Michael Gaynor
August 24, 2007
The nominal Catholic politician problem
By Michael Gaynor

Separating faith and life is an egregious error committed by Democrats like Senator John Kerry and Republicans like former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and it disqualifies them as fit for the support of faithful Catholics as well as demonstrates their hypocritical opportunism to all.

The "separation between faith and life" was condemned by the Second Vatican Council as "among the more serious errors of our age," and The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life stressing that "[t]here cannot be two parallel lives...the so-called 'spiritual life,' with its values and demands; and...the so-called 'secular' life, that is, life in a family, at work, in social responsibilities, in the responsibilities of public life and in culture."

Separating faith and life is an egregious error committed by Democrats like Senator John Kerry and Republicans like former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and it disqualifies them as fit for the support of faithful Catholics as well as demonstrates their hypocritical opportunism to all.

At Ego Adsum, the motto of which is "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the Church and their country," the nominal Catholic political problem was noted in the following acknowledgement of the good work of Archbishop Raymond L. Burke posted last Sunday:

"Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, Archbishop of Saint Louis, has made a significant contribution to the cause of restoring some sanity to the present confused state of disregard for the role of law in the Catholic Church. Writing in the publication, Periodica De Re Canonica published by Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University, Archbishop Burke has contributed the article, 'The Discipline Regarding the Denial of Holy Communion to Those Obstinately Persevering in Manifest Grave Sin.'

"Archbishop Burke's article is essentially a study of the history of the legislation articulated in Canon 915. While the article treats specifically of the problem of the failure of bishops and priests to obey the obligation imposed on them by Canon 915, the article touches on the bigger problem of the widespread contempt for all law: divine positive law, natural moral law, decretal law, canon law, liturgical law, magisterial law, etc. Archbishop Burke observes: 'The United States of America is a thoroughly secularized society which canonizes radical individualism and relativism, even before the natural moral law.' Small wonder, then, that so many individuals, bishops included, consider themselves free from the constraints of laws they find burdensome.

"One of the most significant contributions to the debate over the implementation of the provisions of Canon 915 made by Archbishop Burke' article is the emphasis he places on the phenomenon of scandal which results from the failure to comply with Canon 915. He points out that '...it is necessary to note two meanings of the term, scandal, in Church discipline. The first and properly theological meaning of scandal is to do or omit something which leads others in to error or sin. The second meaning is to do or omit something which causes wonderment (admiratio) in others. Denying Holy Communion publicly to the occult sinner involves scandal in the second sense. Giving Holy Communion to the obstinately serious and public sinner involves scandal in the first sense.'

"Who can deny that the failure on the part of bishops to deny Holy Communion to Ted Kennedy's, Mario Cuomo's and others in the past has encouraged the John Kerry's and Nancy Pelosi's of the present to persist in their support of abortion and other forms of legislation clearly in opposition to divine positive law, natural moral law, and their Church's clearly expressed law. Their sin is far more grave than admiratio.

"The confusion of scandal in the second sense (admiratio) with scandal in the first sense (error, sin) seems to underlie the flawed reasoning of all the bishops who have used the excuse that 'confrontation at the Communion rail' is not something they would tolerate in their diocese. They confuse the requirements of Canon 916 which places the burden of abstaining from receiving Holy Communion on the conscience of the communicant with the requirement of Canon 915 which places the burden of denying Holy Communion on the minister of Holy Communion.

"The article is not polemical in the sense that it even indirectly employs ad hominem argumentation, yet it is realistic in its citing three examples of the flawed reasoning used by Cardinals Roger Mahoney and Theodore McCarrick, and by Bishop Donald Wuerl in their attempts to justify their refusal to obey Canon 915. Given the wide publicity which the media gave to the statements of those three bishops it is good that Archbishop Burke has deemed it necessary to cite their remarks as examples of the confusion of the two types of scandal which can cause even cardinals and bishops to be a source of scandal in both its senses.

"We can all hope that at some time in the near future Archbishop Burke will publish in the United States an amplified version of his article in a journal with wider readership than Periodica."

Amen to that.

We can also hope (and pray) that Bishop Rene Henry Gracida will update this clear and logically compelling statement on voting for pro-abortion candidates that he issued in 2004 and which stated:

"It is never permissible for a Catholic to vote for a pro-abortion candidate because the candidate is pro-abortion. Such a vote would be formal cooperation in the serious sin of the candidate who, upon being elected, would vote for legislation making possible the taking of innocent human life through procured abortion.

"When a Catholic does not share a candidate's stand in favor of abortion and/or euthanasia, but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered remote material cooperation, which can be permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons strictly defined.

"Since abortion and euthanasia have been defined by the Church as the most serious sins prevalent in our society, what kind of reasons could possibly be considered proportionate enough to justify a Catholic voting for a candidate who is known to be pro-abortion? None of the reasons commonly suggested could even begin to be proportionate enough to justify a Catholic voting for such a candidate. Reasons such as the candidate's position on war, or taxes, or the death penalty, or immigration, or a national health plan, or social security, or aids, or homosexuality, or marriage, or any similar burning societal issues of our time are simply lacking in proportionality.

"There is only one thing that could be considered proportionate enough to justify a Catholic voting for a candidate who is known to be pro-abortion, and that is the protection of innocent human life. That may seem to be contradictory, but it is not.

"Consider the case of a Catholic voter who must choose between three candidates: candidate (A, Kerry) who is completely for abortion-on-demand, candidate (B, Bush) who is in favor of very limited abortion, i.e., in favor of greatly restricting abortion and candidate (C, Peroutka), a candidate who is completely against abortion but who is universally recognized as being unelectable.

"The Catholic voter cannot vote for candidate (A, Kerry) because that would be formal cooperation in the sin of abortion if that candidate were to be elected and assist in passing legislation, which would remove restrictions on, abortion-on-demand.

"The Catholic can vote for candidate (C, Peroutka) but that will probably only help ensure the election of candidate (A, Kerry).

"Therefore the Catholic voter has a proportionate reason to vote for candidate (B, Bush) since his vote may help to ensure the defeat of candidate (A, Kerry) and may result in the saving of some innocent human lives if candidate (B, Bush) is elected and votes for legislation restricting abortion-on-demand. In such a case, the Catholic voter would have chosen the lesser of two evils which is morally permissible under these circumstances.

"Of course, the Catholic voter could choose not to vote. But that would be a serious abdication of the Catholic voter's civic and moral obligation to participate in the election. By not voting the Catholic voter could well be assisting in the election of candidate (A, Kerry) and while that would not carry the same guilt as formal participation in candidate (A, Kerry's) support of abortion-on-demand it would still be sinful, even if only a sin of omission.

"Those Catholic voters who love moral absolutes would have no choice but to vote for candidate (C, Peroutka), but those Catholics who recognize that in the real world it is sometimes necessary to choose the lesser of two evils in order to prevent greater harm in this case harm to innocent unborn children would vote for candidate (B, Bush)."

© Michael Gaynor


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Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member... (more)


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