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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Cardinal Maida and Archdiocese of Detroit Obstruct Pro-Life Catholics

Four years ago, pro-life Catholics in Michigan worked diligently in an attempt to defeat pro-abortion Catholic Jennifer Granholm's bid for governor. We failed, and Granholm was elected. Nevertheless, in an imperfect way, we at least succeeded in raising awareness among Catholics of Granholm's pro-abortion position, a position which is entirely at odds with Catholic teaching.

In 2003, Marlene Elwell founded Catholics in the Public Square (CPS) in order to help educate Catholic voters regarding Catholic social teaching and to rally such voters to use their vote to support Catholic principles. CPS provided a much needed network for faithful Catholics and enabled them to bring their Catholic values into the political arena. CPS scored some early political victories by leading the fight on the People's Override (of Jennifer Granholm's veto of Michigan's Partial Birth Abortion Ban) and also on Michigan's 2004 Marriage Protection Amendment.

This election, CPS has again mobilized in support of Catholic teaching. As one of its principal activities, CPS is attempting to educate Catholic voters regarding Governor Jennifer Granholm's extreme pro-abortion position. In furtherance of this end, scores of CPS volunteers have been distributing fliers in the parking lots of Catholic parishes. The fliers boldly state that Governor Granholm's position on abortion, embryonic stem-cell research and cloning, and on the homosexual life-style is opposed to Catholic teaching. As support, the flier cites Pope Benedict, Vatican documents, the U.S. Bishops, and the Michigan Catholic Conference. The flier also lists Republican candidate Dick DeVos' position on these issues.

In a strange display of gratitude for promoting Catholic teaching, Cardinal Maida and the Archdiocese of Detroit are doing their best to prevent CPS from distributing these fliers at Catholic parishes. Marlene Elwell explained this opposition in a recent e-mail to CPS members:


This has been a most difficult and challenging week for CPS. Although we know we're in a spiritual and cultural war, it is still painful to receive calls and letters that call CPS a "fascist organization", tell us we're not Catholic and scream "just go away." They call us an extremist and biased organization ordering us to cease and desist, and over and over again, tell us that there are other issues equally or more important than abortion and gay marriages. And in most cases, the caller or letter writer expresses their support for Governor Granholm as our "Catholic" Governor.

Unfortunately, some of these calls, no letters, are coming from priests and the ones coming from the priests are the most vicious. It's a priest that called us a fascist organization and said we weren't Catholic, and yet, our flyer doesn't have one personal opinion on it. It has only the Church's position on the moral issues of life and family.

We've had to watch the debates where Governor Granholm makes it clear that she is Catholic and also makes it clear that she is pro-abortion. She is proud of her record of a veto over the partial birth abortion ban passed by both the House and the Senate, representing ALL of the people of Michigan. And now she has a TV ad!

Jennifer Granholm has the nerve to pay thousands of dollars to tell the world that her opponent in the governor's race is an "extremist" pro-life candidate because he takes the Catholic Church's position of being opposed to abortion except to save the life of the mother. Where is the leadership of the Church?

I would think the Michigan Catholic Conference or at least one bishop from our state would challenge her, but the silence is deafening. That's why we have to step up our activities.

As alluded to by Mrs. Elwell, recent television ads by Governor Granholm directly attack her Republican challenger Dick DeVos's position on abortion and stem cell research as "extreme." Despite the fact that this is a direct attack on Catholic moral teaching by an ostensibly Catholic Governor, the Catholic Church in Michigan is silent. Strike that. The Catholic Church in Michigan is not silent. They are complicit in Governor Granholm's attacks on life and Church teaching. The Archdiocese of Detroit is working directly against pro-life lay Catholics who are simply seeking to educate Catholic voters on fundamental issues of Catholic social teaching.

In Deus Caritas Est (see below), Pope Benedict recently explained the respective roles of the institutional Church and the laity in politics. In short, it is the role of the Church to form consciences, NOT to work directly in the world of politics. Instead, direct engagement in politics is proper to the laity.

Not only is the Archdiocese of Detroit failing in its fundamental task of forming consciences, it is obstructing the work of the lay faithful of CPS in bringing Catholic values into the public. Additionally, the Archdiocese of Detroit and other Michigan bishops are wrongfully appropriating the proper role of the laity by taking positions on such political issues as affirmative action (Proposal 2) and the funding of public schools (Proposal 5).

Make no mistake. The Archdiocese of Detroit is working against faithful Catholics who are legitimately attempting to influence the state of Michigan with Catholic principles.

UPDATE: Some may question the public criticism of the Archdiocese of Detroit. As a preemptive response, I'll explain the reason for publicly criticising the Archdiocese. Marlene Elwell and CPS have tried to work with the Archdiocese of Detroit and with Michigan's other bishops. Instead of helping, however, the bishops have obstructed. CPS is a volunteer organization which offers its services. In return, the Archdiocese offers nothing, and in fact prevents CPS' message from reaching the Catholic faithful.

Additionally, let me say that private criticism of the Archdiocese of Detroit has been tried. The reality, however, is that private criticism of the Archdiocese of Detroit is ineffective. The Archdiocese may respond to such criticism, but it need not be concerned with providing a satisfactory response so long as the criticism and the response remain free of public scrutiny. In my experience, however, what the Archdiocese of Detroit hates is public criticism.

As my criticisms are based in truth, I believe it is legitimate to offer this bit of fraternal correction publicly to the Archdiocese of Detroit. To the extent that they can, they are free to respond and explain their reasons for obstructing Catholics in the Public Square and for failing to educate Catholics regarding the dignity of the human person and other Catholic social teachings.

UPDATE 2: A commenter correctly notes that I failed to include an important piece of information in my post: what Cardinal Maida's role is in this. Cardinal Maida and the Archdiocese of Detroit have a policy, re-articulated recently by the Archdiocese of Detroit's Monsignor Zenz, that "no political materials are permitted to be distributed except those coming directly from the Archdiocese and/or the MCC or the USCCB." In Monsignor Zenz' October 12, 2006 letter, he asserts that the policy is supported by Cardinal Keeler and the USCCB's similar policy. Cardinal Keeler's policy, however, is markedly different. Cardinal Keeler's and the USCCB's policy is to "urge parishes not to distribute voter education materials that are not authorized and distributed by the diocese, the state Catholic conference or this Conference." In some sense, this policy makes sense as Cardinal Keeler does not wish parishes to unnecessary entangle themselves in political matters and possibly risk their tax-exempt status with the IRS.

Monsignor Zenz, on the other hand, says that Detroit's policy is that "no political materials are permitted to be distributed except those coming directly from the Archdiocese and/or the MCC or the USCCB." (emphasis added). Detroit's policy goes further than Keeler's and would even prevent third-parties, such as CPS, from distributing their materials on parish property. The priests mentioned in Mrs. Elwell's e-mail above are acting under Cardinal Maida and the Archdiocese of Detroit's policy.

I should also rebut one other possible defense which exists for the Archdiocese of Detroit's policy. It could be argued that the policy exists in order to keep heresy and dissent off of parish property and to preserve the integrity of Catholic teaching. Such a defense is disingenuous, however. The primary organization responsible for leafletting parishes this election is CPS and their leaflets merely state Catholic teaching. They include no personal opinions. The Archdiocese of Detroit's policy is being used to prohibit the legitimate political activity of the lay faithful of CPS. Additionally, evidence suggests that the policy is being selectively enforced against CPS. Though the policy is being used against CPS, sources indicate that agents of the Archdiocese of Detroit are themselves violating the policy by distributing the liberal Catholic voter's guide Voting for the Common Good.

Deus Caritas Est

28. In order to define more accurately the relationship between the necessary commitment to justice and the ministry of charity, two fundamental situations need to be considered:

a) The just ordering of society and the State is a central responsibility of politics. As Augustine once said, a State which is not governed according to justice would be just a bunch of thieves: "Remota itaque iustitia quid sunt regna nisi magna latrocinia?".[18] Fundamental to Christianity is the distinction between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God (cf. Mt 22:21), in other words, the distinction between Church and State, or, as the Second Vatican Council puts it, the autonomy of the temporal sphere.[19] The State may not impose religion, yet it must guarantee religious freedom and harmony between the followers of different religions. For her part, the Church, as the social expression of Christian faith, has a proper independence and is structured on the basis of her faith as a community which the State must recognize. The two spheres are distinct, yet always interrelated.

Justice is both the aim and the intrinsic criterion of all politics. Politics is more than a mere mechanism for defining the rules of public life: its origin and its goal are found in justice, which by its very nature has to do with ethics. The State must inevitably face the question of how justice can be achieved here and now. But this presupposes an even more radical question: what is justice? The problem is one of practical reason; but if reason is to be exercised properly, it must undergo constant purification, since it can never be completely free of the danger of a certain ethical blindness caused by the dazzling effect of power and special interests.

Here politics and faith meet. Faith by its specific nature is an encounter with the living God -- an encounter opening up new horizons extending beyond the sphere of reason. But it is also a purifying force for reason itself. From God's standpoint, faith liberates reason from its blind spots and therefore helps it to be ever more fully itself. Faith enables reason to do its work more effectively and to see its proper object more clearly. This is where Catholic social doctrine has its place: it has no intention of giving the Church power over the State. Even less is it an attempt to impose on those who do not share the faith ways of thinking and modes of conduct proper to faith. Its aim is simply to help purify reason and to contribute, here and now, to the acknowledgment and attainment of what is just.

The Church's social teaching argues on the basis of reason and natural law, namely, on the basis of what is in accord with the nature of every human being. It recognizes that it is not the Church's responsibility to make this teaching prevail in political life. Rather, the Church wishes to help form consciences in political life and to stimulate greater insight into the authentic requirements of justice as well as greater readiness to act accordingly, even when this might involve conflict with situations of personal interest. Building a just social and civil order, wherein each person receives what is his or her due, is an essential task which every generation must take up anew. As a political task, this cannot be the Church's immediate responsibility. Yet, since it is also a most important human responsibility, the Church is duty-bound to offer, through the purification of reason and through ethical formation, her own specific contribution towards understanding the requirements of justice and achieving them politically.

The Church cannot and must not take upon herself the political battle to bring about the most just society possible. She cannot and must not replace the State. Yet at the same time she cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice. She has to play her part through rational argument and she has to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper. A just society must be the achievement of politics, not of the Church. Yet the promotion of justice through efforts to bring about openness of mind and will to the demands of the common good is something which concerns the Church deeply.

b) Love -- caritas -- will always prove necessary, even in the most just society. There is no ordering of the State so just that it can eliminate the need for a service of love. Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. There will always be suffering which cries out for consolation and help. There will always be loneliness. There will always be situations of material need where help in the form of concrete love of neighbour is indispensable.[20] The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person -- every person -- needs: namely, loving personal concern. We do not need a State which regulates and controls everything, but a State which, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need. The Church is one of those living forces: she is alive with the love enkindled by the Spirit of Christ. This love does not simply offer people material help, but refreshment and care for their souls, something which often is even more necessary than material support. In the end, the claim that just social structures would make works of charity superfluous masks a materialist conception of man: the mistaken notion that man can live "by bread alone" (Mt 4:4; cf. Dt 8:3)--a conviction that demeans man and ultimately disregards all that is specifically human.

29. We can now determine more precisely, in the life of the Church, the relationship between commitment to the just ordering of the State and society on the one hand, and organized charitable activity on the other. We have seen that the formation of just structures is not directly the duty of the Church, but belongs to the world of politics, the sphere of the autonomous use of reason. The Church has an indirect duty here, in that she is called to contribute to the purification of reason and to the reawakening of those moral forces without which just structures are neither established nor prove effective in the long run.

The direct duty to work for a just ordering of society, on the other hand, is proper to the lay faithful. As citizens of the State, they are called to take part in public life in a personal capacity. So they cannot relinquish their participation "in the many different economic, social, legislative, administrative and cultural areas, which are intended to promote organically and institutionally the common good." [21] The mission of the lay faithful is therefore to configure social life correctly, respecting its legitimate autonomy and cooperating with other citizens according to their respective competences and fulfilling their own responsibility.[22] Even if the specific expressions of ecclesial charity can never be confused with the activity of the State, it still remains true that charity must animate the entire lives of the lay faithful and therefore also their political activity, lived as "social charity".[23]

The Church's charitable organizations, on the other hand, constitute an opus proprium, a task agreeable to her, in which she does not cooperate collaterally, but acts as a subject with direct responsibility, doing what corresponds to her nature. The Church can never be exempted from practising charity as an organized activity of believers, and on the other hand, there will never be a situation where the charity of each individual Christian is unnecessary, because in addition to justice man needs, and will always need, love.

[Emphasis added.]