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The Nature of Political Sacrifice?

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Apr 23, 2008

Did you see the story about the U.S. Senate’s refusal to recognize Pope Benedict’s concern for “each and every human life”? The final official Resolution of Welcome mentioned the Pope’s regard for the vibrancy of religious life in America, his commitment to ecumenical dialogue, his encyclical letters on love and hope, the positive impact of his message on millions of Americans, his courage in working for human dignity, his defense of the weak and vulnerable, and his efforts to advance a “civilization of love”.

But Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, who sponsored the resolution, had originally included a clause honoring the pope for his concern for “each and every human life.” Senate Democrats, led by Barbara Boxer of California, would have none of that. It sounded to their sensitive consciences like a veiled reference to abortion. So the clause was dropped to avoid a partisan fight.

I take due note of the Senate’s recognition of Pope Benedict and of “the unique insights his moral and spiritual reflections bring to the world stage.” But I also note that the U.S. Senate is very much afraid of even the slightest suggestion that it ought to make these insights its own. What are we to make of a body which is now afraid to commend someone for treasuring each and every human life, because the very commendation might reflect badly on themselves?

Doubtless Senator Brownback had abortion in mind when he drafted that portion of the resolution. How could he not? And doubtless Senator Boxer got the point very correctly. Politically, the obvious solution was to avoid talking about it, so that the proper liturgical offering of the American State could be rendered to the Pontiff on schedule. All this reminds me of the famous words St. Paul puts in the mouth of the eternal Word of God, which, alas, cannot at all be applied to the U. S. Senate:

Sacrifices and offerings thou has not desired, but a body hast thou prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings thou has taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God,’ as is written of me in the roll of the book.

But, at least in this case, the roll of the Senate book does not record that the Senatorial body will do anything of consequence at all. It records only unanimous participation in the kind of formal offering that nobody wants, least of all Pope Benedict XVI, and certainly not God.

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