"Our shared moral tradition..."
Leaders of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops have agreed to meet with a group of 14 Democratic lawmakers to discuss how they might work together to end US military involvement in Iraq. In fact the USCCB has already done its little bit by issuing a press release to call attention to the Democratic legislators' cause.
Who are these Democratic politicians, who find such a ready audience at the USCCB? They're Catholic members of the House of Representatives. And half of them-- including Rep. Tim Ryan, who is leading the charge on Iraq-- also signed a May public statement scolding Pope Benedict XVI for daring to say that Catholic politicians should oppose the legalized killing of unborn children.
The Pope's comments on the political responsibilities of Catholic legislators, these Catholic legislators said in May, "offend the very nature of the American experiment." But now they're soliciting the political involvement of the American bishops.
A practical politician might have told these 14 Democrats that if they don't want to hear from the Catholic Church about abortion, they shouldn't look to hear from the Church about the war in Iraq. A concerned pastor might have told them that if they disregard the Church's teaching on a clear issue of moral teaching, they should not be so hypocritical as to invoke Church teaching on an issue that is not nearly so clear-- an issue on which loyal Catholics can and do differ. But the USCCB leaders didn't choose those options. Instead the USCCB implicitly accepted the lawmakers' claim that they are the moral champions of Catholic teaching.
No, wait; it wasn't an implicit acceptance; it was quite explicit. Bishop Thomas Wenski concluded his letter to Congressman Ryan by saying: "Our shared moral tradition can guide this effort and inform our dialogue with other leaders as we seek a way to bring about a morally responsible end to the war in Iraq."
Back in May, 7 of these same politicians argued, in their highly public rebuke to the Pope: "Advancing respect for life and for the dignity of every human being is, as our Church has taught us, our own life's mission." Thus they claimed that their political views-- including their support for legal abortion-- are formed by their Catholic faith. When Bishop Wenski writes to them about "Our shared moral tradition," he reinforces that claim.
There are plenty of reasons to work for peace in Iraq; that's not the issue here. But responsible public leaders of the Catholic Church should not claim to share a moral tradition with politicians who support the slaughter of the unborn.
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