The following are some of the highlights from the daily email briefing about news and events, which I send out to some of my friends and contacts (if you’re interested in subscribing to the daily mailing, leave your email address in the comments box):
Archive for the ‘Catholic Public Officials’ Category
The following are some of the highlights from the daily email briefing about news and events, which I send out to some of my friends and contacts (if you’re interested in subscribing to the daily mailing, leave your email address in the comments box):
There’s an old joke that goes “there may be a shortage of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, but there’s no shortage of vocations to the papacy”. The point being that few people seem willing to turn their lives over to God in service of His people, while lots of people feel free to consider themselves the ultimate authority about the validity of Church teaching.
This strange phenomenon was on display once again in a recent article in the Washington Post, in which they questioned parishioners at a local church about the Holy Father’s comments on condoms. The piece was oddly entitled, “Faithful Have Mixed Views” — which was strange, since they didn’t quote a single person who accepted and supported the Church’s teaching on contraception and sexuality. Typically, the reporter quoted only those who openly stated their disagreement with the Church’s teaching.
The upshot of the piece can be summarized in one quotation from a man who was an usher at the parish:
“As a Catholic,”… he opposed the use of condoms. “As a John Doe,” he said he approved. “It’s strictly personal,” he added, “a singular decision.”
There’s a word for that attitude, and it’s not “Catholic” — it’s “Protestant”.
At the heart of Protestantism is the denial of the authority of the Church to define matters of faith in terms that are binding upon all, and the freedom of individuals to determine the content of the faith. This principle is called “private judgment”.
The Catholic approach to the faith is quite different. We are called to listen to the bishops in communion with the Bishop of Rome — the successors of the Apostles, who together constitute the Magisterium, or teaching authority of the Church, exercised under the command of Christ Himself and in His Name. We have an obligation to adhere to the doctrines they teach us, and to set aside our personal reservations.
The Catechism puts this quite clearly:
“The task of giving an authentic interpretation of the Word of God, whether in its written form or in the form of Tradition, has been entrusted to the living teaching office of the Church alone. Its authority in this matter is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ.”… Mindful of Christ’s words to his apostles: “He who hears you, hears me”, the faithful receive with docility the teachings and directives that their pastors give them in different forms. (85, 87)
This is not mindless obedience, but is instead an exercise of the virtue of faith. We should be actively receptive to this teaching, always seeking to inform ourselves better and to seek a deeper understanding of the will of God. The teachings of the Church are absolutely binding upon me in conscience, but I must always strive to better appreciate them with my intellect, and carry them out with my will.
This is not easy, and it runs very much against my nature. I’m a skeptic and cynic, and I have a hard time believing things that I cannot see and test for myself. But to be a disciple of Christ, I have to let go of that, and step out of the boat in an act of faith.
Cardinal John Henry Newman, who was beatified by Pope Benedict during his recent trip to Great Britain, described the difference between private judgment and Catholic faith, and the Catholic attitude to the teachers of our faith, as follows:
Now, in the first place, what is faith? it is assenting to a doctrine as true, which we do not see, which we cannot prove, because God says it is true, who cannot lie. And further than this, since God says it is true, not with His own voice, but by the voice of His messengers, it is assenting to what man says, not simply viewed as a man, but to what he is commissioned to declare, as a messenger, prophet, or ambassador from God. In the ordinary course of this world we account things true either because we see them, or because we can perceive that they follow and are deducible from what we do see; that is, we gain truth by sight or by reason, not by faith. You will say indeed, that we accept a number of things which we cannot prove or see, on the word of others; certainly, but then we accept what they say only as the word of man… We keep the decision in our own hands, and reserve to ourselves the right of reopening the question whenever we please. This is very different from Divine faith; he who believes that God is true, and that this is His word, which He has committed to man, has no doubt at all. He is as certain that the doctrine taught is true, as that God is true… and it gives this assent not because it sees with eye, or sees with the reason, but because it receives the tidings from one who comes from God. This is what faith was in the time of the Apostles, as no one can deny; and what it was then, it must be now, else it ceases to be the same thing.
In this light, it makes no sense whatsoever to say that I can accept a teaching “as a Catholic” but reject it “as John Doe”. I can no more separate my Catholic identity from who I am as a human person than I can separate my body and soul. Who am I, and who gave me the authority, to do such a thing?
As Catholics, it should be our fervent prayer that we not try to set ourselves up as the popes of our own church. Instead, may we always have the grace to conform our hearts, minds, and wills to the will of God, as expounded to us in the teachings of His Holy Catholic Church.
The following are some of the highlights from the daily email briefing about news and events, which I send out to some of my friends and contacts:
This has been a bad time for people who were baptized as Catholics, and who are now either public officials or candidates for public office.
First, we had the sight of Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General of New York and now the Democratic candidate for Governor. Mr. Cuomo, a baptized Catholic, has long been an ardent supporter of the legal regime that permits the slaughter of unborn children, and has also proclaimed his support of the redefinition of marriage into something that it is not, and never has been, and never could be — a union of any two persons, regardless of sex. And, it is sad to say, the teachings of the Church — much less the natural law — seem to have little or no impact on Mr. Cuomo’s thinking.
Next, we had the selection by Mr. Cuomo of a running mate for Lieutenant Governor. Now, it has to be admitted that nobody has ever been able to identify the purpose of that office (aside from waiting for the Governor either to leave the state or resign in disgrace). But it’s a position that has to be filled, and Mr. Cuomo selected the Mayor of Rochester, Robert Duffy. Like his mentor, Mr. Duffy was also baptized as a Catholic, yet he too has proclaimed that he favors the legal destruction of human beings in the womb, and the radical re-definition of marriage.
So the Democrats are 0 for 2 this week.
Then, we have the imminent possibility that the Republican and Conservative Parties will nominate Rick Lazio for Governor. Also a baptized Catholic, and also in favor of permitting the killing of unborn children with impunity, and favors “civil unions” for same-sex couples, even though that is just a re-definition of marriage by stealth.
Yes, the Republican and Conservative Parties are the ostensibly pro-life parties, which gives a pretty clear idea of the dismal state of New York politics for pro-lifers.
And finally, last but not least, we have yet again the spectacle of the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, demonstrating the old adage that sin darkens the mind and blunts the intellect. Without any sense of self-awareness, the baptized Catholic yet ardently pro-abortion Ms. Pelosi spoke to a group of “Catholic” activists in May, in a speech that was just recently made public. In her remarks, she said the following (I added the emphasis):
“They ask me all the time, ‘What is your favorite this? What is your favorite that? What is your favorite that?’ And one time, ‘What is your favorite word?’ And I said, ‘My favorite word? That is really easy. My favorite word is the Word, is the Word. And that is everything. It says it all for us. And you know the biblical reference, you know the Gospel reference of the Word.”
“And that Word is, we have to give voice to what that means in terms of public policy that would be in keeping with the values of the Word. The Word. Isn’t it a beautiful word when you think of it? It just covers everything. The Word.
“Fill it in with anything you want. But, of course, we know it means: ‘The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us.’ And that’s the great mystery of our faith. He will come again. He will come again. So, we have to make sure we’re prepared to answer in this life, or otherwise, as to how we have measured up.”
There has been no response yet from the millions of unborn children who have been killed while the deplorable Ms. Pelosi has had a hand in shaping American public affairs, and while she has accumulated a virtually uniformly pro-abortion voting record in Congress.
This calls to mind my favorite quote from Cardinal Egan. He was speaking about Ms. Pelosi, but he might as well have been speaking about Mr. Cuomo, Mr. Duffy, and Mr. Lazio as well.
We are blessed in the 21st century with crystal-clear photographs and action films of the living realities within their pregnant mothers. No one with the slightest measure of integrity or honor could fail to know what these marvelous beings manifestly, clearly, and obviously are, as they smile and wave into the world outside the womb. In simplest terms, they are human beings with an inalienable right to live, a right that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is bound to defend at all costs for the most basic of ethical reasons. They are not parts of their mothers, and what they are depends not at all upon the opinions of theologians of any faith. Anyone who dares to defend that they may be legitimately killed because another human being “chooses” to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name. (emphasis added)
If there’s one thing that’s clear from this, it’s that now, more than ever, we need to redouble our prayers for the conversion of heart of our public officials, especially those who are fellow members of the Church of Christ.
Whenever the Holy Father speaks out on the role and obligations of Catholics in the public square, his words should be attended to very, very closely. His Holiness is deeply committed to promoting a sense of vigorous Catholic identity among the disciples of Christ, and to inspiring us to work to bring the Gospel to the world in all arenas of life.
So, when Pope Benedict addressed the Pontifical Council for the Laity last week, his comments were definitely worth noting. Among his remarks, he said:
The Church concentrates particularly on educating the disciples of Christ, so that, increasingly, they will be witnesses of his presence, everywhere. It is up to the laity to show concretely in personal and family life, in social, cultural and political life, that the faith enables one to read reality in a new and profound way and to transform it; … that the fundamental principles of the Social Doctrine of the Church, such as the dignity of the human person, subsidiarity and solidarity, are very timely and of value for the promotion of new ways of development at the service of every man and of all men.
It is of the competence of the faithful also to participate actively in political life, in a way that is always consistent with the teachings of the Church… Christians do not seek political or cultural hegemony, but, wherever they are committed, they are moved by the certainty that Christ is the cornerstone of every human construction.
This obligation is uniquely that of the Christian laity — to bring the teachings of the Church into the public arena so that the world may be transformed in light of the Gospel. All too often, Catholics compartmentalize our lives, and put our faith on the shelf when we step into “politics”. But this is not consistent with authentic discipleship. When people look at us, even when we are in the public square, there should be no doubt that Christ is indeed the cornerstone of our lives and our political positions.
Of course, this is not easy. the world is deeply hostile to the Gospel, and the temptations are ever-present to compromise, compartmentalize, and marginalize our faith. The Holy Father is all too aware of this:
The times we are living in place us before great and complex problems, and the social question has become, at the same time, an anthropological question… The spread of a confused cultural relativism and of utilitarian and hedonist individualism weakens democracy and fosters the dominance of the strong powers. A genuine political wisdom must be recovered and reinvigorated… A real “revolution of love” is necessary.
And so, it is all the more upsetting when we see the sad sight of ostensibly Catholic public officials who are deeply immersed in the cultural relativism and individualism of which the Holy Father speaks. It is all too common for politicians who were baptized as Catholics and raised in Catholic families to take positions that are thoroughly at odds with the teachings of the Church — for instance, the fundamental obligation to respect the dignity of every human person, and to respect and defend authentic marriage.
We now are faced with the sad spectacle of Andrew Cuomo, who is running for Governor of the State of New York and who was baptized a Catholic, yet is completely committed to the regime of legalized abortion, who is an ardent supporter of same-sex “marriage”.
The meeting to which the Holy Father delivered these remarks was entitled, “Witnesses of Christ in the Political Community”. He was calling all Catholics to be witnesses, to bring the teachings of the Church to bear on the difficult problems of our age.
Sadly, all too many men decide to be candidates, and not witnesses.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is an exasperating person. Her public statements on abortion show an appalling lack of familiarity with the truth. And, although she has been consistently corrected by more knowledgeable people, she continues to spread misinformation about abortion in the health care reform plans.
The most recent examples of this came in connection with the President’s vaunted health care summit. Speaking about the Senate health care bill and the President’s proposal, she said:
… the law of the land is there is no public funding of abortion and there is no public funding of abortion in these bills.
Then, in a follow-up interview, she again said:
I talked to the Catholic Bishops about this and people on all sides of the choice issue. Law prevents federal funding; federal law prevents federal funding of abortion. There is no federal funding of abortion in this bill.
All of this is utterly and completely false. And it is hard to believe that anyone of any degree of intelligence could fail to see it as such.
I’ve blogged before on the Senate bill and the President’s plan (if you’re interested, check here), and the U.S. Bishops have an abundance of information on their website. To put it in a nutshell, both proposals would:
Richard Doerflinger, who works tirelessly on pro-life issues for the U.S. Bishops, said in response to the Speaker:
We do not know how anyone who has spoken to the bishops could conclude that the Senate health care bill does not fund abortions. As the bishops have said in their letters to Congress, abortion problems in the Senate bill are so serious that, despite our strong support for expanding access to health care, we will have to oppose the bill unless they are resolved.
Which brings us back to the exasperating Speaker. What can be said about a person who says things that are patently untrue, is publicly corrected, yet continues to say the same things?
I think the best comment was made by Cardinal Egan, in response to an earlier absurd statement on abortion by the Speaker:
Anyone who dares to defend that [unborn children] may be legitimately killed because another human being “chooses” to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name.
Last week, the New York Times ran a profile of Rep. Bart Stupak, the Democrat from Michigan who has been a stalwart in fighting to prevent the health care reform bills from funding elective abortions.
The profile was surprisingly positive, since it highlighted a man who is not only a pro-lifer, but is a Catholic who has no problems with saying that his political positions are informed by his faith. To put it mildly, those are not positions that are typically favored by Our Daily Newspaper.
Several things struck me about the column. One was that Mr. Stupak spoke openly about a reality that is not frequently acknowledged in public. He related several examples of the deep hostility towards the pro-life position held by the establishment of the Democratic Party. Democratic political consultants refuse to work for him, he has been denied committee positions, and was told bluntly that he would never “get on” in his political career because he is pro-life. And we wonder why so few Democratic politicians manage to hold on to their pro-life views once they are elected.
What was more striking to me, though, was a statement by Mr. Stupak’s chief of staff. He was reflecting on the reaction to the House’s adoption of the “Stupak Amendment” to the health care bill, a provision that ensured that federal funds would not be used to pay for elective abortions. The push-back from his fellow Democrats has been strong and negative, and Mr. Stupak has been getting calls from the public as well. In fact, the aide said, “I can’t tell you how many New Yorkers have called me up and yelled at me about this Stupak guy.”
We should not stand by and let Mr. Stupak think that all New Yorkers are pro-abortion. Pro-lifers from New York should send him a message that we support him, and thank him for his efforts. Here’s the best way — call Mr. Stupak, and tell him that you thank him for his pro-life position, and are praying for him. His phone number is (202) 225-4735.
It’s hard to imagine how much pressure Mr. Stupak must be feeling from the leadership and other members of his party. The momentum behind the health care reform bill is so intense that the leadership appears willing to do virtually anything to pass a bill. Mr. Stupak and a handful of other pro-life Democrats may be all that stands between us and a massive increase in federal funding for elective abortion, and an increase in the number of abortions. It will be very, very difficult for them to hold out for the cause for life.
Please pray for these men, that they may have the courage and resolve that they will need over the next few weeks as this bill comes up for final action.
But in the meantime, call Bart Stupak, and thank him.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives was interviewed the other day. Amidst the discussion of a variety of political issues, she was asked about her recent “brushes” with the Bishops on important issues. Sadly, her comments are not encouraging:
I have some concerns about the church’s position respecting a woman’s right to choose. I have some concerns about the church’s position on gay rights. I am a practicing Catholic, although they’re probably not too happy about that. But it is my faith. I practically mourn this difference of opinion because I feel what I was raised to believe is consistent with what I profess, and that is that we are all endowed with a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And that women should have that opportunity to exercise their free will.
We can easily brush past the Speaker’s “concerns” about Church teaching on the evil of abortion and homosexuality. That’s just a Washington circumlocution, which should be read to mean, “I reject Church teaching on the dignity of human life and the nature of human sexuality as properly ordered solely for marriage between a man and woman”. Nothing new there — we’ve heard it all before.
Nor is it new that the Speaker, and so many others, view the teachings of the Church as mere “opinion”, to be given the same weight as the opinions of others — or my own. That’s just a convenient excuse we all use when the Church tells us that we can’t do what we want.
What’s of particular interest to me is the idea that that “free will” justifies disobedience of the Church’s authoritative teachings and even authorizes the sin of abortion.
That is a fatal error.
The Speaker’s understanding of “free will” stems from a false notion of conscience that is all too common. There is no doubt that I must be governed by my conscience, and make moral decisions in accord with it. But under the modern view exemplified by the Speaker’s comments, the primacy of conscience means “I can do whatever I want, without regard to objective truth”.
This is a hallmark of the “dictatorship of relativism” that has been consistently denounced by Pope Benedict. The Speaker, and many others, have fallen for the same error as Adam and Eve — the tempting idea that I can decide for myself what is good and evil, and thus that the teachings of the Church are merely opinions, of equal weight to the thoughts of anyone else or of my own.
True conscience is not my own voice, telling me that I’m always right. Instead, it is the voice of God, speaking the truth to our hearts, and calling us to conform our will to His. As the Second Vatican Council put it:
In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart: do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law written by God; to obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged. Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths. In a wonderful manner conscience reveals that law which is fulfilled by love of God and neighbor. Only in freedom can man direct himself toward goodness. Our contemporaries make much of this freedom and pursue it eagerly; and rightly to be sure. Often however they foster it perversely as a license for doing whatever pleases them, even if it is evil. (Gaudium et Spes 16-17)
The Speaker’s error has significant real-world consequences. It inevitably leads to the abortion clinic, the assisted suicide center, the torture chamber, the killing fields of murderous ideologies, and other horrors. It leads us to our current legal regime, to the horrendous injustice where the weakest among us can be killed with impunity, and their killers are rewarded with public funds.
But it also has a fatal consequence for our souls. The Speaker’s idea of untrammeled freedom that answers to no authority is ultimately a mirage, and actually enslaves us to our whims or to the prevailing fashions of the age. St. Peter saw this clearly, when he wrote about false prophets: “They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for whatever corrupts a man, to that he is enslaved”. (2 Pet 2:19). In contrast, humbly submitting our will to God’s, is actually liberating, and allows me to be the man I was meant to be, and that God wants me to be. And the best way to do that is by listening to the teachings of His Church — even if it means I have to change my behavior.
In one respect, the Speaker is absolutely right. We all must accept responsibility for the use of our freedom, and we will be judged by Christ Himself for it. Knowing how I have abused my own freedom, I am uneasy about that judgment. We should pray for the conversion of the Speaker’s heart, that she will return to the truth of God’s will, just as we should ceaselessly pray for our own conversion.
In 1984, then-Governor of New York Mario Cuomo gave a famous address at Notre Dame University that, in essence, defended the notion that a Catholic could in good conscience be a public official who defends the legal destruction of unborn children. His argument rested on the assumption that the defense of human life from conception was a merely sectarian doctrine, unique to Catholics, which should not be enacted into civil law.
Twenty-five years have passed, and the Governor’s position has been thouroughly rejected by Pope John Paul II (see, for example, Evangelium Vitae), the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the United States Bishops (see, for example, Living the Gospel of Life), and every single Catholic bishop who has ever spoken on the subject.
My favorite quote from Cardinal Egan, in response to remarks by the Speaker of the House that were the direct descendent of the Governor’s Notre Dame sophistry, makes it clear:
We are blessed in the 21st century with crystal-clear photographs and action films of the living realities within their pregnant mothers. No one with the slightest measure of integrity or honor could fail to know what these marvelous beings manifestly, clearly, and obviously are, as they smile and wave into the world outside the womb. In simplest terms, they are human beings with an inalienable right to live, a right that the Speaker of the House of Representatives is bound to defend at all costs for the most basic of ethical reasons. They are not parts of their mothers, and what they are depends not at all upon the opinions of theologians of any faith. Anyone who dares to defend that they may be legitimately killed because another human being “chooses” to do so or for any other equally ridiculous reason should not be providing leadership in a civilized democracy worthy of the name.
In these instances, and in many, many others, the Church has unhesitatingly and with one voice defined that the the destruction of innocent unborn human beings is always gravely immoral, and that all persons are obliged to protect them, including by enacting civil laws to prohibit abortion. This is not merely a sectarian doctrine unique to the Catholic Church, but is an elementary tenet of the natural moral law that is common to all persons of every age. Enacting this moral principle into civil law is no different from prohibiting slavery, murder, or rape. It is a fundamental principle of justice.
In the face of such a steadfast and universal proclamation of doctrine, one would think that the normal reaction by a Catholic would be to accept the fraternal correction by his Church and offer a humble submission of faith to the correct doctrine (see Lumen Gentium 25).
But not our former Governor. Instead, he decided to comment on the statement by Bishop Tobin of Rhode Island, directing Rep. Patrick Kennedy, the pro-abortion Congressman, not to present himself for Holy Communion until he repents of his immoral public statements and acts. Displaying the classic modern tendency to hold oneself up as the highest teaching authority in matters of faith and morals, the Governor was quoted in a news report as saying:
Cuomo said there are two positions a politician can take: They can oppose church doctrine outright or, as he did, accept church teachings personally but refuse to carry them into the public arena where they would affect people of every faith. ” Don’t ask me to make everybody live by it because they are not members of the church,” Cuomo said. “If that were the operative rule, how could you get any Catholic politician in office? And would that be better for the Catholic church?”
These comments make no sense, either for a Catholic or for anyone else.
- All laws reflect moral judgments of right and wrong. If a public official rules out the influence of their religious faith in making such judgments, on what basis does he act?
- Why would anyone vote for a politician who was so unprincipled or cowardly that he checked his religious faith at the door of the government office he holds? How could you trust him to do anything according to principle?
- The prohibition against killing the innocent is not an inside Catholic rule, but a principle of the moral law. How is it an improper imposition of a religious teaching to prohibit inherently immoral acts like rape or theft?
- The choice to accept Church teaching privately but to live another way publicly is morally irresponsible and reprehensible. It is a gross violation of the fundamental rule of Christian morality — treat others as you would wish to be treated.
- And, the highest value in life is not to make Catholic politicians more electable, or to make things better for the Church, but to live a life of holiness. Holiness is not a private thing — it must infuse every part of our lives, or we are poor excuses for followers of Christ.
Today is the feast day of Blessed Miguel Pro. This great and holy priest defied the unjust laws of Mexico that outlawed the celebration of the Mass and proscribed priests. He was martyred for his opposition to the immoral laws of his nation. He didn’t hide behind a distinction between private belief and public acts. He understood. If only more of our public officials understood.