Saturday, January 10, 2004

Your religion is in my politics! Your politics are in my religion!

I found this over at Crooked Timber and I'm seething.

Some lawmakers Friday came to the support of colleagues targeted with a Communion ban by La Crosse Bishop Raymond Burke for their positions on abortion and euthanasia.

"Dictating public policy for people of all faiths by holding sacraments hostage from those who believe does not sound right," said Senate Minority Leader Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton, who was raised Catholic but is no longer practicing.

"What's the difference between a newspaper columnist or a talk show host who's a Catholic and goes on to write a column not to the liking of the church?" Erpenbach asked. "Is that person going to be denied Communion, too?"

In a decree made public Thursday, Burke ordered priests in the La Crosse Diocese to withhold the sacraments from Catholic legislators who support abortion or euthanasia.

Now CT blogger Harry Brighouse thinks this is "pretty amusing" and it's perfectly fine. It's not. It's despicable. There are numerous political policies on either side of the aisle which are in direct opposition to church stances (see the Church’s take on the death penalty, the war in Iraq, etc.). It’s not that the Bishop doesn’t have the right to deny communion, but that he’s really making a political statement here, not a religious one. There is no reason that you cannot see abortion as despicable, but still believe that making it illegal would, in the long run, cause more anguish than it would prevent.

One of the reasons that I’ve always admired the Catholic Church is that, despite it’s dictatorial appearance, it’s always been made up of people who disagree about all but the most fundamental aspects of faith and have spent 2000 years arguing about what the Bible really means.

Consider, for example, the different holy orders. If the church was truly monolithic, there wouldn’t be more than one order of priests or nuns. However, the numerous holy orders are basically made up of those who believe that they are following the correct path of service. If you don’t believe me, you should meet my former priest who loves nothing more than to trash on the ancient Aidan-inspired Irish Catholics and those “pinheaded” Jesuits.

Being “pro-life” is not, exactly, a tenet of the faith, but rather a policy stance. The tenets, the things I have to believe in order to be a Catholic (and I am), are included in the Nicene Creed.

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, and born of the Father before all ages. God of God, light of light, true God of true God. Begotten not made, consubstantial to the Father, by whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven. And was incarnate of the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary and was made man; was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried; and the third day rose again according to the Scriptures. And ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of the Father, and shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, of whose Kingdom there shall be no end. I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father (and the Son), who together with the Father and the Son is to be adored and glorified, who spoke by the Prophets. And one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. I confess one baptism for the remission of sins. And I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.

The Catechism, on the other hand, is a document which is changing and is about how the Church views the faith now.

Would it have been right, in other words, for the Pope to have denied communion to those who refused to blame Jews for the death of Christ before Vatican II softened the Church’s stance on the subject? This is a perfect example of how those of faith should oppose the mixing of politics and religion.

(Most of this post showed up in the comments over at Crooked Timber, too.)


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