Who gets to say who the "real Catholics" are?

I can virtually guarantee you that if you attend Mass on Sunday morning in any parish in the United States, you will find yourself sitting in a pew near someone who disagrees with you about what the public policy should be on abortion. Or same-sex marriage. Or the death penalty. While the teaching of the church on the moral dimensions of these issues is clear and consistent, there is today, as there has always been, a spirited debate about how to apply those moral principles in the public realm, one that is democratic, diverse and nonsectarian. As John Courtney Murray, S.J. once wrote, in a pluralistic society “there are circumstances in which human authority has neither mandate nor duty nor right to use its coercive power against error and evil.”

In other words, it does not necessarily follow from the fact that something is immoral that it should be illegal. Thus our public policy choices belong to the realm of prudential judgment. To be sure, the church’s magisterium has supported specific public policy solutions in the areas of abortion, the death penalty, prostitution and other contentious issues. And not all of those issues involve the same level of moral gravity. Yet Catholics are still free to disagree with one another in good conscience, if not about the moral principles at stake, then certainly about the prudential application of those principles in the public square.

Advertisement

For this reason it is both imprudent and impractical to use an individual’s position on a public policy question, even a life-and-death issue like abortion or the death penalty, as the only basis for determining whether they have a right to sit next to us in church on Sunday morning. I am pro-life. I believe that abortion should be illegal in this country in almost every circumstance. But I can’t imagine saying to the person sitting next to me at Mass, the one who disagrees with me on what the public policy on abortion should be, that he or she is somehow less Catholic than I am by virtue of that simple fact. I certainly wouldn’t tell them to leave, nor would I protest their arrival at the front door of the church.

Yet this is precisely what happened recently to Tim Kaine. The Democratic vice-presidential nominee was met by a small group of protestors at the parish church in Richmond, Va., where he has attended Mass for 30 years. According to WTVR-TV, “the demonstrators claim the Virginia senator’s voting record contradicts the Catholic faith on issues of abortion and gay marriage.” One organizer of the protest told reporters, based presumably on the fact that the senator has a lamentably near-perfect voting score from Planned Parenthood, that Mr. Kaine “is not America’s dad at all.... He’s really, all I can say, is evil.” Whatever the protester meant, that statement is manifestly uncharitable.

We should note for the record that a much larger crowd enthusiastically greeted “Kaine and his wife, Anne Holton, the Sunday after Clinton picked him as her running mate.” Prescinding from the fact that I strongly disagree with Mr. Kaine about the public policy question of abortion and that this magazine has been sharply critical of his position in a recent editorial (see: Am., 8/15), if I belonged to his parish, I would be standing with the folks who were welcoming him. And I bet that, like the congregation itself, the welcoming crowd would be a mix of “pro-life” and “pro-choice” people. The reason is simple: Our fundamental identity and unity as Catholic Christians does not reside in our allegiance to a set of ideas, much less to some political manifesto. Our unity resides in the person of Jesus Christ. For us, as I have often said, truth is ultimately a person—a “someone” we encounter rather than a “something” with which we beat each other over the head. In other words, jeering your fellow Catholics as they enter the church on Sunday is neither Catholic nor particularly pro-life.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Edward Alten
2 years 1 month ago

As a faithful Catholic for 82 years I congratulate Fr. Malone for his "many things column" comments. So many events in all of our lives are so paradoxical that a Catholic must seek our higher power (God) to conclude that judgement belongs to God alone and not us. If we really believe that and act accordingly then unity and Christ's peace is preserved for us. If we do this and elect congressional leaders whom we discern will act in line with their conscience like we must do then God will preserve our nation as He has since 1776.
Thank you for speaking out Fr. Malone and I would hope and pray that our Catholic Leaders including Bishops due the same in this difficult time where real leaders need to shepherd and guide the American flock of believers.

Joseph Guiltinan
2 years 1 month ago
Thank you for this thoughtful comment.
Deb Brunsberg
2 years 1 month ago
It is our duty as a confirmed Catholic to bring the good news to everyone we meet. It is our duty to not water down the Truth. It is our duty and should be our greatest desire to wish every human being to end up for all eternity, in the presence of our Lord. If we know our faith, if we know the Truth, we have no other choice but to speak that and to attempt to bring those that have placed their souls in great jeopardy to the Truth. To just say, it is Jesus and me and forget about thee, is not of God. I recommend to everyone to truly read the Bible. Search for what is preached about those who live in sin and attempt to bring others to that same state. Then, I suggest you read St. Augustine's writings on Shepherds.
J Scanlon
2 years 1 month ago
When I substitute the pre-Civil War question of slavery for that of abortion, Father Malone’s musing take on a different coloring. In fact, it makes a huge and critical difference just what a man’s, say Kaine’s, or woman’s, say Hillary’s, position on the unjust killing of members of the human race is. You may well include matters of war and peace in this question too. But the actual (rather than potential) fact we Americans face is domestic abortion run wild. To a very large extent I see Father’s remarks as those of one grasping to defend our Catholic political party, that of FDR and JFK and even LBJ. Unless it explicitly reforms itself on abortion, it must be cauterized to the point of internal revolt or one must dust her or his feet of it. It’s hard (I know this personally) but that’s the way out of this mess. Forget protecting former Gov. Kaine as such, and conceive of it as the issue of abortion directly and look at the Party itself; this was the similar problem with slavery. Indeed a Catholic gentleman authored the infamous decision Dred Scott, and the Democrat Party, then, too, was the obstacle to just change.
MG Chandler
2 years 1 month ago
Forget protecting former Gov. Kaine...I agree, the giant titanic issue is abortion and to stop the murdering. The holocaust of our fellow unborn citizens has to cease. It is a War and if the word war does not sit well with a person then he is lukewarm about abortion.
MG Chandler
2 years 1 month ago
Hi, I am aware, cognizant, conscious of the Catholic Church Teaching on Abortion and same gender "marriage" and since I believe this teaching of the Catholic Church I choose to be called Catholic and follow the teachings. Many many people walked away from Jesus because of His teaching . I prefer to believe Jesus through the teaching of the Catholic Church. You did fail to profess that some teachings of our faith are Non Negotiable.
Robert O'Connell
2 years 1 month ago
Two thoughts: 1) While there is no doubt that "jeering your fellow Catholics as they enter the church on Sunday is neither Catholic nor particularly pro-life" we might also remember Jesus saying "“Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” The problem of concern to the bishops is the political use of one's espoused Catholicism, including their presence during Mass and their receipt of the Eucharist, to endorse their opposition to the Bishops' view of government supported abortion. My recollection is that Jesus used a whip to clean his Father's house (this is not a claim that I witnessed the event) : Are the Bishops too indulgent? If political leaders sincerely believe public policy should require public funding of abortions, abortificient drugs, contraception, and mandatory participation in any process the state designs to deliver such "products", including religious institutions among the publicly funded activities of this sort, they are wholeheartedly Catholic. If they merely hold such views to enjoy the fruits of being in a coalition to enhance their prospects for being re-elected, they are more like the money-changers. 2) What was Fr. Murray referring to when he wrote that “there are circumstances in which human authority has neither mandate nor duty nor right to use its coercive power against error and evil.” Was he not concerned about the state overreaching its valid authority? My recollection is that he was specifically supporting both freedom of religion and the right of the Church and Catholics to participate in politics in support of their religious beliefs -- and not at all to tell Bishops to be careful.
William LeMaire
2 years 1 month ago
Of course abortion is a matter of life or death, but I wonder if Father Malone would have a similar position when it comes to the use of contraception, an other action opposed very much by our catholic Church, and thankfully supported by many of our politicians, including catholic ones.. William LeMaire MD
Henry George
2 years 1 month ago
Father Malone, What part or parts of Ethical Philosophy and Moral Theology did you sleep through ? John Courtney Murray was not Saint Paul and he was certainly not Jesus. If a Catholic is not willing to stand up to unrestricted/unnecessary abortions then they are not Catholics no matter how nuanced their political views may be. Or would you gladly greet Catholics who maintained the Extermination Camps in Nazi Germany every Sunday, even if all they did was carry out the paperwork necessary to keep track of how many Jews/Poles/Gypsies were gassed that day ?
Lisa Weber
2 years 1 month ago
I greatly appreciate the thought that we are always in church with people we disagree with. The issue we disagree about could be almost anything - if weren't abortion, it would be something else. The point is that some parishes develop a group of people who undertake to drive away anyone with whom they disagree. It is one of the reasons that the Catholic Church has trouble retaining its members.
Deb Brunsberg
2 years 1 month ago
No, the Catholic Church has no problem retaining members who have a relationship with Jesus Christ, who know that He is present in the Eucharist, who understand that Jesus died so that we MAY have eternal salvation, who understand what an incredible gift the Lord left us and who go to Mass to participate in the Holy Sacrifice. Those who are there out of habit or who want to live a life of sin and know that they can do that in any man made denomination or by turning their back on God, they leave. The Church will become smaller because as we can see, there is a clear line being driven between those who believe in Christ and those who follow Him. Even Satan believes in Christ.
MARIE CONN DR
2 years 1 month ago
I wonder how many one-issue (anti-abortion) Catholics support the death penalty, cheat on taxes or spouses, slander their enemies, and so on...in other words, who are we to decide who is or is not a "good" Catholic?
Deb Brunsberg
2 years 1 month ago
A good Catholic would be one who believes and follows the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Church. A good Catholic tries very hard to never commit mortal sin. A good Catholic does not pronounce that they personally would not murder a baby in the womb, but hey, if you want to murder a baby, go ahead. It is a sign of knowing the Catholic faith and the teachings of Christ to know that murder is a far greater sin than cheating on your taxes. Are both sinful, yes, should both be confessed AND REPENTED? Yes. You know, when the Blessed Mother gave her fiat, she was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and was immediately pregnant with Jesus Christ. To not understand that God creates all life and to Him alone does He take it has to be the ultimate in disconnect between ones faith and the Truth. Actually, it is pretty easy to judge that someone is NOT a good Catholic if they have no aversion to children being dismembered in the birth canal. That is not following God, it is following the enemy.
Kala T
2 years 1 month ago
I do believe that he has a duty to be at Mass with my community to hear the Word and participate. I would have placed my own life in jeopardy if I was a member of the group that was denying his attendance. His moral life would not be in jeopardy because I didn't allow him to make his Sunday duty when he made an attempt. But I think you skip the real issue, and I don't know why you avoid it, because you say "our unity is in Jesus Christ" yet you don't challenge us or him. This isn't a Baptist church, it's a Catholic Church with our greatest gift being the Body of Christ. So how do you react as a Priest, Eucharist Minister, or part of the Body of Christ (me) when you see him receive the Body of Christ? I have to be concerned for my life of not judging him, but I also have a responsibility to my moral life to pray that he is seeing a Priest for Confession and if I am alone with him I believe I have a duty to remind him of the appearance of his grave action and to challenge him to change.
Marie Morrison
2 years 1 month ago
However we have St Paul tell us: And you are arrogant! Should you not rather have mourned, so that he who has done this would have been removed from among you? Go ahead and read it in context, it is the First Reading for tomorrow. 1 Corinthians 5:1–8 Perhaps the scandal of his parish community and pastor doing nothing is weightier than the original error of Kaine himself. You see Jesus is truth and we are to leaven the bread with truth not with error. Truth is not relative!
John Cato
2 years 1 month ago
It's genuinely sad and demoralizing to watch politicized clergy and religious shill for the Democratic party on the most fundamental moral questions - and yet remain utterly silent during the years when Catholic hysterics rant on about "Republican" wars and social policies - which actually DO fall under the umbrella of the prudential judgement of those who govern. Why was there no outcry against the Nuns on the Bus for their treatment of Paul Ryan by America magazine? You could plug this abortion argument into a slavery paradigm 150 years ago - and it would read just as shallow and sad. Pray tell, is there anything a Catholic COULD do to be considered unworthy of welcome and participation in the Eucharist? Would this priest make the same argument for a Catholic Nazi who was personally opposed to a Holocaust, but fought for his fellow Nazis efforts to continue to perpetrate it? Maybe we should also jettison belief in the divinity of Christ and His Resurrection too in order to be sure no one's feelings are hurt? I'm sorry, this is not the teaching of Christ we see in the Scriptures or in the Catechism. It is secular relativism - and it's not Catholic and it does great harm in the world.
Chuck Kotlarz
2 years 1 month ago
John, is there a web page perhaps that you can reference regarding the Nuns on the Bus treatment of Paul Ryan?
John Cato
2 years 1 month ago
Really? All of that, and that's what you want? Here's but one example: https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/07/02/paul-ryan-vs-catholic-nuns-on-a-bus/
Chuck Kotlarz
2 years 1 month ago
Thanks!
Deb Brunsberg
2 years 1 month ago
It is so very sad, to once again read something written by a priest that is so ignorant of the truth of the Church. With the exception of a few orders, Jesuits appear to be, like their Universities, not Catholic at all. When an ordained priest actually believes that abortion is not an intrinsic evil, you have to know that they are not capable of leading souls to Christ. I can only pray for you. You will be standing alone before God at some point. What kind of shepherd do you think you will judged as? Instead of teaching to walk in the way of Christ, you teach to walk in the way of the world. May God have mercy upon you. (and Kaine)
Tom Fields
2 years 1 month ago
Thanks, Deb----you are right on!
Henry George
2 years 1 month ago
Deb, Thank you for what you write. You are correct on all points. However, America is full of Jesuits who wish to earn the respect of the Progressives who have little respect for God's word and even less for God's Church. They,sadly, sell their spiritual inheritance for a bowl of praise from the fashionable.
Tom Fields
2 years 1 month ago
Why does it seem so hard to say that abortion---and the abortionist-- are intrinsically evil? Should we welcome all viewpoints and "stand up for them"?-----terrorism to cause political change?--beheadings--religious slaughter--"honor killing"? torture?-- just as "truth is a someone"----can evil be a "someone"?
Sandi Sinor
2 years 1 month ago
The numbers of judgmental, condemnatory comments - from people who do not usually appear in the comments at America - intrigue me. Perhaps another website is urging its readers to comment on this article? This happens on other Catholic sites. Which site is sending its readers to America. Anyone? Those who have studied the Republican nominee's personal history of statements know that the chances that he will do anything at all to stop abortion are near zero. His "joke" that he would appoint his sister, a pro-choice judge, to the Supreme Court was probably not a joke. I am a lifelong Republican. I know that Republicans talk a big game about stopping abortion, but when in office, that promise is quickly forgotten. In this case, the nominee is a man who says different things about different issues almost every single day. He appears to have no real principles, other than saying what the people in the audience want to hear. Those who trust him to stop abortion are trusting someone who has demonstrated countless times, not just during the last 16 months but throughout his entire career, that his word means nothing. However, there is a real risk that he will so damage the economy, that there will be a rise in unemployment, with more people cast into poverty. He will cut assistance programs, and promises to get rid of Obamacare - he seems that he doesn't know what he will replace it with, probably because he hasn't a clue. But he certainly knows what to say to get those cheers. His policies, such as they are, changing with the wind, and without detail, would probably lead to a higher rate of abortions, which has fallen steadily for the last 25 years. Studies show a strong correlation between poverty rates in a community and abortion rates. There is also the issue of religlious freedom and Catholic politicians. Those who hold elective office must try to represent ALL of their constituents, not only Catholic constitutents. To do otherwise would be a violation of their oath of office. They must respect the religious beliefs of ALL Americans, which encompasses an enormous range, including atheists. The United States is a religiously pluraliistic society, not a Roman Catholic theocracy. Those who judge Catholic politicians who must represent their constituencies in their elected roles as "unworthy" of receiving communion do not understand Catholicism or the US Constitution very well. .
ron chandonia
2 years 1 month ago
I rarely comment here because I have given up on this publication, which seems to have taken advantage of Pope Francis's openness to revert to the values it promoted in the days of Fr. Tom Reese. But I certainly agree with the comments that brand this editorial pure sophistry--not because I consider Donald Trump pro-life but I am glad somebody is still willing to stand up for Catholic teachings unpopular among today's Jesuits and other self-described political sophisticates.
Sandi Sinor
2 years 1 month ago
There are some who always hope that another person has really changed - this time. Well, Trump is very good at changing his mind on almost any subject that comes up in this election. Those who think he has truly repented of his previous support of abortion (including, at one time, partial birth abortion), should look at his lifelong record, as well as his frequent pivots on this and many other issues during the last 15 months. He is totally about saying whatever his supporters want to hear. As far as abortion goes, here is one summary of his many changes on the subject, He has no true ethical or moral convictions, because he is both immoral and amoral.. Everything comes down to what is best for him, for his 'brand". https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/04/03/donald-trumps-ever-shifting-positions-on-abortion/ As the article notes, at one point this year he said five different things in only three days. Trust him at your own risk. He will not do anything to stop abortion. He is simply using the pro-life movement for his own ambitions. Ironically, at one point he compares himself to Reagan on the subject. Many have forgotten that as Gov of Calif Reagan signed the "Therapeutic Abortion Act", liberalizing the abortion laws of the state before Roe v Wade "On June 14, 1967, Ronald Reagan signed the Therapeutic Abortion Act, after only six months as California governor. From a total of 518 legal abortions in California in 1967, the number of abortions would soar to an annual average of 100,000 in the remaining years of Reagan’s two terms — more abortions than in any U.S. state prior to the advent of Roe v. Wade. " Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/223437/reagans-darkest-hour-paul-kengor-patricia-clark-doerner Reagan sought counsel on the moral issues, and although thinking that the bill was morally questionable, signed it anyway - as a pragmatic measure. Trump will also say one thing about what he believes, but do another. He will not follow through, he will cop out. He even says so if you read carefully what he says. So given that neither candidate will do anything to stop abortion, voters need to look at the whole record of both. Both lie, but the record shows that Trump has lied more often about more things. The shadow of corruption overhangs both of them, but, once again, Trump's record is worse and involves more aspects of his own life. One has experience and competence and would keep a cool head in an international crisis. The other has shown that he is impulsive, reacts strongly to any criticism of himself at all - he is the classic 11 year old schoolyard bully who never grew up - using verbal threats (I'd like to punch him out ;myself, or I would hit him so hard his head will spin), threatening lawsuits against anyone who opposes him (his record on this throughout his business career is truly mind-boggling). He was too chicken to go to the debate where Megyn Kelly would again be moderator. He has thrown out more than a dozen news organizations from having press credentials because he can't handle criticism or coverage that points out that this emperor very often has no clothes. (He has reinstated them as of this weekend). He has pouted about the upcoming debates, waiting to see if he "likes" the moderators. What a coward! He will only deal with Fox or Breitbart or other fawning news organizations. In his business life, he bankrupted every company that he ran personally. He was bailed out several times by his father, at least once using illegal means at his casino. He wised up after a while and started selling his name, because he's hopeless at actually running a business. But he most definitely is a super-salesman. He has shafted small businessmen and contractors whom he did not pay when his projects went bankrupt, although he carefully preserved his personal wealth. He can afford the very slickest lawyers and the small businesses who were destroyed by him could not. He has employed "illegal" immigrants, but still won't answer questions about when his wife was working in the US before she had a visa or work permit although he and his "campaign" promised to do so several weeks ago. They're hoping everyone forgets. The list is so long it's impossible to summarize. He has demonstrated almost no understanding of economics (I am an economist), international or domestic, international affairs or national security.He was so clueless about a major international issue - Brexit - that he didn't know the term a month before the vote. He was in Scotland pushing his (failing) golf course the week of the vote. He knew so little about it that he congratulated Scotland for "taking back their country" from the EU. Hedid not know that while England voted to exit the EU, Scotland voted heavily in favor of remaining. Scotland is now contemplating another independence vote because of the Brexit results. His economic policies, if enacted, would lead to slower economic growth, and higher unemployment. Also a higher national debt. He would be a disaster for US national security. There is a reason that more than 50 national security experts (including former heads of the CIA, NSA, Dept of Homeland Security and office of the Director of National Intelligence, among others), published an open letter stating their concerns that Trump represents the gravest potential threat to US national securitypossible should he be elected. This is a man who praises Putin to the stars, but seemed unaware of the fact that when he asserted that Putin would never think of invading the Ukraine, that Russia had done just that more than two years earlier. As much as I dislike Hillary, there is no choice in this election but to vote for her. Her abortion stance does not hide what she believes; his does and those who trust him to change the situation are trusting the wrong person.
ed gleason
2 years ago
"condemnatory comments - from people who do not usually appear in the comments at America - intrigue me. Perhaps another website is urging its readers to comment on this article? This happens on other Catholic sites. Which site is sending its readers to America. Anyone?" I agree. These posters may have a trophy picture of Fr Tom ReeseSJ posted near their computer and are hoping to place Fr Malone SJ on their trophy wall.too.
ed gleason
2 years ago
Fr. Malone SJ states in his third paragraph ; "I believe that abortion should be illegal in this country in almost every circumstance.'' my belief also. I bet these Johhny-come-lately posters have never even read his above blog.. They just commit libel on him without an inch of guilt/ ///go back to your trash mag. Dangerous people just like their Trump candidate.
Jim MacGregor
2 years 1 month ago
I agree with Fr. Malone’s article. The only improvement would be to re-phrase the final sentence to read: “In other words, jeering your fellow Christians as they enter the church on Sunday is neither Christian nor particularly pro-life.” That would make the sense of this article more inclusive and appeal to a wider audience. I am confident that America has non-Catholic readers like myself who would agree with Fr. Malone’s article. Jesus’ words to the church in Thyatira (Revelation 2:20) address a much different kind of person than Mr. Kaine’s fellow congregants perceived him to be. As Fr. Malone noted: “Our unity resides in the person of Jesus Christ.” That indicates to me that we are to be courteous to fellow Christians, guided by Jesus’ teaching, and be moved to speak courteously to another Christian who we believe is engaging in or proclaiming immoral behavior. That does not mean to be “open minded” or “politically correct”. Rather, I prefer to be guided by Jesus’ words recorded by St. Mathew (Matthew 7:1-5) and St. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 8:10-13. Those teachings give us guidelines on how to relate to those who we believe to be wrong, and, “Oh by the way”, how we expect to be treated by them. Jim MacGregor
Michael Barberi
2 years 1 month ago
Fr. Malone's many commentaries are always well written, thoughtful and charitable. I very much thought this article was excellent for a number of reasons. I would offer 3 comments for reflection. 1. Based on many surveys of Catholics, including weekly Mass attendees, a significant percentage of them disagree with many of the moral teachings of the magisterium. If everyone at weekly Mass would somehow know the opinions of their fellow parishioners on every moral teaching, would it be "Catholic" or "pro-life" or "what Jesus would do" if a group of parishioners heckled them or protested against their opinions as they entered the Church? Or should protesters limit their heckling to only political candidates on issues of abortion who are attending weekly Mass? Before you answer my question: What about parishioners who believe that terminating a pregnancy to save the life of the mother and in cases of rape and incest should be morally permitted, but agree that terminating a pregnancy for any other reason is immoral? Would it be pro-life and Catholic for some Catholics to chastised them as they entered the Church? 2. Similarly, what if it was known that many weekly Mass attendees support the Church's teaching on abortion but disagree with the magisterium's teaching on contraception? Would it be pro-life and Catholic for a group of Mass attendees to protest against these parishioners who are entering the Church? Where would we drawn the line over what is meant by 'pro-life' or being 'Catholic'? 3. There is a fundamental difference between a Civil Law of the United States and a Moral Law of the Catholic Church. At the present time, abortion is legal in the U.S. and Catholics can vote for a political candidate based on their informed Catholic conscience. Even if all Catholic politicians would vote for a constitutional amendment to make abortion illegal, it will take 2/3rds of the States to approve it. Given that only about 24% of U.S. citizens are Catholic, it is highly unlikely that this would be feasible, at least at the present time. More importantly, the U.S. Supreme Court will likely be the vehicle that will change Roe v. Wade, if it ever will be changed. The legal principles used in Roe v. Wade were not moral principles such as 'when life begins and when personhood starts (e.g., when a fetus becomes a person with rights under the US Constitution)? Even if we all agree that these questions are critically important, the answers are not solely Catholic answers nor are the answers of Catholics the same. Even Pope Benedict XVI said that in applying Catholic social teaching, a political candidate is not defined by one issue. Often we find Catholic political candidates who agree with some moral teachings of the magisterium but not others. In such cases the principle of proportionality must be considered in making a voting decision. Should a group of Catholics protest other Catholics who are entering the Church for weekly Mass based on how they voted for political candidates? What criteria would make sense? Should we only protest against a candidate who does not agree to overturn Roe v. Wade? What about amendments to Roe v. Wade....such as only permitting the termination of pregnancy to save the life of the mother and in cases of rape and incest? If this could be done, would it be morally right to make a Law apply to all citizens of the U.S. who are not Catholic and believe differently about the termination of pregnancy?
Reyanna Rice
2 years 1 month ago
Thank you, Fr. Malone, for this thoughtful and courageously worded article, one that seems to have become a lightening rod attracting some rather judgmental comments. And judgmentalism is the exact problem, one that is driving a lot of young people away. It is an issue that concerns me deeply in the Church. It seems there is a small cadre but very vocal who think they get to decide who is truly Catholic, who will be "saved" and who is not fit. As Pope Francis recently said, God does not discard anyone.
Paul Lindblom
2 years 1 month ago
As a person who has been "searching" for God for most of my life I read this article and it only adds to my confusion about religion. The following quote is a reply to a blog post that critiques this article. "The worst kind of heretic is the one who, while teaching mostly true catholic doctrine, adds a word of heresy, like a drop of poison in a cup of water." - Pope Leo X111 I find the sentiment of this to be true in the secular world such as a mission statement of a business. A slight change even just a word over time creates a new baseline so that when a new word is added the new baseline becomes the norm and again and again. To me the following blog post is interesting in how it discusses the points of this article. http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2016/09/rebutting-fr-malone.html I acknowledge that I don't fully understand the arguments being made due to my lack of knowledge of the Catholic faith compared to most who post here, so my apologies in advance if questioning this was inappropriate.
joseph o'leary
2 years 1 month ago
Thank you, Fr. Malone.
Bruce Snowden
2 years 1 month ago
I learned a long time ago that, if there are two conflicting opinions on a moral question from equally competent sources, we may in good conscience follow either. Remember, sin is in the Will, not in any external action. For me this is fundamental stuff, good guides to prevent shallow and false judgments against our sisters, brothers and self.
Michael Barberi
2 years 1 month ago
Bruce, It is good to hear from you again. The theory about two conflicting opinions and the following of 'either' is a moral theory called probabilism et al. It applies in difficult matters of a properly informed conscience. In this case, one must never go against their properly informed conscience even if it is in tension with a papal teaching. As to whether sin is in the Will and not in external action must be nuanced. Someone's end and intention is an act of the Will and someone's external action, directed to the agent's end, is an act act of reason in due matter and circumstances. However, for a voluntary human action to be good, the agent's end, intention, circumstances and the object of the external action "all" must be good. For example to give alms (a good external act) for charity ( a good end/intention which is an act of the Will) is good, but to give alms for vainglory is evil because the end or intention of the person is evil while the external act is good. On the other hand, an evil external act regardless of the agent's good end, is evil. See S.T. Q.20 "Whether the whole goodness of the external action depends of the goodness of the Will", A.2 and Aquinas's 'I answer that' reply. Nevertheless, there is a significant difference between what we call "sin" and " whether an external act is right or wrong and whether a person's end or intention is good or evil". For example, "whether to take the pill to regulate fertility in the practice of responsible parenthood is intrinsically evil or not" is controversial. Such definitions and judgments cannot be fully grasped by a short blog comment. I hope I did not make simple things more confusing as I do agree with your conclusion.
Bruce Snowden
2 years 1 month ago
Michael, I've been living by the above-mentioned all my life, hopefully advancing with Jesus in wisdom and grace. Thanks for your scholarly explanation, you and others responsible for my above-mentioned advance in wisdom. It's gratifying to know you agree with my conclusion. After all is said and done, I'm just an ordinary man who knows a little about many things, but not very much about anything, a definition I find totally satisfying and would be pleased if it ended up on my tomb stone. Now here's a kind of problem. Obviously you know me in a very friendly way, but try as I might, shamefaced, I'm having a hard time trying to remember you, although my wife agrees we know each other but cannot remember where or how. We used to live in the Bronx, NYC but two years ago we moved South and now live in Rincon, GA, a town not far from Savannah. I would appreciate very much if you'd refresh my cobwebby memory as to how we know each other so I can stop feeling like a dummy with the red face! Thanks! Bruce
Michael Barberi
2 years 1 month ago
Bruce, See my comment (new) above dated 9/7 to your question and a further thought.
Bruce Snowden
2 years 1 month ago
Michael, I read your 9/7 addition and find my moral compass spinning in the turbulence of the expressed theological complexities, distinctions, flashing red lights, necessary components to a more precise understanding of moral markers. Thanks! But I wish it could be as simple as Augustine's "Love God and do as you will," understanding of course, that, to truly love God one must do God's Will, incarnating it so completely into self, so as to be able to "do as you will" whatever you will. Once again it sounds complicated! Oh, well. Again thanks!
Bruce Snowden
2 years 1 month ago
Michael, I've been living by the above-mentioned all my life, hopefully advancing with Jesus in wisdom and grace. Thanks for your scholarly explanation, you and others responsible for my above-mentioned advance in wisdom. It's gratifying to know you agree with my conclusion. After all is said and done, I'm just an ordinary man who knows a little about many things, but not very much about anything, a definition I find totally satisfying and would be pleased if it ended up on my tomb stone. Now here's a kind of problem. Obviously you know me in a very friendly way, but try as I might, shamefaced, I'm having a hard time trying to remember you, although my wife agrees we know each other but cannot remember where or how. We used to live in the Bronx, NYC but two years ago we moved South and now live in Rincon, GA, a town not far from Savannah. I would appreciate very much if you'd refresh my cobwebby memory as to how we know each other so I can stop feeling like a dummy with the red face! Thanks! Bruce
William Rydberg
2 years 1 month ago
Matt, In my opinion, your view on this matter may be coloured by a main-line Protestant point of view. Classically, one that insists that Faith is a matter of personal opinion. Catholicism doesn't teach this, because Jesus-God come in the flesh is for everyone. It's why our holiest thing the holy sacrifice of the Mass is a public event... And all Christians agree that Everyone is welcome to hear the Good News!... if one reads the Gospels, it's abundantly clear that our Lord saw and experienced the Temple as a multi-faceted place of teaching, prayer, dialogue, and even a site for challenging hypocrites, as well as encouraging others. It was in the truest sense, an ongoing evergreen "Qahal". The Gospel clearly speaks of people "living their lives in the Temple". It's quite wrong to re-imagine the drama and activity occurring at the Temple (sacrifices going On, ongoing construction, buying and selling, donations being made to great public acclaim, public Oaths being made, disputes being settled, Psalms being sung, etc..) as some kind of hermetically sealed spot-"away from it all"... Our Churches are described as Temples in the Catholic Liturgy.... In my opinion, it is wrong for 21st Century churchmen to apply their personal (contemporary American) standard for our Catholic Church is "universal" by definition. Try applying an East Coast American standard of conduct in Southern Italy, Brazil or Rwanda, or Corpus Christi Texas, doesn't work... Naturally, the Temple Authorities were responsible for the conduct within the Temple, and by and large Jesus-God come in the flesh respected this.... But to say that our Temples are not a place to register legitimate concerns. Is not Catholic in my opinion.. in Christ,
Chris Madden
2 years 1 month ago
I see a couple things going on with this: 1. There is certainly a strong relationship between legality and morality, although legality is not and ought not to be morality. This results from the fact that legality is by nature educational and influences our behavior based on the punishment or avoidance of punishment resulting from a particular action -- To reference Adam Smith, we all seek to be praised, but we all also seek to be praise-worthy. Legality influences societal norms heavily, and thus influences praise and the perception of praise, even if it is a false reality. St. Thomas Aquinas says the laws of man are binding in conscience, insofar as they align with eternal law. I have a strong tendency to agree with that. Nonetheless, the ability of the human intellect to grasp this Truth is cloudy at best. We have seen theocracies fail miserably throughout history. That withstanding, we have the ability to view some things without the shadow of a doubt as morally impermissible, e.g. murdering an innocent child. In large part disagreements arise between incommensurable paradigms, in which the understanding of arguing parties simply cannot be reconciled. It is the role of reason to understand these standpoints, and to elevate them to an understanding through the revelation of faith -- "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to contemplation of truth" -- Fides et Ratio JPII 2. Whereas it is true that certain things are impermissible, it is also the case that we are all sinners constantly thirsting and freely given the endless love, mercy, and grace of God, purchased for us by the perfect sacrifice of Chris the Lord. Nobody ought to be banned from pursuing that. Responsibility is proportional to understanding. Those who understand, but willingly act in opposition to that understanding are more gravely guilty. Look no further than Lucifer -- the most beautiful of God's angels who becomes the most wretched an vile once he actively chose to oppose God. Nonetheless, we do not have adequate knowledge to judge the way in which others act, nor to judge their intentions, nor to judge their circumstances. We are called to love our neighbors. Love is too often confused with kindness; C.S. Lewis talks about this in depth in The Problem of Pain. To love is to desire what is best for the beloved for his or her own sake. Ultimately, this means eternal salvation. To turn a blind eye, or to allow a brother in Christ to remain ignorant of the Gospel, is a disservice. We require mercy for what we do, but also for what we fail to do. The latter is often more difficult to grasp. 3. The approach to spreading understand of the Truth, viz. the Light of the Gospel, is through action. It is through action others can come to understand what it means to be loved, in a word to know Christ as Christ. Christ is the true divine pedagogy, and the perfect servant leader. We are called to follow his lead. We are his body -- his eyes, his ears, his mouth, and his hands. To understand what he is calling us to and to fail to act is perhaps a sin. In short, we should strive to have laws that mirror the truth, although from a practical standpoint this is difficult considering the process of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis central to social progress (Hegel), we are called to love our neighbor in the true sense, but this can only be accomplished following the lead of Christ.
Kevin Murphy
2 years 1 month ago
Would Father Malone stand and cheer if Mr. Kaine favored rounding up all Mexican illegal immigrants and returning them to their home country? I doubt it, and he shouldn't. However, he would cheer an individual with a near perfect rating from Planned Parenthood. That he can overlook. Such Jesuit sophistry. Lots of words and confusion, little moral consistency.
Michael Barberi
2 years 1 month ago
Bruce, We know each other a blogging friends. Over the years you and I blogged on many sexual ethical issues, and at times entered into protracted arguments with Tim O'Leary. I hope this helps. I grew up in Brooklyn, lived in New Jersey for most of my married life, then moved to California about 15 years ago. I retired 10 years ago and been studying moral theology every since. BYW, the fundamental issue about what is morally right is based on 'moral method', often following Aquinas even though there is much disagreement over interpretation. The moral analysis includes all relevant moral elements of the moral method such as: motivation, end, intention, circumstances and the act/object inclusive of deliberation, reason, choice and execution but also the appropriateness, suitability and proportionality of the external act to the good in the agent's end. This is a mouthful, but the most important thing is to start the moral analysis with "motivation and end/intention", and not with the external act, as the CC does. When you start the moral analysis with the external act you shortchange the entire moral analysis because it forces you to say something about the external act as whether it is right or wrong, good or evil. While the external act must be considered in the moral analysis, as to its appropriateness, suitability and proportionality to the good in the end, you don't want to fall into the problem of shortchanging the moral analysis and declaring upfront that a certain external act is immoral regardless of all the other moral elements in the moral analysis. I hope this does not confuse you further. I just wanted to be more precise in terms of what I said. I always found you well educated with a moral compass that always points to Jesus and his love and mercy.
Joe Kash
2 years 1 month ago
Fr. Malone, Did you really say this? Am I reading this right? "But I can’t imagine saying to the person sitting next to me at Mass, the one who disagrees with me on what the public policy on slavery and lynching should be, that he or she is somehow less Catholic than I am by virtue of that simple fact. I certainly wouldn’t tell them to leave, nor would I protest their arrival at the front door of the church." Wow!
Joe Kash
2 years 1 month ago
Would you not at least admonish them? Would you not at least publicly tell your congregation that this prominent person who supports legal slavery and lynching does not represent the Catholic Chirch and this is not acceptable behavior.
KATHERIN MARSH
2 years 1 month ago
Father Malone, Thank you for this insightful and humbling article. "Our unity resides in the person of Jesus Christ." When we use practicing our religion to force elected politicians to change public policy, it seems to me, we do not see a bigger picture. The case of The State of California vs. Scott Petersen sits in the wings. In the State of California, it is a crime for a husband to kill his wife, but until Petersen, the State could not find a father guilty of the crime of passion of killing his unborn child. The State hurriedly made it a crime for the husband/father, Scott to kill his unborn child. This criminal case sits in the wings. Public policy is interesting; this question of criminality more so.
KATHERIN MARSH
2 years 1 month ago
Oh, and I add two more points for thought: When a US Senator or Representative puts his hand on the Bible to SWEAR the Oath of Office, the person swears to protect, uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States; that Constitution includes the Roe v. Wade Amendment. So would all of these politically religious zealots want the elected official to commit the mortal sin of bearing false witness? Or would they rather elect a person who will say they will lie on the Bible to get your vote, especially since they have no power to change the Constitution? And what then is the best public policy to motivate the PUBLIC to change the policy?
Henry George
2 years 1 month ago
Katherin, By your reasoning any Congressmen who sought to end Slavery in the United States was violating his oath to the Constitution. Roe vs Wade is not an Amendment, it is a most faulty and naive ruling by the Supreme Court. Is it False Witness to save a life, a babe in the womb's life ?
Bruce Snowden
2 years 1 month ago
Michael, thanks for letting me know where we've met. Once again I don't remember years ago blogging on sexual ethics via online AMERICA Magazine with you, but no surprise as retention has never been a plus for me and now at 85 it's certainly no better! But I remain ever ready to enter into a discussion of ideas and opinions with you or anyone, as a good way to better understand issues, maybe injecting along the way a few personal helpful insights. So, lets keep it going! P.S. Don't know why my blogs are duplicating, really a nuisance! keep it going!
Bruce Snowden
2 years 1 month ago
Michael, thanks for letting me know where we've met. Once again I don't remember years ago blogging on sexual ethics via online AMERICA Magazine with you, but no surprise as retention has never been a plus for me and now at 85 it's certainly no better! But I remain ever ready to enter into a discussion of ideas and opinions with you or anyone, as a good way to better understand issues, maybe injecting along the way a few personal helpful insights. So, lets keep it going! keep it going!

Advertisement

The latest from america

While recommitting to help, L.I.R.S. and the U.S. bishops called on the Trump administration to “commit to immigration policies that are humane and uphold each individual’s human dignity.”
J.D. Long-GarcíaOctober 17, 2018
Caroline McClain, 16, sits on the ruins of her family's Mexico Beach vacation home after Hurricane Michael. Photo by Atena Sherry.
Human-driven climate change is intensifying tropical cyclones across the globe, climatologists say, but the role it played in the tragedy at Mexico Beach is both subtle and surprising.
Mario ArizaOctober 17, 2018
Our faith tells us that Christ chose to suffer on our behalf and that when we choose to do the same, in the service of others, we imitate Jesus in our own lives.
Terrance KleinOctober 17, 2018
Let’s begin to enlist both left and right in service of the vulnerable—using the ideological language they already accept.
Simcha FisherOctober 17, 2018