The bishop of Albany — now also overseeing Buffalo — gave a wide-ranging interview to The Albany Times Union last week:
In an interview this past week, Scharfenberger, 71, discussed his emerging role as one of the Vatican’s go-to American leaders on the crisis. He also discussed social justice issues, separating politics from religion in a turbulent election year, gay priests and more in a wide-ranging interview at his Albany office.
Pope Francis has praised Scharfenberger for his steadfast opposition to abortion. Scharfenberger agrees with the church that abortion is murder. But he doesn’t simply recite church doctrine when asked if he would follow canon law’s admonition to ban those who don’t support the church’s stance on abortion.
In 2004, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops deliberated over whether pro-choice political candidates should be denied communion. It recognized that most Americans support a woman’s right to choose abortion. The conference left the decision to individual clergymen.
“I don’t quiz people about their beliefs when they show up for communion so I’m not sure how I would know a person’s position on abortion.”
That year, Boston’s archbishop publicly opposed allowing presidential candidate John Kerry to take communion in his hometown. In 2008, Joe Biden’s hometown bishop in Scranton, Pa. and one in South Carolina publicly opposed giving the then-vice presidential and current presidential hopeful communion.
Instead, Scharfenberger earnestly dissects his own compassion and sense of fairness – out loud.
“I wouldn’t want (my response) to become part of a scandal,” he said, imagining candidates trapped in news cycles, hit by social media tsunamis. “I understand people are elected to represent all Americans, not just Catholics … I’d want to talk with the person privately to understand what he really believes in his heart.”
“I don’t quiz people about their beliefs when they show up for communion so I’m not sure how I would know a person’s position on abortion,” he said.
He said he would welcome everyone, including those the church deemed sinners, to attend Mass in his churches. He said exactly that to a gay man who asked Scharfenberger’s permission to bring his gay spouse to church.
There’s much more. Read it all.