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?

Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a current donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Dec. 03, 2009 6:44 PM ET USA

    A murky and unjust place! He hasn't a clue, poor man. He chose to live by his lower faculties and cannot climb out of that black hole. Our Mother Mary says to PRAY for sinners. They are so depraved and don't know it. Pray for them to WANT to receive GRACE to beat this wrap.

  • Posted by: Minnesota Mary - Dec. 03, 2009 6:24 PM ET USA

    Well, we do know how Christ will judge all as His words in Sacred Scipture are unmistakable. "But outside the city (the New Jerusalem) are the perverts and those who practice magic, the immoral and the murderers, those who worship idols and those who are liars both in words and deeds." Rev. 22:15 Also see 1 Corinthians 6: 8-10

  • Posted by: Flavian - Dec. 03, 2009 12:08 PM ET USA

    We can judge the acts as gravely immoral, but only God can judge the soul. When Jesus comes during death, it is always possible for this person to say "Lord, have mercy on me a sinner."