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

Friday, November 10, 2006

Cardinal Maida and MCC Fail on Proposal 2 but Succeed in Electing Pro-Abort Granholm

Last Tuesday, Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved Proposal 2 (which bans certain forms of affirmative action) by the wide margin of 58%-42%. A look at the exit polls shows that among Catholics, Proposal 2 passed by the even higher margin of 64%-36%. That bears further emphasis.

Among Catholics, Proposal 2 passed 64%-36%.

Some of you may recall that Cardinal Maida and the Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) urged a "No" vote on Proposal 2. The MCC produced 200,000 FOCUS fliers in an attempt to persuade Michigan Catholics to vote "No." Last Sunday, pursuant to the instructions of Cardinal Maida, priests of the Archdiocese of Detroit read a statement from Cardinal Maida which urged a "No" note on Proposal 2.

Apparently, Michigan's Catholics were not persuaded by Cardinal Maida's or the MCC's arguments, and instead embraced the principle that two wrongs do not make a right and that we should not discriminate as a means of remedying past discrimination.

Though I am happy that Michigan's Catholics rejected Cardinal Maida's Proposal 2 recommendation, it is nonetheless unfortunate that the moral authority of the Catholic Church in Michigan has been further undermined. When the institutional church issues "recommendations" on political issues over which it holds no special competence, it undermines its moral authority in those areas of Catholic social teaching where the Church rightfully takes strong positions, such as regarding the importance of traditional marriage and the dignity of the human person. Additionally, it is deeply confusing to many members of the laity who are seeking to be faithful to their bishop and are confused as to the level of obedience owed to such political "recommendations." Furthermore, it undermines the moral authority of faithful Catholic laypersons working to promote Church teaching on marriage and life issues, who now appear (at least to many Catholics) to be in dissent or opposition to the teachings of their local ordinary.

As I have discussed in the past, I believe Pope Benedict has taken the correct approach by encouraging the institutional church not to engage directly in politics. Pope Benedict instead encourages the Church to form consciences and to leave direct political action to the laity. See Deus Caritas Est (Sec. 29). If only the institutional church in Michigan would heed the words of Pope Benedict and adopt a similar approach.

Far from it, however, the institutional church in Michigan is not only wrongfully engaging directly in politics and failing to properly form consciences, it is also wrongfully obstructing the laity from engaging in politics. And though the Archdiocese of Detroit may have sufficiently exhausted any of its remaining moral authority, its recent actions in subverting Catholics in the Public Square (CPS) from exposing Governor Granholm's pro-abortion and pro-homosexual positions, have shown that it still has the power and the ability to affect elections by suppressing the flow of information to Catholic voters.

Exit polls show that Catholics supported the pro-abortion "Catholic" Jennifer Granholm 56%-43%. Thus, though Cardinal Maida and the MCC failed in their opposition to Proposal 2, they nevertheless succeeded in helping Michigan's pro-abortion "Catholic" Governor to obtain a second term.

In summary, the Catholic Church in Michigan appears to have lost its moral authority, but it nevertheless remains a powerful political actor due to the control it exercises over church property and Catholic lay organizations.

My message to Cardinal Maida and his fellow Michigan bishops and priests (as well as other diocesan employees) is this: (1) Stop using your office with the Church to engage in politics, (2) stop obstructing the laity from engaging in politics, and (3) help form the consciences of the laity with regular instruction regarding authentic Catholic social teaching from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the newly published Compendium of Catholic Social Teaching.

UPDATE: In addition to the Catechism and the Compendium as excellent sources for Catholic social teaching, I also recommend Father Rodger Charles, S.J.'s An Introduction to Catholic Social Teaching. Mark Brumley recently reviewed the book (as well as offered a significant summary of the book) on the Ignatius Press blog. As Brumley explains, " An Introduction to Catholic Social Teaching is just the sort of volume that can and should be used to good effect in parish adult faith formation." Exactly.