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Political Apologetics, Part I

  /   Wednesday June 02, 2004  

On a couple of occasions, I have done talks for the Frassati Society, and I like to get into apologetics. I put a section into my handouts in objection and answer format. With that being said, I’d like to post responses to some arguments regarding the issues of “Catholic” politicians and my responses. Sometimes I’m able to say these directly to the person; other times, I don’t think of them until later.

If you want to quote the Pope, then quote him on everything. OR
If the bishops deny Communion to pro-abortion politicians, then they should deny it to people who support the death penalty or the war in Iraq.

If these are literally true, then they would imply that the Holy Father is incapable of having opinions on important issues (or at least expressing them publicly) without them becoming binding Church teaching. Certainly the war in Iraq is a grave issue, and the Holy Father must be taken seriously. The Church teaching on just war must be obeyed. However, is it within the competence of the Church to know all of the facts surrounding the reasons to go to war? It is not necessarily so.

President Bush may well know some things that the Holy Father does not. Of course, the reverse may be the case as well. Paragraph 2309 of the Cathechism of the Catholic Church (herein referred to as CCC from here on) says, after naming the just war criteria, “The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.” While one may legitimately argue that the Holy Father does have responsibility for the common good, the CCC clearly doesn’t say that only the Holy Father can determine whether the criteria for war has been met.

As for capital punishment, the CCC says this in paragraph 2267 “Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.” The paragraph goes on to state that the death penalty should rarely, if ever, be used, on the grounds that the state has a greater ability to prevent crime. This is based, not on a judgment of faith and morals, but on the confidence the Holy Father has in our prison system. However, I must say that I am against the death penalty as it is practiced in the United States. I will not consider those who favor the death penalty to be dissenters.

Abortion is a completely different case altogether. In CCC paragraph 2271, we find “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable.” In other words, any time the Holy Father were to denounce a specific abortion, he is always going to be right because abortion is gravely immoral 100% of the time. Prudential judgment is not necessary to figure this out. By the way, the abuse of the prisoners in Iraq falls into this category of “intrinsically evil” as well. However, I am aware of no one who argues in favor of it.

Interestingly enough, the confusion here seems to stem from one of the same mindsets that plague dissenters. Somehow, they have in their mind that the Church teachings are little more than the “rules” made by the current members of the hierarchy. The hierarchy are not rulers but mere guarantors. There are plenty of priests and bishops out there who are dissenters, and the fact that they are priests and bishops does not make what they say morally acceptable. Rather, the Sacred Tradition is the teaching handed down from Christ, to the Apostles, to our present time. Therefore, the issue is not so much about “obeying the hierarchy” as it is obeying the constant teaching of the Church, which will not change, ever.

This post is much longer than I planned, so I will bring forth more arguments in another post.

Category: Posts imported from Danger! Falling Brainwaves, Uncategorized



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