A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Do you believe

"that it is proper or improper for Catholic church leaders to deny communion to Catholic politicians whose views on abortion and other life issues go against church teachings?"

This was a question in a recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Most answered that it was improper, even Catholics who go to Mass every week.

The actual survey report and the original questionnaire are available on the Pew site.

The inclusion of the phrase "and other life issues" clouds the question somewhat. What does it mean? If the respondent asks "what do you mean by 'life issues?'", what would the polltaker say? Only abortion and euthanasia have been identified by the Holy Father and the bishops as life issues which can never be supported by Catholics in political life. Those who oppose the bishops on this matter will improperly include capital punishment, war, or even contraception.

Whether the polltaker offered an improper elaboration or not, it is reasonable to conclude that the results would have been different if the question had focused solely and properly on abortion (or even on abortion and euthanasia). It is reasonable to think that conservatives in particular would have demurred if they thought (however mistakenly) that bishops would deny communion based on politicians’ views on the death penalty or the war in Iraq.

That being said, one cannot deny that many Catholics who go to Mass every week are opposed to the denial of Communion to pro-choice politicians. Why?

Some oppose it because they too define themselves as Catholic and pro-choice, tragically sharing the politicians’ error, albeit in a less high profile way. Regular Mass attendance does not ensure orthodoxy or perfection for any of us.

Some oppose it because they mistakenly extend Jefferson’s “wall of separation” between Church and state to a greater extreme even than John F. Kennedy did. It is a dangerous, Machiavellian view that a person should act contrary to his or her personal beliefs for political purposes. That which happens within the political sphere cannot be exempt from moral evaluation.

Some oppose it because they feel uncomfortable with anything that smacks of judging the moral standing of a person who professes to be acting in “good conscience.” Perhaps they have confused the distinctions between objective and subjective morality (or have discarded the idea of objective morality altogether). A “good conscience” may be a deluded conscience, and if the person is not diligent in seeking truth, they will be held to account.

None of us are perfect. All of us need God’s grace. Each of us must continually seek to understand more and more of the Truth. Each of us must continually strive to make God’s will more effective in our lives.

To be sure, judgment ultimately belongs to God alone, yet it belongs to the teaching and pastoral functions of the Church to make clear what the truth is and to make clear when people have strayed from the truth. If a member of the flock has strayed from the truth, the duty of the shepherd is to call that person back. If that straying member is drawing others off course, the duty of the shepherd is to call publicly and as strongly as necessary. It may be an uncomfortable duty, but it is a duty and a solemn obligation.

God will judge these politicians. God will also judge the shepherds and all of us as well.

Son of man,
I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel.
When you hear a word from my mouth,
you shall warn them for me.

If I say to the wicked man, You shall surely die;
and you do not warn him
or speak out to dissuade him from his wicked conduct
so that he may live:
that wicked man shall die for his sin,
but I will hold you responsible for his death.
Ezekiel 3:17-18

Kyrie, eleison.