In the political hot seat of Washington, D.C., Archbishop Donald Wuerl has stuck to the stand he took as bishop of Pittsburgh, refusing to withhold communion from Catholic legislators who support legal abortion.
A response he made recently to questions about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have infuriated the far-right edge of the Catholic blogosphere, and drawn ire from some of the most conservative Catholic leaders of the anti-abortion movement.
Today, his approach to that cause will be on display as he hosts a youth rally in the capital's Verizon Center, in conjunction with the annual March for Life.
A week ago in San Diego he took questions from a conservative Catholic journalist about Ms. Pelosi.
"Do you intend to discipline her at all for being persistent and obstinate about her support for abortion and same-sex marriage?" asked Allyson Smith of the Web site California Catholic Daily.
"I will not be using the faculty in the manner you have described," he replied, referring to his authority.
"Will you make a statement to your priests and deacons to warn them not to allow her to receive if she presents herself for Communion?" Ms. Smith continued.
The archbishop responded: "You're talking about a whole different style of pastoral ministry. No."
LifeSiteNews.com ran outraged responses from Catholic leaders on the conservative wing of the anti-abortion movement.
"I don't believe Archbishop Wuerl is doing his job," said the Rev. Tom Euteneuer, president of Human Life International, adding that Ms. Pelosi should be excommunicated.
Judie Brown, president of the American Life League was "appalled that Archbishop Wuerl not only is not going to do anything about this but has publicly said so."
In a talk last week in a small chapel on Washington's K Street, the heart of the lobbying community, Archbishop Wuerl distinguished between doing nothing and teaching.
He had said Mass for an overflow crowd, most of which stayed for his talk on a renewed openness to Catholic teaching that he said he sees among young people.
When he took questions, a woman asked how be would respond to Catholic politicians who support legal abortion.
His response was "teach."
"That is what Jesus did," he said. "Did everyone accept that teaching? No. ... But he didn't stop teaching. We are in this for the long haul."
He noted that he sometimes gets letters from Catholics demanding to know what he will do about such situations.
His temptation, he said, was to reply with, "What are YOU doing about it? How is your voice heard?"
There was a smattering of applause from his listeners.Associated Press
Washington Archbishop Donald Wuerl:
Asked if he planned to refuse communion to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he responded: "You're talking about a whole different style of pastoral ministry. No."
Click photo for larger image.
Ann Rodgers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1416.