Brooklyn Priest’s Prayer Reminds GOP of Importance of Life

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When Msgr. Kieran Harrington delivered the invocation on the opening night of the Republican National Convention, it wasn’t just a coincidence that he ended up on the same stage where high-scale politics would dominate for four days.

The priest from the Diocese of Brooklyn told Catholic News Service that he worked for the Republican National Committee for five years in the 1990s and was known to some of the party’s highest-ranking officials.

“The way I look at it is I’m here to bring the Gospel. It’s very important to hold up a mirror to let people know what their deliberations really are about,” said Msgr. Harrington, chairman of the DeSales Media Group in the diocese and pastor of the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Brooklyn.

The invitation came after he inquired about the status of press credentials for the staff of the diocese’s New Evangelization Television cable TV network. Msgr. Harrington received a call from Sean Spicer, communications director and chief strategist for the Republican National Committee, who confirmed the credentials, and invited the priest to offer the prayer.

Msgr. Harrington cleared the request with Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and began coordinating his short appearance at the convention.

Lasting about three minutes, the prayer referenced the example of the Good Samaritan as told in the Gospel of Luke, which had been read at Masses the weekend of July 9-10.

“To me, the good Samaritan was important especially because, I think, of the great issues our country faces. The perennial issues on human life. To me, I don’t think there is any way around saying this is the greatest evil our nation is engaged with at the moment. To take the life of child in the womb is barbaric,” he said.

At the same time, he said, “as people who stand for human life, we understand life begins at conception, but it doesn’t end when the child is born. There are people who are vulnerable and who are here in this country and are strangers. To my mind, I wanted to hold that up because the rhetoric can be un-neighborly to say the least,” Msgr. Harrington told CNS.

The prayer included a request for blessings and inspiration for the delegates and party leaders that their deliberations “might be earnest and fruitful.”

Msgr. Harrington’s career in politics lasted from 1994 to 1999. One year stretched to five as he took on more responsibilities and became an aide to Jim Nicholson, then-party chairman, who later became U.S. ambassador to the Holy See and then secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Msgr. Harrington said today that he is a registered Democrat, but he did not offer any reason for his change in political allegiance.

When it comes to prayer though, he said, politics does not matter. —CNS

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Bob Giugliano, Ph.D

Paragraph 15 of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility from the Catholic Bishops of the United States says:

15. Clergy and lay people have complementary roles in public life. We bishops have the primary responsibility to hand on the Church’s moral and social teaching. Together with priests and deacons, assisted by religious and lay leaders of the Church, we are to teach fundamental moral principles that help Catholics form their consciences correctly, to provide guidance on the moral dimensions of public decisions, and to encourage the faithful to carry out their responsibilities in political life. In fulfilling these responsibilities, the Church’s leaders avoid endorsing or opposing candidates.

When a Catholic priest, religious or prelate stands at the podium of a national political party’s presidential nominating convention the neutrality encouraged by paragraph 15 above is seriously compromised. Msgr. Harrington’s appearance at the podium of the RNC is such a compromise. While the purpose of the appearance was to offer an invocation, can such an appearance ever be neutral? It is a powerfully symbolic act for a member of the clergy, a religious or prelate, regardless of his or her faith, to stand at the podium of a national political party. The appearance itself, regardless of what may be said, can be taken as a communication of support for the party, the platform and the candidates. Appearances matter; one picture is worth a thousand words.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016