I think Martino must be Italian for Moron. The Bishop from Scranton must sit around, looking for issues to stir up controversy and dissension in the Diocese. Based on the press he generates and the number of parishioners who are fleeing the Church, he's doing an excellent job.
Of course, this is the man who has elevated the abortion issue as the only important issue facing the world today. Forget unjust wars like in Iraq and genocide in Darfur. He doesn't have time for that. Forget hunger and rising homelessness. Forget about the death penalty. And let's not even talk about the problem of pedophiles in the Catholic Church.
During the election he ordered a letter be read during every mass in the Diocese, forbidding Catholics from voting for a pro-Choice candidate. See Say It Ain't So, Joe. More recently, he publicly rebuked Senator Bob Casey, from Scranton, for paling around with people who are pro-Choice. The Evil Lurks Within. A marvelous response to Martino on this particular issue can be found at Scranton Catholic Bishop Wants to Protect Children, Fails to See Irony.
Last week, he blasted a college for sponsoring a civil rights activist (who happens to be gay) as a speaker for its annual dinner of the Diversity Institute as part of Black History Month. As the Scranton paper reported, Bishop Martino rips college for gay-rights speaker:
The Diocese of Scranton is publicly criticizing the appearance of a gay-rights advocate who will speak at Misericordia University today.This is the Catholic Church after all. Openness to Diversity is what's truly antithetical to small-minded, power-mongers like Martino. I'm sure he wasn't happy that the school held the lecture anyway, to a standing room only crowd. Disruption-free talk at Misericordia.
Bishop Joseph F. Martino voiced “absolute disapproval” of the university providing a “platform” for Keith Boykin, a best-selling author, television commentator and founder of the National Black Justice Coalition.
In a statement issued by the diocese Monday, Bishop Martino called Mr. Boykin’s beliefs “disturbingly opposed” and “antithetical” to Catholic teaching.
Moving on to new targets, Martino issued a pronouncement that no elected officials who hold pro abortion positions can be permitted to have any involvement in the city's upcoming St. Patrick's Day events. As the Times reported, Bishop warns Irish planners in Scranton:
In a letter to the heads of three local Irish-American organizations, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton has threatened to close St. Peter’s Cathedral during St. Patrick’s Day celebrations if the groups feature elected officials who support abortion rights at their annual events.See also, Bishop of Scranton bars pro-abortion officials from St. Patrick’s Day Masses.
The letter, which was signed by Auxiliary Bishop John M. Dougherty, reports that Bishop Joseph F. Martino is “determined to prevent scandal,” which would be caused if the organizations “in any way” should “honor pro-abortion officials” by giving them parade or dais positions or opportunities to speak and “the Catholic Church is seen to be involved in this honoring.”
In direct terms, the letter reiterates the bishop’s publicly stated position that elected officials who vote to support abortion rights will be denied Holy Communion if they attempt to receive the sacrament in the diocese, including at St. Patrick’s Day Masses. The closing of St. Peter’s Cathedral is offered as an additional measure to prevent the honoring of such officials.
Of course, his position makes perfect sense. A closed mind matches the closed doors. On the other hand, this is a big deal in Scranton, with its large Irish population. As the Times notes:
The annual St. Patrick’s Parade through downtown Scranton is one of the largest in the country, and the dinners hosted by the Friendly Sons and the Society of Irish Women often have featured prominent national and international figures. Last year, President Barack Obama, then a senator, spoke at the Irish Women’s dinner; Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern spoke at the Friendly Sons’ dinner and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then a senator, marched in the parade.As Whispers in the Loggia explains: "Bottom line: no Biden."
Although bishops of the diocese have historically attended the Friendly Sons’ dinner, Bishop Martino has never participated.
The final irony about Martino is that he may be getting a lot of press on his pontifications, but he isn't just shutting doors to the Church to keep people out -- the doors to many parishes are being closed due to falling numbers of attendees. As Whispers in the Loggia observed:
Late last month, the Scranton diocese announced that, due to falling numbers of priests and fewer resources to go around, almost half its 209 parishes will be closed or consolidated.(Cartoon via John Cole, TheTimes-Tribune)