Excommunicate at Christmas? 

If archbishop had a wife .....!

By Bill McClellan

Every boss needs someone who will occasionally say, "Whoa! Let's think about this, Chief." But few bosses want to hear that, and consequently, the sort of people who tend to rise in the corporate world are the sort who say, "That's a great idea, Boss!" even when they know it isn't. Underlings concerned with advancement tend to keep their doubts to themselves.

That's why wives are so important. They don't keep their doubts to themselves.

In that sense, it's really a shame that Roman Catholic priests cannot marry, because if anybody needs a wife, it's Archbishop Raymond Burke. Shortly before Christmas, he announced that the six lay members of the board of directors of St. Stanislaus Kostka Church and a priest they had hired to be their pastor had been excommunicated. He made the announcement in a column he writes for the archdiocesan newspaper.

That column would never have appeared if the archbishop had a wife.

"Let's see what you've written for the paper, Raymond."

"Here it is, Martha."

She starts reading it, shakes her head and looks at her husband.

"You can't be serious. You're excommunicating them at Christmas?"

"In a technical sense, they have excommunicated themselves. I am simply declaring it. I am just an instrument. That is the point I'm trying to make in this column, Martha."

"Nobody is going to understand that, Raymond. All that comes across is that you are excommunicating these people right before Christmas, and you're doing it because they want to celebrate Christmas Mass at the church they love."

"Martha, you have to understand that . . ."

"No, Raymond. You have to understand. This fight was never about religion. It's not like they're worshipping Satan over there. This has been a fight about property rights. Property! Past archbishops let it slide. I know you well enough to know you're not doing this for the money, Raymond. You're just a little over the top about order and everything being in its rightful place. But the bottom line is, you took away their priest and now you're excommunicating them because they've hired a new one."

"He's been suspended, Martha."

"Suspended? So what? Haven't you ever read any Graham Greene novels? Think about the priest in "The Power and the Glory." He was a drunk, Raymond. He fathered a child. But he loved God, and he was willing to lose everything to bring the sacraments to the people. There is something heroic about a flawed priest who loves God, Raymond."

The archibishop stands there, taking in his wife's words. She continues.

"If you do this, the focus of the entire holiday is going to be on St. Stanislaus. They'll probably draw 1,500 for the Christmas Eve Mass. Maybe 2,000. It's magical - a flawed priest bringing the sacraments to the people. Also, did you see what that priest did at his news conference when he arrived in town? He went around and introduced himself to every single reporter and photographer there. He shook their hands. He welcomed them. When was the last time you spoke with anybody from the press?"

"You know I don't talk to the press, Martha."

"I know you don't, Raymond. And I'll admit, they are a rather common lot. And liberals, too, most of them. They did give you the business during the election. But still, you need to learn to mingle with all kinds, Raymond. You really do. But that's a lesson for another day. Right now, I want you to throw out this column. Write something about love and faith and joy. Leave the canon law and the property fights for another day. I mean, Raymond, this is Christmas. "

By Bill McClellan

Telephone: 314-340-8143

Copyright 2005 St. Louis Post-Dispatch L.L.C. All rights reserved.