I will confess that the primary reason I would not like to see Nancy Pelosi excommunicated, despite her "obstinate perseverance in manifest grave sin," is that I fear some whack bishop will immediately take the opportunity, using some variation of the seamless garment argument, to excommunicate Rick Santorum (war), Marco Rubio (married a non Catholic), and Paul Ryan (there must be something).
No matter how many times Church
teaching on Church teaching is explained, some people cannot seem to get
it through their heads that one of these things is not like the
The Church's social teachings ... important. War, the death
penalty ... serious stuff. Murdering babies ... Well, as I said: One of
these things is not like the others.
The teachings of the Church on
certain matters are
amenable to interpretation. For example, Catholics have an absolute
duty to care for their neighbor. Whether this is best done through
personal intervention, private charities, local governments, state
governments, or the federal government, or some combination thereof, is a
policy decision, not a moral decision. (Although it should be noted,
contra the pro big government party, that the Church's social
encyclicals have endorsed the concept of subsidiarity, i.e., have
expressed a preference for local assistance when that is feasible.)
Again, Catholics have a grave duty to avoid war and the use of the death
penalty whenever possible. The exact parameters of "whenever possible"
are ... left inexact, and intentionally so, by Church
authorities who realize, even while they make strong personal judgments
about political situations, that these are in the end strong personal judgments, and not dogmatic assertions. Popes, bishops, and priests advise us concerning the conduct of wars, the use of the death penalty, and compassion for the poor. The Church commands us concerning abortion and related issues.
I might add that this has been the case consistently throughout the
Church's history. Particular, individual Church officials have in the
past been relaxed about war (the Crusades), torture (the Inquisition),
and the poor (serfdom). The Church as a whole has never endorsed
evil, and has in fact been at the forefront of eradicating violence and
injustice. But never, never, from Her earliest days of persecution
under the Romans, has the Church been relaxed about abortion, birth
control, per-marital sex, divorce, euthanasia, or homosexual relations.
These things have always been condemned. This fact alone says
something about their importance relative to other moral issues.
Simply from a philosophical standpoint, it should be clear why these
"bedroom issues" (as they are sometimes derisively called) are
important. They are important because, like it or not, they affect the
structure of the family. What you permit or do not permit between two
consenting adults profoundly affects their children: makes them more
healthy or more weak (or dead), makes them happier or less happy, makes
them more or less likely to strive, to succeed, to be merciful, to be
good parents in their turn. As your children go, so goes your world.
Poverty and war strike at the family from the outside. The "bedroom
issues" strike at the family from within: they change the very meaning
of the word "family." You can approve or disapprove of the change in
meaning, but you cannot insist that it is a trivial change, or deny that
it is a change at all.
These things seem obvious to me, but they are not unfortunately so
obvious to America as a whole—not even, it appears, to all the American
Catholic bishops, who until a few weeks ago seemed to prefer
discussions of immigration and welfare to discussions of gay marriage
and contraception. Perhaps in their heart of hearts, many of them
didn't really believe that people could go too far wrong on the graver
issues. Their sin was the sin not of the traitor or the coward, but the
sin of the optimist. Don't make too much of a fuss about "social
values"—normal people won't be confused about them—the advocates for
insanity will lose steam and drift away.
We all should know better now. We do know better. Well ... most of us, anyway ...
“First of all,
I am going to stick with my fellow Catholics in supporting the
Administration on [the HHS mandate]. I think it was a very courageous decision that
they made, and I support it.”
On second thoughts, I'm still opposed
to Ms. Pelosi's excommunication. After all, the indictment of
"obstinate perseverance in manifest grave sin" assumes that the one
indicted is compos mentis.