Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Do the Catholic Bishops Really Mean What They Say?

Writing at the First Things blog, On the Square, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education Kenneth D. Whitehead asks "Do the Catholic Bishops Really Mean What They Say?":
... Asked by NCR if there were any other bishops who agreed with him, Archbishop Sheehan replied, “Of course. The majority.” This majority, he said, only remained on the sidelines so as not to start a public internecine fight.

Thus, if Sheehan is correct, a majority of the American Catholic bishops opposes the official policy that they themselves established in their June 2004 statement “Catholics in Political Life.” That document told the world that, “the Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors, or platforms which would suggest support for their actions.” The protesting bishops based their opposition on this plain, unambiguous declaration.

But if, as Sheehan contends, a majority of the Catholic bishops in the United States actually disagrees with this policy, why did they vote for it in the first place? What sort of organization officially adopts a policy that most of its leaders reject? Such patent dishonesty seems rather more detrimental to the Church than “loud tactics.”

The archbishop thinks that opposition, even to a president as aggressively pro-abortion as Barack Obama, is to be deplored because it risks isolating Catholics from the rest of American society. But why should anyone think remaining in accord with a morally decadent society is somehow part of the Church’s mission? According to what principle is the Church supposed to lay aside her fundamental moral principles in order to conform to a society that has in so many respects long abandoned Judeo-Christian moral principles? Of course, the Church as a whole has not decided to “go along to get along” in this fashion. The only question is whether some bishops, as Sheehan’s statements suggest, are no longer in sync with the Church...


“Catholics in Public Life” and Ratzinger’s directive simply manifest the Church’s recognition of the seriousness of the American situation: More than fifty million babies have been killed by abortion since it was legalized by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. This rivals and in some cases exceeds the death tolls inflicted by the Hitlers, Stalins, Maos, and Pol Pots of the twentieth century. Dozens of American Catholic episcopal statements have reiterated that abortion is in a class by itself, currently outweighing by far nearly all other public moral issues combined.

In his NCR interview, however, the archbishop effectively treats abortion as just one more issue. He brags that “we have gotten more done on the pro-life issue in New Mexico by talking to people that don’t agree with us on everything. We got Governor Richardson to sign off on the abolition of the death penalty in New Mexico, which he was in favor of.” Sheehan goes on to admit that the same Richardson is another one of those pro-abortion Catholic politicians, whom he has evidently not “counseled,” however. His reaction when the interviewer mentions Governor Richardson’s pro-abortion stance is to ask defiantly (and here I quote directly), “So?” An archbishop of the Catholic Church thinks the death penalty constitutes an evil on the same scale as the unlimited abortion license.

God forbid that such obtuse and callous moral equivalence should represent the views of the majority of the American Catholic bishops. Sheehan should be pointedly rebuked by the leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for venturing into the public print with views so much at variance with the USCCB’s official position.

My Comments:
Do the American Bishops really mean what they say, at least with respect to abortion? Do they really believe abortion to be what they claim it to be?

On the basis of recent events, one must wonder. (Although there is no doubt in my mind that there is a solid minority of Bishops - probably roughly equivalent to the 80+ Bishops, including my own, who rebuked Notre Dame for its decision to honor a pro-abortion President - who are seriously pro-life.)

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