Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Friday, January 25, 2008

Does Coach Majerus really think he can out play Abp. Burke?

I'm not making this up.

Jesuit-run St. Louis University's basketball coach Rick Majerus (yes, a basketball coach) is telling St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke (yes, the canonist archbishop), to mind his own business regarding Majerus' outspoken support for (get ready for it) abortion and experimentation on embryonic humans! If it weren't that expressing support for such deeply offensive conduct is so deadly serious, I'd be laughing.

Majerus boasts a long career in lefty politics going back to the 1960s, so maybe that's why he apparently never noticed that the Second Vatican Council, in its only display of anger, denounced abortion as an "unspeakable crime" (GS 51). An unspeakable crime, folks, for which Catholics are liable to excommunication (1983 CIC 1398), which St. Louis University official Rick Majerus publically and repeatedly supports.

Majerus' claim that the "First Amendment right to free speech supersedes anything that the archbishop would order me to do" rated (sorry, I couldn't help it) an 8.5 on the laugh-out-loud scale. SLU's basketball coach should walk across the quad to SLU's law school and ask any second year student to explain the notion of "state action" before he asserts any more grandiloquently wrong theories about the law of Church and state.

And if Majerus thinks that the Post-Dispatch is on his side, he should think again. News reporter Bernie Miklasz opined "If Burke is expecting an apology or silence from Majerus, it won't happen" and "If Burke hopes Majerus will fall in line with the Roman Catholic church's official positions on these two issues, it won't happen." That's not reporting news, that's fanning the flames of conflict. The secular press loves to play "Let's you and him fight", especially when the 'him' is a faithful Catholic bishop. Majerus is walking right into it.

I'm going to assume that Majerus knows even less about canon law than he apparently does about Church teaching, constitutional law, and media management, and offer the following thoughts.

Update: Culling a variety of sources, it appears that Abp. Burke has said that he is prepared to withhold Communion from Majerus. Denial of Communion is not a sign that the archbishop doesn't like Majerus or that he disagrees with his political views. Rather, it would be a determination by a highly-educated, deeply-dedicated successor to the apostles of Jesus Christ that the coach's conduct is tantamount to obstinate perseverance in manifest grave sin per 1983 CIC 915. Such a serious situation would require immediate attention.

Moreover, Majerus had better not provoke Abp. Burke into ordering him by penal precept (1983 CIC 1319) to retract his public support for experimenting on and killing pre-born human beings. Should Majerus receive and refuse such a precept, sanctions up to and including formal excommunication are possible against the St. Louis University official. A busload of First Amendment citations won't protect Majerus against that kind of canonical sanction.

For that matter, Abp. Burke doesn't even need to resort to a penal precept if he doesn't want to, because Majerus' public advocacy of gravely immoral behavior and his use of the press to reiterate his horrible views have already placed him at risk for sanctions under 1983 CIC 1369.

Majerus still has time to get out of this mess, but probably not much time. Abp. Burke has considerably more experience defending Church teaching and enforcing ecclesiastical discipline than Majerus has experience dealing with principled stands by conscientious bishops. The last thing a SLU basketball coach should want is a certified letter from a determined archbishop whose office is just six blocks west of SLU's campus.

So I wonder, how far will things have to go before Majerus admits that maybe, just maybe, a 2,000-year-old Church founded by Jesus Christ knows more about the dignity of innocent human life than does Hillary Clinton?

How far? Only Majerus knows.

Edward Peters
SLU Class of 1979