April 9, 2001
volume 12, no. 99
No Rhyme nor Reason!

    I know The DAILY CATHOLIC has received some feedback on it's "Herod's Heroes" series. Most of it appears to be favorable, but, well, you can't please everyone.

    However, the negative feedback may provide us with insights to the state of the Church in America, and maybe the Church as a whole. I didn't keep the names, who said them doesn't matter, almost anyone, at any time can be heard in their remarks.

    "Don't you have any other issues to write about other than abortion? Try writing about the good in God rather than the wrath of God. I get so sick of hearing about who is going to hell. Sin is sin. I hope you are all very sure you are going to Heaven while you judge and condemn others."
    The issue isn't about condemnation, or the good in God rather than His wrath. No one has said the people listed are going to hell. And sin isn't sin.

    No doubt, the person follows the "Judge not lest ye be judged" mantra. On the whole, a true and laudatory view. But Christ also said, "Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, 'I repent,' you must forgive him" (Luke 17:3-4).

    The maxim is, "Silence betokens approval," so to remain silent would mean one accepts, or approves of an action. It's also one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy of the Church to admonish the sinner. (Catholic Source Book; pg. 83) No one is saying that these politicians are going to hell, they are not being judged in regard to their final eternal home, only that they're calling themselves Catholic while openly pushing positions in direct opposition to the Church (the implication being that the Church approves).

    As for sin is sin! "All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal" (1 John 5:17).

    I guess sin isn't sin, but there are degrees of sin.    

    "These are strong words. I disagree with your tactics. Surely you can see that there is a threat made here? This message that you are sending has nothing to do with abortion. It has to do with the separation of Church and State. Let the one who has not sinned cast the first stone and excommunicate anyone from GOD."
    What threat? If these people really care anything for their faith, then this is a wake up call, nothing more. If they don't, then the act of being excommunicated would mean nothing to them, just as it seems to mean nothing to them to push things contrary to authentic Church teaching. And as for it being a case of separation of Church and State, are you saying that a Catholic has to check their beliefs at the door of the legislature? Why is it that Joe Lieberman was praised for using his faith as a part of his thinking but a Catholic would be unable to? These politicians aren't just suffering with abortion and other issues, they're actively supporting them. The stones being thrown here isn't from the Church or The DAILY CATHOLIC.    
    "I would like to voice disagreement. While I am Catholic, and I am certainly not Pro-Choice, (unless it means choosing life) I don't support over-turning Roe v.Wade.

        "I feel that the Pro-Life movement is a wonderful organization, however, I feel that they could do different things that would ultimately save more un-born children.

        "My point in writing to you today however is not to state my views on the topic, but to say that I, as a practicing Catholic, disagree with your approach. I think that the idea is novel at best, and not very reasonable. People can have different ideas, and they can disagree, but this shouldn't be the basis for ex-communicating people from our faith.

        "Rhetoric of this nature does nothing more than perpetuate negative notions that people outside of the Catholic faith have about us. This type of 'your with us or your against us' mind set, is very detrimental to any organization, and it has NO place in any Christian faith.

        "In closing, let me state that although your intentions are clearly decent, perhaps there are other approaches that could be considered. We should be trying to truly promote life, and not get bogged down continuing this political stalemate of Pro-Choice vs Right to Life. All of that is merely polical garbage that is clearly getting in the way of what our true focus should be, preserving un-born lives."

    Do you think you would have supported overturning the institution of slavery if you had been alive in 1800's America? Do you think you would have approved of putting an end to the German treatment of Jews in WW II? How is this any different? Would you support a law which allows you to kill another for your convenience? That's what Roe v. Wade is isn't it? Doesn't Roe V. Wade say that it's a woman's choice to kill her child for any reason?

    The idea of debate, or dialogue over confrontation, is really a noble idea until it becomes more harmful than good. Many heresies were allowed to grow because of this notion. One that comes to mind was the Arian heresy which asserted that Christ was not truly God but only a creature. This heresy was allowed to spread while the Church tried to stem it through debate and dialogue. Finally, the laity of the day said enough was enough and the Bishops condemned it a heresy and excommunicated any who continued to follow it.

    "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel--not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from Heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:7-9).

    The issue here is what is Church teaching? When a public official supports an act directly contrary to Church teaching, and the Bishops do nothing about it, even giving implied support by association with them, what is the average Catholic to think?

    The editor of The DAILY CATHOLIC has shared the following with me that they received from Father Peter West of Priests for Life. He is the same priest who was kicked out of a Catholic school on March 18 for his Pro-Life stance by pro-abort 'Catholics' who were celebrating a pro-abort candidate for governor in New Jersey. Here is what Father West wrote:

        "Excommunication of pro-abortion politicians is a strategy that many in the pro-life movement favor. Apparently the American Bishops are afraid it will turn them into 'martyrs' and do more harm than good. Frances Kissling of Catholics For A Free Choice has practically begged the Bishops to excommunicate her. She knows this would get her publicity which she craves, sympathy from the media and donations. The Bishops have explicitly said that this is not a bona fide Catholic organization. Also by the fact that she promotes abortion she has excommunicated herself by that very action. A formal excommunication is not necessary."
    Now this is essentially true, but a formal excommunication would send a clear message. Kissling could, for example, say she isn't excommunicated since no formal one has been performed.

    The letter went on:

    "The Bishops believe that in the long run it is better for us to use the power of persuasion than the power of excommunication which plays into the stereotype of the Church as harsh and authoritarian. Not even Cardinal O'Connor did it and noone questions his pro-life credentials. Priests For Life is currently promoting the American Bishops document 'Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics' which was issued in November of 1999. This document is the strongest statement yet on the political responsibility all of us have for pre-born children. It teaches very clearly that Catholics who hold public office must do all that they can to protect life even if it means losing their office."
    This is understandable, but, the Church is already viewed as harsh, authoritarian, patriarchal, sexist, homophobic, etc. The idea of using the power of persuasion is in line with what Pope John XXIII had worked toward.

    "John XXIII: In his opening speech to the Council, John made a most fateful statement, which, surprisingly many - including Jones - have not noticed: 'The Church has always opposed these errors. Frequently she has condemned them with the greatest severity. Nowadays, however the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity. She considers she meets the needs of the present day by demonstrating the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnation."

    Except for a few exceptional cases, John followed this rule. So did Paul VI, who even when so many Episcopal conferences contradicted his did not publicly reprove them. John Paul II explicitly endorsed the policy of John in his preface to the new catechism: "...the Council in its approach was not to condemn the errors of the age, but it was to strive before all to show serenely the force and beauty of the doctrine of the faith." (Catholic Apologetics; Notes by: Fr. Wm G. Most, Ph.D.)

    For 30-40 years, the Church has tried to handle dissent and revolt by showing "serenely the force and beauty of the doctrine of the faith", trying to demonstrate "the validity of her teaching rather than by condemnation."

    "As a result few indeed of the unsound teachers have been removed or corrected. But many, many times those disloyal to our doctrine are allowed to not only keep their positions, but to oppress or even discharge those who are loyal. A glaring case is that of Charles Curran, who was not fired for his unsound doctrine, but brought on a strike at the Catholic University of America-directly under the authority of the US Bishops. He was not only rehired, he was promoted, while Msgr. Kevane, one of the few who dared to oppose him, was forced out of the University. After some years, the Vatican did declare Curran no Catholic theologian-but not until he had wrought immense harm to all Catholic Universities." (Ibid)

    Even today, many think of Charles Curran as a valid Catholic theologian, dissenters that is.

    Another example is that of former Dominican priest, Matthew Fox. When he came up with his 'Cosmic Christ' notion, first his Order, then the Church, tried to persuade him of his error by 'serenely showing the beauty and validity of the teachings of the Church.' Fox refused and, after time, was excommunicated since to continue to allow him to preach his 'gospel' under the auspices of the Church would do far more harm than good.

    Is it any different in regard to those who are promoting abortion and who claim to be Catholic?

    It's fine that the American Bishops are pushing their document "Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics". But does it hold weight? How many Americans heeded their admonition during the last election? Many feel they can ignore the Bishops with impunity. Have they done anything to counter that perception? When Senator Kennedy can work diligently to promote abortion and receive no admonishment from the Bishops, what is the average Catholic to think? Simply that one CAN be pro-abortion AND be a good practicing Catholic.

    Just as in the days of the Arian heresy, it's time the Bishops of the Church resume their role as shepherds of their flocks and, even at the risk of looking bad, harsh and authoritarian, to guard their flocks from the wolves in their midst. It isn't about condemning anyone to hell, it's about saying that one cannot say they are Catholic if they don't follow Church teaching. This isn't simply a case of sinning, but open revolt.

    I read in a Time magazine article on the Pope, an unnamed Vatican official who said that schism would be terrible……but better that than heresy. By not acting, the Bishops are not helping the Church, but allowing the damage to continue, and get worse. It's like hearing a doctor say he won't operate on a cancer patient because the operation may kill him.

Pax Christi,

Pat Ludwa

For past columns by Pat Ludwa, see VIEW FROM THE PEW Archives

April 9, 2001
volume 12, no. 99
Pat Ludwa's VIEW FROM THE PEW column
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