No Wafer for Rudy

Giuliani campaigns as a Catholic, but he's on the outs with God

This was ironic, because it was Placa himself who had advised the couple before the wedding that they didn't need a dispensation. At least that was the recollection of Giuliani's mother Helen in a taped interview. Helen says that Peruggi was offended by the annulment, and adds that her former daughter-in-law "went to diocesan headquarters to fight it."

Despite Peruggi's opposition, Placa—whose office was just doors away from the marriage tribunal that heard the case—secured the annulment. He also helped Giuliani by obtaining another annulment for Hanover, the TV newswoman that Rudy intended to make his second wife. Placa married the couple at St. Monica's on East 79th Street, just blocks away from where the two were living. Giuliani had taken over as U.S. Attorney in Manhattan a few months earlier, and the wedding attracted news items on the gossip pages.

Those who knew Giuliani—including his mother and Peruggi—saw the annulment as more of a political statement than a religious one. Giuliani knew that he would one day run for public office. Obtaining the annulment was as much a calculated move as his simultaneous decision to step down from his exalted (if obscure) Washington job to become the highly visible top federal prosecutor in Manhattan. Giuliani's college sweetheart, Kathy Livermore, remembers a "big discussion" with Rudy years earlier when he made the case for "political annulment," calling it "a very smart move."

Of course, there was no way to annul the Hanover marriage. So, once he ended that 18-year relationship, Giuliani married Nathan at Gracie Mansion in a civil ceremony officiated by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. A defrocked Alan Placa—stripped of his priestly powers because of allegations against him involving the sexual abuse of four minors—was just one of hundreds of high-powered guests. There was nothing Catholic about the marriage, and nothing that could be Catholic. The man who'd gone to such great lengths to retain his ties to the church decades earlier, propelled by early and remote ambitions, was willing to break them at a wedding engulfed by paparazzi and camera crews, even as he readied himself for a White House run.

If Giuliani had publicly acknowledged that he'd had to choose between his love for Nathan and obeisance to church law, he might well have found a receptive audience, especially among the many Catholics who have faced a similar quandary. But he's taken the opposite tack. No longer constrained by the rules of the game as he saw them in 1982, he apparently believes that, as "America's mayor," he can ignore the clash between his marital life and Catholic canon law, running on his Catholicism even as he has separated himself from the church.

So far, church leaders have been silent, with the only attack coming from the bishop of Rhode Island—and limited to a critique of his abortion position. Closer to home, Cardinal Egan isn't answering questions about Giuliani's status. Egan's predecessor, Cardinal John O'Connor, publicly assailed the 1984 Democratic vice presidential nominee, Geraldine Ferraro, then a congresswoman from Queens, over her pro-choice position, but Egan refers to all of the city's key politicians, including Giuliani, as his friends. Also unlike O'Connor, who was a registered Republican for nearly 40 years, Egan's registration card indicates that he's been unaffiliated with any party since at least 1985. With major events celebrating the 200th anniversary of the archdiocese coming up in April 2008, as well as the annual, nationally watched Al Smith dinner that Egan will host this fall, it may become impossible for him to avoid the elephant in his cathedral—a GOP candidate from his own archdiocese who's isolated himself from the church.

As quiet as Egan has been, Father Joseph Marabe, who oversees St. Patrick's, told the Daily News in May that if Giuliani "comes to my church, he would be refused communion." Marabe quickly qualified his statement, adding: "If the cardinal declares it, then if Giuliani is invited here, we would advise him before he comes not to take communion, to save him from public embarrassment." In fact, Giuliani has regularly attended midnight mass on Christmas at the cathedral, even bringing Nathan in 2005, though she was a member of Brick Presbyterian Church prior to their marriage. Regular attendees at St. Pat's say Giuliani did not go in 2006, though he was in the city, and sources close to Giuliani say his absence may be connected to a message he got from the church. The cardinal's office declined to say if any message was sent. The Times reported this week that he left Mass in Washington, D.C., before communion.

Bill Donohue, the Catholic League president, went to the same Catholic school as Giuliani and "protected him on national television shows." But he says it's "certainly correct that a Catholic who doesn't get his marriage annulled and remarries is not to partake in the sacraments. He's smart enough not to go to communion." Donohue thinks it's "suicide" that Giuliani is projecting himself as a Catholic. "His confessor is his friend Placa," charges Donohue, noting that Placa is as ineligible to hear a confession as Giuliani is to make one. "Rudy doesn't even feel sorry about what he's done," says Donohue, who first criticized Giuliani about his marital mess in September 2000, after Donna Hanover told the Daily News that she found his increasingly public relationship with Nathan "very hurtful."


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