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Abortion and Schism: A Screed

This week, 55 allegedly Catholic US Representatives released a “Statement of Principles” outlining their open and notorious apostasy regarding the Church’s teaching on life. As legislators they announce that they “work every day to advance respect for life and the dignity of every human being” and are dedicated to “protecting the most vulnerable among us.” Unless the vulnerable are in utero.

They “agree with the Catholic Church about the value of human life and the undesirability of abortion,” but “believe also in the primacy of conscience.” Primacy is definitely the issue. Abortion is not undesirable. Seersucker suits and lutefisk are undesirable. Abortion is, in the words of John Paul II, “a grave moral disorder.” The Church’s teaching could not be clearer. The Catholic tradition understands conscience to be a human faculty, sadly prone to error, that is perfected by enlightenment and grace, both of which flow exclusively from God, primarily through his Church. If a person’s conscience is leading them to contradict the teachings of God’s church, that person needs to rehabilitate their conscience. Conscience follows morality, not the other way around. One suspects that these poor souls understand conscience, as they do everything else, in light if the radically autonomous individual. God speaks to individuals, and when he speaks he apparently says different things to different people. A life of faith therefore does not require a catechism or a pope, and a church is what a majority of members say it is. The intellectual rigor of this position is so torpid as to be imperceptible; otherwise it might rise to the level of a meretricious little heresy. As it is, this ironic little missive is merely a cheap renunciation of Catholicism, the kind one sees every day, the kind Dante wrote a poem about.

Apostasy is nothing new, but this pronouncement reminds the faithful of the tortured unseemliness of the American bishops’ collective response to the American politicians who so similarly opted for a shallow Protestantism during the last election. The issue hits home since two of the signers are part of the Minnesota delegation to the House, Jim Oberstar and St. Paul’s own Betty McCollum, whose 4th District covers both my house and Harry Flynn’s. In the aftermath of the Kerry candidacy, it appeared that many people at the US Council of Catholic Bishops were relieved to be able to hide behind a largely contrived uncertainty about candidates’ true beliefs and intentions. McCollum has made it easy for her Archbishop. In addition to her longstanding 100% approval rating from NARL, her vote against the partial-birth abortion ban and her vote against a ban on human cloning, the Archbishop now has a signed statement from her affirming her intent to continue rejecting the Church’s authority and teaching in a public manner. She and her petty mob are a scandal in the traditional sense. But worse, they are actively seeking to lead the faithful away from Christ while invoking his name. This is formal theological scandal.

They state that they “acknowledge and accept the tension that comes with being in disagreement with the Church.” This is not surprising as clinging to contradictions and ignoring elephants in the living room have become hallmarks of the Left. The question is, does Archbishop Flynn also accept the tension? In roughly forty days, on the holiest day of the liturgical year, in a celebration that dates back to the Lord himself, commemorating the sacrifice that alone defines the Catholic faith, the murder of an innocent, of God’s only child; in roughly forty days Representative Betty McCollum will presumably make her grievous way to Mass, perhaps at the cathedral itself, perhaps to stand before the Archbishop and ask to receive the Eucharist. She will come perhaps with no more sin corroding her soul that me or the person behind me. But that person and I will have issued no press releases announcing our intent to remain lustful and avaricious, to advocate gluttony and wrath in the public square, to work toward the legitimization of envy and pride.

St. Thomas said of scandal: “[W]hile going along the spiritual way, a man may be disposed to a spiritual downfall by another's word or deed, in so far, to wit, as one man by his injunction, inducement or example, moves another to sin.” Such is precisely the avowed aim of these representatives with regard to human life. But the malignancy of scandal in this country has spread much deeper. Many draft themselves into the culture of death following the McCollum banner, but how many more fall under a cloud of doubt of their bishops’ care for them? Certainly the challenges facing a bishop are immense, but despite the working of the Holy Spirit much has been lost. Can not abortion, at least, be a citadel of the faith? Can there really be any deep matters to contemplate or unpleasant consequences to be avoided? Can we not rouse ourselves to stand between these children and the abortionist’s knife? What is it that we, followers of an innocent victim, would not trade for the life of an innocent? Would we not close the schools, sell the buildings and surrender tax exempt status to save the innocent? Would we not endure anti-Catholic legislation, record-low parish enrollment and diminished political clout?

It is not for the sake of Representative Betty McCollum only that she should be publicly denied communion by her Archbishop, and that every one of her ilk be publicly and forcefully corrected. It is for my sake and the sake of my children. A church that is unmoved by Representative Betty McCollum’s scandal is guilty of the same malformed conscience that she herself celebrates. If those who repudiate the most fundamental teaching of the Church are welcome to be in full communion in an archdiocese, then someone will have to convince me how I am not forced to conclude that the teaching being rejected by the individual is not also at least devalued (if not rejected) by the Archbishop, whatever stirring words he may utter. And if such archdioceses are not corrected by the official national ecclesiastical leadership, someone will further have to explain to me how we have not then come to formal disunity; an American Catholic Church, related to but not bound the Pope, the Magisterium and two thousand years of unbroken tradition instituted by the Lord himself. How have we not then come to schism?

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 4, 2006 12:43 AM.

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