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Catholics and the Magisterium in Dialogue

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The Televised Today Show Interview Segment

The exchange between Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz and
 Call To Action Nebraska Co-chair Mr. John Krejci

28 March 1996

[From "Today," NBC News, 3/28/96]
 MATT LAUER, co-host:

 On CLOSE UP this morning, the Catholic Church and excommunication. How far can a good Catholic go in exploring his and her own  personal beliefs? It's a question being explored in Lincoln, Nebraska, where the local bishop has threatened with excommunication any Catholic who keeps a membership in any of several social and religious organizations. He is Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, and this morning he's in the chancellory in Lincoln.

 Bishop Bruskewitz, good morning.

 Bishop FABIAN BRUSKEWITZ (Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska): Good morning, Matt.

  Bishop Bruskewitz, good morning.

 Bishop FABIAN BRUSKEWITZ (Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska): Good morning, Matt.

 LAUER: "Excommunication," bishop, is a word that stirs strong emotions inside and outside the church. It would appear to be the option of last resort. Why have you reached the last resort?

 Bishop BRUSKEWITZ: Well, I haven't reached the last resort, and I hope I don't have to reach the last resort. It's my prayer and hope that nobody is excommunicated. What the legislation that I enacted in this diocese says is that certain kinds of confusion and ambiguity has to be dissipated, and there are certain incompatibilities between membership and certain organizations and membership in the Catholic Church, and...

 LAUER: There seems, though, to be a wide range of incompatibility. Let me run down a list of some of the organizations you've targeted: Catholics for Free  Choice, the Hemlock Society, the Freemasons, Call to Action, the Society of St. Pius X. Are--are members of these groups, Bishop Bruskewitz, bad Catholics?

 Bishop BRUSKEWITZ: I don't think they're bad Catholics. I don't know if there are many Catholic members of those groups. It was precisely to warn Catholics not to be members of those groups, however, that I enacted the legislation. I want to hasten to say that there are many people in these groups who are very good. I mean, I have many wonderful Lutheran friends who do good work and are wonderful people. It's just that membership in the Lutheran Church is not compatible with membership in the Catholic Church.

  And the reason why this--these organizations were cited was because there was, in this area, some ambiguity about this incompatibility. I will say, also, that there--the list isn't exhaustive. There are many groups that  Catholics can't belong to. Klu Klux Klan, the Communist Party, the Mafia, etc...

 LAUER: Right.

 Bishop BRUSKEWITZ: ...are all incompatible with membership in the Catholic Church.

 LAUER: All right. Bishop, if  you will stand by for a second because one of the people that Bishop Bruskewitz is addressing is John Krejci. He is the co-chair of the new local chapter of the group Call to Action. He is also in Lincoln this morning.

  Mr. Krejci, good morning to you.

 Mr. JOHN KREJCI (Call to Action Member): Good morning.

 LAUER: Before I ask you to respond to what the bishop has already said, could you tell me briefly what your group stands  for?

 Mr. KREJCI: Well, we're a group that gives voice to people in the church. There's a lot of issues that need to be discussed, and we want to give voice to our members.

 LAUER: The national organization of your  group, among the things it does believe in, the woman's right to choose, women being ordained as priests, the priest's right to marry, is that right?

 Mr. KREJCI: Women's right to choose is not one of our beliefs. Women's  right to ordination, we want to discuss that issue. We're interested in a married clergy, the role of the laity. We want to talk about papal authority and--and episcopal authority and abuse of that. So those are the things that we  want to discuss. And really, we want to change some of those things.

 LAUER: Some--some of those things, though, the church has long said it is opposed to. Is it not the bishop's job to enforce church doctrine?

 Mr. KREJCI: Oh, absolutely. And it's the layman's role to be a spokesman for Catholicism. I profess what I believe, and I think we all should.

 LAUER: You would, I imagine, consider yourself to be a good Catholic?

  Mr. KREJCI: Yes. Well, I hope so.

 LAUER: How does the threat of excommunication sit with you?

 Mr. KREJCI: Well, in Catholicism, the--the ultimate authority is the informed individual conscience. And so you look at the church teachings, you pray, you read the Bible, and then you make your--your ultimate decision. You--you certainly don't ignore or disrespect church teaching or the bishop.

 LAUER: Bishop Bruskewitz, let's talk  about exactly what the term "excommunication" means. As I understand it, it means that these people are refused the sacraments of the church. Does it mean they can't attend church?

 Bishop BRUSKEWITZ: Not at all.  As a matter of fact, the purpose of any kind of penal sanction is to encourage people to reconsider their relationship with God, with Christ and with the church that Christ founded, the relationship with the faith community. But  once again, I reiterate my hope and my prayer that no excommunications follow and that Mr. Krejci and his friends will reconsider their arrangements and as a matter of fact, their basic beliefs and undertakings. Mr. Kre...

  LAUER: Mr. Krejci, will you reconsider? You've been given about a month in which to do that.

 Mr. KREJCI: Well, we've written the bishop and asked him to let's talk about these things, let's dialogue, see if we can  accommodate. I accept the Apostles' Creed. I believe in the teaching of the church. I would just like to see some things change. The church is always reforming, and we need to update and--and--and help the people. There's a lot of  people hurting because of a lot of the sexism and--and oppression in the church, and I'd like to see it loosened up.

 LAUER: Bishop, do you see any middle ground here, any room for compromise?

 Bishop BRUSKEWITZ: No,  there--I don't see any room for compromise, but I'm certainly willing to dialogue. We're always willing to talk. Good fences make good neighbors, and setting out boundaries takes us out of a murky and cloudy atmosphere. I must add  that Mr. Krejci is formerly a priest and probably has some views that are skewed because of his former relationship with the church. He claims to believe in the ca--in the Apostles' Creed...

 LAUER: Uh-huh.

 Bishop  BRUSKEWITZ: ...but his group gathered together for mass and recited a creed, as I understand it, that was totally different than any historic creed in the Catholic Church. But again, instead of saying, `I believe in God,' `I  believe in people,' and so on.

 LAUER: Let me let Mr. Krejci have 10 seconds to respond to that, please.

 Bishop BRUSKEWITZ: Surely, surely.

 Mr. KREJCI: The - we use a mass text that wasn't --it's not one of  the normal mass texts, but we--we recite the Apostles' Creed. We believe in it. We want to be descen--we want to carry on and do the things that need to be changed. I don't want to be on national TV arguing about this. We've got  more important things to do.

 LAUER: Well, we'll let you go home then, all right? Mr. Krejci, thank you very much.

 Bishop Bruskewitz, we thank you, also.

|Reprinted with permission 5 May 1996. --- Signed Articles represent the views of the author and do not always reflect the opinions or beliefs of SFBAY CATHOLIC

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