cooperation," the Rev. James Keenan (who tutored Daniels at the Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass.) cautioned that "any act of material cooperation requires a proportionately grave reason."

So what "grave reason" precipitated the diocese's involvement, however indirect, in the sale of the morning-after pill? The need for a deeper revenue stream?

And as he navigates these shades of gray, what would Daniels advise if the diocese had its eye on an office building only to discover that its list of tenants included, say, Planned Parenthood?

"I think that would be a disqualifier for the purchase," he quickly replied.

Even if the relationship -- tenant and landlord -- were essentially the same as the one with Rite Aid?

"The relationship would be a landlord-tenant relationship," agreed Daniels. "But we certainly know what Planned Parenthood does."

Just as Bishop Malone, by his own words, knows what the morning-after pill does.

Daniels said he's not sure how long the shopping-plaza deal had been in the works before he was asked to run it through his moral filter.

Still, it's hard not to wonder: If diocesan officials had asked Daniels for a set of guidelines long before they set their sights on a particular property, would he have advised that they adhere closely to their own doctrine and steer clear of all things contraceptive?

"Obviously," Daniels replied, "you try to enter into cooperative relationships which are most beneficial and complimentary to the church's mission."

Or, failing that, you just look the other way.


Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:



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