Recently, Wisconsin Bishop Raymond L. Burke entered contention for the Athanasius-Bruskewitz Medal, which honors Catholic prelates who think you should be able to tell the difference between a Catholic and a character on the Lifetime Television Network, by asking Wisconsin State Senator (and Margaret Sanger impersonater) Julie Lassa to choose between her God and her other god when it comes to voting on abortion and related issues. The full story, from the ever-tolerant and deep-thinking Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, can be found here. Being absorptionally-challenged when it comes to the American media, I felt compelled to ebulliate** in reply. The story's in blue, my comments aren't.
Madison - As the nation's Roman Catholic bishops seek ways to persuade Catholic lawmakers to adopt church views on issues such as abortion, a Wisconsin prelate on the rise has warned two state legislators and a congressman they risk their spiritual well-being if they do not.
Now is this single direction of spin warranted? As I see it, there are actually two ways to view this dust-up. One of them is that it's about whether Catholic lawmakers are going to "foist" Catholicism on decent Americans. The other is that it's about whether Catholic lawmakers must, in order to be Catholic lawmakers, actually be Catholics. For far too long (beginning with that lying drug-addict who treated women like used tissue-paper -- I mean John F. Kennedy), Bishops have allowed the answer to be an unequivocal "Yes," as in "Yes, Canon law requires every Catholic lawmaker, every year and before Easter, to publicly announce why he or she can't conscientiously participate in a St. Patrick's Day Parade that excludes gay-rights organizations." For the first time since Bishop Bruskewitz's courageous notice to the Catholics in his spiritual charge, another bishop is talking turkey about what it means to
La Crosse Bishop Raymond L. Burke sent letters to the lawmakers as the first step in efforts to get them to change their pattern of voting, which Burke said contradicts the church's teachings on abortion and other issues related to human life. On Tuesday, Pope John Paul II appointed Burke to serve as the archbishop of St. Louis.
Well, let's hope this was a Parthian shot at Wisconsin's Catholic lawmakers that will scream right across the bows of Missouri's Catholic lawmakers, rather than a meaningless "letter-op" ginned up so that the NCCB can do something about pro-abortion Catholic politicians without actually doing it.
"If they were to continue to do that, I would simply have to ask them not to present themselves to receive the sacraments because they would not be Catholics in good standing," Burke said in an interview.
OK, so maybe it's not a letter op -- let's see if Rep. William Clay (Democrat from Missouri's First District which includes St. Louis) gets a similar letter. In 2002, Clay voted (a) to allow military medical establishments to perform abortions; (b) to continue legalized partial-birth abortions if the physician thinks the mother's "emotional health" is put at risk by having her baby; (c) against the partial-birth abortion ban altogether; and (d) to permit HMO's, insurance companies, any "health-care entity" as well as the federal and state governments to discriminate against physicians or medical facilities that refused to perform abortions (just like Lassa). In 2001, Clay voted (a) against recognizing an unborn child as a "person" for purposes of punishing someone who killed the child while committing a crime of violence; (b) to reverse the "Mexico City" policy of refusing to use US international aid funds for abortions; (c) for using tax money to pay for abortions in prisons; and (d) again to allow US military facilities to be used for abortions overseas. Gee, that's eight pro-death votes in two years, and Dante says Hell only has nine circles. Sounds like an appropriate occasion for Bishop Burke's pastoral concern to me, and I hope he takes advantage of it.
He said he sent the letters to make it clear to the lawmakers that as practicing Catholics they cannot support legislation that is "anti-life," which he noted includes abortion and assisted suicide. He did not mention the death penalty, which the pope has urged the United States to eliminate.
Thereby threatening another principle held dear by America's upper crust -- the convenient use of Church teaching, which becomes hypocrisy when it doesn't toe the correct political line. By the way, if you can understand all those squiggles and dots in Evangelium Vitae and the Catechism, you'll realize that the Pope hasn't morally obliged the United States to "eliminate" (as opposed to "change the circumstances and manner in which it decides to inflict") the death penalty. Now there are a lot of people who, because they're prone to filtering Church teaching through the priorities of their own politics, like to say that the Pope has decreed the death penalty to be immoral and inadmissible under any and all circumstances. They range from KookyTrads desperate to prove that John Paul II is the Antichrist; conservatives like Antonin Scalia who'd rather protect their cushy tax-funded careers than knock the rust off their consciences and deal with a disagreement between current US law and what the Church is actually teaching; and loopy "peace-and-justice" Catholics who think the Church may be divinely-ordained only insofar as she lends moral grist to their personal, trendy-left mills. And let's not forget all sorts of people who don't give a damn about how many welfare-roll-bloating, aggressive-windshield-cleaning untermenschen we execute, but do care about being able to gin up a "hypocrisy" charge whenever the Church preaches against their right to use contraception, have abortions, and do whatever, wherever, whenever, with whomever.[***]
"They can't promote any legislation, which would either continue or worsen the anti-life practices," Burke said.
Just like they can't subscribe to P*nthouse, join the (now-inclusive) Klan, prepay an abortion clinic on their daughter's twelfth birthday, or flay their dogs alive. It's a very hide-bound and rigid way of life, Catholicism; the Church often angers people by putting their hobbies on her Top Ten list of Things That Crucify God.
Burke declined to name the legislators and the congressman who received the letters.
That's because he's persecuting them with public villification.
But under the state's open records law, the Journal Sentinel obtained a copy of the letter Burke sent to state Sen. Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point).
Because the Journal-Sentinel wants to pretend that the Bishop is persecuting them with public villification. What a relief! This whole story would have died without names but, being so concerned with life generally, the Journal-Sentinel managed to revive it by using Wisconsin's Open Records Law. Quick! Somebody buy Terri Schaivo a NARAL membership and have Burke write her a letter!
The 2 1/2-page letter details how Lassa voted on several recent bills and legislative initiatives related to abortion - including her vote against a bill that would have allowed health care professionals to refuse to participate in procedures that violate their personal or spiritual beliefs.
Yeah, and that was a really principled decision for Lassa, who has to be solicitous to the views of all her consitutents. (See below). Actually, of course, this is just another illustration of why liberal "tolerance" is another name for Orwell's "boot stamping on a human face -- forever." Rep. Lassa has a conscientious right to ignore the religious teachings she has sworn to obey, but no Catholic physician has a conscientious right to obey those same teachings because Lassa wants every knee to bow to the god of Abortion. By the way, does anyone really think that if American governments force Catholic doctors to violate their own consciences by participating in abortions, American governments won't end up forcing Catholic women to violate their own consciences by having abortions?
"As a faithful member of the Catholic Church, you have an obligation to fulfill the duties of your office with regard not only to the laws of the state, but also with regard to the moral law," Burke wrote. "You have failed to restrict the evil of abortion when the opportunity presented itself."
Burke is oblivious of the fact that he's not amongst the pasta-sucking, Mary-worshiping peasants of Italy. He's in a civilized country, a decent country, a Protestant country where: "the separation of church and state is absolute - no Catholic prelate would tell an elected representative (should he be a Catholic) how to act and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote - no church or church school should be granted any public funds - and no man [except Catholic nominees to the federal judiciary] is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him. America is neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish - it's a country where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source - it's a country where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials! Lassa is right -- whatever issue may come before her as a State Legislature -- on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling, or any other subject -- she will make her decision solely in accordance with what her own conscience tells her to be in the national interest, without regard to outside religious pressure or dictate.[****] The state is not God -- it is more important than God, and that's why the above must be memorized in order to answer the first question on the civics test given to American Catholic politicians.
In the letter, dated August 29, Burke cited a statement by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops entitled "Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics." He stressed that bishops have a duty to "enlighten the consciences of political leaders to the protection of life, especially political leaders who are Catholics."
That's not allowed -- the separation of Church and state forbids religious bodies from seeking to impose their will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of American officials! It's interesting, how official America's interpretation of the First Amendment -- most frequently applied only to Catholicism -- resembles the Church's Concordat with Nazi Germany. The Concordat prohibited Catholics from organizing themselves as Catholics for political purposes, and required the Church to "prescribe regulations for the exclusion of clergy and members of religious Orders from membership of political parties, and from engaging in work on their behalf." Concordat between the Holy See and the German Reich, Art. 31 & Art. 32. I'm always astonished at how strongly the Church is villified for adopting this policy with respect to a Nazi police state, but how necessary and wholesome the policy becomes when it's to be applied here, in a country that supposedly gives the Church and her children all sorts of rights to free religious exercise, political association and speech. The only "principle" I see operating is that societies which deify the state and perpetrate mass murder want the Church to be politically neutered. Of course, at the time of the Concordat Hitler had already neutered political Catholicism by jailing Center Party members. Our officials haven't quite gotten around to that -- the wood is still green and besides, there aren't many American Catholic voters who could even join a self-respecting Center Party: Lassa doesn't do photo-ops in parishes because it costs her votes.
"I call upon you to consider the consequences for your own spiritual well-being, as well as the scandal you risk by leading others into serious sin," Burke wrote Lassa.
Ah, but we might be overlooking something -- Rep. Lassa might eaily have gone through a "pastorally-sensitive" RCIA program, and therefore be unaware of things like "spiritual well-being," "scandal," "sin" and "consequences."
The mailing to Lassa included a 26-page booklet containing the text of "Living the Gospel of Life." Burke asked Lassa to study the statement and schedule a meeting with him to discuss it.
How dare he! Zis is a democracy!!!! Katolische prelates are not allowed to zend booklets to representatives of ze Reich, err, ze Amerikan volk!!!! Bishop
Lassa said she never scheduled a meeting with Burke and was surprised to receive the letter from him.
"If I went to meet Burke," she said, "I'd have to sit in his office. But here I stand. I can do no other."
"I'm concerned that the bishop would pressure legislators to vote according to the dictates of the church instead of the wishes of their constituents because that is not consistent with our Democratic ideals," Lassa said.
"Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the State, or a particular form of State, or the depositories of power, or any other fundamental value of the human community -- however necessary and honorable be their function in worldly things -- whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God; he is far from the true faith in God and from the concept of life which that faith upholds." Pius XI, Mit Brennender Sorge, ¶ 8 (1937).
"When I was elected, I swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, and that means I have to represent all the people of all faiths in my district."
"But, as regards political power, the Church rightly teaches that it comes from God, for it finds this clearly testified in the sacred Scriptures and in the monuments of antiquity; besides, no other doctrine can be conceived which is more agreeable to reason, or more in accord with the safety of both princes and peoples. . . . Those who believe civil society to have risen from the free consent of men, looking for the origin of its authority from the same source . . . [commit a great error by refusing to] see, what is manifest, that men, as they are not a nomad race, have been created, without their own free will, for a natural community of life. It is plain, moreover, that the pact which they allege is openly a falsehood and a fiction, and that it has no authority to confer on political power such great force, dignity, and firmness as the safety of the State and the common good of the citizens require. Then only will the government have all those ornaments and guarantees, when it is understood to emanate from God as its august and most sacred source." Leo XIII Diuturnum ¶¶ 8 & 12 (1881).
Your choice is simple, O Cheerleader of Death, Vestal of Dilation and Extraction -- if your oath to uphold the Constitution requires you to break your oath to Jesus Christ, then a simple regard for clarity obliges you to choose which oath you will keep. That's what Bishop Burke is saying, and he's right. I'm sorry that forty years of "God-made-bunnies" catechesis and episcopal somnolence has led you to believe otherwise. (On a brighter note, it may be for this very reason that God might not hold your impending sacrilege against you as fully as He will lay it against the priests, bishops, and catechists who have labored -- or not labored -- to produce it). But it is the truth, and it is better that you and all the other Roman Methodists wake up to it and so become either good Romans or good Methodists. Either way, your chances for divine mercy will improve dramatically: See Revelation 3:16.
Elected to the Assembly in 1998 and to the Senate in a special election in May, Lassa said she sometimes feels a conflict between her personal values and beliefs and the need to represent her constituents' views. "But I can't let my religion take precedence over my duties as a legislator," she said.
Lassa sounds just like another civil servant that comes to mind:
[For Eichmann] a law was a law, there could be no exceptions. In [his trial at] Jerusalem [Eichmann] admitted only two such exceptions . . . he had helped a half-Jewish cousin, and a Jewish couple in Vienna for whom his uncle had intervened. This inconsistency [between his duties to the Reich and his own inclinations to mercy] still made him feel somewhat uncomfortable, and when he was questioned about it during cross-examination, he became openly apologetic: he had ‘confessed his sins' to his superiors. This uncompromising attitude toward the performance of his murderous duties damned him in the eyes of the [Israeli] judges more than anything else, which was comprehensible, but in his own eyes it was precisely what justified him, as it had once silenced whatever conscience he might have had left. No exceptions -- this was the proof that he had always acted against his ‘inclinations,' [to mercy] whether they were sentimental or inspired by interest, that he had always done his ‘duty.'How did Lassa get this way?-- Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, p. 137 (New York: The Viking Press, 1964).
"[I]f men, using their personal liberty, were to deny all dependence on a superior Authority possessing coercive power, they could by this very fact cut the ground from under their own dignity and liberty -- by violating, that is, the absolute order of beings and purposes. As they are established on this same foundation, the person, the state, the government, with their respective rights are so bound together that they stand or fall together. And since that absolute order, in the light of right reason, and in particular of the Christian Faith, cannot have any other origin than in a personal God, our Creator, it follows that the dignity of man is the dignity of the moral community willed by God, the dignity of political authority is the dignity deriving from its sharing in the authority of God. No form of state can avoid taking cognizance of this intimate and indissoluble connection -- least of all a democracy. Accordingly, if those in power do not see it, or more or less discount it. their own authority is shaken, as is social morality, and that specious appearance of a purely formal democracy may often serve as a mark for all that is in reality least democratic.""I appreciate that the bishop has expressed his opinion and I will take that into consideration, but I have to consider what's in the best interest of my constituents."--Pius XII, "Democracy and a Lasting Peace," ¶¶ 37-41 (1944).
Well, we already know what that is, don't we? A never-ending political career for Julie Lassa, by the Will of God, Student-Body President, State Senatrix, and Lady Protectress of the Abbatoir. Hell will be unpleasant, of course, but it will no doubt be made even more galling in Ms. Lassa's case by the fact that she didn't even have any fun while sinning but arrived, instead, merely by mouthing puling and telegenic pseudo-pieties.
Rep. Marlin Schneider (D-Stevens Point), whose Assembly District is part of Lassa's Senate district, called Burke's letter outrageous. Churches ought not use the pulpit for blatant political purposes," said Schneider, who is Lutheran. "When they start telling legislators how to vote, they've crossed the line."
And here we find the taproot of all this "concern" about episcopal alligators swarming to devour Mr. & Mrs. America. Preach it, Brother Schneider! "[S]ince the temporal power is baptized as we are, and has the same faith and Gospel, we must allow it to be priest and bishop . . . since we are all priests alike, no man may put himself forward or take upon himself without our consent and election, to do that which we have all alike power to do . . . a priest should be nothing in Christendom but a functionary . . . Whatever the ecclesiastical law has said in opposition to this is merely the invention of Romanist arrogance. . ." Martin Luther, Address to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, (1520). This works very well if one's trying to throw a nasty, garlic-eating Pope out on his ear, but like the sorcerer's apprentice, people who really buy into this guff develop a kind of chain-reaction that ends up forbidding even Lutherans from trying to "impose" their beliefs directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials. First they came for the Catholic doctors who wanted to avoid performing abortions for "conscientious reasons," then they came for . . . . well, you get the picture.
Peggy Hamill, state director of Pro-Life Wisconsin, said her organization was contacted by Burke's office for assistance in researching Lassa's voting record on abortion issues.
My God! These Catholics are everywhere! They're keeping tabs on legislators' voting records! They don't have the right to do that! This is a democracy, dammit!!!!
She said Lassa was the only legislator whose voting record was requested by Burke's office.
But I thought Burke was trying to thwart the operation of democracy in Wisconsin! There is more than one State Senator in Wisconsin, isn't there? Surely a horde of episcopal alligators intent on destroying the American Way would target everyone with their fatwas regardless of religious affiliation?
Hamill applauded Burke's effort to hold Catholic public officials accountable for shaping public policy in ways that are contrary to church teachings.
Uh, might this be another issue than whether Bishops can "shape" public policy by "manipulating" legislators? Could there be an honesty issue here, or doesn't the Catholic Church have a right to expect Catholics, so long as they are Catholics, to live their Catholicism? Oops -- bite my tongue! If the Boy Scouts don't have the right to expect Boy Scouts to live the Boy Scouts' creed, the Catholic Church surely has no such right. Come to think of it, didn't the Reich outlaw the Boy Scouts in favor of a more "progressive" youth movement?
Pro-Life Wisconsin has organized a campaign urging Catholics with pro-life views who live in U.S. Rep. David Obey's district to write the Democrat to complain that his voting record on abortion issues is not in keeping with his Catholic faith.
Shocking!!! Outrageous!!!!! Catholics daring to "shape" policy by writing letters to policymakers!!!! They can't do that! This is a democracy, dammit!!
Obey's office did not respond to inquires about whether he received a letter from Burke.
. . . although a voice crying "Liberate me!" amidst devilish cackling could be heard on the answering machine tape . . .
The subject of Catholic elected officials and their responsibility to represent the church's views on political issues is of increasing concern to church leaders.
Did Bishop Burke also abolish political campaigns, voting, and the necessity of re-election, without anyone but the Journal Sentinel noticing? Since Rep. Lassa (and all the other Catholic representatives who, unlike her, may choose to remain Catholic) are elected, why are we being treated to language that suggests an impending theocratic coup d'etat? I think that if the Journal Sentinel were run by college-educated people (as opposed to people who've graduated from college), we wouldn't read only that the issue is whether Catholic politicians will represent "the Church's views." We'd at least also read that the issue is whether the Catholic Church can expect Catholics, so long as they claim to be Catholics -- so long as they gain votes by engaging Catholic sympathies -- to actually be Catholics. Discussing the story on rational lines would, of course, forego the teasing angst generated by the episcopal alligator angle, and thus get in the way of the Journal-Sentinel's real purpose for existing -- making money by getting people to notice that Cushy-Tush toilet paper is on sale at Walgreen's.
Even if Bishop Burke were foolish enough to think that the sincere preaching of Catholic truth would do anything besides (temporarily) reducing the Church's American membership by half and the Church herself into a media laughing stock, and so actually did intend to publicly influence the tremendous world-historical decisions of Wisconsin legislators, I fail to see why the Journal-Sentinel Beobachter's reporting has to be so ominous and pejorative. Isn't it funny how no one says that Planned Parenthood expects candidates who receive its blood money to represent "Planned Parenthood's views"? Isn't it also funny how no one says that pornographers expect candidates they support to represent, uh, "pornographic views"? No, when secular pressure groups try and influence candidates to adopt "safe" pagan viewpoints, they're all just engaging in healthy politics. Even the "industrial" and "business" lobbies are seen as obnoxious only because they have "too much" influence, rather than any influence at all. Only Christianity, it seems, can exert an Inadmissibly-Sinister Influence on our holy democracy.
At a meeting this fall of U.S. bishops in Washington, D.C., an initial report was offered by a new task force on Catholics in Public Life organized after the Vatican issued a doctrinal note on the subject. John Huebscher, executive director of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, which represents Wisconsin's Roman Catholic bishops, said the subject is under increasing discussion in church circles. But he knew of no organized effort by Wisconsin bishops to send letters to elected officials reminding them of their duty to represent Catholic teachings.
Same point as above -- it's not fundamentally about whether the Church is able to subvert the democratic process by forcing Catholics to "represent the Church" rather than decent American pagans. I can understand, however, why members of the media elite are unable to think of Bishop Burke's letters in those terms. American elites get their power by pretending to represent the people's wishes while doing something else, and so from their viewpoint it stands to reason that the Church would do the same thing and give Catholic legislators their marching orders after they get elected.
Kathleen Hohl, interim communications director for Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan, said Dolan had not sent letters on this subject to any lawmakers representing districts in the Milwaukee Archdiocese. "To my knowledge, it's not anywhere on the to-do list," she said. "It has not come up within the Archdiocese of Milwaukee."
That's probably because Bp. Dolan's too busy "fully supporting" priestly celibacy while
enabling his priests to exploit the sex-abuse crisis in their pursuit of wives. So naturally, he's pastorally-sensitive to Rep. Lassa's need to represent all her constituents rather than the narrow parochialism of a Catholic sub-group.
[**] It's a nice word. It means to bubble or boil up, but it also contains the prefix "e" and the word "bull," so it might well be perfect to describe my blogging.
[***] There are also good people who don't fit any of these descriptions, but just don't get it nonetheless.
[****] Yeah, I know he was. The country's a mess, and I just wanted to be clear that everybody's had their finger in the American pie of moral depravity.