Retired cardinal offers to keep a hand in public policy in retirement
Jul 03, 2006
After decades of regularly testifying before Congress and attending White House meetings on public policy, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick said that although he's now retired as Washington's archbishop he's open to keeping a hand in the political scene.
(Catholic News Service , 6/23/2006) WASHINGTON – The pope accepted Cardinal McCarrick's resignation May 16 and named Bishop Donald W. Wuerl of Pittsburgh as his successor. He continued as apostolic administrator of the archdiocese until Archbishop Wuerl's June 22 installation.
Years before he was named to head the Washington Archdiocese in 2000, Cardinal McCarrick was an auxiliary bishop in New York and then a bishop and archbishop in New Jersey, and he would regularly come to Washington as a representative of one or another of the U.S. bishops' committees.
He wrote letters and testified about peace-building and international relief for Bosnia and Congo, about the treatment of Haitian refugees, and in favor of restoring government benefits for legal immigrants, among other issues.
Cardinal McCarrick said his willingness to testify, give public speeches and otherwise try to influence public policy came about because of his personal contact with the difficult situations in which people live.
"I guess I feel deeply about these things," he said in a June 18 interview with Catholic News Service. "Because of that you want to try to help. When first ordained a priest, I was in Latin America, so I became interested in their problems. When I was first ordained a bishop (in New York), I was in Harlem, so I became interested in those topics.
"It's been part of my life," Cardinal McCarrick continued. "I hope I was prudent in the way I approached it. But I feel strongly about this. That's why I loved Pope John Paul II so much. The dignity of the human person was his great mantra and I believe in that."
Since he took up full-time residency in Washington, Cardinal McCarrick has continued to be involved in political discussions, most recently chairing the bishops' task force about the church's relationship with Catholic politicians whose public actions sometimes contradict church teaching.
That became a prominent issue in the 2004 presidential campaign, when Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, a Catholic, was criticized for receiving the sacraments when he has voted to support legal abortion, which the church strongly opposes.
At a recent round-table meeting with the media, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who has spearheaded efforts at dialogue between Catholic Democrats in Congress and representatives of the church, praised Cardinal McCarrick for his role in what she called "a very frank and respectful exchange."
Though Cardinal McCarrick gave his task force's final report at the bishops' June meeting in Los Angeles, he told CNS the work will continue.
"The church will still have to talk to these people," he said, "and I think they'll want to talk to the church. That's very good. We've started now what should be a two-way conversation. We didn't have that before. That's a blessing."
Fostering that dialogue is something Cardinal McCarrick said he would try to continue in retirement.
"I'm certainly willing to continue that if people on the Hill are interested, or if people in government are interested or if the bishops are interested," he said.
At a June 20 breakfast on Capitol Hill for Catholic members of Congress, he delivered a farewell talk as archbishop of Washington and urged them to "attack problems and not one another." He told the attendees he had invited them to the breakfast "to express my appreciation for your service to our country."
Cardinal McCarrick told CNS there are a couple of issues he's followed closely which he feels need to be better understood by those in decision-making positions.
Immigration is one.
"The White House seems to understand," he said. "The Senate seems to understand. But the House does not."
Another is the Middle East.
"We really need to have more conversations about the Middle East," he said. "I'm so pleased there is now Jewish leadership recognizing the two-state solution and anxious to move in that direction."
He said he's pleased with the progress of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East, of which he's a part. "The Jewish leaders who've joined that have been extraordinarily wise and thoughtful," he said. "But not everybody's on that page."
As to whether he continues to be a voice for the church in public policy, Cardinal McCarrick said he's open to the idea, but waiting to see what develops.
"I will be living most of the time in Washington," he said. But whether he keeps a hand in public policy, "that will depend on others. It will depend on what the new archbishop wants me to do and the (bishops') conference. There are many other voices, they don't really need me."
Though he said that the politicians who sought out his voice will "get used to others," Cardinal McCarrick said he will be happy to continue to serve as an advocate.
"As long as I'm alive I'm willing to speak out for people who need someone to speak out for them," he said.