Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Catholic Politicians and Catholic Doctrine

Catholic President John F. Kennedy once stated,

"I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute -- where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act,'' Kennedy told the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in September 1960. "I do not speak for my church on public matters -- and the church does not speak for me.''

Ref: Public Officials Under God, By E.J. Dionne, Jr., February 28, 2006

In 2004, it became clear that many Catholic politicians publically reject Catholic doctrine, but still continue to profess to be Catholic and fully participate in the Sacraments of the Catholic Church.

Catholic Democrats in Congress responded by stating,

"As Catholic Democrats in Congress, we are proud to be part of the living Catholic tradition -- a tradition that promotes the common good, expresses a consistent moral framework for life and highlights the need to provide a collective safety net to those individuals in society who are most in need. As legislators, in the U.S. House of Representatives, we work every day to advance respect for life and the dignity of every human being. We believe that government has moral purpose.... each of us is committed to reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies and creating an environment with policies that encourage pregnancies to be carried to term.... In all these issues, we seek the church's guidance and assistance but believe also in the primacy of conscience.... In recognizing the church's role in providing moral leadership, we acknowledge and accept the tension that comes from being in disagreement with the church in some areas.


If I've understood them correctly, they've claimed the legitimate right to dissent from Catholic doctrine, which is contrary to the Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, as well as Catholic Canon law. In otherwords, they have claimed the right to disregard and/or disobey canon law by the "primacy of conscience." This is a violation of canon law which is subject to canonical penalties. Whatever expertise these politicians may have, it is clear is that they do not have expertise in Catholic theology or ecclesiology.

Canon law clearly indicates that all Catholics are bound by law to give their submission to Catholic doctrines.
Can. 750 §1. A person must believe with divine and Catholic faith all those things contained in the word of God, written or handed on, that is, in the one deposit of faith entrusted to the Church, and at the same time proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn magisterium of the Church or by its ordinary and universal magisterium which is manifested by the common adherence of the Christian faithful under the leadership of the sacred magisterium; therefore all are bound to avoid any doctrines whatsoever contrary to

§2. Each and every thing which is proposed definitively by the magisterium of the Church concerning the doctrine of faith and morals, that is, each and every thing which is required to safeguard reverently and to expound faithfully the same deposit of faith, is also to be firmly embraced and retained; therefore, one who rejects those propositions which are to be held definitively is opposed to the doctrine of the Catholic Church....

Can. 752
Although not an assent of faith, a religious submission of the intellect and will must be given to a doctrine which the Supreme Pontiff or the college of bishops declares concerning faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim it by definitive act; therefore, the Christian faithful are to take care to avoid those things which do not agree with it....

Code of Canon Law

Catholics, politicians included, who reject Catholic doctrine are objecitvely in violation of Canon Law. Every believer must follow his conscience, but he is also obliged to form it. Conscience is not an independent and infallible faculty. Setting up a supreme magisterium of conscience in opposition to the magisterium of the Church means adopting a principle of free examination incompatible with the economy of Revelation and its transmission in the Church and thus also with a correct understanding of theology.

Yet, Catholic politicians are not the only ones blameworthy in their dissent.

Canon law also implies that the Ordinary (eg. diocesan bishop) or Apostolic See (ie. Pope) will admonish public dissent with Catholic doctrine, and if they fail to retract their dissenting position after admonishment, they are to be punished with a just penalty.

Can. 1371 The following are to be punished with a just penalty: 1/ in addition to the case mentioned in can. 1364, §1, a person who teaches a doctrine condemned by the Roman Pontiff or an ecumenical council or who obstinately rejects the doctrine mentioned in can. 750, §2 or in can. 752 and who does not retract after having been admonished by the Apostolic See or an ordinary; 2/ a person who otherwise does not obey a legitimate precept or prohibition of the Apostolic See, an ordinary, or a superior and who persists in disobedience after a warning.

I believe the bishops and the pope are blameworthy for not admonishing dissenting public figures such as these politicians. The pope and college of bishops have failed to exercise their authority and responsibility in accord with canon 1371.

By failing to admonish dissenting Catholics, the magisterium have created the environment of ambiguity and dissent in the Catholic Church in which we now suffer. Because they have not received specific public admonishment, many Catholics believe these politicians are not in violation of canon law and are Catholics in good standing. Thus, many Catholics think they too can disset legitimately from Catholic doctrine. Only the bishops and the pope can correct this problem.

The lawful pastors of the Catholic Church must exercise their responsibility to admonish heretics in our midst otherwise this passage of Sacred Scripture is nonsensical:

Titus 3:10 "A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition avoid"

We need more Pastors like Ambrose...

Ambrose: Public Sin, Public Penance
By Anthony zimmerman
Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Feb 2005

God bless,


"Lord, in my zeal for the love of truth, let me not forget the truth about love"
-- St. Thomas Aquinas