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FUMARE

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

Friday, October 27, 2006

Pope Benedict Outraged by Actions of Pro-Life Catholic Laity

Rome -- Pope Benedict XVI today fired a shot across the bow of lay Catholics engaged in grassroots efforts to protect the unborn and to protect traditional marriage. When confronted with American media reports indicating that lay Catholics have been leafletting Catholic churches with pro-life and pro-family materials, Pope Benedict had this to say:

"There is no place in the Church for those members of the laity who think that they have a legitimate role to play in politics and the shaping of public policy. The laity should not be involved in such subversive efforts. It is the role of the Church to make public policy determinations. The actions of the laity in defending marriage and the unborn are divisive, misleading, and contrary to ecumenism. I strongly urge anyone to disassociate themselves from any lay organizations engaged in such activities."

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The above comments, of course, are not actually the comments of Pope Benedict (for his real comments, see below). Instead, the above comments are paraphrased from a recent bulletin article by Father Thomas Slowinski of St. Andrew's Catholic Community in Rochester, Michigan. Fr. Slowinski's screed was written in response to the leafletting activities of Catholics in the Public Square, an organization of faithful lay Catholics seeking to raise the alarm on Governor Jennifer Granholm's radicall pro-abortion and anti-family positions. Here are Fr. Slowinski's comments in full:

Ouch, no sooner I write about the illicit distribution of campaign literature it happens. My apologies to those of you who attended the 12:30 liturgy last Sunday afternoon. I understand many of you found campaign flyers on your vehicles after mass. The guilty party was an organization entitled "Catholics in the Public Square".

This is why groups like this one are so dangerous. Under the auspices of the title "Catholic" they subversively abuse this term and subsequently the church.

What is so saddening is that this is a Catholic (?) organization, or at least they say they are. What they do is myopically proof-text church teaching to discredit a particular candidate or party in favor of their own, either implicitly or directly. By way of caveat, I strongly urge your disassociation with this organization if you have one. They are divisive to the church, detrimental to ecumenism, and misleading in terms of what the church teaches.

Again, we simply do not enter into the fray of partisan politics. As mentioned last week, please know that we do all we can to prevent these kinds of organizations from infiltrating parish property, but with so many people and so many liturgies sometimes their devious practices win out. I promise our best efforts and ask for your understanding and patience. Please feel free to demand they leave if you ever see them here. Please know that your cooperation and support are deeply appreciated.

Fr. Slowinski's comments should be deeply disturbing to all faithful Catholics, especially since they are completely contrary to the recent comments of Pope Benedict XVI. In an October 19, 2006 speech in Verona, Italy, Pope Benedict addressed the issue of the "civil and political responsibility of Catholics." Pope Benedict stated:

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Your Convention has rightly considered the theme of citizenship, that is, the question of the civil and political responsibility of Catholics. Christ has come to save the real, concrete man who lives in history and in the community, and so Christianity and the Church have had a public dimension and value from the beginning.

As I wrote in the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est (cf. nn. 28-29) on the relationship between religion and politics, Jesus Christ brought a substantial novelty, opening the way towards a more human, freer world through the reciprocal distinction and autonomy of the State and the Church, that is, between what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God (cf. Mt 22: 21).

The very religious freedom that we hold as a universal value, particularly necessary in the world today, has its historical roots here. The Church, therefore, is not and does not intend to be a political agent. At the same time she has a profound interest in the good of the political community, whose soul is justice, and offers it her specific contribution at a double level.

Indeed, Christian faith purifies reason and helps it to be better: as a result, with its social doctrine whose argument begins from what is conformed to the nature of every human being, the Church's contribution is to enable whatever is just to be effectively recognized and then also accomplished. To this end, moral and spiritual energies are clearly indispensable as they ensure that the demands of justice are put before personal interests, a social category or even a State. For the Church, here again, there is ample space to root these energies in the conscience, to nourish them and fortify them.

The immediate duty to act in the political sphere to build a just order in society is not the Church's task as such, but that of the lay faithful, who work as citizens under their own responsibility. This is a duty of great importance to which Italian lay Christians are called to dedicate themselves with generosity and courage, illuminated by faith and by the Magisterium of the Church and animated by the charity of Christ.

Special attention and extraordinary commitment are demanded today by those great challenges that endanger vast portions of the human family: war and terrorism, hunger and thirst, some terrible epidemics. But it is also necessary to face, with equal determination and clear policies the risks of political and legislative choices that contradict fundamental values and anthropological principles and ethics rooted in the nature of the human being, in particular, regarding the guardianship of human life in all its stages, from conception to natural death, and to the promotion of the family founded on marriage, avoiding the introduction in the public order of other forms of union that would contribute to destablizing it, obscuring its particular character and its irreplaceable role in society.

The open and courageous testimony that the Church and Italian Catholics have given and are giving in this regard is a precious service to Italy, useful and stimulating also for many other nations. This commitment and this witness are certainly part of that great "yes" that as believers in Christ we say to man loved by God.

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My Comments: Pope Benedict's comments offer clear support for the legitimate political activity of groups such as Catholics in the Public Square, a group which seeks to influence the social order with Catholic values, particularly with respect to Catholic teaching on the dignity of the human person and the family. Shame on Father Slowinski and the Archdiocese of Detroit for obstructing these legitimate efforts to engage and educate Michigan's Catholic voters.

For related posts on Catholics in the Public Square and the Archdiocese of Detroit's silence and obstruction, see here and here.

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