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Growing impatience with Catholic abortion dissenters. (News in Brief: United States).

The Vatican's publication on January 17, 2003 of the doctrinal Note on the participation of Catholics in political life, appears to have marked the start of an intense debate in the United States. (For a summary of this "Note", see C.I., March 2003, p 22).

The opening round in the battle came just a few days after the note was published, when Bishop William Wiegand of Sacramento called on California Governor Grey Davis to either renounce his support of legal abortion or stop taking Communion. He explained his position during a Mass recalling the 30th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade:

"As your bishop, I have to say clearly that anyone--politician or otherwise--who thinks it is acceptable for a Catholic to be pro-abortion is in very great error, puts his or her soul at risk, and is not in good standing with the Church. Such a person should have the integrity to acknowledge this and choose, of his own volition to abstain from receiving Holy Communion until he has a change of heart."

The Davis administration has claimed credit for California being "the most pro-choice state in America."

Another salvo came when Bishop Carlson of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, sent the Senate's Minority Leader, Senator Tom Daschle, a letter saying he should no longer call himself a Catholic or list himself as such in his congressional literature.

Neither of these two bishops, unfortunately, have taken further action despite continued defiance on the part of Governor Davis and Senator Daschle.

Meanwhile, other Catholic senators and members of the House of Representatives are pro-abortion. The March 2003 issue of the Catholic monthly Crisis listed a number of them, headed by current presidential contenders John Kerry and Denis Kucinich, and leading Democrats Senator Ted Kennedy and House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi. Other Catholic publications also have begun to raise readers' awareness.

The Vatican's January letter is also encouraging other groups to fight back. The Cardinal Newman Society for some years now has created publicity around pro-abortion politicians being invited to speak at Catholic colleges and universities. In 2003 there were twelve such institutions (National Catholic Register, May 18). On May 11 the Archdiocese of New York responded to one of their complaints by declaring that the offending institution, Marist College, "is no longer a Catholic College" (Lifesite News, May 12).

In California, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles admitted that the situation "was troubling" when two pro-abortion Catholic politians, Loretta and Linda Sanchez, were invited by Mount St Mary's College to speak. It claimed that the diocese had "no control" over the school.

In Scranton, Bishop James Timlin refused to attend commencement ceremonies at the Jesuit-run University of Scranton because they, too, had a pro-abortion Catholic addressing graduates. A critic pointed out that "not attending" is not good enough, because a bishop has a "personal obligation" to ensure the Catholicity of his institutions, as expressed in Scripture, "Rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in faith" (Titus 1:10-13; also Cor 5 and and Mt 18:15-17).

The so-called "pastoral approach" of the last 30 years seems to have achieved very little, this commentator observed. Was it Albert Einstein who said: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result" (Communique, May 16/03).

Because of this failure of the "pastoral" approach over the last ten years, a group of Catholics has organized a canonical petition to the Vatican calling for the excommunication of all pro-abortion Catholics in the U.S. Congress. The January 17, 2003 "Note" may have been the first result of their action.


Another front in the conflict opened up following remarks made by Senator Rick Santorum in an interview with the Associated Press. Santorum, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, is a noted Catholic. His remarks were made in the context of a case before the U.S. Supreme Court concerning a Texas sodomy law.

Santorum had said: "If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual [homosexual] sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything."

Needless to say, waves of criticism followed his statement, with many accusing him of religious bigotry. As we know, today anyone who opposes the homosexual lifestyle no matter how moderate the language is immediately accused of bigotry, discrimination, and extremism. But Santorum was making a slippery-slope argument; that is, if the Supreme Court rules that the state has no right to regulate sexuality in the case of sodomy, then courts in the future might deny the state the right to regulate even incest, or polygamy.

Politics and faith

The "Note" from the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith points out that Christians and non-Christians alike can contribute to the democratic process. "The life of a democracy could not be productive without the active, responsible and generous involvement of everyone, 'albeit in a diversity and complementarity of forms, levels, tasks and responsibilities"' (No. 1).

But it should also be understood, and that is one of its major points, that issues such as abortion and homosexuality are not "Catholic" issues. They apply to society at large in virtue of the natural moral law. They pertain to the good of society in general.
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Publication:Catholic Insight
Date:Jul 1, 2003
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