Politics: Wenski the Buttinski

Archbishop Signals (Wink-Wink, Nod-Nod) Woe to Any Catholic Who Strays From the Flock

Way back when, in my college days, given the assignment of student-directing and staging a one-act play, I went to the campus library. Searching the stacks for a long time for a play that satisfied me, and passing over many, I finally settled upon one that I found appealing, humorous, and insightful.

It was a new one, a satire penned by a young, new playwright with just one previous work to his name.

Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You centers around a catechism-spouting parochial school nun who, while teaching her class of young impressionables, is interrupted by a visit from four former students, now grown-up adults, all of whom have led rather un-Catholic lives and done some rather un-Catholic things that would provoke a nun to draw out her ruler for some knuckle rappings.

Only, in this play, a pithy, sassy, brassy Sister Mary doesn’t resort to a ruler: in the show’s climax, she instead seizes a gun and, in a bizarre and unforeseen transgression she later casually brushes aside as one for which she will be easily forgiven by her God, offs one of her wayward ex-students. And then proceeds to continue with her interrupted class lecture.

Sister Mary, of course, was an all-knowing, all-authoritarian source of what constituted a good, clean Catholic lifestyle that would steer its practitioner to heaven and away from hell – a fate she nonchalantly predicted for her four ex-students who apparently didn’t retain the catechisms she drummed into them all those years ago.

Sister, to one: “Did you get good grades in my class?”

Young woman: “No, Sister. You said I was stupid.”

Sister: “Are you a prostitute?”

Young woman: “Sister! Certainly not. I just get lonely.”

Sister: “The Mother Superior of my own convent may get lonely, but does she have illegitimate children?”

Young man: “There was that nun who stuffed her baby behind her dresser last year.”

Sister glares at him. “No one was addressing you.”

I mention the play to punctuate how know-it-all, holier-than-thou Sister Marys within the Catholic clergy never relent in pushing, pushing, pushing the Church’s dogma right up to and over the spilling point, till it seeps into every nook and cranny of a parishioner’s life, welcomed or not.

One of those Sister Marys goes by the name of Thomas Wenski, as in the Archbishop of Miami Thomas Wenski. Not content to merely pontificate from his pulpit during Sunday masses, Wenski has taken to dolloping out his preachy, thou-shalt-be-a-good-Catholic-24-7 platitudes in frequent email pronouncements to his congregants.

Interestingly (and troublingly), some of his most recent pronouncements – emailed and otherwise – could be collectively titled, “Father Wenski Explains How You Should Vote in the Upcoming Election.”

There can be no doubt which way the archbishop plans to cast his ballot for president. And though he doesn’t exactly come out and tell his many faithful who they should cast their ballots for, he leaves little guesswork for them as to whose circle they should darken on their ballot forms.

“The welfare and future of our nation’s communities depend on the people we entrust with public responsibilities,” wrote Wenski in a two-page Oct. 3 letter intended for publishing in all parish bulletins throughout the archdiocese the weekend of October 13-14.

“No bishop or priest will tell you for whom to vote – however, as your pastors we do legitimately try to guide our people through the maze of complex moral issues that underline the public policy positions espoused by the different candidates and their party platforms.”

In other words, Father knows best.

“At the same time,” Wenski continued, “while we are not taking a position on the other amendment initiatives, we strongly urge you to support both Amendment 6 which will enable the legislature to restore rights of parents and prohibit public funding of abortion, and Amendment 8 on Religious Liberty that would protect faith-based groups’ freedom to serve in our state.”

Really now, Father, isn’t that rather exaggerative? Their freedom to serve and function isn’t jeopardized as you paint it.

“While some may resent this particular exercise of our teaching ministry, I would hope that most Catholics of good will welcome these interventions. All of us need help in making difficult decisions.”

I reckon there are a number of Catholics that resent such “interventions.” (Don’t tell us how to vote, Father. We’ve got brains. We understand our civic duty as well as our morals without you having to remind us.)

Check this out: “And whether as citizens or as elected officials, if we are to be faithful to the truth about the human person, we must oppose uncompromisingly policies and laws that undermine the common good precisely because they originate in a defective understanding of the human person.”

That’s Wenski telling you that (a) a pro-choice politician would likely never get a communion wafer from him and (b) anyone who is pro-choice, pro-stem cell research, pro-contraception, or pro-same sex marriage has a “defective” understanding of people.

That from a guy who is forbidden to marry, forbidden to engage in sexual relations, and who belongs to a profession all too many of whose members have scandalized their Church for decades thanks to their inability to keep their pants zipped up and their private parts unexposed when around children.

Returning to his letter:

“For this reason, the Church – clergy and laity – while agreeing to disagree on other matters of prudential judgment cannot but oppose the evils of abortion, euthanasia, fetal stem cell research, human cloning and so-called same-sex ‘marriage’. In these areas, there can be no other legitimate Catholic position.

“As Catholics, we best contribute to our democratic process by voting as faith filled and faithful citizens; that is, in a way coherent to our Catholic beliefs and teachings….if you are eligible to vote, then I ask you to do so with an informed conscience.”

Weeks before, in a Sept. 10 pastoral bulletin, Wenski “informed” congregants of the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops’ stands regarding Amendments 6 and 8. 6 would prohibit public health care money from funding abortions while 8 would prevent Catholic health care providers, colleges, and other social services from being required to provide insurance coverage for, among other things, contraception.

On 6, Wenski, toying with his readers’ emotional chords, wrote, “public health care dollars should be used to help those most in need – children, elderly, disabled – and not fund abortions.”

His online bulletin advocated a “yes” vote on each of the amendments and included links to the websites of each of the amendments’ “pro” campaigns.

This past Monday, on the archdiocese’s Let’s Talk blog, Wenski was at it again, pressing upon his flock what the Church expects of them, this time publishing a statement by him and six other Florida bishops, entitled, “Study, Discuss, Pray, Vote”:

“From a moral perspective, all issues are not of equal importance or urgency. Some are more fundamental and deal with matters of intrinsic evil, such as abortion and euthanasia, which must always be rejected or opposed and must never be supported or condoned. Let us share our values with a strong voice and use our votes to shape a society that will defend human life, promote human dignity, preserve traditional marriage and the family, and protect religious freedom.”

Then came the “intervention”:

“To assist with choices in the voting booth, we invite you to view the [FCCB's summary of the presidential candidates' positions]….In addition to candidates, several proposed amendments to the Florida Constitution will appear on the ballot. We have issued statements in support of Amendment 6 (Abortion Funding) and Amendment 8 (Religious Liberty) and urge you to vote yes for the passage of both.”

Previously posted to the archdiocese’s website on Oct. 8, the bishops’ summary explained where Obama and Romney stood on a variety of issues and was intended to “educate and inform Catholics about a wide range of issues” and “help voters inform their consciences” before voting.

The FCCB “neither supports nor opposes any candidate for public office,” they were careful to add.

Not surprisingly, abortion was the first issue at the top of the summary. Embryonic stem cell research was No. 4, freedom of religion was No. 5 as it relates to the Obama Administration’s January mandate that all employers provide health insurance coverage for contraception, with exemptions for no one, including Catholic organizations. Same-sex marriage was No. 9.

Other issues included health care, poverty, and immigration. The president’s and Romney’s positions on those and the other issues were juxtapositioned side by side.

Wenski is none too thrilled with his Church’s diminishing influence in American culture. “The growing secularism of our society is affecting the transmission of our faith to present and future generations,” he opined in his Oct. 13 Sunday homily. “In an area with perhaps some 1.3 million baptized Catholics, only some 200,000 are at mass on any given Sunday and fewer and fewer couples bless their unions with a sacramental marriage.”

Persistently posting his opinions online isn’t the only means by which Wenski crosses the imaginary boundary line between church and state and gets his toes wet in the Bay of Politics.

On Oct. 20 he led a “rally for religious freedom” at Miami’s St. Thomas University. There, he and other speakers railed against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ birth control mandate. They also – surprise, surprise – talked up Amendments 6 and 8.

Only the day before, Wenski grabbed headlines when he filed suit in Miami federal court against HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner over the birth control mandate.

What timing. This issue blew up on the nation’s front burner months ago, but Wenski chose to wait now – with only weeks to go before Election Day – to pull this rabbit out of the hat

Any ulterior motives you wish to confess, Father?

If his guy fails to win the White House on Tuesday, all you Catholics will likely hear Wenski bemoan about it in his homily the following Sunday.

He won’t rap you over your knuckles about it. He’ll just preach and pontificate, and post and email, and push, push, push like he’s been doing all along, scorning that maxim that the rest of us believe and wish more of his kind would take to heart:

Priests and politics, for the most part, should never mix.


It’s a safe bet that one week from now half of the nation will be on Cloud 9 while the other half is popping Prozacs or contemplating slitting their wrists.

In the immediate aftermath of next Tuesday’s election, the newest job growth in the nation’s slumping economy is apt to favor the field of…


Here’s hoping you come through the other side of next Tuesday deliriously happy and not savagely depressed. I’ll be happy just to be relieved of the daily dosage of campaign commercials on my TV and campaign mailers in my mailbox.

About Charles Branham-Bailey

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