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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Rights of the Church

The recent letter from the Catholic bishops of North Texas has raised considerable discussion over whether churches have a right to explicitly endorse or repudiate specific policies. Indeed, certain policies are so deeply identified with specific candidates that the endorsement or repudiation of a policy can seem to be an endorsement or repudiation of a candidate.

For instance, for some reason Barack Obama appears to be synonymous with legal abortion, even the right to infanticide, while John McCain is identified with an infant's right to life.

"By what right," demands the irate citizen, "do these Catholic bishops dare to tell Americans what policies or candidates are to be endorsed or repudiated? I am an American, and no one may tell me how to vote!"

Oddly enough, the Catholic Church does not necessarily disagree. According to the principle of subsidiarity, a higher power should not interfere in the functioning of a lower power if it is at all possible to avoid such interference.

A Catholic who has properly formed his conscience in the teachings of the Church, a Catholic who therefore knows how to live the moral life under every circumstance, has no need to be instructed by the Church in what is to be endorsed or repudiated. Such a Catholic already knows the right course of action, judges the situation rightly, acts on that judgement and everyone goes on about their business.

But what happens if the Catholic in question does not have a properly formed conscience? What if Catholics are influenced not by Christ, but by Chrysler, what if their Messiah is MTV and Oprah is their prophet, what if they pay more attention to the Dow then to the one Who died for them?

In that situation, the Catholic bishops have an obligation to properly form the consciences of the Christian faithful. They have to re-teach them the basic tenets, the bedrock principles, by which a Catholic is to judge how to act in the public sphere.

If Catholics fail to follow that instruction, the bishops have a duty to tell the Catholics precisely who to vote for and the Catholic has a duty to follow that instruction.

"But that's illegal!" shout the even more irate citizens, "That's against the Constitution!"

Actually, it is not. The Constitution gives no one the right to regulate this kind of instruction. In fact, the Constitution specifically says it has no power to regulate religion at all. That is why the state cannot tax religious institutions - the state has no power to regulate religion. The Constitution may be the supreme law of the nation, but it recognizes religion, religious belief and religious instruction as being in some sense extra-national and beyond its proper authority.

Consequently, the Constitution implicitly recognizes that every citizen who belongs to a church belongs to an authority which the Constitution does not and expressly cannot speak to. Just as Europeans have a right to express their opinion about who should be the next president and instruct each other and America in why one choice is superior to another - without being subject to US taxation or regulation - so do members of religious institutions have the same right with the same freedom from regulation or taxation and for exactly the same reasons.

Lyndon Baines Johnson managed to pass a law in 1954 which pretends otherwise. That law is not constitutional, and insofar as it impedes the Constitutionally-recognized power, the divinely ordained power, of the church to regulate its own affairs and its own instructions, no one has a duty to obey it.


Ann said...

I always find it interesting when a "Catholic" tries to tell me that the Church cannot tell them what to do and that they have to follow their conscience. Only IF you have a well formed conscience according to the teaching of the Church, which is the truth. I kind of think of it as similar to belonging to any kind of club - if the club has rules that you must follow in order to be a member in good standing, how is that different from the Church. If you don't follow the rules, there is a price to be paid. In the case of the Church, you are endangering your eternal soul. Seems like any thinking person would naturally want to find out what the rules are and follow them. The Church has the duty and obligation to make sure her members know the truth - especially today when we are being assaulted by lies at every turn. You know, when your mother told you not to do something, her reasoning was "it's for your own good". That is what Mother Church is doing. We may not like to hear what she has to say, but it really is for our own good - our eternal good. If you support someone who is in the position to make laws for the whole country, state, or city, and that person puts into law something that is contrary not only to Church law but to universal moral law, then it is not "for your own good" to support that person. You will be furthering the agenda of death (read Satan) and thereby endangering your own soul. Mother Church is only trying to look out for us as any good mother does. As teenagers we railed against our parents when they tried to enforce boundaries. Isn't it time we grew up spiritually and quit acting like spiritual teenagers?

Jordanes said...

Wow! Did you hear the way Archbishop Chaput took Doug Kmiec to the woodshed for the lies he has been telling about Obama and about Church teaching? God bless the good archbishop, and may He send more like him!

Archbishop Chaput Says He's No Kmiec
Affirms Defense of Life as Top Church Priority

DENVER, Colorado, OCT. 17, 2008 ( Archbishop Charles Chaput says Catholic legal scholar Douglas Kmiec "couldn't be more mistaken" in comparing his own moral reasoning regarding the 2008 presidential election to that of the archbishop.

Archbishop Chaput said this tonight at a dinner sponsored by ENDOW (Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women). The talk, which he said reflects his own opinion as a private citizen, is titled "Little Murders."The prelate spoke at length of Douglas Kmiec's book "Can a Catholic Support Him? Asking the Big Question about Barack Obama," in which the Pepperdine law professor argues why Catholics should cast their vote in November's presidential election for Senator Barack Obama.

Kmiec publicly endorsed the Democratic candidate earlier this year, stating in an article for Slate that Obama is a "natural" for Catholic voters.

Archbishop Chaput noted that his own book, "Render Unto Caesar," was heavily cited by Kmiec in his defense of Obama: "In fact, he suggests that his reasoning and mine are 'not far distant on the moral inquiry necessary in the election of 2008.'"

"Unfortunately, he either misunderstands or misuses my words, and he couldn't be more mistaken," said the archbishop.

No regrets

"I believe that Senator Obama, whatever his other talents, is the most committed 'abortion-rights' presidential candidate of either major party since the Roe v. Wade abortion decision in 1973," he added. "Despite what [...] Kmiec suggests, the party platform Senator Obama runs on this year is not only aggressively 'pro-choice;' it has also removed any suggestion that killing an unborn child might be a regrettable thing."

The prelate affirmed that the platform of the Democratic Party that emerged from its national convention in August "is clearly anti-life."

"Kmiec argues that there are defensible motives to support Senator Obama," continued Archbishop Chaput. "Speaking for myself, I do not know any proportionate reason that could outweigh more than 40 million unborn children killed by abortion and the many millions of women deeply wounded by the loss and regret abortion creates."

The prelate continued: "To suggest -- as some Catholics do -- that Senator Obama is this year's 'real' pro-life candidate requires a peculiar kind of self-hypnosis, or moral confusion, or worse.

"To portray the 2008 Democratic Party presidential ticket as the preferred 'pro-life' option is to subvert what the word 'pro-life' means."

Archbishop Chaput said he thought Kmiec's endorsement of Obama has "done a disservice to the Church, confused the natural priorities of Catholic social teaching, undermined the progress pro-lifers have made, and provided an excuse for some Catholics to abandon the abortion issue instead of fighting within their parties and at the ballot box to protect the unborn."


"The truth is that for some Catholics, the abortion issue has never been a comfortable cause," said the Denver prelate. "It's embarrassing. It's not the kind of social justice they like to talk about. It interferes with their natural political alliances.

"And because the homicides involved in abortion are 'little murders' -- the kind of private, legally protected murders that kill conveniently unseen lives -- it's easy to look the other way."

The archbishop called it "wrong and often dishonest [...] to neutralize the witness of bishops and the pro-life movement by offering a 'Catholic' alternative to the Church's priority on sanctity of life issues."

"As I suggest throughout 'Render Unto Caesar,' it's important for Catholics to be people of faith who pursue politics to achieve justice; not people of politics who use and misuse faith to achieve power," he said.

Archbishop Chaput lamented that for 35 years he's watched the pro-abortion lobby fight tooth-and-nail against the pro-life movement: "Apparently they believe in their convictions more than some of us Catholics believe in ours. And I think that's an indictment of an entire generation of American Catholic leadership."

The prelate continued by affirming that being pro-life is much deeper than looking to overturn Roe v. Wade, or being a "single issue" voter: "The cornerstone of Catholic social teaching is protecting human life from conception to natural death. [...] Every other human right depends on the right to life."

He added: "So I think that people who claim that the abortion struggle is 'lost' as a matter of law, or that supporting an outspoken defender of legal abortion is somehow 'pro-life,' are not just wrong; they're betraying the witness of every person who continues the work of defending the unborn child.

"And I hope they know how to explain that, because someday they'll be required to."

Ann said...

Wow! That is a great article. Is it just me, or does it seem like more bishops are starting to speak out and speak out forcefully. I pray that, with God's grace, maybe ALL of our bishops will soon start doing the same thing.

Dem said...

I pray the bishops do NOT spread such insanity. We are possibly facing a second Great Depression... there are obviously some pretty important other issues out there.

Jordanes said...

I pray the bishops do NOT spread such insanity.

Thankfully God doesn't listen to sinful prayers.

We are possibly facing a second Great Depression... there are obviously some pretty important other issues out there.

But none as important as the issue of the mass slaughter of unborn children.

The Holocaust took place during the Great Depression, Dem. Do you really think the economy was more important than Hitler's policy of systematic slaughter of whole peoples and classes?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Well, the persecution of Jews took place during the Depression, but the Holocaust - the direct killing of Jews in death camps - did not technically begin until after the start of World War II. If you take a look at a map, you'll see all the death camps are in Poland or Byelorussia.

Still, the point is an excellent one in regards to the fact that Hitler gained power during the Great Depression. He was well-known as an anti-Semite, but his anti-Semitism was not seen as a problem since he promised to solve the cultural and economic crisis - exactly the promise Obama makes despite his well-known anti-human views.

Jordanes said...

Two considerations:

1) Does "Holocaust" only refer to the full-blown pulverising of Jews, or does it not rather encompass the persections that began during the 1930s? I think in common parlance it includes the beginnings of the oppression during the 30s.

2) But even if it doesn't encompass those persections, the Great Depression is usually said to have ended with World War II, but if you look at the world economies it wasn't that the Depression had ended, but that nations switched over to a total war footing. But a war economy is unnatural, out of the ordinary: when the war ends, the economy flops. That what happened after the fighting stopped in 1945. I contend that the Depression had not actually ended during the war years, but was simply "drowned-out" by the abnormal state-controlled military economy that was made necessary by the need to crush the Axis Powers. When the economy reverted to its normal state, Depression conditions almost immediately resumed and continued for several years until the boom years of the 1950s. Thus, from that perspective the Holocaust during World War II happened during the Great Depression, even though that it not the conventional way of looking at things.

Even when it is a just war, war is bad for the economy. That's one of the reasons (though of course there are several other important causes) we're seeing these economic troubles: we're spending money on war (which always requires massive deficit spending) while acting as if it were still peacetime, engaging in wasteful and immoral government spending on domestic programs that we can't afford and usually don't need. One would hope that the next President and the next Congress would figure out their obligation to cut spending, but with a Democrat Congress and Obama as President, there won't be any chance of that. Not that there'd be much, if any, chance of it happening if the Republicans were in charge either. The fact of the matter is our government is broken, and broken beyond repair, because our culture is broken. Few seem to understand that it's time to start over. What we've got now just doesn't work any more, if it ever did.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

1) The Holocaust typically refers just to the targeted killing of the Jews that began after WWII began. The persecutions that led up to the Holocaust in the 1930's were certainly necessary, but are generally considered precursors.

2)The Great Depression lasted for different amounts of time in different countries. It lingered throughout the entire decade for the US because we had a Democrat and an economic idiot for president (sorry for the redundancy) - FDR, a mistake we appear ready to repeat.

Germany got out of the Depression shortly after Hitler took power because Hitler instituted massive conscription and took Germany off the gold standard. The longer a country stayed on the gold standard, the longer the Depression lasted in that country.