Dogma lives loudly, but bishops are silent?

Dogma lives loudly, but bishops are silent?

By Phil Lawler | Sep 08, 2017

The US bishops’ conference has reacted quickly and angrily to Steve Bannon’s charge that the bishops have economic motives for supporting immigration. Good.

Now can we expect an equally quick robust response to the insinuation by US Senators that a faithful Catholic cannot be allowed to serve as a federal judge?

The Wall Street Journal [and tha Catholic League], unlike the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, immediately recognized the danger in the unseemly questioning of Amy Barrett, and remarked in an editorial that it was “part a broader effort on the left to disqualify people with strong religious views from the public square.”

Which statements posed a greater danger to the religious freedom of American Catholics: the personal opinions of a highly controversial man who is now a private citizen, or the insinuations of “respectable” lawmakers that someone who upholds Catholic dogma is unfit for public office?

Get AQ Email Updates

6 comments on “Dogma lives loudly, but bishops are silent?

  1. Chaput has spoken on the issue ( ) , but walks right into the liberal trap of thinking the conflict is about “beliefs” (this is the Separation of Church and State issue liberals LOVE to hype). That marriage is between a man and a woman and that an abortion takes an innocent human life are not “beliefs” as liberals would want to spin it. They’re facts. The distinction is important. Reaching rational judgments on both issues does not require a leap of faith. There are Catholic moral teachings against stealing, rape, wife beating, and child abuse. Would the liberal senator from California like to legalize any of those to avoid being in agreement with Catholic moral teachings? Recently, the pope threw his support behind climate change and global warming. Is Feinstein worried about violating Separation of Church and State on that?

    • That distinction between Natural Law and religious faith is extremely important. You are absolutely right that marriage being between a man and a woman and that an abortion takes an innocent human life are not beliefs. They are facts *proven* by observation of reality, and correct reasoning therefrom. Any religion therefore (e.g. the religion of secular humanism) that says the contrary is a dangerous cult that should be suppressed.

  2. The distinction between natural law and doctrine (faith) is correct, but the issue is the duty of a judge. The prevailing governmental dogma is that a judge must uphold all Constitutional laws. Abortion is not mentioned in the Constitution. Hence, a Federal or State law permitting abortion must be upheld in a court of law. Should a judge say, “it’s murder,” and void the law, that would be tantamount to ending the Republic, according to Dems.

    IMHO, a Catholic judge must do exactly that, namely, nullify any statute legalizing abortion should he be required to rule on it. The question then is whether this duty is found in natural law or in the Faith. While there might be good arguments pro and con regarding natural law, it’s abundantly clear that Faith requires it, namely, the Kingship of Christ.

    Noecons (Americanists) will object, invoking the dogma of separation of Church and State. Must Catholic judges attempt to craft a Catholic confessional state? Should they outlaw non-abortifacient BC methods? Divorce? Prostitution? Heresy? Well, no, because leaving some tolerance for evils can be justified for the sake of the common good. (Someone who knows St. Thomas on these matters, please jump in.) Murdering unborn children, however, can never be justified.

    • Cyprian says:

      Must Catholic judges attempt to craft a Catholic confessional state? Should they outlaw non-abortifacient BC methods? Divorce? Prostitution? Heresy? Well, no, because leaving some tolerance for evils can be justified for the sake of the common good. (Someone who knows St. Thomas on these matters, please jump in.)

      [An article from Ethika Politika about the Angelic Doctor on a specific evil tolerated for the common good]

      Just How ‘Tolerable’ is Prostitution?

      Andrew M. Haines
      December 12, 2011

      Prostitution is rarely considered a good thing. Even most who advocate strongly in favor of the freedom to prostitute oneself for money would agree that actual prostitution usually leads to undesirable effects. (There are some who would resist this, of course, but they’re probably in a very small minority.)

      One person who falls in the middle camp—i.e., reluctant toleration for prostitution—is none other than the Christian thinker, Thomas Aquinas. Renowned for his defense of virtue and a moral theory grounded on natural law, Aquinas is also strangely famous (at least to some) for his insistence that, although prostitution is gravely wrong, we ought not to do anything to forcibly and legally prevent it.

      This raises an obvious question: if something is demonstrably unhealthy—and especially if it is clearly, morally wrong—don’t we have an obligation to forbid it?

      Aquinas’s stance on prostitution, taken mainly from articles in the secunda pars of the Summa Theologiae, is finely nuanced. And it offers a wonderful chance to reflect on precisely what are the obligations that a society faces with respect to defending human dignity, and to promoting the common good.

      It’s worth noting, that Aquinas’s position relies on the fact that prostitution is simply a type of fornication. The latter, he believes, is contrary to the natural moral law precisely because it diminishes the value of sexual intimacy by failing to provide a suitable institution for the rearing of children (cf. ST IIa-IIae, q. 154). Since the possibility for procreation is naturally entailed in moral sexual encounters, according to Aquinas, then entering into such a relationship outside its proper context (i.e., marriage) is a violation of its natural order.

      The implication, then—since fornication does damage to natural goodness, including the dignity of human persons—is that fornication should be opposed. Morally speaking, this certainly means refraining from extra-marital sexual relations, and encouraging others to follow suit.

      But is this moral opposition to fornication—and by extension, prostitution—something we ought to effect in law?

      Aquinas responds in the negative. According to his theory of human action, there is a distinction between interior and exterior actions: an interior act is one concerned with intention, knowledge, etc.; while an exterior act is one recognizable and present to outside observers. Civil law is concerned only with the latter (cf. ST Ia-IIae, q. 98), as its goal is to preserve temporal balance, and not to achieve full justice vis-à-vis interior dispositions. In the case of fornication, then—since sexual intercourse is naturally good, and it is only the manner of its occurrence that is evil—it is beyond the reach of civil law to forcibly prevent people from engaging therein.

      As far as prostitution is concerned, the same principle applies: namely, that civil law should not be concerned with preventing prostitution, since the external act itself is not suspect, and does not inherently endanger temporal balance and well-being. (To be fair, Aquinas does mention a rather strange passage from Augustine’s De ordine, that “If you do away with harlots, the world will be convulsed with lust.” But this has less to do with condoning prostitution for the sake of purity than it does with sustaining the idea that too much civil crack-down in interior matters can actually serve to endanger desirable goods, and chiefly the good of reform and conversion.)

      At bottom, Aquinas’s peculiar “defense of legalized prostitution” introduces a set of distinctions that’s invaluable for navigating public policy debates even today. A popular tendency amongst those who whole-heartedly oppose things like prostitution, pornography, marijuana use, and other similar “Category B” social ills, is to say—almost without thinking—that they ought to be outlawed. I don’t suppose that we can or should treat each of these phenomena equally. They’re very different, and perhaps some should be outlawed. But assessing each of them from the perspective of the role and duties of civil law is a great place to begin understanding just why that’s the case. (After all, there must be a reason why those who wish to outlaw prostitution aren’t pushing for jail time for fornicators, or fines commensurate with lustful thoughts.)

      In the end, appreciating the authentic place of human law for ensuring and promoting the common good helps us to balance our hope for a just, civil society with the reality that what we’re working with are broken and imperfect people. Part of attaining the highest good, as Aquinas rightly points out, is allowing room for that good to develop somehow organically. And at the very least, overly oppressive and invasive civil laws do not aid in achieving that end.

  3. If it were the case that the judge were going to pass a law requiring U.S. citizens to assent to the divinity of Christ, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, or the Immaculate Conception, then the grievance of the liberal senator from California might be more accurate, from the secular humanist point of view. The actual issues that are being debated, the definition of marriage, whether abortion is a homicide, whether capital punishment is just, are philosophical issues based on disagreements in rational and prudential judgment. The Church’s teachings on abortion and marriage are grounded in reason, common sense, and fact. It is pro-abortion liberals who want the pro-life position on abortion to be categorized as one of faith, so that it can be excluded from public debate on the grounds of separation of Church and State, something which does not appear in the U.S. Constitution but in a private letter by Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to members of the Danbury Baptist Association in the State of Connecticut.
    If the liberal senator’s position is that Catholic views on abortion must be excluded because there is a specific Catholic moral teaching on abortion, then Catholic views on stealing, rape, and murder in general should also be excluded since there are specific Catholic moral rules against those as well.

    The liberal pro-abortion idea that an unborn child is not a human person and is, therefore, unworthy of legal protection requires more of a leap of faith into irrationality and absurdity. And so they do with the abomination of late-term, partial-birth abortion. Absurdity lives loudly in the minds of pro-abortion liberal senators.

  4. Because many bishops unfortunately don’t see upholding “dogma or doctrine” as important. Instead they believe in promoting their often political left-leaning opinions of the Bible. See the quote from a previous post:

    “I do appreciate the attempt to clarify his [Bannon’s] statement this is not an issue of Catholic doctrine and that the bishops are only giving opinion here,” Dolan said.

    “As a matter of fact he may be right. It’s not an issue of Catholic doctrine because it comes from the Bible itself. We Catholics are people of the book,”

Leave a Reply