Come, let's not reason together

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jun 28, 2004

The early favorite for this year's Rembert Award, in the category of Most Confusing Episcopal Message about Politics, is Bishop J. Terry Stieb of Memphis, for this impressive entry.

First the good bishop tells us that St. Thomas Aquinas wrestled with the question of when public figures should be denied the Eucharist-- but doesn't mention where St. Thomas came down on that issue.

Then he notes, correctly, that the Church is not a "museum of saints." We have heard the term communion of saints, which might have some bearing on this issue. But never mind.

Next the bishop tells us that the Church should not politicans what to think. Nevertheless, "It is my hope that any public servant who is also a Catholic would willingly sit down with his/her bishop, priest, and pastor and reason together about issues which are vital to our lives as Church and as a society."

And if you want to know why politicians should line up pastors to act as campaign consultants, the answer comes in the very next sentence: "If someone is for the death penalty, we must reason together about why that violates the consistent ethics of life as much as abortion."

If that's true, then the Church herself has not been very consistent on the ethics of life, since for 20 centuries the Church affirmed the right of the state to use capital punishment. (Care to consult St. Thomas Aquinas on that issue?) But then again, the Church is not a museum of saints.

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  • Posted by: - Jun. 29, 2004 8:38 PM ET USA

    ...the museum of saints, the forgiveness of gin, the insurrection of the body and strife everlasting...

  • Posted by: Michaelus - Jun. 29, 2004 3:37 PM ET USA

    Well I would be delighted if all the pro-abortionists were willing to give unborn children the exact same rights as convicted criminals on death row have - that is to say a trial, the right of appeal and years of legal deliberation before they are killed!!! MS

  • Posted by: KC627 - Jun. 28, 2004 11:47 PM ET USA

    I am also curious why Bishop Stieb says in paragraph 6 that St Paul says in his 1st Letter to the Corinthians 8:10-12 that even following a bad conscience can lead to salvation. I read the scripture. To me, it seems that Paul is saying that "when you sin in this way against your brothers and wound their consciences, weak as they are, you are sinning against Christ." I don't see Paul proclaiming any pathway to salvation there.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Jun. 28, 2004 5:36 PM ET USA

    I am fascinated by one of Bishop Terry's (I'm sure he would want us to call him that) examples of possible disagreement: slavery. I take it that if I am in favor of slavery (still, all these years since 1863) I am entirled to to my opinion and welcome to take communion in the diocese of Memphis. I'm sure the Bishop is not the only Tennesseean who feels that way, but he may be the only one with the courage to say it publicly.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 28, 2004 1:21 PM ET USA

    Your Excellency, the Catechism is clear. When conscience is wrong, the individual is culpable for his actions. And actions, as I’m sure you know, Excellency, have consequences. And the consequence for one who publicly acts against the Church, Excellency, is a denial of Communion (Can. 915). The time for a sit-down chat, Excellency, comes before the public dissent. And Excellency, as I’m sure you also know, ministers don’t deny, the Ordinary denies. You refuse to act: You have failed the Church.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 28, 2004 10:50 AM ET USA

    Steib's patronizing lecture smacks of intellectual arrogance. He is pretending to be above the fray and doesn't want to get his hands dirty. It may be rooted in clerical ambition...