August 05, 2003
What makes a "good Catholic"?

Michael Schattman is a former state district judge. He was nominated to the federal bench by Bill Clinton, but his nomination was blocked by Republicans.

He's also Catholic, and he has some pretty strong words for the current Republican ploy of calling opponents of Bush nominee Bill Pryor "anti-Catholic".

There was no mass exodus from the military of Catholic chaplains and service personnel after the pope condemned the war. They made their peace between God and Caesar.

There is still no mass uprising of the Catholic right against the death penalty.

The only dish that most of these Catholics choose from the doctrinal cafeteria is opposition to abortion. This is the only Catholic position respected by fundamentalist Protestants -- not because it is Catholic doctrine but because it mirrors their own.


In [Pope Leo XIII's] 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum, he taught the dignity of work, the rights of the worker to a living wage and the justice of organized labor.

Since then, the principles of Catholic social justice have matured under successive popes and the leadership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to include:

• An end to racial discrimination.

• A minimum wage.

• Equal employment opportunity.

• Housing assistance.

• A consistent respect for human life, encompassing opposition to abortion, euthanasia, eugenics, the death penalty and war (with the current pope condemning the U.S. attack on Iraq).

• More generous immigration and refugee policies.

• An end to the Cuba embargo.

• Increased Medicaid eligibility.

• National health insurance and a patient's bill of rights.

And the list goes on.

Doug broke out the Latin to address a distinction between opposition to the death penalty versus opposition to abortion, which leads him to conclude that the latter is more fundamental to the faith than the former. I've yet to see anyone else address the issues that Schattman raises. Perhaps Sens. Durbin, Kennedy, et al ought to ask Pryor's opinion on these topics. Maybe that will give us a better overall view of everyone's faithfulness to Church doctrine and how that faithfulness relates to one's qualifications for the federal bench.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on August 05, 2003 to Legal matters | TrackBack

I'm at work now, so I don't have time for a lenghty response, but let me just interject this point: the Church demands obedience on matters of faith and morals that have been proclaimed by the Church through the centuries (the "infallible stuff"). The application of these basic principles is open to debate. While bishops & priests can and will try to guide their parishioners on how to apply the Church's fundamental teachings to everyday life, it is recognized that they may not be experts in every field.

So for instance, the Church demands that a 'faithful Catholic' believe in transubstantiation -- that the bread and wine offered at Mass actually becomes the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. Also it demands a belief in fundamental morals -- respect for human dignity and human life.

*Application* of those basic moral statements -- e.g. every person is entitled to the respect of their fundamental human dignity -- can vary. So while a bishop may think it is a good idea to increase the minimum wage to $10/hr, a Catholic economist can legitimately disagree, arguing that this would produce a loss of jobs and a net increase in unemployment/human misery. Meanwhile, disagreement on abortion, for example, can't be accepted. The Church teaches as a matter of faith that a person's soul is created at the moment he/she becomes a distinct person (at conception). It teaches as a matter of morals that taking of innocent life is evil. Therefore, since an embryo cannot be guilty of anything, abortion is wrong as a matter of faith.

Back to work for me, now...

Posted by: Doug Haunsperger on August 5, 2003 2:01 PM

Doug's right. I can disagree with the Pope on the minimum wage and war with Iraq, and neither of these things merit comparison to the abortion issue so far as Catholic doctrine is concerned.

Posted by: Owen Courr่ges on August 6, 2003 4:13 AM