NEW YORK - In the view of the nation's Roman Catholic bishops, politicians who belong to the church but depart from its teachings on abortion should be denied honors from a Catholic institution.
Unless, some would say, you happen to be a national hero of Sept. 11 who has raised a lot of money for a church-affiliated hospital.
That would be the former mayor of New York, Rudolph W. Giuliani, an abortion rights supporter, whose name will grace a new $25 million trauma center at St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan. Ground was broken last week.
The hospital is a branch of St. Vincent Catholic Medical Centers, a system of eight hospitals, four nursing homes and a large home health care agency, overseen by the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Sisters of Charity. Ultimate authority over the complex rests in the hands of Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and Sister Dorothy Metz, president of the Sisters of Charity.
Like all Catholic medical institutions, it does not provide abortions, contraception or other procedures or products that violate Catholic teaching.
"If you would name a center after somebody, certainly that would qualify as an honor," said the Rev. Frank Pavone, a priest who lives in Staten Island and runs the national anti-abortion campaign Priests for Life.
Pavone called the naming "troublesome," saying, "It certainly isn't something I would do if I were in that position."
He said that Republicans who support abortion rights, like Giuliani, should be treated the same as Democrats who hold similar views, including some who have been threatened with denial of Communion.
Christopher Slattery, an anti-abortion activist in the New York area, said the naming of the trauma center was "outrageous."
"I think it's a scandal that a Roman Catholic institution is prominently honoring a man who has a serious, at least one serious moral flaw, if not many," he said.
The nation's bishops issued their statement about such honors June 18 amid a brouhaha over whether it was appropriate for Catholic politicians who are not abortion opponents to receive Communion. Several bishops had publicly stated that politicians who back a right to abortion should stay away from the communion rail. Democrats like Gov. James E. McGreevey of New Jersey and Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, were singled out.
The statement, titled "Catholics in Political Life," said politicians who support abortion rights were "cooperating in evil," and left the door open for bishops to deny them Communion.
The document also included this paragraph:
"The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions."
DiMarzio was not aware that the trauma center was being named for Giuliani until he read about it in the newspaper last week, said his spokesman, Frank DeRosa. DeRosa noted that the decision on naming the center was made a year before the bishop even arrived to take over the diocese in October last year.
"While he recognized what Rudy Giuliani did for the trauma unit," DeRosa said, "he clearly disagrees with and is disappointed with Giuliani's pro-choice position."