Who has Teaching Authority in the Church? The Bishops, or High-Profile Catholic Politicians?

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How do Catholic politicians come to the conclusion that it’s A-Ok for them to vote, speak and advocate for abortion?

How do Catholic politicians decide that it’s not a big deal for them to vote for discriminatory laws against whole swaths of humanity?

How do Catholic politicians develop the belief that they can vote and speak for the HHS Mandate and not be attacking their own Church?

How on earth do Catholic politicians come to believe that, even though John Paul II expressly wrote a whole letter telling them flat out that politicians who vote for gay marriage are committing grave sins, that it’s still ok for them to vote for gay marriage and that they can march right up to the front of the church and take communion afterwards?

Where do these elected officials get the gas to denounce a bishop for having the temerity to teach the teachings of the Church? What is the source of the arrogance that allows a member of the Catholic laity to proclaim that a bishop’s teaching, which is based on papal documents and the constant teaching of the Church, is “a tragedy?”

Where do politicians who essentially tell bishops of the Church to “mind your place” when they teach Church teaching acquire their overbearing attitudes towards their religious leaders? Where did the princes and princesses of Western democracies get the nerve to lecture the Church on what constitutes a state of grace and who would be taking communion unworthily? 

It has grown past scandal and become a broad cultural reality that dissenting high profile Catholics deliberately and publicly thumb their noses at Church teaching by deciding, with a clear knowledge of what they are doing, to cast votes, make speeches, accept awards and publicly advocate for abortion and gay marriage. These actions have been specifically defined as mortal sins by the popes. 

Who brought this beast of arrogant Catholic politicians who oppose and attack their own Church to life? Who feeds it? 

While there are multiple factors and causes involved in the exploits of such a large group of people, one thing that stands out in my mind is the actions of the Bishops themselves. I understand that telling a group of people that they may not take communion unless they repent, as in the situation of politicians who cast a certain vote, is a difficult call, primarily for reasons of justice. 

Votes can be misleading simply because there are procedural methods of killing a piece of legislation or of working to get at it, which can look one way to the outsider and are really another thing altogether to someone who understands the process. Lawmaking in a democracy is a wild West process where anything that works, goes. 

Added to this is the fact that the bishops themselves seem to have little more than a high school political science understanding of how legislating works. A few years ago, I watched an EWTN broadcast of a meeting of the USCCB as they tried to iron out what would have been simple parliamentary procedures for an elected official. It was funny stuff. But it also taught me that these guys don’t understand what politicians do for a living.

That is why these cases have to be taken individually and why a repeated practice of voting a certain way, added to public statements is the best method for a bishop to determine if he is dealing with an elected official who just fell off the horse, or who even may be doing the right thing with a confusing procedural move, or, if the politician in question is a hardened dissenter who is committing mortal sins without compunction.

Even though examples of obvious, high-profile cases of the latter are easily found in American politics, both at the federal and the state level, I do not want to see star chamber Catholics with their desire to use communion as a club to beat people they don’t like to rule the day. I appreciate the caution of good bishops in a matter as serious as telling someone to refrain from taking communion. 

But if they want to lead their people, the bishops are going to have to get together and do something. They should have done something a long time back. It needs to be consistent, cohesive and understandable. It also needs to occur in non-election years so that there is no taint of electoral politics to it. 

This penchant for openly committing grave sins and then denouncing anyone who says that it is, in fact, a sin, has become a mass revolt in the public at large, and it is being led by large numbers of Catholic politicians.

I know that it is difficult for a bishop to talk to each one of these offending politicians personally and advise them of the gravity of their situation. I also understand that a certain number of the politicians in question will make the whole thing public and milk it for all it’s worth. There will inevitably a public outcry and excoriation of the bishops for their “intolerance” when they advise someone to refrain from taking communion until they repent and go to confession.  

But the fact is that the reason there are so many Catholic politicians doing this is that the bishops have failed Catholic elected officials in this matter for a long time.

Elected officials are not just things with power. They are human beings. They are immortal souls. If they are Catholic, their religious leaders are their pastor and their bishop. If both these men do not take note of public dissent against Church teaching in grave matters when it is manifesting and step in to advise the person of the danger to their soul in what they are doing, then that pastor or bishop is failing this person. 

It really is as simple as that. Bishops who allow high profile Catholics to run amuk and commit equally high-profile mortal sins without at least making sure that their pastors talk to them about it are failing these people. What’s more, they are failing them in an area which strikes to the core of what a bishop is, which is their role as the shepherd of souls.

If the pastor or bishop allows this behavior to continue unchallenged until it becomes a public scandal — as it will — then they have not only failed this one individual, they have failed all those who observe this politician’s defiance and decide that it must be ok for them to defy the Church in matters of mortal sin, as well. 

In this way, the pastor and bishops are training both elected officials and the rest of the laity to defy the Church and ignore its teachings. The bishops are indirectly teaching that mortal sin is not mortal sin and the Eucharist is simply a social rite which may be taken by the force of public approbation and criticism. 

We’ve just been given a startling example of this by the Catholic Bishops Conference of England.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of England basically did exactly what I’m talking about in a recent letter in which they made it clear that, insofar as the Church is concerned, the Catholic MPs who voted for gay marriage did not commit a serious sin with that vote. 

They didn’t say this explicitly, of course. What they said was that there were no plans to deny communion to those MPs who had voted for gay marriage. So far as the public is concerned, this is the bishops’ imprimatur on the power of Catholic politicians to commit any sin they chose with their offices and not have to count it as sin. 

Again, the bishops didn’t explicitly say that, but there is enough past experience here, and they all have to be intelligent well-educated men who are fully aware of the consequences to this sort of thing that I’m certain they know how people will see their actions. They also have to know that the effect of their little letter will be more dissent in the future.

Where do you think dissenting politicians come from? They are empowered and enabled by bishops like these. 

From LifeSiteNews:

LONDON, April 2, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales assured Catholic Members of Parliament this week that there are “no plans” to refuse them Holy Communion after they voted to support the “gay marriage” legislation that came into effect yesterday.

Greg Pope, head of parliamentary relations at the conference and a former Labour Party MP, wrote to MPs assuring them that comments by the bishop of Portsmouth, Philip Egan, on the Church’s Code of Canon Law forbidding Communion to “manifest grave sinners,” would not be applied to them.

Portsmouth Bishop Philip Egan

Today the media office of the bishops’ conference confirmed with LifeSiteNews that the letter was addressed to the Catholic MPs with the bishops’ full authorization. “Many thanks for your mail. Mr. Greg Pope was speaking as a spokesperson for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales,” a spokesman with the bishops’ Catholic Communications Network said.  Greg Pope was chosen as the liaison between the English Catholic bishops and Parliament despite his consistent voting record in opposition to traditional moral teachings. Pope has supported abortion, adoption by homosexual partners, and artificial contraception.

“The statement was approved by the General Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference after appropriate consultation. ‘There are no plans by any Bishops in England and Wales to deny communion to Catholic MPs who voted in favour of same sex marriage legislation last year,’” the spokesman said.

Pope’s letter came in response to a LifeSiteNews interview with Bishop Philip Egan in which he said that denying Communion to someone engaged publicly in grave sin is an “act of mercy” and a “medicinal” remedy for Catholics.

He said, “When people are not in communion with the Catholic Church … in terms of the teachings of the Church on marriage and family life – they are voting in favour of same-sex marriage – then they shouldn’t be receiving Holy Communion.”

“When people are not in communion with the Catholic Church on such a central thing as the value of life of the unborn child and also in terms of the teachings of the church on marriage and family life – they are voting in favor of same-sex marriage – then they shouldn’t be receiving Holy Communion,” he said.

Bishop Egan refused to be intimidated by the possibility of opposition, saying “Nobody is forced to be Catholic.”

Here is how the discussion began, also from LifeSiteNews:

PORTSMOUTH, UK, April 1, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – An openly gay Catholic MP who voted for same-sex “marriage” in Britain has said he “feels unable,” in the words of The Telegraph, to receive Communion after his local bishop said that those who vote for legislation that is contrary to Church teaching on marriage and family make themselves unworthy to receive Holy Communion.

Conservative MP Conors Burns called Portsmouth Bishop Philip Egan’s remarks a “tragedy.”

Portsmouth Bishop Philip Egan

“I have been a practising Catholic and communicant within the diocese of Portsmouth since I arrived at Southampton university in 1991 before anyone in Portsmouth Diocese had ever heard of Philip Egan,” Burns told The Telegraph.

He voted for the same-sex “marriage” legislation that came into effect last month, even though he had voiced prior reservations to redefining marriage.

“If the arrival of this bishop means that I can no longer be a practising Catholic within the diocese, that is a tragedy,” hetold The Tablet last week.

Burns co-chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Britain’s relations with the Holy See and is considered to be one of the country’s most senior Roman Catholic MPs.

Despite his high ranking, Burns appears to have missed his bishop’s main message.

Egan made it clear in a video interview last month with LifeSiteNews that denying Holy Communion — which Catholics believe to be the body of Jesus Christ —to Catholic politicians not believing and practicing the faith is not a punitive measure, but “always an act of mercy.”

It is done to “encourage someone to come back to seek communion with the Lord with the truth and say I’m sorry I got lost,” he said. It is done “with the hope and prayer that that person can be wooed back into full communion with the Church.”

Canon 915 of the Church’s Code of Canon Law states that those who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion.”

However, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has responded to Egan’s remarks by assuring Catholic politicians that Canon 915 will not be enforced. The bishops’ head of parliamentary relations, Greg Pope, has written to Catholic MPs that Communion will not be denied to those who supported gay “marriage,” reported The Telegraph.

American Cardinal Raymond Burke, head of the Vatican’s highest court, known as the Apostolic Signatura, has strongly advocated the use of canon 915 in the case of Catholic politicians who publicly support abortion and same-sex “marriage.”

In a recent interview published exclusively in English by LifeSiteNews, Burke said denying these politicians Communion is a “prime act of pastoral charity,” since it helps the person in question to “avoid sacrilege and safeguard[s] the other faithful from scandal.”

Do Pro Abortion Catholics Lack Essential Integrity?

It represents a lack of integrity for a public official to expect others to accept the premise: “What I do publicly contradicts who I say I am religiously, but that doesn’t make any difference.” 

 Bishop Lawrence Brandt of Greenburg Pennsylvania, issued a pastoral letter recently in which he raised an important issue about Catholic politicians who support abortion.

Aside from the question of whether or not these politicians should take communion, (he thinks they shouldn’t) he raises the a more fundamental question, at least for non-Catholic voters, which is Can we trust them?

His reasoning here is simple. If someone will play false with something as basic as their faith, how can we believe them about anything else?

It’s an interesting question. The point of this question is not whether or not they are pro abortion. It’s also not whether they are Catholic. It’s their stubborn insistence that they are Catholics in full communion with the Church when even a cursory reading of the Catechism would tell them that they are not. The point is the arrogance and the lie.

What line of reasoning leads people to this? Cradle Catholics are among the most devout people I know. However it’s been my experience that converts are far less likely to be pro abortion Catholics than those who were born and raised in the faith.

This makes sense. After all, converts chose the Catholic faith, usually after a period of discernment and education about what it means to be Catholic. Most cradle Catholics have a good understanding of their faith as well, but it’s easier than it would be for a convert for some of them to just fall into their Catholicism without understanding or choosing it actively.

I wonder if there is something in that which predisposes them to this kind of wrong-headed view of their faith. How do they manage to see themselves as wholly and fully Catholic, even while they ignore the teaching authority of the Church on an issue like the sanctity of human life?

I have a theory that, in some way that makes sense to them, they see being Catholic as more genetic than religious.

I know quite a few Jewish people who feel this way about their Jewishness. I know Jewish people who have never been to Temple in all the decades I’ve known them and who have even less knowledge of their faith than I do, yet they are confident that they are, in fact, Jews.

I wonder if these pro abortion Catholic politicians see themselves the same way. If they do, I think they are basing their belief on a mistaken assumption about what it means to be Catholic, or Christian of any denomination. Christianity is not a genetic faith.

I believe that true Christianity always involves an active assent, a personal “yes” to God. It is that essential “yes” that we give voluntarily and from our hearts that shapes our faith and our subsequent actions.

Somewhere, in all the haze of being cradle Catholic and the many pressures to conform their faith to their politics, these politicians have lost that understanding of their faith. Rather than seeing it as a core commitment which will determine their values and actions, they see it as a social obligation which requires that they show up for mass and answer the responses. They are cultural Catholics rather than religious Catholics.

It appears that their understanding of themselves as individual human persons who must stand before God alone one day and account for what they did with their time in this life is lost to them.

They seem to have slipped right past that and into a sort of corporate we’re-catholic-as-a-group-and-that’s-all-the-fidelity-we-must-live view of their Catholicism. Instead of becoming part of a body of believers, they see themselves as part of an ethnic designation. Instead of a Community of Faith, they have defined their church as a consortium of adherents.

Whether it happened because of political accommodation or daffy religious formation, these people have lost the meaning of faith, and with it the meaning and the charge of what it is to be Catholic.

Bishop Brandt asks us if we can trust such people, not just with abortion, but with anything. I think this is a question we should consider carefully as we approach next week’s election.

Here is what he said on this matter:

“Any individual who says he can advocate for and enable the practice of abortion and claims that he can still be a Catholic in good standing, has a very serious problem with integrity which any community can ignore only at its own peril.”

Politicians who live in such a disintegrated way are a matter of concern not only to Catholics, but to “society itself,” Bishop Brandt said.

“It is a cause of very serious concern for all the citizenry about a matter of integrity. It is a very serious concern about placing public trust in a person who has demonstrated public misrepresentation.” (Read more here.)

The Election: Bishop Brandt Discusses the Key Issues for Catholics

Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt of Greensburg Pennsylvania wrote a recent pastoral letter to his diocese discussing some of the issues in the upcoming election, including the HHS Mandate and the issue of pro-abortion advocates taking communion. The article below describes his letter in more detail. I am going to reproduce the entire article. For more fine articles like this one, go to Catholic News Agency.

Pennsylvania bishop highlights issues at stake in election
Greensburg, Pa., Oct 26, 2012 / 02:07 am (CNA).- The right of the Catholic institutions to exist with integrity is threatened by the Health and Human Services contraception and sterilization mandate, Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt of Greensburg said in a pastoral letter to his diocese.

The mandate “relegates religious freedom to the sacristy, and will not allow it to exist or be operative outside of the Church and in the public square,” the Pennsylvania bishop wrote in “Integrity and the Political Arena,” which was issued on Oct. 11.

“This corresponds to a conception of religious freedom which means only freedom of worship. But those who share the same faith also have the right to a collective or institutional religious freedom which is public,” he stated.

Bishop Brandt’s comments come with the elections only two weeks away, and Pennsylvania is expected to play a key role as a battleground state. Though Democrats won the last three presidential votes there, the Republican Party won the governorship and Senate elections in 2010.

Under the contraception mandate, “religious freedom becomes just a type of privacy right which can be given, restricted or withdrawn as the government sees fit,” wrote Bishop Brandt.

“The founding documents of this country, however, clearly indicate that religious freedom is an inalienable right which comes not from government but from the Creator Himself.”

Much of the letter was dedicated to the importance of integrity among politicians, particularly on the issue of abortion. Bishop Brandt said citizens can use their right to vote to “bring our faith perspective … to evaluate the integrity of the candidates and the validity of the positions they advance or support.”

The bishop said that a Catholic politician who has “an established pattern of voting in favor of abortion legislation and an established pattern of public rejection of a core teaching of the Church” is “engaged in public cooperation with a grave moral evil.”

The bishop said he also believes that Catholic politicians who continue to receive Communion “should be challenged to take ownership of the consequences of a lack of integrity by publicly acknowledging that what they do contradicts who they say they are,” he said.

“Any individual who says he can advocate for and enable the practice of abortion and claims that he can still be a Catholic in good standing, has a very serious problem with integrity which any community can ignore only at its own peril.”

Politicians who live in such a disintegrated way are a matter of concern not only to Catholics, but to “society itself,” Bishop Brandt said.

“It is a cause of very serious concern for all the citizenry about a matter of integrity. It is a very serious concern about placing public trust in a person who has demonstrated public misrepresentation.”

 


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