Fishwrap’s Wile E. Coyote

At Fishwrap (aka National Schismatic Reporter) Michael Sean Winters (aka Madame Defarge aka the Wile E. Coyote of the catholic Left – coined by Robby George, I think), who in the past regularly wished physical and financial harm on those with whom he disagrees, took exception to comments made at a conference Villanova University Law School: “Taking Measure of the ‘Biden Effect’: American Catholics and the President”. Inevitably, the issue of Biden and Holy Communion came up.

Wile E. took exception and leapt upon his newest ACME contraption to launch his explanation of canon law, in particular can. 915, which requires that Communion be withheld from Catholic who persist in manifest grave sin.  Canonist Ed Peters explains can. 915 HERE.   But never mind what someone like Ed Peters says.  Like everyone on that side of the increasingly yawning chasm, Winters requires that you not believe the plain text of the canon, just as you must, at their command, admit that up is down and black is white and that 2+2=catfish.


Finally, Fr. Gerald Murray, a regular on “The World Over with Raymond Arroyo,” reiterated his stance that Biden should be denied Communion, as he affirmed immediately before the election. Murray consistently holds that the law of the church is as clear as day. I note in passing that Murray’s own bishop, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, indicated during the campaign that he would not deny Biden Communion based on his political stances. Is Murray now the archbishop of New York?

Still, the question must be faced: Is the canon law of the church open to a variety of interpretations on this point? Canon 915 states: “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.” What is ambiguous about that?

The problem — and it is a frightening one — is that these three speakers do not seem to understand what canon law is. The canon law of the Catholic Church is modeled on Roman law. In the United States — and most Anglophone countries — we grow up in a common law tradition. If you confuse the one with the other, you get this doctrinaire, and Jansenistic, understanding of the Catholic faith. It is not like confusing an apple with an orange. It is like confusing an apple with an orangutan.


Wile E. goes on to build his ACME contraption by citing several other characters in his world, including his old pastor, explaining that “the laws of the church are the stars to guide you”,

He cites Nicholas Cafardi: “Canon law is aspirational… It is a law which sets goals to be achieved, but admits of privileges (private laws) and dispensations along the way. American civil law is not aspirational; it is normative. It sets standards that are in general invariable.”

M. Cathleen Kaveny: “Those norms need to be prudently applied in each case, taking account of the overall purpose of the law and key principles that run throughout, as well as specific facts and circumstances. It runs in the opposite direction from the Anglo-American common law tradition, which builds up to general principles from definitive results rendered in each case.”

And even Fr. Lou Cameli writing at Jesuit-run Amerika.  You will recall how Cameli, in an attempt to make Amoris laetitiae not mean what it clearly meant regarding Communion for the divorced and remarried (which is manifest grave sin in nearly all circumstances), shamelessly bowdlerized the famous Gaudet Mater Ecclesiae address at the opening of Vatican II.  HERE   What, of Cameli’s astonishing work, does Wile E. cite?  A justification Communion for couples in a sodomitical “marriage”.  As Cameli says, “Are two people in a same-sex marriage or union in an objectively sinful situation? Not necessarily.”  And, after all, what is scandalous these days?  Let’s be fair.

Winters/Wile E. also plays his old “JANSENISM!” card, a common tactic for him.  HERE

Thus, Wile E. has totally demolished his opponents with his brilliant ACME contraption. His conclusion is that can. 915, indeed all the Canon Law that he doesn’t like, doesn’t need to be followed, in fact, shouldn’t be because, after all, Canon Law follows the Roman Law tradition, not Common Law, and it is therefore nuanced to the point of non-compliance.  After all… JANSENISM!

Ridiculous.   Winter’s entire piece is a feeble attempt to justify his own position, not any sort of coherent application of Canon Law.

Winters seems to know that Canon Law admits of personal privileges, dispensations, pastoral exceptions and the like. Well and good. Dispensations need to be requested.  People are not dispensed because they want to be.  Perhaps Mr. Biden would like to apply for a dispensation from Archbp. Gregory.  I can see it now:

“I admit that I willingly and completely support the right of a mother and her doctor to murder an innocent child. I actively work against the Church’s teaching on the inestimable value of human life from the moment of conception to natural death, but – C’mon man!  – I still want to get ‘that host thing’ from Father on Sunday.  Oh, and I officiated at the pretend wedding of two dudes. Bite me.”

Winters cited his pastor, whom I am sure was or is a charming guy. One imagines him taking a pull on his meerschaum pipe, blowing a smoke ring to linger in the rarified air of the rectory parlor.  “You see, Wile E., the laws of the church are the stars to guide you, not a stop sign that requires you to come to a complete stop.” Those present smile wryly with little Ivy League wannabe chuckles and knowing nods.

Fine. Let’s say canons are stars.

Canon 915 is about – as can. 1752 reminds us that all the canons are about – the salvation of souls.

How, exactly please, is Mr. Biden’s soul saved by allowing him to continue to think that his depraved, public, and unambiguous support for the slaughter of innocent children is merely a harmless policy preference?

When Mr. Biden faces the Judgement Seat of the God who created him and who cannot be deceived, and faces those slaughtered children, and says, “But the bishops and the priests of Your Church said there was nothing wrong with what I did!” God may, perhaps, have mercy on him.  However, I think it far more likely that God would know that Mr. Biden had received ample warning during his earthly life about the evil positions he openly , persistently embraced and strove to advance for years.

And WOE! to those bishops and priests who allowed him to think his actions were moral.

If Canon Law is akin to the stars that guide you, then should be followed towards salvation, towards Christ, towards moral choices.

If the stars are, on the contrary, guiding you to depraved indifference to human life and basic morality, you might just be looking at the star charts upside down.

We must pray for these confused people, whose souls are in grave peril.  We do not desire the eternal damnation of any person, no matter how depraved.  We desire their conversion.  Mighty conversions do take place, often through the intercessory prayer of others at a contributing factor.    Think of what an incredible moment it would be to have a sudden and complete reversal of “policy” from these people, along with an open and public statement of regret for the harm done.

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  1. MikeM221 says:

    I have never understood the bishops who do not deny Communion to Biden and other pro-abortion politicians. If they truly cared about the spiritual welfare of those politicians, why would those bishops enable them to commit a sacrilegious act?

  2. Cameron466 says:

    Excommunication producing repentance is not as far-fetched as you’d think. I seem to recall St. Ambrose getting an emperor who had massacred thousands to repent by barring him from Mass until he did penance. It worked. And I think this is not the only story of its kind.

    Put it this way: if Saul of Tarsus can repent, so can Biden.

  3. Kent Wendler says:

    My belief is that when someone – anyone – is “definitively” dying (will die, but not quite yet) they will discover that their existence is not about to end. They are not heading to oblivion. Instead they will meet with Truth incarnate. (Those educated in Christianity will recognize Him as the Eternal Word, but this will happen even with adamant atheists, pagans and even “life long isolated tribalists”.

    In this encounter, their soul with all its faults and errors (sins) – and merits – will be laid bare, with no possibility of evasiveness or deceit. The reprobate will, perhaps for the first time in years, have to confront the horrors of the evil he has committed.

    Nevertheless, he will be offered forgiveness – if he will only accept it. He may be too despairing at his evil and God’s holy majesty to accept. Following St. Faustina’s diary, he will be lavished with increasing amounts of grace and offers of forgiveness. But, he will retain his free will (or what’s left of it – it may have vanished in his evil) to make his final and definite refusal. Thus the unforgivable final sin is committed and the sinner damns himself.

    That is the point of definite death.

    We can hope and pray that every and any dying person will chose Life instead of Death Everlasting.

  4. Vir Qui Timet Dominum says:

    Obligatory visual representation

  5. ScottW says:

    Yes, we should visualize that possibility. I’ve heard a wise man say, “If you don’t believe in miracles, you won’t ask for them.”
    Lord Jesus, living in Mary, let it be so!

  6. iamlucky13 says:

    “Thus, Wile E. has totally demolished his opponents with his brilliant ACME contraption. “

    While the irony is obvious, the overall meaning of the metaphor is a perhaps a bit too subtle for some.

    The contraption certainly was built mostly out of low quality pieces of logic that fit together poorly and are not suited to the intended purpose. In this case, at least it didn’t carry the argument haplessly off a cliff. It merely spun the argument around in a few labored circles, and then caught a wheel on the quote from Professor Kaveny and tipped over, as I will discuss more after a brief preface.

    Although I grew up being taught almost exclusively about the American legal system, I do agree that prudence sometimes presents reasons to refrain from enforcing elements of the law, and I am willing to consider that in President Biden’s case. Hence, I have abstained from taking an adamant position on the matter, although that is not to say I have no opinion at all about the gravity and manifest nature of Mr. Biden’s persevering support of abortion.

    The problem is that if taken far enough, this restraint reaches the point that the intent of the law is neglected, and it therefore ceases to be prudential. I must point out here that the quote Mr. Winters shared with us from Professor Kaveny specifically highlights that the intent of the law is what is important. This is the rock that upset the wheel of the contraption as he drove over it.

    It makes me envision the cartoon character still on the seat of a sideways tricycle, pedaling away while the one wheel capable of driving the contraption spins futilely, having proven unstable when encountering firm principles. The other wheels idly coast, unable to propel the contraption even if it was still upright.

    Professor Kaveny appears able to articulate legal principles in an intelligent manner. It is disappointing, then, that she chose to presume the consideration of Canon 915 is strictly political. She does not appear interested in “taking account of the overall purpose of the law and key principles that run throughout, as well as specific facts and circumstances” related to Mr. Biden’s position (to quote her own words).

    On a positive note, at least Mr. Winters offered us the amusement of comparing Mr. Biden’s plight to that of Hugo’s Jean Valjean. My amusement is not disagreement, however: Just like Valjean had to steal the bread for the sake of his sister’s family, Biden had to maintain a pro-abortion platform for the sake of his political career.

  7. idelsan says:

    It seems that Michael Sean is a fan of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies. When Captain Barbosa is challenged by not respecting the Pirate Code he answers, “The code is more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules”.

  8. Sol says:

    Winter’s stance is pure drivel showing an unbelievable (in a seasoned journalist) lack of basic understanding of how different kind of laws work.

    Disclaimer – I am not a lawyer or a legal scholar, but…

    Canon law is a universal law pertaining to (for the most part) spiritual matters (and temporal matters in so far as the Church is both spiritual and material). Common law is a secular law applying only to temporal affairs and only in specific jurisdictions. You can’t mix the secular order with the sacramental/spiritual one – or this is what you get. Complete hogwash.

    Failing to recognize these basic differences and claiming that common law has some primacy over universal canon law is ridiculous if taken seriously. My take, however, is that Winters knows these things but he deliberately obfuscates the distinctions and twists them to suit his agenda.

    Also – his point about the bishop of New York (or any other bishop) being the final instance in how to apply the law is so naïve it almost makes me pity Winters.

    No, Michael – the bishop can’t just apply the law as he sees fit and no, just because bishop X said so, it doesn’t mean that’s how the law works. Canon law is the province of canon lawyers not bishops. Bishops, when applying canon law, need to do so in the spirit of the law. The law says X, therefore it’s X, not everything in the law requires interpretation. Canon 915 is very clear on what it means.

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  11. Tooksam says:

    “The fort is betrayed even of them that should have defended it”
    St. John Fisher

  12. GregB says:

    It would seem that all too few public sinners care about the scandal that their bad example gives to other Catholics who may have a weak faith. Scandal can lead to the enablement of more sins, and be a snare and a stumbling block for other Catholics. Ezekiel 3:17-21 speaks to the responsibilities of a prophet to admonish sinners.

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  14. dallenl says:

    These people sound a lot like those who also hold with the universality of salvation. I imagine many of both will be rather disturbed in the end at the finality of their errors.

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