Friday, September 16, 2011


Over at The Deacon's Bench, Deacon Kandra posts this photo and caption:

Vice President Joseph Biden blesses himself after receiving communion at the memorial Mass for Archbishop Pietro Sambi on 14 September 2011.

Now, it's not absolutely clear from the photo that Mr. Biden has received communion. However, given that Mr. Biden apparently does receive communion when he attends Mass, it is quite likely.

My reaction to pictures like these is sadness. It seems so abundantly clear that few of those in authority really care if our politicians who not only support abortion but are instrumental in funding and abetting it are eating and drinking condemnation upon themselves at the holy altar. The same thing is true for those political or public figures who receive Holy Communion despite adulterous relationships (even when those relationships involve civil marriage) and other grave problems which place the person in the position of being in manifest grave sin who ought to be barred from causing scandal by their reception of Holy Communion.

Alas, the comments at Deacon Kandra's site show an almost abysmal ignorance of the whole question of Canon 915, the notion of obstinate perseverance in manifest (public) grave sin, or even the idea that people who are themselves conscious of mortal sin must refrain from receiving Holy Communion so as not to commit the additional grave sin (mortal, under the right conditions) of sacrilege. This is also deeply sad, but not surprising. I, too, grew up in the era of the smile-button/felt-banner catechesis, and was led to believe on more than one occasion that short of deliberate homicide mortal sin was almost impossible to commit, and that even if one did do something rather wrong, one ought to decide for oneself if one felt "okay" about going to Communion--nobody could, or should, stop you or ever tell you that you really ought not do so without sacramental Confession first. It was enough to think about one's sinfulness and be sorry about it in a vague, general way.

Which is bad enough, of course. But in the case of someone like Mr. Biden, there's no evidence whatsoever that he's even remotely sorry for those actions and votes of his which have, over his career, helped to kill countless innocent unborn human beings. Mr. Biden quite likes abortion, by all evidence; he's certainly committed to its continuation and to the idea that taxpayers ought to pay for it and that women need, really need, the ability to rip their unborn offspring to shreds on the taxpayer's dime--in the name of freedom, of course. So the sight of him receiving the Body of Christ, Who innocently bore tortures not unlike those endured by our suffering brothers and sisters in the womb, is unsettling at least, and may be a scandal to many.

Beyond that, though, there is the harm potentially being done to Mr. Biden's own soul, as he takes Holy Communion without really being in communion with the Church on an important teaching of grave importance to our age. And thus, sadness is my reaction to the photo--sadness for Mr. Biden himself, and for those he may be leading astray by his thoughtlessness in this serious matter.

What do you, especially my Catholic readers, think of this picture?


Anonymous said...

My thoughts? Poor Dolan always has the most unflattering pics taken it seems. But regarding Biden, I hope his Bishop is instructing him of the seriousness of his actions.

Magister Christianus said...

"...there is the harm potentially being done to Mr. Biden's own soul."

Thank you for caring about this. In the movie _Becket_, Thomas Becket warns a character not to draw his sword lest he impale his soul upon it. It is a thundering warning, for all know the genuine danger. How we moderns have forgotten!

Kimberly Margosein said...

When the RCC defrocks all the pedophile priests and defrocks all the bishops and cardinals that aided and abetted them, I'll be upset about this. When they truly clean up their own house, they can start telling others how to run their lives.

Barbara C. said...

I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. I think Biden is wrong to continue to accept communion when he is willfully and publicly denying a major teaching of the Church. He should totally be taken aside by Church authorities and privately rebuked. And if he attempts to go to Confession he should be denied absolution until he recants his pro-choice activities.

At the same time, denying to give him communion during Mass might cause major disruptions depending how big of a deal Biden or the Eucharistic minister wants to make of it. I don't know if the priests, bishops, etc that continue to administer to him are just assuming that God will sort it all out and woe to Biden when He does.

Anonymous said...

When they truly clean up their own house, they can start telling others how to run their lives.

That's the problem. By taking communion Biden's actions are saying he is in the house when he really isn't. Abortion is still evil; and that's true whether St. Teresa says it or Joseph Stalin says it.

freddy said...

My reaction is sadness, yes, but I also have to admit to a little frustration as well.

This is a tricky situation, of course, but we should expect our Bishops to administer fraternal correction when needed and after private conversations with public sinners then publicly ask them to refrain from insulting Our Lord and endangering their own souls.

If we can't expect our bishops to do this, then how can pastors of parishes administer fraternal correction of a parishoner who also sins publicly, but perhaps only to his own parish. (An example would be a person, who, after a loud and bitter divorce, remarries in the friendly Lutheran church across the street, inviting half the parish, and then shows up for communion on Sunday.)

And if our pastors' hands are tied, how can parents suggest gently to children that there may be times when they should avoid receiving communion if they are having difficulty following a clear teaching of the church.

There are times when we need to mind our own business and be careful to judge the actions of another in the best light possible, and there are times when we need to call a sin what it is, for the benefit not only of the sinner but of the whole church.

Anonymous said...

First, mercifully assume Biden may be ignorant of his sin. (Which makes it NOT a mortal sin, if I'm not mistaken.)
I know, in this day and age of easy access to info, how can that be? But, in my circle of family and friends still attending Mass, very few do any self education about their Faith. (I base this on conversations I have had with them about religion.)

Also, I attended Catholic schools in the 60s and 70s, meaning, I was poorly catechized.

As a fallen away Catholic, I married a divorced woman at the local Methodist church. We invited the whole Catholic family, and nothing was said to us. Even my uncle, a Franciscan priest, said nothing to me. (We had asked him to marry us, and he refused, stating only, that he could not because we wanted to be married outdoors.)

My wife and I came eventually, back to the Catholic Church, thank God. We began attending Mass AND partaking in the Holy Eucharist, and again, no one said a word to us!

Due to my continuing self education of the Catholic faith, I found out how out of communion we really were, and my wife and I stopped receiving Communion immediately!

When I mentioned my findings to my parents and in-laws, they said, "Yeah, we were aware you shouldn't be going up to receive Communion, but we didn't want to tell you because we didn't want you to stop going to Mass." I was heart-broken.

We are now in full communion with the Church. And because of our experience, I now, lovingly and mercifully, do my spiritual works of mercy of instructing the ignorant and admonishing the sinner.

The FatMan

Siarlys Jenkins said...

No matter how much this hurts or offends all the sincere Roman Catholics who believe that Biden, among others, is ineligible to take communion, we can't have what Erin has most sincerely advocated in a pluralistic republic.

That is, we can't have princes of the church (a foreign and medieval institution if inserted into politics) sorting out which public officials will be admitted to communion based on how they vote as elected representatives of the people.

If Biden or Pelosi procured an abortion, had an abortion, or performed an abortion, I would raise no objections. That is a private, individual act, and I have argued many times for any church's freedom of association. But you may not coerce the laws of the land by such blackmail, to make up for the fact that you cannot persuade your fellow citizens to elect sufficient people to office to implement the program you prefer.

The LEGISLATIVE PROGRAM of the bishops is of no greater standing than any other lobbying organization.

I will add that Biden and Pelosi would have done better to refrain from public speeches about Catholic doctrine. That is none of their business AS public officials, and certainly not their area of expertise. They should have the good sense and decency not to drag it into the secular political arena.

I don't expect Pelosi to vote for laws that sustain the well-established constitutional right of women to make individual decisions about pregnancy on the ground that it is somehow sound Catholic doctrine -- patently it is not, as many have eloquently expressed here. I expect her to do so because the voters in her district elected her to do that.

Rebecca in ID said...

Okay Siarlys...encouraging someone to murder someone else is considered an accessory to a crime, right? So it is not inconsistent, is it, for the Church to say that you can't have an abortion, perform an abortion, or encourage abortions, and then present yourself for Communion. And if someone is loudly and publicly commending abortion, how is that not encouraging it? What if we were talking about something else, like a guy who stands on corners telling men they should rape women or be sure not to stop other men from raping women. In your world, should the Church only withhold Communion from the people who actually commit the rape, and not from the man who is egging them on???

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Rebecca, abortion is not, at this time, a crime, during the first two trimesters, anywhere in the United States. You think it should be a crime, you believe it morally is a crime, but it is not, by law, indictable or punishable as a crime. So that doesn't enter into the equation.

No church, including yours, may blackmail public officials as to their conduct in office, period. You may set whatever criteria you wish as to their private individual conduct. I don't care about that.

Bishop Burke made this most obvious when he wrote to an elected state legislator and told her "You had an opportunity to use your office to advance the church's agenda and failed to do so." Never will that be tolerated in the United States of America, not from the Roman Catholic Church, nor from the Mormon Church, nor from any number of Pentecostal megachurch leaders, nobody. Elected officials are accountable to the voters who elect them, ALL the voters, not just the Catholic voters, and NEVER to bishops, for their conduct IN OFFICE.

If any church official attempted to issue any edict premised in whole or in part upon a public official's conduct within the scope of their elective office, that church official should be prosecuted for blackmail and treason. They probably won't, but they should.

Barbara C. said...

Siarlys, just because something is legal that doesn't mean it is right.

It's not about the Church "blackmailing" anyone. Mr. Biden needs to decide if he is a Catholic or a pro-choice politician. If he is a Catholic, then his conscience at all times should be guided by his faith, and he should be trying to live his faith to the best of his ability. But instead he wants to go through the outward motions of being a Catholic Christian on Sunday mornings or when he thinks it will get him votes and then publicly undermine Church teachings.

If Biden went around telling everyone he didn't believe in the Trinity, he shouldn't receive communion. If he went around denying transubstantiation, he shouldn't receive communion. It's one thing to struggle with doctrines privately but with an earnest desire to know God's truth. It's another thing to publicly refute Catholic doctrine no matter what you do for a living. If he wants to continue to support legal abortion in direct opposition of the teachings of the Church, then he should find another church and stop profaning ours.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Barbara, the government of the United States is constitutionally banned from taking any position as to the Trinity, or transubstantiation, so those are irrelevant considerations. But if a citizen of the Roman Catholic faith who has been elected to public office is to be guided in their work as a public official by the dictates of their church, then no person of the Roman Catholic faith should be eligible to hold public office.

John F. Kennedy laid that to rest by affirming that when he took the oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, it was a promise to God as well as to the American people, and a sin to violate that oath. There were "conservative" Catholics at the time who were outraged that he did NOT intend to take orders from the Vatican. But millions of Protestants, Jews, probably a few Muslims and Buddhists, voted for him, because they took him at his word.

Indeed, just because it is legal does not mean that it is right. I believe that our national culture needs a good dose of exactly that thinking:

Drug use should not remain subject to criminal sanctions as it is now -- that has done far more harm than good. But just because you won't go to prison does not make it right. You can do yourself a lot of harm using those substances.

Abortion is legally a matter for a woman and her doctor to decide on. But just because they won't go to prison, does not mean that it is right. Maybe she should "choose life." A citizen can favor the absence of criminal penalties without advocating that an act is ever the right thing to do. If the bishops don't like it, too bad. We keep the profane hand of the civil magistrate off your church, you may not put the arrogant hand of a foreign prince on our republican institutions.

NOBODY, Roman Catholic, Protestant, Greek Orthodox, Coptic, atheist, Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Taoist, or any other faith, should or may use their office to further the LEGISLATIVE AGENDA of their particular leadership. Their leadership may lobby, not command.

It is blackmail, unless you meant to say that a person's immortal soul is a matter of no significant consequence.

Red Cardigan said...

Siarlys, we've tangled on this subject before, but I think you have this exactly backward.

Any Catholic politician who uses the power of his office to further the legalized killing of unborn human beings, forcing taxpayers to pay for the shredding, dismemberment, and execution of these helpless innocent members of society, has already placed his immortal soul in the gravest of jeopardy. He is, in a word, on the road to Hell unless he repents of this terrible sin and evil he has committed.

He has also, by this action (and many reputable Church leaders and canonists agree here), cut himself off from the Blessed Sacrament because he is no longer in communion with his Church on the issue of abortion. Catholics who are not in communion with the Church are to refrain from the reception of Holy Communion, and if their sin is public (e.g., material cooperation in abortion, adultery, etc.) he is to be denied Holy Communion should he be so lost to any sense of the sacredness of what we profess as to present himself at the altar.

It is thus the duty of his ordinary to make it clear that he must not receive Communion; that warning should be given privately at first, but may be issued publicly if the sinner refuses to accept the fraternal correction of his bishop.

Now, you see abortion as a mere political issue, and do not think it is evil for unborn humans to be shredded, dismembered, and thrown away like garbage. Therefore it is impossible for you to understand that a bishop must indeed restrict those who publicly give material support to this evil from receiving the Body of Christ--because if the do so they are merely eating and drinking condemnation upon themselves, and adding to their already hideous sin the grave sin of sacrilege. To ignore this situation is tantamount to a bishop saying to such a politician, "Okay, then, go to Hell; I really don't give a damn."

The bishop is supposed to give a hell of a lot more than a damn, if you'll excuse the expression, about the immortal souls in his care.

The fact that in America today the shredding and dismemberment of unborn human beings is shrugged at as a mere political issue which it is unseemly, somehow, for the Church to address is an indictment of the wickedness of our age.

Anonymous said...

If Catholics were either not allowed by law or the RCC to run for public office (the first isn't possible, the second is if running for public office automatically became grounds for excommunication), neither of the problems Siarlys Jenkins or Red Cardigan outlines could occur. As long as Catholics are, both problems are likely to continue. The RCC will continue to blackmail politicians into voting according to Catholic teaching, and Catholic politicians will continue to put their souls in peril if they don't acquiesce to the RCC's demands.

No one can serve two exclusive masters unless the two masters, the RCC and the U.S. Constitution, become one.

c matt said...

First, mercifully assume Biden may be ignorant of his sin

For ignorance to absolve, the ignorance must not be willful. He is under a duty, and as a person of privilege who wields power and influence, a grave duty, to acquaint himself with the facts.

we can't have princes of the church (a foreign and medieval institution if inserted into politics) sorting out which public officials will be admitted to communion based on how they vote as elected representatives of the people

I have to say, you have this exactly wrong. Politicians have absolutely no immunity from Church teaching simply because they are politicians. If anything, because of their position of influence and power, they are held to a higher standard. No one is interfering in the politician's ability to vote as he pleases. In fact, what you propose is the exact opposite: You propose that the Catholic Church is not allowed to decide who is or is not Catholic, who is or is not eleigible for communion in the Catholic Church, or what actions place you outside the Church.

Whether it is a good idea pastorally, politically, socially or otherwise for communion to be withheld is a different question; but it is absolutely clear that it is the Church's question to answer, not the poltician's or society's.

c matt said...

No church, including yours, may blackmail public officials as to their conduct in office, period. You may set whatever criteria you wish as to their private individual conduct. I don't care about that.

Whether you care about their public conduct is irrelevant. The Church does, and rightfully so, because God is not going to give them a pass because they were acting in an "official capacity" although "personally against". Regardless, no is blackmailing them (or, at least the blackmail goes both ways - the pol can kill policies that the Church may support in other ares for not looking the other way). The pol is put to the simple choice we all are - your power and influence vs. your soul. It's a deal as old as Adam and Eve.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

"Poor Dolan," my wazoo! If he was the main celebrant at this Mass, perhaps He knew that Vice President Biden was coming, or was likely to come. He could have told his concelebrants and Eucharistic ministers not to offer the host to the V.P. He could have issued a private letter to the V.P. saying that he would not be allowed to receive the Eucharist unless he publicly recanted his positions on abortion.

Perhaps he did and Biden told him to go "stuff it." Perhaps Dolan didn't. Either way, the main responsibility lies with Dolan, not with Biden. This is where your analysis is wrong, Erin. The archbishop of one of the largest archdioseses in the nation is more responsible for sound instruction in the faith than a Catholic vice president or other Catholic elected officials.

This is why the bishops will do absolutely nothing about abortion. They are nothing but fat careerists who skin the "sheep" they claim to "shepherd," and look after their own interests while throwing the "sheep" to the "wolves." Among those interests is maintaining access to politicians to enhance their own influence. Surely that's worth sacrificing a few fetuses, is it not?

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

And, Erin, if you think Benedict is going to do anything about this...well, you might as well wait for Stalin to rise from the dead and proclaim himself a Buddhist.

John E said...

This is why the bishops will do absolutely nothing about abortion. They are nothing but fat careerists who skin the "sheep" they claim to "shepherd," and look after their own interests while throwing the "sheep" to the "wolves." Among those interests is maintaining access to politicians to enhance their own influence. Surely that's worth sacrificing a few fetuses, is it not?

Quietly applauding...

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Suppose ArBp Dolan said to Joe Biden, "Joe, I hear you've been beating your wife again. You know I can't let you take communion until you stop that."

I would have no opinion about that at all, and the Constitution of the United States of America would be in no way affronted. Joseph Biden was not elected by the people to the office of Wife Beater, nor is wife beating (or refraining from wife beating) any part of his official duties.

What if Biden were denied communion because "Joe, you've been heard using the f-word on live microphones." Again, the Constitution is not offended.

The problem here is, certain of Biden's fellow Roman Catholics are calling upon the Princes of the Church to direct the manner in which he exercises the office of Vice President of the United States and presiding officer of the Senate.

He was not elected by the church to represent either church teachings, or, far worse, the legislative lobbying agenda of the bishops.

When Grover Cleveland tapped the corporate attorney of the Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad to be Attorney General of the United States, the attorney asked his CEO, if it would be to the true interest of the CB&Q for him to accept the post. The CEO said that it would, and indeed, that attorney was in position to illegally invoke federal authority against the Pullman Boycott by the American Railway Union. That was wrong, through and through, and what those who seek to bind the conduct of public officials to a church agenda are demanding is equally wrong, for the same reason.

The only difference is, most Catholics holding public office have, quite rightly, NOT asked their bishop if it would be to the true interests of the Roman Catholic Church for them to accept the office. Elected officials are elected by the voters, not by the church. They are accountable for their conduct in office to the voters, not to the church.

cmatt, whether God gives them a pass, or even indicts them, is of no consequence to this discussion. Your church can do all the lobbying it wants to, but it doesn't get a special Lobbyists Trump Card providing special access.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Erin, of course, got to the nub of why this tension is so unresolvable: "you see abortion as a mere political issue, and do not think it is evil for unborn humans to be shredded, dismembered, and thrown away like garbage." Frankly, I don't see what is removed in most abortions as a human being, and IF a third trimester pregnancy really does pose a threat to the life of the pregnant woman, I give priority to saving the woman over delivering her child from her dying body.

IF you could convince 90 percent of voters to agree with you, then we would be electing representatives who would vote to put women and doctors in prison, or execute them. But, having failed to convince the voters, your church seeks to coerce their elected representatives to do what the voters did not and would not support.

As a Protestant, I am free to believe that abortion is a legitimate consideration in many circumstances. Joe Biden, John Kerry, and Nancy Pelosi are not, because they are Roman Catholics. But, they ARE free, in this nation at least, to conduct themselves in office on the basis that:

1) The people who elected me oppose criminal penalties for abortion, so I will not vote to reinstate them, or,

2) I personally do not believe that criminal statutes are an appropriate response to the evil of abortion, so, I will not vote for such statutes, even if the bishops in their lazy tunnel vision, have made such legislation the touchstone of opposition to abortion.

It is the act of coming between the electorate and its representatives that is illicit, unlawful, and intolerable. It would not be hard to exclude all Catholics from holding public office. All of the 13 colonies did so, and many states for decades after the Revolution. Such laws were repealed due to well placed confidence that citizens of the Roman Catholic faith would not, in fact, vote as their priests dictated, but as their constituents dictated. If this confidence was misplaced, undoing the mischief would take only a constitutional amendment, about the same effort required to re-establish state authority to criminalize first trimester abortion.

Red Cardigan said...

Siarlys, we're a long way from talking about criminalizing abortion (esp. as regards the woman, who I always see as the second victim).

But you still don't get it. Biden and his ilk vote to fund and promote abortion; they don't have to. Not all the voters who elect Democrats even demand that every Democrat must always and everywhere vote to fund and promote abortion, and that's not even getting into the reality that every elected official numbers pro-life citizens among his constituents.

Biden can freely vote for paying for human being shredding and dismemberment. What he cannot do is then demand to be treated as a good Catholic and admitted to the Sacraments for doing so.

You seem to be holding the position of America's old anti-Catholic bigots who claimed that no Catholic could ever hold office. This saddens me, because I think you fail to understand that the Catholic Church, unlike the sort of Protestantism you prefer, actually stands for things and will demand that her members adhere to her teachings if they wish to receive her sacraments.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

When the RCC defrocks all the pedophile priests and defrocks all the bishops and cardinals that aided and abetted them, I'll be upset about this. When they truly clean up their own house, they can start telling others how to run their lives.

Kimberly, you are absolutely correct!

Red Cardigan said...

Because, of course, both Kimberly and Joseph are living saints and thus have the total right to tell the rest of us what to do, right?

Um, no. Try a little harder, guys; this is baby stuff.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Oh, please, Erin. There's a difference between not being a "living saint" and being either a sexual predator or -- worse -- a religious authority who protects such predators. Besides, do you seriously mean to tell me that the clerical sex-abuse crisis has not blackened the Church's fundamental moral credibility, if not destroyed it altogether?

You say you don't want "baby stuff." How about Ezekiel 34? How about Jeremiah 23: 9-40? How about 1 Samuel 3: 12-36? That mature enough for ya? How about Jesus' hypothetical question: "When the Son of Man returns, will He find faith on the Earth?"? That mature enough for you?

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Frankly, I'm so damn sick and tired of Catholics who think that the Church cannot be effected by the sin of its leaders. Do some research on St. Peter Damian and "The Book of Gomorrah." Do some research on Pope Leo XIII's vision, in which he sees Christ Himself consigning the Church to Satan! Then come back to me with your sophomoric pseudo-defenses.

God will judge this apostate Church harshly for its corruption, arrogance, sense of entitlement, infatuation with the secular and dismissal of the laity and lower clergy. He is doing it now; why do you think so many dioceses are approaching bankruptcy? Because the Church has placed its ultimate trust in perishable things instead of in the Imperishable One.

Laugh and mock all you want. You and Catholics who think like you will get a big -- and unpleasant -- surprise once everything is made known.

eulogos said...


The Church can tell its adherents that they have to live their Catholic principles in everything they do, including voting, as citizens or as elected representatives. It can also refuse, if it wishes, to commune anyone who publically cannot comply. The State cannot tell the Church not to do this. If the Church did this consistently, people would know that when they voted for Catholics, the Catholics were bound by the teachings of the Church in how they vote. This does not mean that they are bound by "orders from the Vatican" but by a set of intelligible, coherent prinicples.

Kennedy was actually not correct in that famous speech he gave. But at that point most people were too shortsighted to understand that there could be such direct conflict between moral truth and the mores of our republic.

Susan Peterson

Red Cardigan said...

And, Joseph, some individual Catholics are going to get an unpleasant surprise when they see God face-to-face and He asks them what they did to help the situation, and they reply: "Well, I left the Church, and I was angry at all the right people for the rest of my life!"

Anger destroys the person in whom it resides. Righteous wrath is short-lived and tinged throughout with sorrow; anger is an addiction that constantly seeks food and will lash itself into fury for the sake of the emotional self-gratification it produces.

Is every bishop evilly complicit in a sex-abuse cover-up? No. Are some? Yes. Are most of the ones who were even still living, let alone still bishops? No, if you check the records. Are the bishops trying to improve things? Some, yes, but expecting the process to move quickly and be shaped as it would be in our imaginations is unrealistic and fantastic.

I have read your writings and comments here and elsewhere for some time now, Joseph. I think the root of your anger is not the sex-abuse crisis, but the hierarchical structure of the Church. You would like a lay-run Church where the priests and bishops are mere sacrament dispensers with no other authority. You would like Protestantism, in fact, but baptized "Catholic." You will not get that.

I am not prone to mystical sorts of things, but Joseph, I have a very serious sense that your anger at its root comes from a call to a vocation you did not answer--perhaps to the priesthood, perhaps to the permanent diaconate. If I am wrong then please ignore this--it's just that your writings and anger and tendency to fling Old Testament warnings remind me so much of someone I knew of who had ignored a call to the priesthood, and eventually left the Church, living out his life in anger toward her in the way a man might blame his ex-wife for all of his problems. I will be glad to hear that this is not a part of your problem, but I feel compelled to write it down here.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Eulogos, you ought to know that the state CAN tell the church to do, or not do, almost anything, and enforce its edicts in ways which neither you nor I would support. It is not desirable, in general, but it can be done, so don't make idle boasts.

The same constitution which denies your church a special and supportive relationship with the state (which many Catholics openly claim and clamor for), ALSO restrains state intervention in matters of faith and doctrine, and protects your free exercise of religion. You should be thankful, as the authors of the Baltimore Catechism were thankful, rather than arrogantly demanding dominion. (There are also Protestant sects who demand similar dominion, and they too are my enemies).

Erin, I do indeed raise the old anti-Catholic bigotry as a talking point, because it appears to elude you how well you justify its premises. At its best, the anti-Catholic argument was that a member of the Roman Catholic Church cannot be trusted with citizenship in a republic, particularly a republic founded on freedom of religion, because instead of thinking for themselves as individual citizens, they would all vote as a bloc, in lock step, in true totalitarian fashion, as commanded by their priests or the Vatican.

Fortunately, this is not so. The more enlightened arguments that no religious test should be applied, even to members of a hierarchical church, that Roman Catholics can be good American citizens, that they will in fact think for themselves and vote in all kinds of ways based on all kinds of interests and principles, has prove to be true. If it had not, the Know-Nothings would have been proven correct. And you want to justify the original bigotry.

Fortunately, your church's bark is worse than its bite. Unfortunately, that is what you want to change. I'm not sure why you target Biden, if you are sincere as to your immediate concerns. He hasn't voted on any legislation since Jan 20, 2009. The vice president doesn't get a vote, unless the senate is tied.

But if you applied the same argument to Nancy Pelosi, I suspect this "all we are asking is to remove funding for abortions" amounts to a toe in the door. I'm also dubious there is a valid claim on this point. I don't believe any of them have voted for A Bill To Fund Abortions. Some may have voted against an amendment to carve out an exception for abortion from a more generally applicable appropriation.

If both the church, and Catholics running for office, made clear that at all times the Catholic in office will vote as the church directs, and that this includes x, y, and z, as well as anything the church may say in the future on any other subject... I would agree that voters are adequately informed and the integrity of the republic is not violated. Be careful what you wish for... because not many Catholics would be elected, and large numbers of Catholics would not vote for such a candidate.

Again Eulogos, you can piously intone that the church can tell Catholics how to vote, but we have something called the secret ballot, and if a priest tries to demand an accounting in the confessional for how an individual voted, it would and should be treated in exactly the same manner as an employer trying to coerce an employee into giving the same information.

Scream "persecution" if you wish -- it would be a persecution worth inflicting, if it came to that. Nor would your martyrs earn any glory. They would be despised and mocked, and rightly so. Again, if won't come to that, because citizens of the Catholic faith are good citizens and individuals.

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Erin, regardless of my anger or lack of same, regardless of the rationale for my anger, the point remains: The Catholic Church not only has abused its patrimony but sacrificed it on the altar to the leadership's collective ambition and ego. That would be true even if I had never written anything, even if I had never been born!

Frankly, my writing to point out the truth is a lot more than what you're doing.

What Catholics like you refuse to understand, Erin, is that church membership does not equal salvation. That's why people like you take pride in hierarchies, arcane theologies and denominational status. Your arrogance masks your own ignorance of the Scriptures and the power of God.

This isn't a matter of what I want. This is a matter of what God wants. It's plain what God wants when it comes to ecclesiastical leadership: a fundamental call to self-negating service and the rejection of careerism. Can you really say that the prelates have been committed to that over the centuries?

BTW, a hierarchy is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Structure matters only in how it encourages or inhibits the leadership style that God wants.

c matt said...

The problem here is, certain of Biden's fellow Roman Catholics are calling upon the Princes of the Church to direct the manner in which he exercises the office of Vice President of the United States and presiding officer of the Senate.

at least I am not calling for Biden to necessarily do anything he would not otherwise do. I would never vote for him because of his positions, but that is his position. I'm not even really asking that the Bishops do somehting about it in particular. What I am saying is that the Bishops have every right to determine what actions take you outside of the Church's teachings, and that is the Church's right. No one is comingbetween "voters" and their eleceted officials. Heck, there is plenty of evidence Catholics ignore the bishops and the Church on abortion anyway. That still doesn't stop the Church from exercising Her right to decide that "doing X" places you outside of communion. What you are advocating is that the government, the voters, or the politicians get to decide who is or isn't Catholic, or what keeps in or out. That is simply ridiculous.

c matt said...

But if a citizen of the Roman Catholic faith who has been elected to public office is to be guided in their work as a public official by the dictates of their church, then no person of the Roman Catholic faith should be eligible to hold public office.

How convenient. By the same token, if a citizen of the atheist faith who has been elected to public office isto be guided in their work as a public official by the dictates of atheism, then no atheist should hold public office either. It works all ways.

This just shows how untenable your position is. Everybody is guided by some form of world view. You want to exclude a particular world view from consideration a priori. If enough voters agree with the world view held by the elected official, how is it wrong for him to govern in accordance with that world view - they elected him, after all. Or are you against the voters being able to elect whomever they agree with, if they don't happen to agree with you?

I can understand if you are saying the official hides his world view, lies to the voters (gee, that never happens) and then governs according to his secretly held world view rather than on what he campaigned. But you seem to be saying even if the official makes his views known, and even if the voters agree with it, the official should be banned from governing in accord with that view.

Regardless, if Biden wants to keep supporting abortion, that is his perogative. But he can't (or at least shouldn't) have it both ways - he can't go against Church teaching and still expect to be considered a Catholic in good standing (largely an academic question since to date, nothing has been done about it).

Siarlys Jenkins said...

First, a word of support for our gracious host. She has a long record here, and has never taken the position that church membership equals salvation, nor has she ever denied the power of God. She does sincerely believe that Jesus Christ himself ordained and established His Church, and that the church we now call Roman Catholic is that church.

I can't wrap my mind, or my soul, around the notion that an institution that has, even by the admission of its fervent members, committed various sins and been afflicted by corruption, somehow still commands the obedience that Erin, and Susan P., continue to give to it. But I am certain that no protesting former member has a better claim to know exactly what God wants.

C.S. Lewis, while declining Tolkien's invitation to become Catholic, nevertheless saw a mystical body called The Church firmly implanted through the ages, even as he pointed out how the church, in its carnal manifestation, could be one of the devil's best tools for leading mankind astray.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Now, back to the subject of this post. One of my favorite federal appellate cases is Bryce v. St. Aidan's.
In a nutshell, the Tenth Circuit ruled, as had a federal district court, that if St. Aidan's Episcopal Church wanted to hold a discussion about the church's position on homosexuality, and the youth minister's lesbian union with the minister of the local UCC, the courts had no authority to entertain a civil rights suit over sexual harassment, etc.

IF this discussion had occurred in the context of employment, voter registration, or a multitude of other situations, or if the pastor of St. Aidan's had put up posters down town naming the two women involved, the courts would have entertained a lawsuit on any number of grounds. But not a church discussion on matters of faith and doctrine.

I see the same bright line here, but cutting the other way. As long as the church is having an internal church discussion about matters of faith and doctrine, of course it is nobody else's business. In general, the church has a first amendment right to define its own membership. Refusing communion is one way of saying "you are not one of us."

But, when any church is acting with regard to the performance of a civic duty in the civil government, a government which has been explicitly set apart from church control or influence, the church's self-righteousness must yield to the independence of the civil government from ecclesiastical authority. To interfere with an individual office holder IS to interfere in the operation of the government itself.

The difference from "the atheist faith" cmatt, is that there is no ecclesiastical hierarchy directing atheists on a point by point basis how to vote on this bill and that bill. If there were, I would say the same to them. Citizens of the Roman Catholic faith remain free, of course, to be informed by their own conscience as to their conduct in public office.

I have already said, maybe you missed it, that if a candidate openly informs voters, "I will be obedient to the dictates of the Roman Catholic Church in all my votes on legislation," then indeed voters know what they are getting. (I also surmise that few voters would support such a candidate).

My objection is to a church bureaucracy, a hierarchy, a principality, giving orders, and using withholding of the sacraments to enforce those orders. Bishop Burke made quite clear that that is exactly what he was attempting to do, when he wrote letters to elected legislators telling them "You had an opportunity to advance the agenda of the church and failed to do so."

I also note a kind of "star quality" to this debate. IF the church consistently rooted out and expelled each and every member who ever expressed the opinion that maybe the laws on abortion should be left alone, then I would be less concerned that office holders too are excommunicated. But to focus on those who hold office is essentially a power grab by the hierarchy, or even by the concerned laity like those here.

eulogos said...

I want to stress that I don't think Catholics must "vote as directed" in any specific way. It is just that being Catholics they will naturally have a Catholic world view and apply Catholic moral principles as they vote, as citizens or elected officials. In my opinion this does NOT mean that Catholics have to vote to make the laws of the US exactly the same as the laws of the Church, even if the laws of the Church concern universal moral principles which apply to all. Contraception is wrong for everyone, not just for Catholics, but we are not obliged to make it against the law. A certain amount of pragmatism about what is possible in a particular society is part of the necessary wisdom for a citizen or a legislator. However abortion, involving the killing of a human being, is a different matter. The protection of human life is one of the main purposes of government. A Catholic would naturally want his government to perform the function of protecting human life. There is room for disagreement about the details. For instance, do we need a Human Life or Personhood amendment? Would it be sufficient if Roe v Wade were overturned and the matter returned to the states? I myself think that the law we eventually get will not accord strictly with Catholic moral teaching. For instance, Catholic moral teaching does not allow ANY direct attack on innocent human life, even to save another life. But Orthodox Jewish teaching, which does proscribe abortion, does allow it to save the life of the mother. Such a law, if well written, would still safeguard the principle that human life is valuable, but not require heroic moral virtue with a basis in a belief in a life beyond this one. I believe such a law would be sufficient. (However it has to be written carefully, and not be a "life and health, including mental health" bill, as such laws do no more than line the pockets of unscrupulous psychiatrists, which I myself observed up close when Maryland had such a law, pre Roe v Wade.)

Perhaps I have wandered from my point, which was to say that this is not a "vote as the Church tells you" situation, but one of an intelligent application of broad moral and ethical principles which are inseparable from a Catholic view of the world.
Susan Peterson

Joseph D'Hippolito said...

Erin, I got too personal in my last post. It was unnecessary and I apologize.

Nevertheless, I want to issue this challenge to get you thinking:

What does God want His people to do, support His righteousness come what may or support a church come what may? They're not the same thing. Just read, for starters, Ezekiel 34.

Word verification: making

This is the first word verification that's an actual word.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

Eulogos, I fully agree that any voter, including, of course, those of the Roman Catholic faith, are going to apply their own world view and moral principles as a guide to how they vote. We all do that. Naturally, as a Roman Catholic, the moral principles that inform your choices are Roman Catholic moral principles.

It only raises my constitutional small-r republican hackles when someone is issuing orders, and that includes, orders to elected public representatives. They are of course a tempting target: they have more power to actually affect the course of things than an individual voter. But for that very reason, bullying by a hierarchy is a direct challenge to the republic itself.

I understand that there is no discussion more difficult to conduct civilly than a debate between people who say "This is a human being." and people who say "No its not, its a lump of tissue growing inside a human being." We all know that IF not interrupted it WILL BECOME a human being, which I think is cause to consider seriously how to respond to its appearance.

From your point of view, the most direct response to Roe v. Wade would probably be a constitutional amendment specifying that the word "person," as used in the Constitution, refers to a natural human being from the moment of conception to the moment of death. The decision turned, in large part, on the court finding that no legal precedent offered the slightest hint that the word person applied prior to birth.

You might get more support for an effort to return matters to the states. That, however, would be difficult, because the states are, quite rightly, restrained from intervening in certain protected liberties, and this has been adjudged one of those liberties. The advantage, politically, is that there would be a patchwork of states that did and did not allow abortion during various portions of pregnancy -- that would also be the disadvantage from your viewpoint.

Given that Roman Catholics and some Protestant denominations consider abortion impermissible even to save the life of the mother, Orthodox Jews consider it impermissible, except that it is mandatory if the mother's life is in danger (in that instance the fetus is called a "destroyer" in Hebrew), while the rest of us have various differing positions, I would say the best resting place for the civil and criminal law is to keep government out of it, and let the pregnant woman decide.

As I think you will have noticed, I cheerfully uphold your right to stand peacefully outside a clinic offering women alternatives. I expect those who respond are those who really would regret their abortion, so its good that you are there.