More from Bishop Trautman on Vatican II and pro-choice Catholic politicians

Written by Ann Rodgers on .

As anyone who knows journalism may have guessed, my Sunday profile of Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie lost considerable nuance in an effort to get it down to a size that would fit into the paper. I particularly mourned the loss of his thoughts on the legacy of Vatican II, and on his dealings with pro-choice politicians. So, for my beloved ecclesiology wonks, here's some of the stuff that got deleted, albeit not in the same narrative form I would have used for the main sheet of the Post-Gazette.

The bishops appears to have been utterly lacking in ambition from his earliest days of seminary and priesthood. After completing college seminary, when his rector told him that Bishop Joseph Burke intended to send him to Innsbruck for graduate studies, he did his utmost to try to get out of the assignment. He had never heard of Karl and Hugo Rahner or of Josef


Jungmann, future theological architects of Vatican II, who were then on the faculty at the Canisianum in Innsbruck. He wondered if the bishop mistakenly thought that his German name meant he didn't speak good English, and asked the seminary rector to assure Bishop Burke that he had been raised in an English-speaking home. This did not impress the bishop, who was a graduate of Innsbruck.

Something similar happened during Vatican II, when young priests and seminarians in Rome were drafted for secretarial duties assisting the bishops at the council. Father Trautman initially said he didn't want to do it, that he couldn't justify interrupting his doctoral studies to adjust microphones,

"My classmates said, 'You're crazy. You have this great opportunity. Go in there,'" he said. So he did, and witnessed some of the greatest debates of the council. He was particularly impressed at how Pope Paul VI resolved a bitter debate between factions over  the sources of revelation. Pope Paul chose to write the document himself. He moved it away from the traditional, post-Reformation battle over scripture versus tradition, by saying that Christ himself is the source of all revelation.

"That was a major breakthrough," he said. "I love Pope Paul VI. He was a scholarly man, and he was progressive. He made it happen. He got through all the bickering and all the factions."

Regarding today's "reform of the reform" and those who believe that the implementation of Vatican II was harmful to the church, he said this:

"A lot of people have been hurt by the changes. And if you look at the numbers, it's true that there was a decline in vocations, in the number of priests and men and women religious. Did more people attend Mass at that time? Yes.

"But the Council is often pictured as the scapegoat for the decline in vocations and Mass attendance. That's not how I see it. Vatican II prepared us for the reality of this present century. If we didn't have Vatican II, I hate to think of what the church would look like."

He also spoke a bit more at length about his relationship with Catholic politicians who support pro-choice policy on abortion.

"Let's say a well known politician who was in favor of abortion and same-sex marriage comes forth to me for Communion. Would I deny him Communion in the line? Probably not. The Eucharist is not meant to be a fighting arena.

"But because of his position and notoriety I would meet with the person and say, 'Let's have an understanding that I can't do this again. I would want to have a dialogue and try to understand how he got to this position. . . If he comes back a second or third time it becomes more of a canonical question. But I would still try to act in a more pastoral way, not to make it into a standoff," he said.

He has had such talks with politicians, he said, and none of them have challenged him at the cathedral.

"Sometimes I make some inroads with them, sometimes I don't," he said. "I feel that many of these people in their hearts were pro-life. But for political reasons, because they are beholden to people who are bankrolling their campaigns, they gave in to political pressure."


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