The “intolerant secularism,” which tells a Catholic politician that he may not act according to his conscience, characterizes the exercise of the bishop’s pastoral responsibility as a violation of the legitimate autonomy of the political sphere from the church. Right reason, on the contrary, tells us that a bishop, if he truly cares for the flock, must admonish Catholic politicians “who choose to depart from church teaching on the inviolability of human life in their public life” regarding “the consequences for their own spiritual well being, as well as the scandal they risk by leading others into serious sin” (Living the Gospel of Life, No. 32). Once again, it must be noted that the bishop always has before his eyes the most fundamental good of life from the moment of conception.
...[F]or the Catholic politician to receive Communion when he or she has publicly violated the moral law in a grave matter like procured abortion risks leading others into thinking that they can accept procured abortion with a right conscience. In such a case, if the Catholic politician does not recognize the lack of the proper disposition to receive Communion, then the church herself must refuse the sacrament, in order to safeguard the worthy reception of the sacrament and to prevent a serious scandal among the faithful... After I had set forth the church’s discipline in the matter during my service as bishop of La Crosse, many Catholics and non-Catholics alike wrote to thank me for making clear what had been very confusing for them. The teaching and discipline that I set forth is not in any way new, and it should not be exploited as a political tool by anyone.
And, in response to Archbishop Burke's clear and compelling statement, many people wrote letters to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which noted that "We received an extraordinarily large volume of letters in response to Archbishop Raymond L. Burke's comments last week on Catholics and politicians who support abortion rights. A total of 57 letters were critical of the archbishop; 21 supported him."
Well, there you go! A majority of the letters disagreed with Burke, so he must be wrong!
These letters to the editor exhibited a predictable array of confusion and fuddlement:
As practicing Catholics, we were disappointed to find out we can no longer vote Democrat without being condemned by the church.
No, you just can't vote for pro-abortion zealots who never heard of an abortion they couldn't justify. You're perfectly free to vote for pro-life Democrats, while a few still exist.
...Is Archbishop Raymond Burke telling us to vote Republican?
No. Not even close. Please re-read his statement.
...Many of us, while not necessarily Democrats, believe that the Democratic ideology best expresses the majority of our views and priorities. Among other things, the Democratic Party often excels in areas such as serving the poor and homeless with health care, social services and basic needs - values grounded in our faith and church teachings.
All of those assertions are arguable. And all of them involve issues of prudential judgment on which Catholics can in good conscience disagree. And none of those issues come close to equalling the moral gravity of abortion. Our bishops have made clear that being "right" on other issues...
"can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life...All direct attacks on innocent human life, such as abortion and euthanasia, strike at the... foundation of the dignity of human life".
In other words we must take the defense and protection of the unborn as the starting point, the sine qua non of our pro-life ethic. Because the protection of innocent human life is fundamental, and the prohibition on abortion so absolute, the US bishops warn that "failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages renders suspect any claims to the 'rightness' of positions in other matters..."
Has the archbishop overlooked the good these programs do for our community?
I doubt it. But he recognizes that giving kids free school lunches does not make up for slaughtering thousands of other kids daily in the womb.
Of course, there's the de rigeur letter from the "God-is-a warm-and-fuzzy-puppy-dog" set:
After 50 some years, I admit my catechism lessons have gotten a bit fuzzy. However, I recall that Jesus was a loving, caring God who urged us to help each other. That would include fellow adults and children who suffer or die from muscle diseases, cancers, diabetes, paralysis, Parkinson's disease and such..
Yes, that's right. God will countenance any sort of monstrosity or outrage as long as you want to "help each other". But don't unborn human beings count as those "others" who we should help? I guess not. Too bad. :-(
The faithful have been fed milk and pablum for thirty years by the go-along-get-along American CatholicTM establishment. Now that some of our shepherds are giving them the spiritual equivalent of steak, it's not surprising that some are finding it somewhat indigestible. There will be more reactions like this before things improve.