Wednesday, April 28, 2004

That's my Cardinal

Francis Cardinal George once again demonstrates that there's at least one real Catholic archbishop in America. You have to read the whole thing to appreciate his method of approach. He doesn't moralize; he's totally uninterested in scoring political points or covering his political arse; he avoids the demonizing so typical of neo-con Catholics. Above all, he instructs and guides through theological and pastoral reflection, tying his directives on this political issue first with a reflection on the liturgical season of Eastertide. It's textbook. It's the way magisterial authority should be expressed. It's so JPII. Here are some gems:

Faith is a free assent of mind and will and heart to a God who loves us and who transforms every dimension of our lives (Romans 10:9). There is no area of a believer's life separate from his or her faith. A compartmentalized faith is not faith, certainly not Catholic faith, which begins with the proclamation that Jesus is risen from the dead and then works out the implications of that assertion in every area of life.

There is separation of Church and State at the heart of our faith--the king is not a priest--but there can be no separation of faith and life for either king or priest or anyone else who believes that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.

Faith shapes a believer's political conscience, whether as voter or officeholder. This seems generally understood in the case of black churches, where politicians speak and invite believers to vote for them because the politicians will meet their concerns. It seems well enough understood in the case of synagogues, where no one is surprised that proponents of the PLO would not be given a platform. But drawing conclusions about the public order from one's faith is viewed with suspicion in the case of evangelicals and with alarm in the case of Catholics. This is largely because the secular litmus test for judging if faith is interfering inappropriately in the public order for the past 30 years has been the issue of the legal protection of unborn human beings. This truly is a key issue, not only because abortion is intrinsically immoral in every instance, but also because the legal killing of the unborn undermines the respect for human life that has characterized the advance of civilization and separates us from barbarians.

Pope John Paul II has explained that officeholders in democracies can be expected to uphold the law, even if the law wrongly protects immorality. But he has also explained that Catholic officeholders must work to diminish the harm that unjust laws do and make every effort to change them.

In a pluralistic society, perhaps no faith group can expect to be totally satisfied with the legal system; every faith group, however, can expect politicians who belong to it to work out their political positions in the light of their professed faith and to act accordingly. Not bishops, but the politicians' personal integrity makes this demand.

Because the U.S. courts have made abortion a "right," placing limits on its exercise creates difficulties not found in other countries. In this situation, it is unacceptable for a Catholic believer who is a politician to embrace unreservedly the status quo on abortion. Such an embrace cannot be justified because of a few theologians' opinions or even should a majority of U.S. Catholics think differently; nor can it be justified in the name of personal conscience, which is to be shaped by the faith. It certainly cannot be justified by an appeal to the Second Vatican Council, which named abortion "a heinous crime."

on the part of society, sanctions by bishops against politicians may be pastorally unwise and publicly harmful. In this culture, victims always have the moral upper hand. Blacks can be victims, Jews can be victims, American Indians can be victims, gays can be victims, women can be victims, even Muslims living here in the United States can be victims. By definition, however, Catholics cannot be victims, except for those Catholics who like to portray themselves as "oppressed" by the Church's teachings. They make the best victims of all.

Issues of basic importance to our faith make for difficult decisions in life. Fortunately for us and for the world, Christ has risen from the dead.