Monday, May 31, 2004

The Problem With Catholic Church Interference With Politics

The Catholic Church needs to back off from free democracy. By not outright condemning the actions of some bishops in refusing communion to American politicians, for political positions, the Catholic Church creates a wedge it should not create between those who share loyalties to both representative democracy and to the church.

First, John Kerry is a politician. He is a representative of the people. Whether or not his personal belief is aligned with the church position, this doesn't mean that he should let his personal belief override or control his duty as a democratic representative. It's not John Kerry's job or duty to command his constituents on what their position ought to be on a matter. His role is to gauge the feelings, thoughts, and beliefs of his constituents and serve and honor them.

This may go against the hierarchical command structure of the Catholic Church, but so be it. The Pope claims he is the most special representative of God and in a privileged position to interpret God's will and Word and dictate that to those less worthy and privileged to do so. That's fine (I guess). But free democratic peoples don't work that way, in this kind of organizational top-down manner, and the Catholic Church ought to respect and honor that.

Further, the Catholic Church really needs to be more consistent, and the Pope needs to take a strong stand to save his credibility amongst those of us who are more than worthy to evaluate these kinds of things. If the issue is life, why focus solely on abortion, and not the death penalty? I'm told the Pope has left open that some capital punishment may be necessary. This position is absurd and ridiculous. There is never any compelling reason to kill anyone. There is always another option. The lesson of Jesus' execution ought to be clear - we are fallible, and our communities and mobs are fallible, and therefore we ought not to pass judgement on who should live and who should die.

Free principles have a related rule and lesson - habeas corpus. This great principle is the bedrock of our system of justice, and allows for human fallibility, among other things. It does not mean habeas corpse. If new evidence were to emerge in a capital case, or another stepped forward to claim responsibility for the deed in question, and you already killed the man who had been convicted earlier, how can this man's family claim him? Move to have his case reviewed and exonerated? You can't, at least not for the benefit and freedom of this man, because you already killed him, and it's willful negligence to assert that no innocent party has not been executed by the free American republic, or that there is any excuse or justification for it. This also begs the question of responsibility, since how will God pass judgment on this murder - against the mob, or community, or against each one of the individuals who went along?

Still, I digress. The bottom line is that I am personally opposed to abortion, but respect the views of others, especially women, who may feel differently, and who have differing ultimate responsibilities on the matter. Should I not get communion (aside from my bashing of the Pope, which ought to at least merit the possiblity of excommunication)? Of course not. And this scenario of me being personally opposed, but respecting the views of others, is much further away then the case of a politician personally opposing abortion, but not imposing that belief on the free citizens he is in the service of and accountable to.

The Catholic Church ought only be concerned with the souls of its constituents, and not what kind of missionary fervor they choose to share this state with their fellows. It is the church's job to make the best case for its principled positions, and win over the hearts, minds, and souls of its constituents. If it does so well enough, then John Kerry will himself reject the act of abortion, and the church may be happy for his soul and salvation. But that is where the church stops, and politics begins, and John Kerry is under no obligation to dictate to others his beliefs or to refuse political participation with those he who most agrees with (overall), either by not participating in politics at all or being forced to vote Republican over a single issue when he disagrees with almost everything else.

If any of you have access, forward this to the Pope. I formally request an audience with him to make an appeal for reason and compassion, not to mention good sense. The church invites great danger with this issue, and it should act at the earliest possible moment to clarify its position on communion.