Sunday, June 26, 2011

Canonist Edward Peters says...

...Cuomo ought to be barred from receiving communion:

Cuomo’s concubinage gives prominent bad example against marriage, but his official actions in regard to “gay marriage” have changed the very definition of marriage in the populous state under his care; Cuomo’s living arrangements are of immediate canonical concern to only two of New York’s eight arch/bishops, but his political actions in regard to “gay marriage” negatively impact the pastoral mission of every Catholic bishop, parish priest, deacon, and lay minister throughout the Province of New York; finally, while most of the bishops of New York said little or nothing about Cuomo’s living with a woman not his wife, his long-standing actions in regard to “gay marriage” were challenged repeatedly, directly, and forcefully by the Archbishop of New York and by all his seven suffragans.

In light of the foregoing, I see no way, absent a public reversal of his public conduct, that Andrew Cuomo may present himself for holy Communion (per Canon 916), and, if he does present himself, I see no way that a minister of holy Communion may administer the sacrament to him (per Canon 915). Indeed, the only question in my mind is whether the ordinaries of New York should lift from the shoulders of individual ministers the burden of reaching this decision, by making a determination to this effect themselves and, assuming they do reach this conclusion, whether they should announce it publicly or in a personal letter to Cuomo. (Personally, I think a public announcement more befits the markedly public character of Cuomo’s conduct and responds better to the danger of scandal presented to the faithful by his actions).

I agree wholeheartedly--but we'll see.

UPDATE: Peters does not say "excommunicated" but rather that Cuomo should be barred from receiving communion under Canon 915. In any event, a clear and public instruction of that fact would be a much more decisive step than a mere suggestion that really, you know, Catholic colleges might not want to give this wicked man awards and things.

22 comments:

Turmarion said...

The way I'm understanding the linked article, Peters is saying that Cuomo's living status made him ineligible for Communion, but his political actions, being graver, call for formal excommunication.

This still doesn't remove the hypocrisy of a Church that didn't seem to care about Cuomo's public actions enough even to deny him Communion before this.

Interesting, too, in that while Catholic politicians who support abortion have been denied Communion, none, to my knowledge, have been formally excommunicated. I do notice that Peters advocates that, too, but even there he says that bishops' conferences would have to institute a specific process in order to do this.

By the way, Peters is also on record as maintaining that, according to his interpretation of Canon Law, married deacons ought to be celibate and that the Church was at fault for not making this clear to candidates who naively thought they could continue a regular married life. This stirred up a bit of a kerfluffle in the blogosphere a little while back. FWIW

Sleeping Beastly said...

Aren't you being a bit dramatic in accusing the entire Church of hypocrisy when you really have no way of knowing what has occurred behind closed doors between the bishops and Cuomo? I recall the to-do between my own archbishop and Nancy Pelosi a few years back, when we only found out about all his letters to and talks with her when she decided to discuss them publicly. For the most part, bishops like to keep private their pastoral discussions with individuals.

Hector said...

Re: This still doesn't remove the hypocrisy of a Church that didn't seem to care about Cuomo's public actions

They apparently didn't seem to care about Catholic politicians who support aggressive war, bully third world countries that haven't done anything to us, try and disestablish the welfare state, trash the natural environment.....Oh, and of course, as you mention, no one has been formally excommunicated for supporting abortion, either.

Somehow, gay marriage is the hill everyone wants to die on.

Even if you disagree with the gay marriage decision, I hardly see that it makes Cuomo a 'wicked man'. Support for abortion, yes, could be evidence of genuine evil (though it could equally well be attributed to deep-seated ignorance, or to political cowardice) but gay marriage? Really?

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Here is where Red and I part company, albeit we have some common ground on the whining about "equal protection of the laws" and the failure of appellate judges to define their terms before beginning their reasoning.

Andrew Cuomo's private life is an entirely appropriate basis for any church to determine whether he does or does not live in the manner any given article of faith or doctrine says that he should.

However, once elected to public office, his conduct in office, even if the bishops find it more grievous, is none of any church's business to coerce in any way. He is accountable to the voters who elected him. He ran on a promise to get a gay marriage law passed. He kept his promise. If voters didn't want it, they could have voted for his opponent. The bishops may not coerce an elected official, whatever his faith, to trump the will of the people.

(If they had excommunicated him BEFORE he ran, for saying that gay marriage was OK with him, I might take a different view of the matter.)

Red Cardigan said...

So, Siarlys, if a Catholic voted for a law allowing the murder of two-year-old children, you'd get angry if any of them were excommunicated for it?

Just wondering if this is a matter of principle or degree of evil for you.

Anonymous said...

Siarlys's point is that Cuomo's conduct in office is Caesar's business. The church certainly can leave its protected religious haven and become a coercive political player instead (those that do both define theocracy), but once it does it loses its legal protection as a religion and becomes subject to such things as review of its tax status. Historical prudence by the church in avoiding this dilemma explains much of what people here are calling the church's hypocrisy. The half a loaf the church has now is larger than the half it would get in exchange, and those that feed off that half loaf know that quite well.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Anonymous has given an answer pretty close to exactly what my point was.

I would be very disturbed if voters would support a candidate who called for legalizing the murder of two-year-olds. I would not vote for such a candidate. I would be outraged if someone who ran for office without giving the slightest hint of such a position managed to push it through once elected. I would uphold the right of church officials to exercise their free speech to denounce such a proposition.

However, on principle, I would indeed hold that the church may not COERCE the vote of such an official, or their conduct in executive office, by saying "do this, or we will excommunicate you." No church may exercise such power over governmental decisions. We do not live in a theocracy. I have in mind, in particular, some of Bishop Burke's letters to Wisconsin legislators, blatantly stating that they had an opportunity in office to advance the church's agenda, and failed to do so. Legislators are not elected to represent their church.

One might say that excommunication is an internal matter for the church. However, if you truly believe that excommunication imperils the person's immortal soul, it could be considered a more potent form of blackmail than kidnapping the office holder's child. Blackmail of a public official's conduct in office is impermissible. It borders on treason.

Tarcisius said...

Sorry in advance for the long post.

Excommunication and denial of Holy Communion is not coercion. It is a remedial step; an action taken to prevent the person from injuring his soul further. In fact, formal excommunication is specifically reserved for those who publicly betray the Church. Catholics take the view that everything we do in all aspects of life should be a reflection of our faith in God. This includes actions taken in the public sphere.

When you commit a mortal sin you immediately cut yourself off from God. At this point, you may no longer receive communion, for to do so would be an insult to God. Would you present yourself to a king in your shoddiest, dirtiest clothes? You are also performing an act of love for God when you receive Holy Communion. It is possible to lie through actions, though. If you receive Holy Communion unworthily, you are lying. You indicate that you love God, but are unwilling to do all that you know you must do to truly love Him; you just want to “feel” as if you really loved Him. Additionally, you confer that you are the one in charge, that you decide your own worthiness. Either that or you presume that God doesn’t care, whether because He is indifferent, or because He “forgives you, of course.” The former defies reality, while the latter presumes God’s mercy.

God does love you, but you have to love Him, too. If you do love Him, you will apologize for (or confess) your sins and beg His forgiveness. To obtain forgiveness, you must also compensate (perform restitution) for your actions. This involves repairing the damage you have caused. “You break it, you buy it.” Or fix it, if you can.

For public figures known to be living in sin, continuing to receive Holy Communion not only harms their souls, but it indicates that they have done nothing wrong. For public figures who openly promote grave sin, the scandal they give can be serious enough to prompt a public response from the Church, through her designated officials. The public announcement that the view promulgated is heresy, apostasy, or otherwise contrary to Church teaching is known as excommunication. In addition, there are certain actions which incur Latae Sententiae (automatic) excommunication, meaning no official statement is required.

“I have in mind, in particular, some of Bishop Burke's letters to Wisconsin legislators, blatantly stating that they had an opportunity in office to advance the church's agenda, and failed to do so.”

Siarlys Jenkins


If you understand that “the Church’s agenda” is to save souls (including our own), then perhaps the letters won’t seem so outlandish. The Church doesn’t exercise power over government decisions as an organization, but as a collection of like-minded citizens. There are rules that cover both private and public behavior. If you break them, you suffer the consequences, and it matters not a whit if you are a politician or an influential celebrity (even if the only difference is on the payroll checks).

Finally, excommunication does not imperil a person’s soul; it is simply an announcement that they have already imperiled their own soul. After all, God doesn’t send you to Hell, you send yourself to Hell. No one goes to Hell unwillingly.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Tarcisus, that is sophistry of the worst order. If any church tries to set standards for how its members will vote, or conduct themselves as elected representatives, it is engaged in treason to the Constitution of the United States of America, no matter what cute language you care to wrap it up in.

The American Party of the 1830s and 1840s warned that if Roman Catholics were allowed to immigrate, and to become citizens and voters, our government would become subservient to Rome, because the poor dumb sheep would vote in lockstep as instructed by their priests.

That didn't happen. Better minds knew it wouldn't happen. That is because individual Roman Catholics do have minds of their own, and if the king isn't burning them at the stake at the request of the church, they will exercise those minds. Those of you who miss the good ole' days can go find yourself a monarchy which derives its authority from the king being crowned by the Pope. No American public servant is going to kneel in the snows of the Alps to the Bishop of Rome. Period.

Tarcisius said...

The Church doesn’t set the standards by which we vote directly. The Church does have certain morals that its members are supposed to adhere to, and these moral guidelines do not cease to exist when Catholics are involved in government business. This is the worldview of King Henry the Eighth; he decided that he should be the leader of the Church within his country, and split off from Rome to found the Anglican religion. He decided that the Church had no business telling him he couldn’t divorce his wife.

As Catholics, we are supposed to witness our faith and act for the glory of God, “Ad majorem Dei gloriam.” We must live our faith; it is not something we trot out on Sundays and “every so often,” not something we do for show. We are Catholic because “We believe in one God…” The Church does not dictate to us what we should do, but there are certain issues that are diametrically opposed to Catholic principles, and which we are therefore obligated to oppose. Obedience to God includes obedience to the Church. I am not proposing that “American public [servants]” should ” kneel in the snows of the Alps to the Bishop of Rome.” After all, the Pope is only infallible in matters of faith and morals. I am merely explaining that (Catholic) American public servants should follow their faith and the morals that go with it. Trust me, even if every single member of the American government were loyal Catholics, the Pope would not be able to order America to submit to the government of the Vatican. Even if he were to do so, there would be no validity to his claims.

God gave us free will. We can choose to do right or to do wrong. The Church is a beacon and guide as to which is which. If a politician places himself at odds with the Church, and is himself a Catholic, he runs the risk of leading many more Catholics into error. This is why the Church has to occasionally denounce the religious import of the behavior of a public figure; not as a punishment of the one, but for the protection of the many. Think what you will, but the Church is not trying to blackmail anyone. If someone breaks the laws of this country seriously, they are removed from society to protect the rest of society. So too does the Church announce that someone who seriously violates the principles we as Catholics must adhere to is not affiliated with the Church and does not speak with her voice. This is not an effort to control the government; if anything, it is a disassociation from the government.

Red Cardigan said...

Siarlys, the last paragraph of your last comment was out of line. If you'd like me to repost the comment without that last paragraph, I will do so. If you have any questions, please email me.

Red Cardigan said...

Also: excommunications are rare these days, but there's nothing wrong in principle with a Church official reminding a politician that politicians can be excommunicated for supporting grave evil (as in my murder of two-year-olds example). Seeing that as coercion to vote a particular way is not really worthy of your intelligence, I'm afraid. The vast majority of these sorts of "Catholic" politicians actually have little to do with the Church, are hardly faithful, rarely attend Mass, and tend to use the Church for photo-op purposes only. If they were determined to vote in support of grave evil, they'd do it, and given the mildest of warnings that they *might* incur excommunication in the process (which, as Tarcisius said, is usually merely a statement of someone's status in the Church, not an active punishment), I doubt they'd give the posterior quarters of a small nocturnal rodent what the Church might say about it all--except, of course, they'd have to recycle old photos of themselves at Mass instead of creating new photo-ops to delude the masses at election time.

There isn't, as far as I know, a Catholic politician in this country who wouldn't sell out the Church in a heartbeat to advance his own political career--such is the reality of a kakistocracy. The fact that most of them would as easily sell out their grandmothers or put a price on their sisters' virtue as betray the Church isn't reassuring--quite the contrary.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Red, I don't have a copy of the original comment, and I won't repeat the line I know you are referring to, but we have in America a small faction of Catholic fanatics who have the luxury of living under a Republican constitution, while blathering about the duty of the state to support the church, and escaping the real implications of actually being in a position to implement their red hot rhetorical program. I've made the same statement several times, here, and at Rod's old sight. Remember Janet Baker?

I meant exactly what I said, not as an imminent program, but to put into perspective the implications of what Tarcisus is saying. Remember the Thirty Years War? He may not consciously intend to bring it back, but if he were free in any practical sense to do what he is saying, he would. And in the event of open warfare, I would respond according to necessity.

There are only three options:

1) Mutual agreement that we will each practice our respective faiths, with complete political equality, none have jurisdiction over the civil government,

2) Dominance of one faith and some version of dhimmitude for all the rest (the status was not invented by Muslims, although the term is Arabic),

3) Open warfare until one triumphs or all are exhausted.

Deal with it.

Red Cardigan said...

Siarlys, just so you know, I deleted that comment over that line only because the way you word it can be construed as an active threat--and plenty of entities (not merely Blogger) take that sort of thing extremely seriously. Since I was certain you didn't mean it that way, I wished to protect you from having someone put that construction on it.

I *did* save your comment--without that last line, then

Siarlys wrote:

I don't trust you at all. Fortunately, I put my trust in my fellow citizens of the Roman Catholic faith to exercise their rights as citizens independently of what their bishops or priests may arrogantly attempt to dictate.

As I've said before, when an individual citizen enters the voting booth, how they vote is fully informed by their own moral principles, and how they understand those principles. YOU are perfectly able to vote in accordance with everything you just laid out. There is no way on God's green earth to make Erin, as an individual voter, cast her ballot for a pro-choice candidate, no matter how heavily that one issue weighs, in her mind, against a candidate who otherwise is quite agreeable to her.

But when the priests or bishops try to coerce, blackmail, or in any way punish a public official for the manner in which they carry out their duties on behalf of the people who elected them, it is time to bring a big figurative and legal sledgehammer down on the hierarchy.

Regarding Henry VIII: Thanks to the Roman suppression of Luther and Wycliffe, it became necessary for Protestants to be just as militant in suppressing Catholicism as the Roman church had been in suppressing dissent.

Here in America, some thousands of miles away, a couple of hundred years after the horrors of the Thirty Years War, with some history of Puritans hanging Quakers and Anglicans slaughtering Catholics, we came up with a unique new idea. Everyone can worship their own way, nobody will be molested, AND NO CHURCH MAY OR WILL DOMINATE THE MACHINERY OF GOVERNMENT. That, as Alexis de Toqueville pointed out, is why religion flourished in America. The absence of that brilliant breakthrough is why religion has withered away in State Established Church dominated Europe, both in Catholic AND Protestant regions.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Thanks Erin. I appreciate your concern, and that's not sarcasm. I have always been careful to say "if" when making this sort of comment, but perhaps that doesn't negate all potential liability. In the case of Janet Baker, as I recall, I began "My dear sister in Christ, I'm so glad we live in a pluralistic republic, because IF there was any way you could impose what you say in any practical sense, then..."

Tarcisius said...

While I don’t necessarily agree that there are only three options, the first of your three is exactly what I am supporting. The Catholic Church has no jurisdiction over the government, but she may have members who are in positions of authority. The Church exerts no special political force on them, but because the Catholic politician is a prominent figure, there are Catholics and non-Catholics who will see him as an example of Catholicism. The Church cannot threaten him to force him to bend to the will of the Pope or the Church, but she must respond to the false impressions given by disobedience to her rules.

As Catholics, we are called to be witnesses, or examples, of our faith, and serve to inspire and convert non-Catholics. But because of the confusion left in the wake of a dissenting public figure (i.e. are you following Church teaching, or is ^insert public “Catholic”^), the Church must have some form of official response to the errors. Any organization that tries to clear up a misconception about itself promulgated by a deviant member will usually disavow them and their actions to show that they do not promote or support his breaking of the terms of membership.

If politicians see excommunication (which, as I’ve said, is something of a disassociation) as coercion, then that’s their problem. The Catholic Church doesn’t try to “force” them to do anything; she simply denounces their extremely public statements. In the same way that a figure allows himself to be spoken of and joked about by becoming a public figure, he also becomes liable to be publicly disowned by the organization whose rules he has broken. As an example, members of the Church Hierarchy promoting schism or heresy are quickly proven to be at odds with the Church, as they not only serve as a bad example to non-Catholics (except as a club with which to bash the Church), but because they also do serious harm to members as well.

I do not dispute that voters will vote based on their own moral principles. Members of the Catholic faith are supposed to vote according to Catholic principles (and none of them include “help Rome take over the world!”), just as Catholic politicians are.

The Church (or Rome, if you prefer) did everything they could to control the damage that the dissent of Luther and Wycliff were causing her. It was the Church which was attacked first, as they were protesting central beliefs of the Catholic faith. This is actually a good demonstration of my point that the Church disassociates herself quickly from schismatic or heretical views. It is also true that at this time, the Church had the support of the government. St. Thomas More was awarded the title “Defender of the Faith” for his efforts in fighting that “liturgical rebellion.” However, he was also later approached by the prelates of the Catholic Church who were supportive of Henry VII’s wish to divorce his wife, but he gave them the same answer; this is wrong. He was later killed for his steadfast loyalty to the Church, and Henry VII “recycled” the Catholic religion in his country and turned it into a semi-theocracy, or a “royal religion”

Today, our problem is not exactly the dominance of religion, but the marginalization and erosion of religious principles (many of which are common to several religions, and benefit society as a whole). For example, the family is the basic unit of human society just as the atom is the basic part of matter, but we have devalued and twisted the family. Do the same to an atom, and eventually you get total collapse of the atom, and therefore of the matter composed of it. You might almost say that this anti-religion is itself religious in nature, and that this is the religion dominating today’s culture. Or, more likely (and more simply), the government simply worships itself, which is exactly why those who pronounce membership in a specific religion need to be corrected or, failing that, disavowed.

Hector said...

Siarlys Jenkins,

Many Christian countries including Greece, Armenia, Argentina, and others (including, Michael Moore's beloved Costa Rica) have an established religion. That is hardly comparable to 'dhimmitude', and it is hardly comparable to the sort of brutal oppression that goes on in a Jihadic-Muslim state like Pakistan. Let's have some perspective here.

The Thirty Years' War wasn't fought because Lutherans and Catholics disagreed over the divorce laws, it was fought because neither side was willing to allow freedom of personal religious practice to its adversaries. There's a big difference between laws that affect public policy, and laws that affect the free personal exercise of religion.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Of course the Thirty Years War was fought because Lutherans and Catholics were unwilling to allow freedom of personal religious practice to its adversaries. Despite his facile protestations, Tarcisius would bring all that back if he ever got enough traction. People in public office CANNOT be "the Catholic senator" or "the Lutheran Chief Justice" or "the Jewish Mayor," although they may ALSO be any of those faiths. They are not there to serve the agenda of their church.

An established religion is the very foundation of "dhimmitude." Life wasn't at all bad for Christians and Jews under the first few caliphates, especially Jews, who gladly cooperated in the Islamic conquest because they had been so brutally oppressed by the Byzantines and the Visigoths. They just weren't full citizens. They owned property, did most of the work of administering the empire (as they had under the previous rulers), and demanded of the unwilling Caliphs the right to convert to Islam.

Pakistan is the product of British incompetence getting out of India, rather than an expression of Islamic thought as it existed at the time. While it is true that Muslims in India today are more numerous and better off than those who live in Pakistan, the rabid Hindus denouncing Muslims didn't exactly advance the cause of a united India.

Hector said...

Siarlys Jenkins,

Jews and Muslims in Greece are not sentenced to death for blaspheming Jesus or His mother, nor are teenage rape victims stoned to death. So I don't actually see how comparisons between Christian confessional states, and Shariah Muslim states like Pakistan, are in any way relevant.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Hector, you are meticulous about states with an Established Christian Church, and vague about Muslim states, taking aspects of unofficial mob behavior in one nation, and smearing all predominantly Islamic nations with the same brush.

On this subject, you have a deep-seated prejudice, which does not allow you to think clearly or present a coherent argument. You are bound and determined to castigate Islam.

Now a thorough, empirical, analytical, discourse on the subjects would parse each nation, and each century, in which Christian Nations and Islamic Nations (or empires) existed. You would find a complex puzzle, with good and bad of both Christian and Islamic inspiration, brutal bloody atrocties committed in the name of each faith, and wonderful contributions to humanity.

Hector said...

Siarlys Jenkins,

The most populous country with Islamic Law, Pakistan, does in fact execute teenage rape victims and Christians or Hindus who are found guilty of 'blasphemy'. This isn't 'mob mentality', this is the official legal code of Pakistan (which incidentally is one of the biggest recipients of U.S. aid). As the adage goes, with friends like these, who needs enemies.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Hector, you continue to pontificate about Pakistan, which is indeed a mess. Much of the horror you refer to arose since the reign of Zia ul-Haq, another American ally. It is not even the entire history of Pakistan. But you originally offered Pakistan as an example of the inherent evils of Islam. My point was that the history of the people and nations who embraced ANY faith is a mosaic of good and evil. Any thorough reading of history shows that.