Fr. Matt Malone, S.J. (a Jesuit priest) wrote a vague, confusing, and ultimately misleading piece in America Magazine, and so I decided to do a line-by-line rebuttal.
Let's dive right in, with Fr. Malone's words in red, and my responses in black:
This is true. So far, so good.
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.
Uh, not exactly. On death penalty issues, yes, a debate on how to apply public policy is allowed. But as far as the teaching of the Magisterium on abortion or gay "marriage"? There is no "spirited debate" about "how to apply those moral principles". These intrinsic evils must be opposed always and unequivocally, in the public square and everywhere. The Church is very, very clear on that.
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.
This is absolutely true, but in this case, misleading. Fr. Malone is trying to apply these words to the issues of abortion and gay "marriage" -- the very issues to which this principle cannot and does not apply.
Thus our public policy choices belong to the realm of prudential judgment.
No. Fr. Malone is implying "all" here. But not all issues in the public square ("public policy choices") belong to the realm of prudential judgment! The Church never says this, and in fact teaches otherwise:
In his letter, “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion,” Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) wrote the following as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the congregation in charge of protecting doctrinal purity):
Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia. (emphasis mine)
Again, utterly misleading. By lumping all those issues together (abortion, death penalty, prostitution, and "other contentious issues"), he blurs the lines, and badly.
Fr. Malone gives a nod to the truth that "not all of those issues involve the same level of moral gravity," but then he does not attempt to explain that precisely because of these different levels of moral gravity, our responses to those issues must be different. Instead, he writes as if our response to those different issues can be just the same. However, as we see from Cardinal Ratzinger's words above, these issues do not demand the same response from the faithful.
Let's go even further. In Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II said much about the intrinsic evils of abortion and euthanasia, and never discussed Catholics' "freedom to disagree" in "good conscience" about the "prudential application of those principles in the public square" (Fr. Malone's words). These excerpts from EV are lengthy, but please bear with me and read them all (all emphases mine):
Civil law must ensure that all members of society enjoy respect for certain fundamental rights which innately belong to the person, rights which every positive law [i.e., civil law] must recognize and guarantee. First and fundamental among these is the inviolable right to life of every innocent human being. While public authority can sometimes choose not to put a stop to something which-were it prohibited- would cause more serious harm, it can never presume to legitimize as a right of individuals -- even if they are the majority of the members of society -- an offence against other persons caused by the disregard of so fundamental a right as the right to life. The legal toleration of abortion or of euthanasia can in no way claim to be based on respect for the conscience of others, precisely because society has the right and the duty to protect itself against the abuses which can occur in the name of conscience and under the pretext of freedom. (#71)
Now the first and most immediate application of this teaching concerns a human law which disregards the fundamental right and source of all other rights which is the right to life, a right belonging to every individual. Consequently, laws which legitimize the direct killing of innocent human beings through abortion or euthanasia are in complete opposition to the inviolable right to life proper to every individual; they thus deny the equality of everyone before the law....Laws which authorize and promote abortion and euthanasia are therefore radically opposed not only to the good of the individual but also to the common good; as such they are completely lacking in authentic juridical validity....Consequently, a civil law authorizing abortion or euthanasia ceases by that very fact to be a true, morally binding civil law. (#72)
Abortion and euthanasia are thus crimes which no human law can claim to legitimize. There is no obligation in conscience to obey such laws; instead there is a grave and clear obligation to oppose them by conscientious objection....In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to obey it, or to "take part in a propaganda campaign in favour of such a law, or vote for it". (#73)
Christians, like all people of good will, are called upon under grave obligation of conscience not to cooperate formally in practices which, even if permitted by civil legislation, are contrary to God's law. Indeed, from the moral standpoint, it is never licit to cooperate formally in evil. Such cooperation occurs when an action, either by its very nature or by the form it takes in a concrete situation, can be defined as a direct participation in an act against innocent human life or a sharing in the immoral intention of the person committing it. This cooperation can never be justified either by invoking respect for the freedom of others or by appealing to the fact that civil law permits it or requires it. Each individual in fact has moral responsibility for the acts which he personally performs; no one can be exempted from this responsibility, and on the basis of it everyone will be judged by God himself (cf. Rom 2:6; 14:12). (#74)
Do you see anything there that talks about Catholics being "free to disagree" on the "prudential application of those principles in the public square"? I don't. These are intrinsic (i.e., of their very nature) evils, and we are to exercise our public square duties to always and everywhere oppose them to the greatest extent that we can.
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.
What? Fr. Malone is arguing something very curious here, claiming that people don't believe pro-abortion folks "have a right" to sit in a pew on Sunday. Huh?? I've never heard such an argument in 22 years of teaching the Faith. Everyone, from the greatest saint to the greatest sinner, from Catholic to Hindu to Buddhist to atheist, is welcome to come to Mass and sit next to us in the pews! No one ever argued otherwise, and if they have, they are in such a small minority that I have never encountered them in over two decades. Anyone can come and sit in the pews at Mass!
So, why would Father say this? Let's read on....
I am pro-life. I believe that abortion should be illegal in this country in almost every circumstance.
Abortion should be illegal in "almost every circumstance"? No, Fr. Malone, abortion should be illegal in every single circumstance. Every individual human life is sacred and inviolable. No Catholic priest should be in favor of "some" legal abortion! Fr. Malone is not in accord with Church teaching here.
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.
I agree with Fr. Malone on one thing: What makes a person "Catholic" is simply his baptism. The person may completely reject the Catholic Faith at some point after that, and he would still be a Catholic. He may be a hell-bound Catholic, but still a Catholic.
As we've discussed countless times here in the Bubble, we cannot judge any individual soul, because we are not God. We cannot read hearts, and we cannot know how each person is cooperating with the grace he or she receives.
But what we can judge (and are commanded to judge) are actions. If a Catholic politician, for example, votes for legal abortion, we can say without hesitation that his act is evil. If it happens again and again, and if the Catholic politician is proud and boasts of his votes for legal abortion, even abortion with no restrictions, and even having a 100% positive rating from NARAL and Planned Parenthood, we can unequivocally say that what he is doing is morally evil, not to mention scandalous.
So again, why would Father say what he's saying? Let's keep going....
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.”
Now we see. It's a defense of Hillary Clinton's Catholic running mate, Tim Kaine.
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.
On this I agree with Fr. Malone. It is indeed uncharitable to say that anyone is "evil." As I mentioned above, only God can read a soul, and we cannot know if indeed Kaine is rotten inside. We can only look to his actions and say, "Those actions are pure evil." And we should.
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.”
I'm not sure why we should "note this for the record"? Perhaps to assuage the consciences of those who would vote for a Catholic politician who goes against the moral law, the laws of God, the laws of Christ's Church, and votes to allow murder of the child in the womb? Other than that, it's not necessary to "note" this celebration of the man. But let's move on....
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.
Again, abortion is not a "public policy question" according to the Catholic Church. And please, welcome him to the parish, sit right next to him. But let's be honest. That's not really what people are upset about, is it? In truth, faithful Catholics are upset that Tim Kaine, who is flaunting the teachings of God and His Church, is presenting himself for Holy Communion each week, which is wrong at best and scandalous at worst. And since Kaine is a virulently pro-abortion, pro-gay "marriage" politician, it cannot be good for his own soul, either.
And I bet that, like the congregation itself, the welcoming crowd would be a mix of “pro-life” and “pro-choice” people.
Then shame on us for not better educating our own people, wouldn't you agree, Father?
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.
Fr. Malone, your Church says that voting against legal abortion and euthanasia and gay "marriage" is not "allegiance to a set of ideas" or "some political manifesto" -- it's adherence to the very Law of God. Please, check Evangelium Vitae again for the parts you missed. This is a bizarre statement coming from a Catholic priest.
Our unity resides in the person of Jesus Christ.
Yes. Until and unless any Catholic individual, through his own grave and unrepentant sin, has separated himself from the Person of Christ and the Mystical Body of Christ. In that case, there is no unity there at all. "Unity" and "separation" are contradictory, after all.
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.
And yet protesting evil, and holding our Catholic politicians accountable for the evil they proudly, openly, even enthusiastically promote, is most definitely Catholic and pro-life. Expecting that Catholics who persist in grave and public sin/scandal do not approach for Communion is also a Catholic thing.
What is not in keeping with our Catholic Faith is obfuscation, sugar-coating, misleading, and blurring lines. I hope and pray that none of that was done on purpose, because we have enough confused and ignorant Catholics in America as it is. I beg you to try for a little more clarity next time, Father.