Wednesday, November 7, 2012

From Virulent Partisanship to Bold Cooperation

By Sister Mary Ann Walsh

With the election over, it’s time for the nation to retake its noble position as the home of the brave. Certainly the next four years will mark a critical time for our nation, an opportunity to show our better selves after unprecedented political rancor. It’s long been accepted the truth is the first casualty of political warfare; now we can add decency and civility to the casualty list. We’ve nowhere to go but up.
Despite this, however, we remain a blessed nation. A quick look at starvation in Africa and war in the Middle East drives home awareness of the blessings the United States holds. Even when the terrifying hurricane roared up the east coast a few weeks ago, as a nation we have the internal and external resources to deal with the devastation.
Yet since the Bible notes that to whom much is given, much is to be expected,  it is worth dwelling on expectations. America’s bounty calls for a generous response. The response can take many forms. Overall the response needs to be marked by selflessness –  a sharing of the benefits bestowed upon us; humility – the realization that we receive God’s gifts because of His generosity not because of our worthiness, and  a disposition to take the long view – instant gratification isn’t all it initially seems to be.
First of all, as people of strength undaunted by flood and wind we must stand for the weakest among us, especially to protect innocent life, be it infants in utero, the elderly in their waning days on earth and everyone in between. There’s no need to see innocent life as burdensome, another’s frail life as taking something from us or people as anything but the face of God, perhaps scarred, but always precious.
God’s blessings on our United States call for us to offer reciprocal generosity to those who have less, such as immigrants seeking refuge and people without means for a decent life. Much of the technological greatness we see now, for example, has come from people who were immigrants back then. Widespread poverty now stands as a blight upon our nation. We must address our treatment of the weak for our national greatness is rightly measured by what we do for the least among us. Can we blithely share in a bountiful buffet while fellow citizens go malnourished and suffer from ailments just a dose of medicine away from a cure?

A nobility of spirit also urges Americans to take the long view. The U.S. Constitution for more than 200 years has enshrined Americans’ basic rights, including the right to religious liberty. This guarantee, described in the Constitution’s First Amendment, promises that government will not force citizens to violate their religious beliefs. A steadfast defense of this constitutional guarantee strengthens our roots in U.S. democracy. Paramount too is a defense of the institution of marriage that guarantees a child’s right to be raised in a loving home by a caring mother and father. A country rooted in faith and family can continue to build on the greatness of the early and growing America that built a legal system that protects the weak, innocent child first of all.

With the election over, efforts to regain our nobility also mean we need now to restore civility in dialogue. Virulent bipartisanship must to yield to bold cooperation. All  Americans must work as one for the spiritual and material health of our country and beyond.


Faith said...

Yes. Let's pray and work together for the spiritual and material health of our country.

Abuelo said...

Sister Mary Ann,

"Bold cooperation" is a sound recommendation.

But what would be bold regarding the controversy over how to deal with abortion? It would be bold to begin with a recognition that Catholics are deeply divided over this issue, and not because some are pro-life and some are not. The reality is that no one is in favor of abortion, but many Catholics -- and I am among them -- disagree with the position that the civil law should simply prohibit abortion.

However, this is the position that has been taken by the Church since 1974 (Declaration on Procured Abortion), 1995 (paragraphs 68-74 of the encyclical Evangelium Vitae) and 2003 (Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life). The US bishops have tried to reflect these Vatican documents in providing guidance to the faithful, without taking sides politically, but this has proven difficult.

The underlying problem is that the Church's position essentially confuses ends with means. This confusion has divided Catholics during the almost forty years since Roe v. Wade. It would be a bold step toward cooperation for the bishops to undo the confusion by distinguishing ends from means. The principle that abortion is intrinsically evil does not justify any means toward that end. As a matter of both practicality and prudence, laws that make abortion illegal cannot be separated from the means used to implement these laws.

It would be a bold step toward productive cooperation -- not simply with civilian authorities but with the large number of Catholics who question the use of the civilian law as a means -- for the bishops to open a dialogue about the propriety of civilian law as a means to prevent the intrinsic evil of abortion.

Openning such a dialogue would be difficult because the Vatican documents support the principle that civilian law MUST prohibit abortion because the natural law prohibits abortion. Yet pursuit of this principle has not been received by half of American Catholics, even after forty years. An openness to dialogue would not assume that these Catholics are wayward, but instead consider the propriety of the civilian law and its means.

Such a dialogue might take a different view of the 1973 decision of the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade. Without mentioning this case by name, the Vatican documents view the Court's action as a nullity, not requiring the assent of faithful Catholics, because it purports to make abortion legal, contrary to natural law. But if civilian law is viewed critically, as a means, a different view of Roe v. Wade may emerge. No one that I know of is in favor of abortion, yet I -- and many I know -- believe that the means our society uses to encourage life and make abortion rare should not ride rough shod over the integrity of the pregnant woman or compromise the integrity of relationship between the pregnant woman and her doctor. Roe v. Wade expressed a clear understanding of these principles of integrity and preserved these principles by overturning laws that in their implementation ran rough shod over these principles.

Roe v. Wade is about means, not ends. The Court recognized that civilian authorities could do much to advance society's interest in promoting life. There is much that can be done -- much that could have been done over these forty years -- to encourage life and make abortion rare. The Church's wooden confusion of ends and means continues to stand in the way of effective political action in support of life.

It would be a bold act for the bishops to begin overcoming this confusion by openning a dialogue on the propriety of civilian law as a means to prevent the intrinsic evil of abortion.

Therein lies hope for a level of cooperation that unifies the Catholic faithful and undertakes the hard work of engaging civilian authorities behind means for encouraging life that are both prudent and just, and more effective than what has been achieved during forty years of division.


Clyde Christofferson
Reston, Virginia

Theodore M. Seeber said...

Clyde, I sure wish you could explain to me how "make abortion rare" isn't pro-abortion. Because right now, to me, it seems like you and 50% of Catholic voters have abandoned Christ in favor of libertine sexual values.

I can't reconcile "abortion is an intrinsic evil" with "make abortion rare". If you truly believed that abortion was an intrinsic evil, then even ONE abortion would be too much to tolerate. Rare isn't good enough.

John said...

Wonderfully thought out reasoning on why the Church should capitulate on saving the souls of those who practice intrinsic evil and those who applaud them. All would be well if only the Church would abandon her efforts to have civil law reflect Natural Law and the Law of God. Think of the disputes that would be avoided if the Church no longer attempted to have capital punishment removed from the civil law! This wonderful new approach to the world, would ask Mother Church not involve herself in protecting the sanctity of marriage, saving that rancor. Think of the benefits to be had if she would just keep her nose out of all impending legislation.

The author says that “The Church's wooden confusion of ends and means continues to stand in the way of effective political action in support of life.” We should be more accommodating to the civil law. So, if we would just throw a grain of incense into the fire we can go on our way and do what ever our quaint and increasingly irrelevant religious social club wants to do inside the walls of our homes and designated and government approved religious society buildings? Think how many martyrs gave up their lives rather than to do thus. Good grief man, what do you think that St. Justin the Martyr, St. Polycarp, St. Thomas More, St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Ignatius of Antioch, Sts. Nunilo and Alodia and all of the other martyrs would say to this drivel.

Did you read the footnotes to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's Declaration On Procured Abortion? Let me draw your attention to number 5:
The authors of Scripture do not make any philosophical observations on when life begins, 5. BUT THEY SPEAK OF THE PERIOD OF LIFE WHICH PRECEDES BIRTH AS BEING THE OBJECT OF GOD'S ATTENTION: He creates and forms the human being, like that which is moulded by His hand (cf. Ps. 118:73). It would seem that this theme finds expression for the first time in Jer. 1:5. It appears later in many other texts. Cf. Is. 49:1-5; 46:3; Jb. 10:8-12; Ps. 22:10; 71:6; 139:13. In the Gospels we read in Luke 1:44: "For the moment your greeting reached my ears, the child in my womb leapt for joy."
So we see that it is God's law that we are talking about here. It is a consistent law since the earliest Biblical times.

The Church has proclaimed its consistent position on abortion since at least ca. 120 a.d, not since 1974. Refer to your copy of the Didache.

John Burns, M Th

Filius Mariae said...

What more appropriate event could be imagined for the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council than the majority of American Catholics voting for infanticide?

We must return to the liturgical usus antiquior for starters (keeping the novus ordo available for the over 60 crowd of course). Lex orandi, lex credendi! This must be done with love and charity... but it must be done. I can tell you that it is clear which orders and seminaries are busting with vocations and which are not. The orders that are celebrating the old rite are moving much faster and are producing better results. I once asked my teen aged girls what attracts them so the Tridentine rite. Their answer: "The Christ of the old Mass is extremely masculine... impressively Kingly" There you have it dear sister! I can not envision either of my girls voting for a war mongering candidate on the one side... nor can I see them ever supporting a plank built upon sodomy, socialism, abortion and contraception on the other side. The same is true of my young son whio is not quite old enough to vote yet.

What does this have to do with the body politic? Everything! As long as Western world Catholics have a liturgy which resembles "worship theatre", their view of politics will be colored by the numerous "options" which so often aren't even part of the Novus Ordo rubrics to begin with. The pseudo theological psychobabble which passes for modern day mainstream "Catholic catecheses" is ambiguous, confusing and disorienting. The loss of the beautiful offertory prayers... the lack of the five beautiful sung propers... leave us something which is both valid and anemic all at the same time. I would NEVER want to go back to the "good old days of a steady diet of the "Low Mass". But neither would I want to ever go back to the so called "Ordinary form of the Roman Rite". There is no greater expression of authentic Catholic JOY than a Missa Cantata complete with young and old singing polyphony, plainsong... and doing so side by side. No need for a youth mass at an FSSP parish! "Introibo ad altare Dei, ad Deum qui lætificat iuventutem meam".

The heady days of 1968 are finally coming home to roost. But the career Catholics are finding this to be too psychologically painful to face. As we liquidate the hard earned Catholic real estate that our great grand parents slaved to earn... we can not bring ourselves to admit that (to paraphrase William Jefferson Clinton) "It's the liturgy stupid".

And so we will remain in free fall as long as the usus antiquior remains a ghettoized "option" marginalized by most chanceries... because our liturgies which are on the main schedules for Sunday no longer show us in vivid color, sound and smell that Jesus Christ is indeed the LORD and KING of civilization. And we will, at least 51% of us, consistently vote as a reflection of the other "option".

Papa Alex said...

Why won't you post other peoples comments????? Many fallacies in this article that demand rebuttal.
I guess only input from the priveleged and like minded veiws allowed in this 'cooperation'.

Paul Hoffer said...

Does bold cooperation mean that the Church abandon its teaching:

"The Catholic Church holds it better for the sun and moon to drop from heaven, for the earth to fail, and for all the many millions on it to die of starvation in extremest agony, as far as temporal affliction goes, than that one soul, I will not say, should be lost, but should commit one single venial sin, should tell one wilful untruth, or should steal one poor farthing without excuse." I think the principle here enunciated to be the mere preamble in the formal credentials of the Catholic Church, as an Act of Parliament might begin with a "Whereas." It is because of the intensity of the evil which has possession of mankind, that a suitable antagonist has been provided against it; and the initial act of that divinely-commissioned power is of course to deliver her challenge and to defy the enemy. Such a preamble then gives a meaning to her position in the world, and an interpretation to her whole course of teaching and action.

Either you oppose evil, or you are evil yourself. There is no in-between. I for one will never cooperate with those who engage instrinct evil and fear damnation far more than being labeled by those in our Church who no longer teach or care about the notion of sin. Have you thought about how many souls you are leading to perdition with your un-Catholic notion of "bold cooperation?"

Glenna said...

Sr, I am unsure as to how to "boldly cooperate" with the Intrinsic Evil of abortion. Please explain.

El Gallo said...

My sentiments exactly Sister - this is brilliant.