Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dogs not able to bark

An article in New Jersey's The Times is aptly titled, 'U.S. bishops: Vote your conscience.' (This is a riveting news headline as the bishops are known for their incessant urging of Catholics to not vote in accord with their conscience.)

But I say the headline is befitting (most of) our American bishops because it conveys all at once the jejune, almost meaningless platitudes routinely dressed up and fed to the faithful as "spiritual guidance." As an aside, I should mention that from a purely human standpoint, I can not see how salvation is possible for those Catholics who have the misfortune of being guided by these men alone. I have hope that all will be saved; but that is only because my hope is not limited to the natural. I hope, too, that Fr. Amorth was right in his belief that ignorance is the eighth sacrament and the eighth saves more than all the others together.

But I digress. Rather than state the painfully obvious, a good shepherd would do well to instruct his faithful to inform their conscience. A Catholic who votes in accordance with his malformed conscience does his countrymen, his Church, and his God no service. And a bishop who encourages us to vote our conscience, at the same time keeping silent about how to form a Catholic conscience will have much (...many?) to answer for.

The recently appointed prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, Archbishop Raymond Burke, warned of as much during his homily on March 31 of this year for the newly ordained Bishop James Vann Johnston. He quoted St. Gregory the Great whose admonition was inspired by a reading of the prophet Isaiah and the Parable of the Good Shepherd:

"The ruler should be discreet in keeping silence and profitable in speech, lest he utter what should be kept secret, or keep secret what should be uttered. For just as incautious speech leads men into error, so, too, unseasonable silence leaves in error those who might have been instructed. Often, indeed, incautious rulers, being afraid of losing human favor, fear to speak freely of what is right, and, in the words of the truth, do not exercise the zeal of shepherds caring for the flock, but serve the role of mercenaries; for when the wolf appears, they flee and hide themselves in silence. Wherefore, the Lord reproves them through the prophet, saying: They are all dumb dogs, not able to bark."

If there was ever a time in our political history when ecclesial dogs should be barking, it is now. The Supreme Court which legalized abortion on demand for all fifty states in 1973 by a vote of 7-2 is today evenly divided on the issue (4-4) with one justice -- Kennedy -- who can't make up his mind. The average age of the four justices who favor baby-killing is 75. David Souter, the youngest of the bunch, turns 69 in September, while John Paul Stevens celebrated his 88th last April. On the pro-life side, the Chief Justice is 53, Alito is 58, Clarence Thomas is 60, and Scalia is 72.

Whoever is elected president this November will, by all estimations, have the chance to appoint at least one new Supreme Court justice and perhaps as many as three. Those to be replaced will most likely be of the pro-abortion persuasion. This means the Court has the potential to swing pro-life for the first time in 35 years, overturning the disaster that was Roe, and drastically slowing the killing (a national genocide with a body count somewhere near 47 million...and climbing).

One would think this alone would be cause for bishops everywhere to rally Catholics to the polls and turn the corner on this blemish -- one arguably worse than slavery -- in our nation's history. We have the Republican John McCain who, for all his faults, has a pro-life track record and promises to appoint justices in the mold of Alito and Roberts. And we have one Barack Obama who has made it thus far on promises of hope and change; but not with respect to abortion. With a President Obama there will be no change on the issue of abortion, there will be no hope for unwanted, unborn babies. For when it comes to killing in the womb, he's two enthusiastic thumbs up. And when it comes to a bill ensuring medical care to babies who slipped past the abortionist's knife and into this world, the most he can muster is a senate vote of 'present.' We can be sure each of his appointments to the highest court in the land (as well as our lower courts) will be staunch defenders of a woman's 'right to choose.'

It is almost as though God has set before us life and death, the blessing and the curse. One would think it enough to inspire our bishops to instruct Catholics everywhere to "Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him." (Dt 30:19-20)

This, it seems, is too much to ask. From yesterday's news article:

"This is the most prickly point," said the Rev. Ronald J. Cioffi, director of the Office of Social Concerns for the Diocese of Trenton. "You may vote for a person who is pro-choice if you feel you have a moral reason to support the candidate for his stand on other issues."

Yes, this is true -- but it is only permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons. There are few things in this world proportionate to/worse than killing babies, and there are no Hitlers to vote against in 2008, so I'm having not a little trouble with Fr. Cioffi's moral theology and instruction.

Cioffi presented an outline of the U.S. Catholic Bishops' document "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship" at a meeting of about 30 staff members at the diocese's Pastoral Center yesterday.

"It's hard to find a candidate who supports all of the church's teaching," Bishop John M. Smith admitted to his staff at the meeting.

"It's a difficult time to decide how we're voting, especially this year," Smith said.

No, not such a difficult decision at all Your Excellency. Admittedly, since Senator Brownback dropped out, it has been hard to find a candidate who supports all of the Church's teaching. Perhaps the blame can go out to the bishops who failed to educate their flocks while he was still in the race. But that's water under the bridge and there are now two men left standing. For a Catholic, the choice could not be any easier.

"For those who want to be told what to do -- this document does not tell them," said Rayanne Bennett, chief communications officer for the diocese.

No doubt there were riots in New Jersey when this hit the news stands from all those Catholics who want to be told what to do.

"The reason this is important is no candidate this year and few candidates historically have perfectly lined up with Catholic social teaching," she said.

For instance, conservatives who oppose abortion often support the death penalty, Bennett said. The Catholic Church opposes both.

Wrong. Someone should hand Rayanne a copy of then-Cardinal Ratzinger's memo to the American bishops back in 2004. (Surely Bishop Smith still has his copy laying around somewhere...)

"There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia." -Cardinal Ratzinger, as Prefect of the CDF

"Catholics who vote for Republican presidential candidate John McCain because of his anti-abortion record also are voting for a candidate who supports the war in Iraq -- a war Pope Benedict XVI clearly has opposed.

"If you vote for someone who supports the war, be actively involved in trying to change his mind," Bennett said of the bishops' stand.

She really needs to read the memo. But more to the point, since we were not born yesterday and are well aware that Miss Bennett will be casting her vote for Obama in November, does that mean she will also "be actively involved in trying to change his mind" with regard to his far more problematic stance on abortion?

I'm not going to hold my breath.


Paul said...

Good Analysis! I submitted this post to PickAFig (The Catholic 'Digg')

PickAFig: Dogs Not Able to Bark

I'm almost ashamed htese days to tell people that NJ is my native state....

Tom and Carrie said...

Wow. Thanks Paul!

You May Like Catholic Issues Blog said...

What does it really mean to be prolife? The Catholic Justices in the Supreme Court had the opportunity to over turn "Death penalty" but they did not. These are suppose to be conservative Catholics. McCain says he is prolife, ever wonder where he will get the babies for his "embryonic stem cell research?" We need to be "whole life" if we should use Rick Warren's term. All life is precious and most be protected.

Tom and Carrie said...


Thanks for your comments. I agree with you that McCain is not as pro-life as we'd like. But he's head and shoulders above Obama. We are promised pro-life justices with a President McCain, and pro-abortion justices with a President Obama. For those who think babies in the womb were endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, the choice is clear.

I'm going to have to disagree with you on the death penalty issue. Catholics are not bound in conscience to oppose the death penalty; the Church cautiously admits that a Catholic is free to support its use.

I have been meaning to address the death penalty with a blog post for some time now, and your comment is but another reminder for me. Thank you.