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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Welborn but Badly Considered

We all get caught in contradictory logic at times, but it's jarring to see the examples when they are brought before us.

Consider Amy Welborn's recent post. She felt it was wrong for a deacon to make a homiletic reference to the fact that a parishioner, a politician present at Mass, had voted in favor of embryonic stem cell research. The deacon suggested that parishioners might enter into conversation with the man on that subject. Bloggers have since observed that a close look at the parishioner's voting record as a public servant demonstrates he had a 100% rating from NARAL.

Now, Amy's disappointment with the deacon's homiletic observation and recommendation would be unremarkable - everyone is entitled to their opinion, after all - if not for her earlier public attacks on priests and bishops who have had even the slightest hint of scandal surrounding them during the recent child sexual abuse scandals. In those instances, Amy was in high dudgeon even when there was no actual accusation, much less conviction, of child abuse. See, for instance, this or this.

One could conclude, from Amy's remarks, that looking at the wrong photos of children (even though there was no evidence that any action was ever taken) is infinitely worse than fighting to make sure that children are legally torn limb from limb: sex abuse, even when no actual abuse took place (as in the Allgaier case), is apparently worse than the actual use of deadly force.

This is what over 30 years of legal abortion has done to us. We are willing to publicly chastise every priest who is associated even by rumour with an activity which is (currently) illegal while being unwilling to so much as publicly reference the documented fact that a lay person actively promotes a legal activity.

Like many Catholics, Amy seems to feel that sexual abuse is an opportunity to publicly pile on while abortion is a political third rail that should be dealt with sotto voce. It matters not that abortion is just a more craven form of sexual abuse. What matters to Amy, and Catholics like her, is that one act is legal and the other is not. Legal abortion activists needs to be handled with kid gloves, while illegal sex abusers should be stoned. It is an odd permutation of morality when American Catholics insist on the Protestant principle: separation of Church and State.

Recall that the homily is supposed to be the pre-eminent place for showing Catholics where the Gospel interacts with our daily lives. How many times have we heard from the pulpit that we must give a preferential option to the poor, that we should open our purses to donate to the second collection for Honduras, Guatamala or something similar?

Here, the deacon merely recommends a similar course of action, but instead of asking for monetary support, he asks parishioners to converse with a specific man, a man who not only represents his political district, but a man who represents his Catholic parish to the larger political community. Is this not social justice in action? Did we not see the like when Paul immortalized the incestuous sin of one man in his letter to the Corinthians?

If St. Ambrose could threaten to excommunicate an emperor for slaughtering innocent civilians as he put down an insurrection, certainly a deacon can ask parishioners to enter into conversation with a fellow parishioner who has actively supported the slaughter of millions of children. Given the fact of Childermas, the major feast of the Church whose entire liturgy is built around the commemoration of Herod's slaughter of innocent children, such a community invitation is certainly not out of line with Catholic tradition or liturgy.

Would it not be appropriate to ask parishioners to write their representatives on this point? How much more to appropriate to ask parishioners to personally discuss the issue with their representatives? And is it not convenient that this same representative happens to be here at Mass today?

John the Baptist was the greatest saint of the Old Testament, but he was the least of the saints of the New Testament, because he had not the full Gospel, the fullness of which would not be revealed until the Paschal Mystery had been completed. Still, even that portion of the Truth that he possessed forced him to publicly and repeatedly denounce Herod for his incestuous marriage. If the martyrs under the altar can cry out for justice, as they do in the book of Revelation, then certainly deacons can make factual points about justice from the ambo.

It is not without reason St. Ignatius said that of all ordained men, the deacon is most like unto Christ. As this deacon goes through crucifixion from his pastor, his bishop and Catholic commentators like Amy Welborn, we can recall St. Ignatius as he journeyed towards the circus, guarded by four soldiers of leopard-like ferocity. He rejoiced that he would be ground between the teeth of the lion. We can only hope and pray that this deacon be given similar courage and faith for having done what, if we are to believe the book of Acts, deacons were originally ordained to do: identify the injustices within the Catholic community and work to correct them.