Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Sunday, February 27, 2011

Some brief reactions to Fr. Reese's characterizations of my position on Canon 915

I was disappointed by the tone, if perhaps less so by the content, of Rev. Thomas Reese’s reactions to my statements regarding the Cuomo-Communion controversy.

From the (24 Feb 2011).

“This kind of thing has to be left to the man's pastor's [sic] and to the person's bishop," said the Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a senior fellow at the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. "The presumption is that people are coming [to Communion] in good will and with good motives to receive the grace of the sacrament." Peters would have been fine to discuss Canon 915 in general terms on his blog, but his singling out of Cuomo was "totally inappropriate," Reese said. "This guy sitting in Detroit doesn't have some kind of spiritual telescope to look into the soul of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and decide whether he's in a state of grace or not," [Reese] said.”

1. I have never met Fr. Reese, though I have read much of his work over the years. I appreciate several aspects of it and regularly make sure that my graduate students [for, inter alia, classes in ecclesiastical structures, a specialty of Reese] know of his contributions to academe. But, even when I disagree with Reese, I never dismissively refer to him as “that guy sitting in DC”. I think professional courtesy should be a two-way street.

2. Reese can hardly be ignorant of the differences between
Canons 915 and 916, so I can only take his derisive comments that I must have “some kind of spiritual telescope to look into the soul of Gov. Andrew Cuomo” as a deliberate obfuscation of my position. For Reese to imply that I have ever held the operation of canon law in general, or of Canon 915 in particular, to rest on an ability to read souls and decide whether they are in the state of grace, is simply false. I look forward to his prompt withdrawal of this imputation. In the meantime, I invite interested readers to examine my many writings in this area and verify for themselves that I hold no such views.

3. Finally, may I say that I am lately seeing, in Reese but also in some others, a new theme in the ad hominem-s directed against me which focus on, of all things, the fact that I am based in Detroit. Now, my city of employment is utterly irrelevant to my qualifications as a canonist or the strength of my arguments, but, since Reese brought it into this discussion, those of us who would like to see Detroit rise from its troubles, and who manifest our commitment to that recovery by living and working here, don’t appreciate subtle condescensions from others blessed to work/reside in swanky spots like Georgetown.

In short, Fr. Reese, let’s talk canon law, not zip codes.