Thursday, October 23, 2008

American Catholic: "Let the Bishops Interpret Their Document"

At American Catholic, this outstanding effort from Darwin takes issue with those on the Catholic left criticizing the over 60 Bishops who have issued clarifications regarding the USCCB's Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship:

... More than sixty bishops have thus far issued letters or statements in which they have provided further guidance on how Catholics should apply their judgement to the principles articulated in Faithful Citizenship — mostly with a mind to emphasizing the important of “life issues”. The Faithful Citizenship document was approved by 250 of the bishops in session, so clearly, the document as it stands represents a wide consensus of the Catholic bishops in the United States. And yet, with more than sixty bishops issuing their own explanatory documents, there is clearly some sort of disagreement going on.

... Rather than accusing the bishops of not being “fully atuned to the responsibilities of collective ownership” I think it would behoove American Catholics to ask themselves: are the bishops trying to tell us something about the document they themselves wrote?

The bishops gave us a document in which they discussed at length the way in which a Catholic with a well formed conscience should weigh all of the different concerns which we are faced with as US citizens during this election. As is appropriate for such a document (and as you can expect given that the 250 bishops involved obviously had varying judgements on the relative weight of various issues in the current political landscape) it very much focused upon the principles of how Catholics should weigh the different types of issues, and provided no judgements as to how one ought to use this intellectual framework to reach a decision. This is, I would say, just as it should be. And while the document is frankly rather longer and more involved than the average lay Catholic will have patience to read and digest, it is I think a very good document.

However, as soon as the document came out, a number of highly partisan Catholic writers (Mornings Minion very much among them) immediately set to work to make the case that the document should be taken to mean that one not only could vote for a pro-abortion politician (which given sufficient proportional reasons, one certainly may in certain circumstances) but that the document practically could have been titled, “Faithful Citizens Should Vote For Obama.”

Clearly a number of the bishops believe that issues such as abortion should weigh very heavily in people’s thoughts as they consider the political landscape this year, and given that the bishops are intended to be our shepherds in faith and morals it certainly doesn’t seem appropriate to me that lay bloggers should be blasting back, “You gave us a document we can conveniently twist to mean whatever we want, now shut up and let us tell you what you meant.” Since the bishops are our pastors, the very least that we can do as laity is listen respectfully to what they say.

Those, like MM, who don’t like the political implications of what the bishops have been saying should consider that perhaps much of this outspokenness is of their own making. I know that I’ve been receiving 2-3 emails a week at my DarwinCatholic blog email address from groups such as Catholic Democrats, Catholics United and Matthew 25 Network – each email repeating claims that the moral and intellectual structure laid out in Faithful Citizenship means that I must vote for Obama. Over at Vox Nova, MM has been cranking out posts of a similar tenor.

If one does not want to be chastised by the bishops, one should endeavour not to use their collective authority to support a view which many of them do not in fact hold.

[Read the whole thing]
(emphasis added)

My Comments:
Darwin's entire piece is excellent, but that last line is the money quote. Those who have been mis-using episcopal documents like Faithful Citizenship to push a view of Catholic teaching on abortion that is not in accordance with what the Bishops actually teach have invited these "clarifications" - and, in some instances, outright rebukes - from more than 60 Bishops.

In fact, my own shepherd, Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo - who, in his own right, is one of the finest teaching Bishops in the county - felt just such a need to correct the record recently when an infamous "Catholic Studies" professor at the University of Toledo wrote in The Toledo Blade that the Catholic position on abortion doesn't include the overturning of Roe v. Wade and efforts to legally restrict abortion.:

Lest Professor Gaillardetz’s teaching position and self-identification as a Catholic create any misunderstandings, it should be pointed out that his opinions regarding the issue of abortion, and Roe v. Wade in particular, do not reflect the clear and consistent moral position of the United States Bishops.
Again, the reason so many Bishops have, like Bishop Blair, spoken out to clarify the meaning of Faithful Citizenship is because so many have twisted their words for political objectives.

As I've said here many times, Faithful Citizenship does provide some slight wiggle room on voting for pro-abortion candidates if such a vote is in spite of the candidate's record on abortion (and "in spite of" does NOT mean twisting the reality of the candidate's so-called "pro-choice" position and arguing that is actually "pro-life"), and as long as there are proportionate and/or truly grave moral reasons to justify such a vote. What it does not do is give carte blanche to those who try to take things too far and redefine what the Church teaches on the primacy of the sanctity of life.

When that happens, the Bishops are more than justified in acting and speaking out to correct the record. Bully for them!

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At 10/23/2008 9:29 PM, Blogger Ernesto said...

Please consider posting this video and passing it along, it’s amazing. It’s great at showing the distinction between MaCain and Obama in regards to the abortion issue. Please pass this along to everyone you know. We have to get McCain elected… E

“Abortion is advocated only by persons who have themselves been born.”
Ronald Reagan


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