Those Wacky Catholics

NOTE: I found this post in draft stage today. It’s apparently been sitting there since early 2004. It is just as relevant today as it was then.

Those Wacky Catholics: Bishop Raymond Burke of the diocese of La Crosse, Wisconsin has issued an order that prohibits priests in his diocese from administering communion to Catholic representatives who have voted for legislation that allows individual choice on the subject of abortion (see article here).

It has often been said that Catholics in general do not know their Bible, and it seems to me that such a decree as this ignores the lesson of one of Jesus Christ’s parables, the lesson of which is “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s.” This parable, and this lesson, is included in 3 of the 4 Gospels (the exact verse in each case being Matthew 22:21, Mark 12:17 and Luke 20:25.

Now, it seems to me that the general principle established here by Jesus is that there are secular realms in which one has secular duties that do not in any way conflict with one’s sacred duties. Indeed, that principle is enshrined in the US Constitution, and is at the very heart of all the civic and governmental structures of our nation.

Officeholders, like Roman taxpayers, have duties to their constituents that are independent of their religious duties.

This despicable Wisconsin bishop has undone, in a stroke, all the progress that was made in the last half of the 20th Century in debunking the lie that Catholic lawmakers would be beholden to the Pope, rather than to those who elect them. John F. Kennedy was the first Roman Catholic president, and this was a major stumbling block for many voters. But his words and actions demonstrated that in his duties as civic officeholder, there was no conflict, as demonstrated by the words of Jesus himself.

Now, it seems that this is no longer the case. Roman Catholic officeholders must now shirk their civic duties and let their Church’s decrees rule their voting decisions, or face separation from the central sacrament of their church, and, thus, can never be fully in a state of grace.

The Pope has taken the same position on the issue of gay marriage, ignoring that the question being considered by officeholders worldwide is not a religious one, but a civic one, the question of the definition of civil marriage (which is distinct from religious marriage).

Roman Catholics always seem to want it both ways. When the Act-Up protesters disrupted mass at St. Patrick’s in New York City in 1989, this was seen as a dreadful intrusion into the religious space. Indeed, it was exactly that, but it came as a response to the Church’s intrusion into the civic realm. If the Church insists on trying to shape lawmaking, which has an impact on all citizens, Catholic or not, they open themselves to interference and disruption from outside, in just the same fashion as their own actions interfere with and disrupt the lives of those who are not under the authority of the Church.

Roman Catholics in the US need to learn that they cannot interfere in civic affairs without there being a corresponding reaction from non-Roman Catholic citizens. The result of the bishop of La Crosse’s decree and the Pope’s recommendations on gay marriage is that Roman Catholics are now disqualified from public office, as they are now under the kind of pressure from their Church that we as non-Catholic citizens can simply not expect them to endure. They now are required to have duel allegiance, and as voters, we cannot vote for any candidates whose allegiance is to anything but the consituency that elected them.