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in the spirit of civility

By Diogenes (articles ) | Nov 14, 2007

How do you know the right team is starting to score points? When someone issues an appeal for a kinder, gentler sportsmanship:

Charging that the debate leading up to the 2008 elections "is increasingly filled with attacks on private conduct and recriminations," a group of prominent lay Catholics called for a "spirit of civility" in all political discussions and said the church must be protected "from being stained by the appearance of partisan political involvement."

For starters, the call that the U.S. Church avoid the stain of partisan political involvement comes about 120 years too late. After all, it's only been the last few national elections for which the Catholic vote wasn't safely in the Democratic bag. Now that it's genuinely up for grabs, we're encouraged to wait our turn to speak. An excerpt from the declaration:

"As lay Catholics we should not exhort the church to condemn our political opponents by publicly denying them holy Communion based on public dissent from church teachings," [the statement] said. "An individual's fitness to receive Communion is his or her personal responsibility. And it is a bishop's responsibility to set for his diocese the guidelines for administering Communion."

There's a contradiction here. Unless they give us evidence to the contrary, we assume our fellow Catholics concur with Church teaching -- this concurrence is, after all, what makes them Catholics. Therefore, if a self-described Catholic publicly dissents -- i.e., gratuitously and scandalously dissents -- from Church teaching, he's not necessarily one of our political opponents (that's as may be) but rather an opponent of our lived Catholic faith. Had he kept mum about his dissent, one might argue that his fitness to receive Communion didn't involve the larger community of faith. But if he goes out of his way to say the Church is wrong, in public, by that fact he has forfeited his claim to neutral treatment.

If Rudy Giuliani were a contumacious monophysite, would Catholics who criticized his heresy be guilty of partisan captiousness? By the same token, if Nancy Pelosi publicly dissents on abortion, who has the specifically political axe to grind: her Catholic critics, or those critics' critics?

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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Nov. 16, 2007 4:32 AM ET USA

    Since abortion is a grievous sin and a Catholic in public life, PUBLICLY contributes to its use in any way, would HE or SHE automatically and properly be called a PUBLIC SINNER ? Why, then, the problem with refusing the Eucharist to such a Catholic? See Matthew:18 6-8

  • Posted by: - Nov. 15, 2007 2:35 PM ET USA

    Being baptized a Catholic, attending Mass, and following some of the rules of the Church, while at the same time publicly advocating laws or activities which are contrary or contradictory to Catholic teaching disqualifies one from receiving Communion. That includes Republicans and Democrats alike. Whether it be abortion or multiple marriages Catholics may not advocate them.Catholicism sometimes requires difficult choices for all the Rudys and Nancys in all walks of life.No political exemptions.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 14, 2007 5:16 PM ET USA

    I strongly recommend you to read the letter which Cardinal George Pell wrote to the Australian House of Reps. regarding his responsibilities in telling Catholic politicians about Church teaching. It can be read by going to His letter can be read by anyone, but other articles cannot.

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