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Catholics get back to the basics

Whether Canadian and American Catholic politicians can remain Catholic while supporting things like abortion-on-demand and gay marriage has been quietly shelved, or so they hope.

It’s been resolved, they say. So let’s hear nothing more about it.

It appears, however, they’re going to hear a great deal more about it. In Canada, Parliament has spoken and the courts have spoken, so the issue is considered done with.

Their church, however, is only beginning to speak, and what it has said so far is not at all reassuring for them.

The Canadian magazine Catholic Insight, for instance, reports that in Mexico, Cardinal Rivera Norberto Caerrera has condemned Catholic politicians who vote for pro-abortion legislation and other “perversions.”

Auxiliary Bishop Marcelino Hernandez of Mexico City has declared Catholic politicians who vote for such things have effectually excommunicated themselves, while Bishop Arizmendi of Chiapas has declared abortion to be a form of “murder” and thus “a grave, mortal sin, punished by excommunication.”

Voting for abortion is not the same thing as taking part in one, or having one, of course.

Nevertheless, when a reporter asked Pope Benedict to comment on the increasingly tough line taken by the Mexican bishops, he endorsed what they’re doing.

Canon law, he said, declares the killing of an innocent child incompatible with receiving Communion, which is receiving the body of Christ.

This was not quite definitive, but it was certainly an indication of which way the wind is blowing.

In Canada and the U.S., the Catholic bishops in the late 20th century became so liberal many of the laity were scandalized.

Many bishops seemed to assume Vatican II had in effect removed the old strictures of the church against birth control, abortion, the practice of homosexuality and euthanasia.

This phenomenon reached its apogee in 2000, when the church provided what amounted to a state funeral for ex-prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who in 1967 put through Parliament the bill that legalized abortion with certain restrictions.

The courts subsequently removed the restrictions, making Canada virtually the only country in the world without any legal limitation on the practice. Since then, 100,000 unborn Canadian babies are aborted annually.

At no point in this entire period, however, did the Catholic church’s teaching on abortion change. What changed was the willingness of many bishops to enforce that teaching. However, in the last two decades of the 20th century, the church’s seeming venture into do-your-own-thing morality gradually reversed. There were at least four causes for this.

First: John Paul II, arguably the most popular pope in modern history, was an unswerving traditionalist on all moral and theological questions. He appointed conservative bishops and began restraining the liberal inclinations in the seminaries.

Second: The phenomenon of pedophile priests in North America burst in the media. When it became apparent many had been protected from disciplinary action by their bishops, the effect was to undermine episcopal credibility and authority, causing Catholics to look to the Vatican for reassurance.

Third: The given reason for softening the church’s moral teaching was that it would bring more people back to the church. It soon became evident the opposite was true.

Churches both Catholic and Protestant that remained more faithful to their own traditions prospered and grew.

Those who yielded to compromise suffered a calamitous decline in membership.

Fourth: The foundational argument for smaller families and aborting of “unwanted children” proved flawed. The world showed no evidence of starvation.

What it did show was an impending demographic disaster for those societies and cultures that followed the liberal line. They were not having enough children to sustain themselves.

In May in the U.S., 18 Catholic Democratic congressmen, all pro-gay marriage and pro-abortion, vociferously objected to the Pope Benedict’s endorsement of the Mexican bishops, terming it interference by the church in the affairs of the state.

What I, a non-Catholic, do not understand is this: Why don’t these politicians just join another church? Heaven knows there are enough to choose from.

Could it be they need the Catholic label to get re-elected? Surely not. Why, that would be hypocrisy.


Contact the Editor: Joel Johannesen
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