Here’s a little something that I posted on the FredTalk website concerning the Vatican’s new directive concerning Catholic politicians.

Re: Catholics, religious views & the law 1/30/2003

Greetings all,

I typically don’t reply to letters of this nature in FredTalk or otherwise, but knowing that the Vatican document concerning Catholics in political life applies to me and every other Catholic invovled, let me give you my US$0.02 for what it is worth.

My concern with Mr. Mickle’s 17 Jan 03 LtoEd is with this quote right here:

Democracy and freedom are weakened whenever a particular religion succeeds in imposing its views on everyone. Laws which permit choice do not infringe on the rights of Catholics.

Now whenever I see comments like this, some warning bell in the back of my mind goes off. One has to question this method of trumping of morality with absolute freedom, because it ultimately places the will of the individual above the rights of one’s neighbor, for better or (more often than not) worse.

The problem with this – and Eric explains this quite well – is that there are certain choices that are antitheticial to commonly held concepts of right and wrong.

Objectively, such things as murder of innocents, theft, infidelity, all of these things are frowned upon. These commonly held principles are simply not fly-by-night preferences, and those who believe that they are debateable open themselves up to the condemnation of their respective societies. That’s why we have laws – to punish evildoers and protect citizens. Laws are inherently moral, and arguments to the contrary are dichotic and self-destructive in the long run.

What the Vatican document concerning Catholic politicians does is promote the idea that these commonly shared principles are non-negotiable. In other words, one cannot be pro-abortion and still call oneself Catholic, and it is a Catholic politicians duty to uphold them.

It would be akin to Sen. Lieberman coming forward and announcing that everyone should work on Saturday. Could he still call himself an Orthodox Jew? While this comparison is trivial compared to the gravity of other issues such as abortion, it makes the same point. In order to be a Jew, there are certain beliefs one must uphold. It’s the same for any religious tradition. One wonders why should it be any different for Catholicism.

Is that conformity to chosen religious beliefs a restriction on the freedom of choice of the individual? Not at all. One can choose to be pro-abortion, but at the cost of being opposed to Catholic teaching, not to mention losing the monkier of ‘faithful Catholic’. Was it Rep. Pelosi who called herself a conservative Catholic, even though she is one of the foremost proponents of abortion in America? It is comparable to being a Muslim yet denying that Muhummad was the sole prophet of Allah. There’s a theology that is being undermined, and for what? So someone can win Catholic votes?

Mr. Mickle does have a point by stating:

On the other hand, if Catholicism has the right to insist that everyone abide by its “nonnegotiable ethical teachings,” fairness would require that Muslims, Buddhists, Mormons, etc., should have the same right in regard to their “ethical teachings.” It is easy to see where this could lead.

But as already discussed, there are two arguments to this. Firstly, unless one is willing to argue that any of these religions advocate the right to murder innocents, steal, or practice infidelity, then Mr. Mickle’s concern is well-intentioned, but baseless. Secondly, the Vatican document is directed only at Catholic politicians, and not towards those of other religious faiths. The logic is simply that if one is Catholic, one must faithfully exercise one’s beliefs. For any religious tradition ask its membership to do otherwise seems counterintuitive.

The only route where the Vatican document leads IMHO is that such non-negotiable wrongs such as the murder of innocents, theft, and infidelity would be emphasized not as trivial matters, but as objectively wrong. Who could argue against that?

Hopefully that explains the Vatican document a bit better, and its implications. Credit Mr. Mickle for bringing up an excellent point of concern, and Eric for explaining it in proper terms.


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