Posts Tagged ‘U. S. Catholic Bishops’

Why Clergy Matter on Life Issues

Saturday, March 17th, 2012

After my post on Dietrich Bonhoeffer on Abortion as Murder, I searched the web for any evidence of the positive impact of Bonhoeffer’s condemnation of abortion.

I found a range of responses, but two common statements: One was that some persons who encountered Bonhoeffer’s condemnation of abortion (many have independently found this condemnation over the past several months) were in a powerful way convicted by it. Some reported breaking into tears, and experiencing a deep moment of conversion against the sin of abortion. In another response however, after a short pause barely considering Bonhoeffer’s words, one writer concluded that it still OK for Christians to be pro-choice on abortion because Archbishop Desmond Tutu was also pro-choice.

Clergy and their opinions do matter on life issues. If one clergy member of public standing and respect allows for fundamental injustice like abortion, the social acceptability of abortion grows, and it continues to proliferate. The responsibility of the clergy on this question is therefore profound. In this regard the strong unity of the U.S. Catholic Bishops on the HHS mandate on sterilization, abortifacients, and contraception is thus so rare and remarkable.

Images of clergy standing almost completely alone against opposition are iconic in Christian culture, and such a designation is often claimed by a wide variety of clergy standing in contradiction to each other. From St. Cyril of Jerusalem, to Martin Luther, to St. John Fisher, to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, and even to Chicago’s Msgr. Reynold Hillenbrand, clergy sometimes stand alone in moral witness, if only among their own congregations and among their own circle of (sometimes former) friends.

While the lonely clerical witness is an authentic Christian cultural icon, it sometimes degrades to media cliche: every media story of clerical dissent from orthodoxy appears to grant lonely Christian witness status to the clerical media darling or stock background commentator of the moment.

But solitary witness does not in and of itself manifest truth: Judas Iscariot also stood alone, and in the end, completely alone.

Perhaps the most dramatic flip of a moral position on abortion was that of Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., who telegrammed to the U.S. Congress in 1977–

AS A MATTER OF CONSCIENCE I MUST OPPOSE THE USE OF FEDERAL FUNDS FOR A POLICY OF KILLING INFANTS.

(Source: Colman McCarthy, “Jackson’s Reversal on Abortion,” Washington Post, 5/21/88, p. A27.)

–and who then announced a pro-choice position on abortion when he chose to run for President in 1984.

Thanks to Edwin Black’s well-documented book, War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race, the work of the National Black Catholic Congress, and such popular media as the film Maafa 21, which have helped make African Americans aware of Margaret Sanger’s genocidal “Negro Project,” more clergy, with the notable exceptions of Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. and Rev. Michael Pfleger, have spoken out publicly against abortions, especially in the African American community. (BTW, the Wikipedia entry for Negro Project has been moved into the Margaret Sanger wiki article, and scrubbed of the devastating case against Sanger that Edwin Black and others have so well documented.)

As I’ve written previously, abortion viciously and arbitrarily violates a person out of existence at that person’s supreme point of innocence and defenselessness.

In order to justify abortion, one must violate so many truths and moral principles, opening the door for the logic of violence and infanticide, that no effective tenets remain to protect innocent life in society. By accepting abortion, one immediately commits to some form of moral relativism. Widespread acceptance of abortion undermines the shared values of a life-affirming, and in the end, peacefully free society based upon shared values rather than force.

When the Christian history of this period is written, the names Jesse Jackson Sr. and Desmond Tutu for their pro-choice stands for abortion, and Michael Pfleger for his substantial public silence on the issue–unless they change their positions–despite their present public acclaim, stand to be marred for generations. I hope these men–and the many Catholic clergy who, unlike their bishops, remain silent on abortion–do change their minds and publicly stand for life, for the sake of eternity.

The clergy’s responsibility on matters of life is not only profound, but grave:

Nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbor’s life is at stake.
(Leviticus 19: 15)

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Expecting Misdirection

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

With the U.S. Catholic bishops in public unity on the HHS mandate, and with polls showing a significant drop in support for the President among women, I fully expect to see the misdirection card played straight out of the Chicago political playbook to change the importance of the HHS mandate question before the public mind. I expect a diversion or secondary, unrelated controversy to be introduced before the public attention that muddles the importance of the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ stance.

Fridays are always good days for such misdirections, since they carry over into the pundit shows on Sundays.

If not this weekend, then perhaps next. . .

I’m waiting. . .

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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E.J. Dionne, Jr. Beats Up the U.S. Catholic Bishops, Then Cedes Their Point

Monday, March 12th, 2012

Washington Post and Commonweal Magazine columnist E.J. Dionne, Jr., one of America’s most humorously self-contradictory of pundits, has done it again with his partisan attack on the U.S. Catholic Bishops on 3/12/12, which followed his attack on President Barack Obama on 1/29/12.

As many have learned over the years, the best answer to Dionne is usually a previous Dionne column, or sometimes Dionne later in the very same column. He confirmed this “Dionne rule” again on 3/12/12.

After flailing the bishops on 3/12/12, Dionne then wrapped up his column by conceding their point on the HHS mandate:

The bishops have legitimate concerns about the Obama compromise, including how to deal with self-insured entities and whether the wording of the HHS rule still fails to recognize the religious character of the church’s charitable work.

Nevertheless, Dionne angrily demanded that the Bishops end their protests based simply on a non-existent concession from the President.

Dionne, then agreeing with the Bishops on substance–just like the anonymous Jesuit America Magazine editorial writers–further went on to criticize the U.S. Catholic Bishops on style.

Not a single bishop would give even an anonymous quote to Dionne in support of Dionne’s analysis. Dionne’s contrived attack on Cardinals Dolan and George therefore lacks credibility in trying to frame the U.S. Bishops’ unity on this HHS mandate matter as partisan.

As even Dionne conceded the Bishops’ point, the Bishops are not about to accept an empty promise from the President when he has already put the HHS mandate on sterilization, abortifacients, and contraception as originally framed into law. The President also promised a “sensible conscience clause” in 2009 at Notre Dame, and has yet to deliver on that promise either.

It is therefore not the U.S. Catholic Bishops who lack credibility on this matter.

Ever since the President announced the HHS mandate “accommodation” on 2/10/12, the President’s Catholic health care team has been trying frantically to execute a political Zavanelli maneuver–to push, as it were, the anti-religious freedom monster baby back into the womb–and to start the question of conscience protection for religious institutions all over again. It’s not working. They might as well try to unfry an egg.

I fully expect that desperate reporters will begin making up false anonymous quotes from non-existent dissenting bishops in their panic to break the unity of the U.S. Catholic Bishops on the HHS mandate.

The unity of the U.S. Catholic Bishops on the HHS mandate has been remarkable.

Please see George Weigel’s 3/12/12 response to E.J. Dionne, Jr.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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The Anonymous Jesuits’ Terribly Unfortunate–and Slapstick–Editorial

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

In the future, when a Catholic physician, nurse, or health-care professional is faced with a government-enforced requirement that they violate their conscience, they will have the nameless Jesuit editorial writers at America Magazine who composed what New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan called “a terribly unfortunate” 3/5/12 editorial to thank in part for their loss of religious liberty.

Writing of the U.S. Bishop’s objections to President Obama’s 2/10/12 “accommodation” — which was not implemented in any official way in the Federal Register, which published unchanged the original HHS mandate as announced, giving it the force of law — the anonymous Jesuits stated of the U.S. Bishop’s objections to the HHS mandate:

Some of these points, particularly the needs of self-insured institutions like universities, have merit and should find some remedy. Others, with wonkish precision, seem to press the religious liberty campaign too far.

The anonymous Jesuits thereby (1) admit that the bishops’ principal concern about self-insurance did not yet have a remedy from the government, and (2) somehow complain that the bishops are too precise (precision being somehow the exclusive territory of anonymous Jesuits).

In this turning point of their entire editorial, the anonymous Jesuits thereby inadvertently admit that the bishops indeed are correct. On neither item (1) nor (2) do the anonymous Jesuits dispute the facts of the bishops. On the second point, the anonymous Jesuits object to the style, “wonkish,” not the substance, of the bishops objections.

Nevertheless, the anonymous Jesuits, having comically admitted in spite of their best efforts to the validity of the bishops’ objections — which despite the bishops’ good faith efforts in dialogue with the White House have not yet “found some remedy” — then launch into a lecture of the bishops, and attempt to turn even Benedict XVI’s Caritas in Veritate against them. (It is good to see, at least for a few seconds, America’s anonymous Jesuits recognizing papal authority.) This anonymous Jesuit lecture the White House staff reportedly recently used against the staff of the USCCB.

I have been educated by, and have worked for Jesuits. They are very smart and capable people to a great extent. Some, like my late and holy teacher David J. Hassel, SJ, were an inspiration. Some other Jesuits, unlike the humble Fr. Hassel, take themselves, unfortunately, soooo seriously. But, despite the old joke about Jesuits, God has yet to have been revealed to be sitting at his desk behind a name plate reading “God, SJ.”

So I have advice to anyone who would better appreciate the anonymous Jesuits of America Magazine: Count to ten, say a Hail Mary, and read what they write at least three times. One will almost always find within their own statements, despite their cleverness, a fundamental contradiction to the very point they attempt to make. You see, in this case the anonymous Jesuits were concerned with style instead of substance, and have slipped on their own banana peel in the process.

The person in charge of “finding some remedy” on the self-insurance problem, Cardinal Dolan, has reported very little progress. It is difficult for Cardinal Dolan to find the remedy on the self-insurance problem when the White House staff use the very America Magazine editorial agreeing that the self-insurance remedy is needed–but criticizing the bishops’ style–against the bishops.

So how do the anonymous Jesuits propose that the self-insurance problem be solved, when they themselves have placed a stumbling block in the way of solving it? Perhaps it will somehow “find a solution” on its own. I can almost hear Cardinal Dolan saying, “Thanks a lot, guys.”

It would be difficult to find a better example of an engaged, sincere “pastoral” effort than the behavior of Cardinal Dolan, who has been respectful to the White House despite mostly getting nowhere. Too bad these anonymous Jesuits can’t recognize a true pastor when they see one.

For more on Cardinal Dolan’s point of view, look here.

To those who commented admiringly on the anonymous Jesuits’ editorial, I say: You need to count to ten, say that Hail Mary, and read the editorial the two more times. You’ll surely notice a few things you didn’t see the first time.

For those Catholics who somehow still think the anonymous Jesuits are right, I suggest that, since this is such a critical issue, that you please make a fully-informed decision by reading the Federal Register to see what is now the law. Then please read Caritas in Veritate. Then I ask you, as I ask the anonymous Jesuits, how one can support the HHS mandate and at the same time hold to these lines from Caritas in Veritate:

The Encyclical Humanae Vitae emphasizes both the unitive and the procreative meaning of sexuality, thereby locating at the foundation of society the married couple, man and woman, who accept one another mutually, in distinction and in complementarity: a couple, therefore, that is open to life[27]. This is not a question of purely individual morality: Humanae Vitae indicates the strong links between life ethics and social ethics, ushering in a new area of magisterial teaching that has gradually been articulated in a series of documents, most recently John Paul II’s Encyclical Evangelium Vitae[28]. The Church forcefully maintains this link between life ethics and social ethics, fully aware that “a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized.”[29]

My America Magazine subscription? Canceled many years ago — because the anonymous Jesuits abandoned some of the very principles noted in the quote from Caritas in Veritate directly above.

Also, my compliments to the bishops for not taking the bait from the White House and taking the Church into schism on this issue.

For more jokes about Jesuits, click here.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Corruption in the Public Interest, II

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Opposing the HHS mandate on sterilization, abortifacients, and contraceptives on religious freedom and moral grounds is not enough to defeat it politically.

It takes years, after being morally anesthetized throughout one’s young adulthood by hedonistic mass culture, for enough people to reach the age of mature reflection in which religious freedom and moral concerns matter enough to make a political difference.

While it is important for religious heads like the U.S. Catholic Bishops to keep trying to stress the moral essentials on this critical issue, the proportion of the population, much more so the Catholic population, willing to make a stance based upon morality alone is about the same size relative to the total population that Lot and his family represented in Biblical Sodom (Genesis 18: 16-33).

A winning political campaign against the HHS mandate therefore cannot be based upon morality alone, but also on upon practical politics.

And it is relative to practical politics that the HHS mandate is so vulnerable.

I’m amazed that so few have called the HHS mandate what it is:

A patented, unsustainable Cook County Illinois vote-buying scheme wrapped in a tangle of Illinois legislature-style unfunded mandates.

In fact, there are so many colliding unfunded mandates underlying the HHS directive that they overspend the same non-existent money several times over.

This HHS scheme will generate such extensive entitlements for birth control, sterilization, and abortifacients that these will collapse and instantly have to be refunded with direct taxation, not unfunded mandates, immediately upon implementation.

Therefore, the opponents of the HHS mandate have to show, in addition to the moral objections, that the HHS mandate in dollars and cents is merely an election-year gimmick that is absolutely not intended to actually work, but is constructed primarily to rally a political base long enough to win an election.

The HHS mandate is perhaps the quintessential case of government trying to legislate immorality for a political purpose.

So we get to use the phrase again: Corruption in the public interest.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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Time for a New Translation of “Reponsible Parenthood” in Humanae Vitae?

Monday, February 20th, 2012

The HHS mandate on sterilization, abortifacients, and birth control, and the strong reaction of the U.S. Catholic bishops, has challenged many Catholics to examine whether they agree with the bishops. This controversy has become for many a moment of grace, and many Catholics have been reexamining whether they can commit to accepting and defending Church teaching on life, birth control, and abortion.

Catholic progressives who support access to abortion and artificial contraception are caught in a hard place, because of the growing unanimity among not only the bishops themselves, but pastors and other persons heading Church institutions that such pro-abortion or pro-choice positions are difficult to recognize as authentically Catholic.

Some prominent Catholics who would have previously given “cover” to pro-choice politicians have ceased doing so. Some progressive pastors, who could always be relied upon to wink and nod to pro-choice and artificially contracepting Catholics, have stopped doing so, and some such pastors have even openly spoken out against abortion for the first time in their priesthood. These pastors themselves have had to wrestle with reading aloud their bishop’s letter on the HHS mandate. Very few have refused to do so. How can I read this letter, they may ask themselves, and continue to remain on the fence? Those pastors who have refused to read or publish their bishop’s letter or the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ bulletin insert have now been forced to reveal their position publicly.

It is therefore becoming much harder with any credibility to claim that one can support Planned Parenthood or the anti-life positions taken by Planned Parenthood and remain authentically Catholic in any sense of the word.

Not only is this a moment of grace for some, but it is also a moment of decision. This moment of decision has led some Catholics to revisit official Church teaching, with the question, Can I accept what the Church teaches?

When some Catholics begin to reexamine the pro-life and anti-abortion, anti-artificial birth control teaching in the 1968 papal encyclical, Humanae Vitae, they immediately face a problem: the translation is dated, in that the meaning of certain English words in the encyclical have already shifted in meaning since 1968, principally the word “responsible,” as in the encyclical’s phrase, “responsible parenthood.”

“Responsible parenthood” unfortunately today almost evokes “Planned Parenthood,” and also now may carry with it environmental overtones following the mistaken but popular fears against overpopulating the planet.

Like any translation, dimensions of the language of the official Latin text of Humanae Vitae are not completely conveyed by the 1968 English translation.

The noted Australian philosopher, legal scholar, Oxford and Notre Dame Professor John M. Finnis in recent years has thus worked on a new translation of Humanae Vitae, as mentioned in this scholarly article and in this talk.

Here is a link for videos of Prof. Finnis’s talk at Notre Dame University’s Center for Ethics and Culture in 2008, along with a related talk by moral philosopher Prof. Janet E. Smith on “conscious parenthood.

The earliest English translations of Humanae Vitae translate “paternitas conscia” in its section ten as “responsible parenthood,” despite the fact that such a translation is not listed in many Latin dictionaries. Roy J. Defarrari’s Latin-English Dictionary of St. Thomas Aquinas translates “conscius” as “knowing or conscious of something with another” taking the genitive, with a second meaning of “knowing something in oneself,” taking the word sibi. Neither usage quite matches the Latin of Humanae Vitae.

The Latin word “conscius” is rich in meaning. It could mean knowing together as if in a conspiracy. It could also mean shared knowing as in shared intimacy, or in shared consciousness. The meaning may be closer to “intimate knowledge.” While a fuller translation of “paternitas conscia” might be cast as “conscious parenthood” or “intentional parenthood” rather than “responsible parenthood,” much work remains to be done to effectively translate and convey the full richness of the meaning. What is missing in the “responsible parenthood” translation is the mutual and intimate knowledge shared by the married couple, evocative of the Old Testament meaning of knowledge, meaning an act of knowing including sexual intimacy.

The Rev. Know-It-All and I discussed this point on a Go Ask Your Father radio segment on 2/15/12. He reflected upon a possible vocational meaning in the “conscia” of number 10 in Humanae Vitae.

Why is all this attention to the translation of a single word so important? Because meanings unfold from the translation of a single word.

The Church appears to lack good, commonsense arguments in favor of its teaching against artificial contraception. But by focusing on “paternitas conscia” as shared, intimate self knowledge flowing from the sacramental meaning of marriage itself, a powerful revelation of both the meaning and responsibility of marriage can unfold.

By the way, Prof. Finnis made a very important point in his Notre Dame talk of 2008 that the noted legal scholar John Noonan completely misunderstood St. Thomas Aquinas on the meaning of faith in his 1965 book, Contraception: A History of Its Treatment by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists, which was very influential in how Humanae Vitae was originally received in 1968.

Perhaps the title of Blessed John Paul II’s book Love and Responsibility, comes as close as any to more fully translating “paternitas conscia,” implying a knowing and intimate sharing of the responsibilities of the vocation chosen through the Sacrament of Marriage.

© Copyright 2012, Albert J. Schorsch, III
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