Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Dissent is Dissent, Regardless of Faction

The reasoning goes that Republicans oppose the keeping abortion legal. These bishops oppose keeping abortion legal. Republicans oppose “pro-choice” politicians. These bishops oppose “pro-choice” politicians. Therefore, these bishops are partisan Republicans. (Arnobius of Sicca blog, from the “lost years” [Ω], 5/7/2009)

As I see it, it's not wrong to want security from attackers, but in finding the best way to get it, we can't neglect our obligation to the suffering. I think that is the reason the bishops believe they must oppose this policy. (Comment I made on my blog’s Facebook page, 1/30/17)

Back in the lost Xanga years of this blog, I spent time writing about Catholics who supported the Obama administration and attacked the American bishops for opposing some of his positions. The bishops defended the right to life and opposed policies incompatible with Church teaching. They were attacked as “the Republican Party at prayer.” I spent a good deal of time defending the Church from accusations of partisanship. So, moving forward eight years, I find it tragic that the same attacks on bishops exist—just the actors have changed.

In both cases, the assumption is the bishops must either support the other party or are grossly ignorant about what is really going on. Otherwise, they wouldn’t hold that position. But this assumption overlooks the fact that the bishops are speaking out about our moral obligations as Christians—those obligations that bound us before the Democratic and Republican parties existed—and will continue to bind us after these parties go the way of the Guelphs and the Ghibellines and our descendants need to do research to discover what these parties even were. Whether the conflict is about the right to life, or the treatment of refugees, our faith teaches us that we are bound to do certain things and oppose other things. These obligations override our political preferences because we are rendering to God what is God’s (Mark 12:17).

Perhaps we should reflect when we feel tempted to accuse the bishops of “partisanship.” Are they the ones who are “partisan,” or are we the ones who are guilty? Yes, it is possible that a “Fr. Harry Tik” or a “Sr. Mary Moonbeam” can abuse their position and put political values in place of teaching the Catholic faith. But so can a “Fr. H. Ardliner” or a Sr. Mary Mantilla.” If someone says, “People from this party can’t be truly Catholic,” that’s an abuse. But if a bishop teaches, “Catholics must not go against our obligation to defend the unborn or the suffering refugee,” he is not abusing his position, even if he teaches against a politician that an individual Catholic might like.

Throughout history, the Church has had to oppose governments when those governments went against God’s law. Sometimes these governments were dictatorial. At other times, they were democratic in nature. Either way, these governments often accused the bishops of being unpatriotic, or enemies of the state when they stood up and said, “No.” In such cases, people had to decide whether to follow the state or follow the Church.

But Church history has never praised those Catholics who chose to obey the state over the Church when the Church said, “This cannot be done.” Individual regions can fall into error, and the local churches with it (case in point, England in the Reformation), but the churches remaining obedient to the Church in Rome and refusing to accept the error of the state have not done so.

The fact is, when the bishops took Obama to task over abortion, “Same-sex marriage,” and the contraception mandate, they were acting on their Catholic faith, not partisan politics. When the bishops take Trump to task over his policy on refugees, they are acting on their Catholic faith, not partisan politics. If we reject the bishops because what they say is not what we prefer politically, we are rendering unto Caesar what is God’s.



[Ω] From 2007 to late 2009, this blog, under the name Arnobius of Sicca, was on Xanga. While I have the HTML files from those years, these posts are no longer available online.

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