Friday, November 14, 2008

SC Priest: no communion for Obama supporters

I originally posted this at Fr. Zuhlsdorf's place, where he has a gloss of the piece in question.

Fr. Newman’s preamble is perhaps the best statement of the status questionis that I have seen anywhere (this fellow has also read his A. MacIntyre, it seems). In part II, Fr. Newman shows that pastoral sensitivity needs “anatomy” in order to be really effective, and that filial piety is perfectly compatible, indeed a prerequisite of the true and responsible exercise of human freedom.

The formulation of (I), however, is theologically imprecise and misrepresents the standing doctrine on the matter, as articulated in then Card. Ratzinger’s 2004 response. I do not question Fr.’s good faith, and I am in broad agreement with his statements. Nevertheless, as a strict, technical matter, (I) is incorrect, as the following shall demonstrate:

1. (I) begins with the words, “Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exits constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil”. This formulation presents two difficulties, to wit: a) voting for a pro-choice candidate is always co-operation with evil, regardless of whether there is a “plausible” pro-life candidate. Thus, the formulation gives the false impression that the moral status of the act is not only possibly conditioned, but entirely established by circumstance, and this is false. b) while voting for a pro-choice candidate is always to co-operate with evil, there are different kinds of co-operation. There is formal co-operation, direct material co-operation, and remote material co-operation. In the voting booth, the kind of co-operation in which one engages by pulling the lever for a pro-choice candidate is determined by the reason, and the moral reasoning process that has brought one to the judgment that informs the act. E.G. if one votes for pro-choice candidate N because of N’s pro-choice stance, then one formally co-operates in evil and should not present oneself for Holy Communion. If one votes for N despite N’s pro-choice stance, then one engages in remote material co-operation, and remote material co-operation is morally permissible in the presence of proportionate reasons. Further, and most importantly, the judgment regarding the presence of proportionate reasons is one of prudence, a judgment that each individual must make, by exercising his practical reason; while conscience informs practical reason, it does not substitute it.

There are certainly grounds for disagreeing with the prudential judgment of people who voted for president-elect Obama; no such grounds, however well established, can provide a window into the conscience.

From the preceding, it follows that Fr. Newman’s conclusion is unwarranted. It does not follow that, “Catholics who [vote for pro-choice candidates, etc.] place themselves outside of the full communion of Christ’s Church and under the judgment of divine law.”

That, “Persons in this condition [outside the full communion, etc.] should not receive Holy Communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance, lest they eat and drink their own condemnation,” is certainly true. Church teaching does not warrant Fr. Newman’s sweeping judgment, however, as a correct application of the pertinent principles of moral reasoning informed by Catholic faith shows.


Kradcliffe said...

I agree with your comments - which I found at WDTPRS - completely.

Lazy Disciple said...

Thanks, Kradcliffe. I was talking with a friend this morning, and we were saying how we are glad to hear priests use terms like, "divine law" and "divine punishment" "medicinal punishment" etc. It is useless, however, and in fact far more counter-productive than not saying anything at all, to misapply the language.

Also, it strikes me that some folks are so happy to hear the language of "old time religion" that their joy at hearing it temporarilly disables their critical sense.

Mind you, I am writing as one who thinks a return to "old time religion" is desperately needed.

Please keep visiting the blog, and please sperad the word.

Thanks also for your comment at WDTPRS.

Anonymous said...

I gotta go with your take on things as well. I'm a big admirer of Fr Newman, but he's making assumptions here that he can't possibly know.

I'm glad he's working on catechesis and education in his parish, though. Would that we all were so fortunate to have a pastor with such passion for orthodoxy.

-Chris M

Anonymous said...

Someone who can come up with sentences such as "...the unholy slaughter of children in this nation is the greatest threat to the peace and security of the United States..." does not even deserve a tenth of the reasoning (although fine and coherent I shall say) you have dedicated to comment on the subject.
I sense a cheap way to instill fear in those who are not able to elaborate on the topic autonomously.



PS: if by "old time religion", you mean a religion based on values and examples (that of Jesus) more than fears, I too, as an atheist, think a return to it is desperately needed...

Lazy Disciple said...

Dear Chris M,

I think your phrase "passion for orthodoxy" quite says it. Orthos doxa means "right opinion", or "correct belief" or even, in the NT Greek sense of the word, "proper [tribute of] glory". We should all be glad to have priests who are "passionate" in this sense, i.e. at pains to have and to teach true faith, true worship and right thinking.

I do not know Fr. Newman from Adam, and so I do not know anything about how he is generally. My criticisms were not of the man, but of this one letter.

Many thanks for visiting the blog. I hope you come back often.


Lazy Disciple said...

Dear Andrea,

But I do think abortion is the single greatest threat to peace and security in the United States.

People who murder the weakest, least productive and defenseless among them as a matter of course do not exactly have the best track record in the peace and order departments.

My reasoning was offered to correct something that may be as serious (certainly to us Catholics, and I think, ultimately, for everyone): the willingness of some Catholics, I think brought on by excess of zeal, to make easy judgments regarding the spiritual condition of their fellows, especially when their judgment is occasioned by a political disagreement.

By "old-time religion" I meant something slightly different, actually. The expression is among Americans roughly equivalent to, though perhaps less caustic than, "fire and brimstone." I actually think we need more, and not less of this last. I also think it needs to be well-placed.

Thanks for visiting. Hope to see you areound.


Andrea said...

I agree with much of what you say,but I still think that to spot correlations where there aren't is to make the same error your post was criticizing. To me it takes a lot more than a frightened mother (or 1000s of them) who opts for an abortion to put US security at risk.
Italians who are pro abortion are more than those who are against it, I do not see our peace and security at risk because of this fact.I think the two dimensions are orthogonal, in this case cause-effect relationship can be investigated starting from assumptions or examples (People who murder the weakest, least productive and defenseless among them as a matter of course do not exactly have the best track record in the peace and order departments) but need to be confirmed by evidence and reasoning at the correct level of abstraction (we are not calling about killing anyone who is least productive, because of the least productivity) and cardinality (a nation is made of millions of people, generalization should be made through statistical inference not by fear that all will behave bad if some do). By this I am in no way trying to justify abortion, I just criticize the correlation with security and peace.



Lazy Disciple said...

Dear Andrea,

I think I see your point. I would begin to reply by pointing out that "greatest" does not necessarily mean, "most pressing" or "most imminent." In an earlier post on this blog, I said I think one could justify voting for a pro-abortion candidate even if his opponent were pro-life, if, for example, candidate supporting pro-life policies and legislation were a supporter of such policies and such a legislative agenda in view of his desire to implement shari'a. I'll see if I can find where I fleshed this out.