St. Athanasius post-election 2008

If I might reword an old song, “What the world needs now” is a few more priests in the mold of St. Athanasius.

saint_athanasiusThe recent media apoplexy over Fr. Jay Scott Newman of St.Mary’s in Greenville South Carolina throws a spotlight on the post-election fissure running through Catholic America.

Fr. Dwight Longnecker wrote  of Fr. Newman (at Inside Catholic):

Offering patriotic support and prayers for the president-elect, but also lamenting his radical pro-abortion policy, Father Newman told his parishioners:’Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exists constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of the full communion of Christ’s Church and under the judgment of divine law.’ He concluded that, if they voted for Obama, they ought to go to confession before coming to Communion.”

Fr. Newman’s comments–hardly radical– are aligned with a long list of bishops who have made similar statements.

One imagines the great St. Athanasius looking on from heaven. Recall that the young Athanasius took on Arius and the Arian heresy. At that time, 325 A.D., there were many bishops who knew that the only correct formulation must make clear that Jesus was eternally begotten–that is, that the Son and the Father are co-eternal.  Arius dissented and persuaded a goodly number of bishops to follow his path.

The crucial point in regards to Fr. Newman of St. Mary’s is that, though the world’s bishops agreed privately with the young Athanasius, they were loath to create any sort of public division over the “one in being , one in substance” teaching –they sought a more “nuanced”  and flexible formulation that would keep the peace…but lose the truth of faith.  (For a rousing read on the drama of St. Athanasius, find a copy of Dorothy Sayers’ THe Emperor Constantine.)

St. Athanasius lived out most of his episopacy in exile. Reading between the lines, one recognizes that many of his fellow priests and bishops surely found him pesky …but the Church’s teaching was preserved.

Please pray for Fr. Jay Scott Newman.




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