The Spiritual Buffet


I don't know how many of you caught Amy Sullivan’s recent Time/CNN commentary on the plight of Catholic Democrats, titled “Does [Sen. Joseph] Biden have a Catholic problem?” Raised a Baptist, Sullivan is now a Time magazine senior editor and author of The Party Faithful: How and Why the Democrats Are Closing the God Gap.

She suggested in her September 13 column that, this year, Sen. Biden faces the same rough treatment Catholic Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry allegedly got in 2004 because of his support for abortion rights. The called to task Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput, and called him one of “a handful of the most extreme bishops” who had “targeted Kerry in 2004 but [had] become marginalized in the bishops’ conference—losing key leadership elections–in part because of his extreme views about denying Communion to politicians.”

Sullivan went on to suggest that Chaput is using a double standard in the 2008 election by criticizing Catholic supporters of Barack Obama, while turning a blind eye to John McCain’s support for embryonic stem cell research.

Let's look at the facts shall we? On September 7, the parade of bad logic, bad theology, and bad science rivaled only by Catholic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi views marched before the media. Sen. Biden said on NBC's Meet the Press that the question of when life begins is a personal and private issue. Then he said he accepted “on faith” that life begins at conception. But then he said that he supported a woman’s right to choose to terminate that unborn life anyway.

Once you toss those views out for mass consumption it is the duty of any Bishop to respond. Biden’s is running for national office and speaking to a national audience. As a practicing, self-described Catholic, he was defending an abortion policy gravely incompatible with Catholic faith. And he was talking to Catholic across the country. Should not the act of leading others into error or sin be acknowledged by clergy?

For my readers who are not Catholic let me explain something. The Catholic Church is not community of faith in which you get to share your own ideas of God and incorporate them into some personal custom theology. You either believe what the catholic churches teaches or you are not a Catholic. The problem comes when these public leaders distort what Catholics believe, what the church teaches and somehow suggest that any level of dissension is tolerated. They do this all while claiming to be really Catholic.

Individual conscience doesn’t have absolute sovereignty over reality. Conscience must be formed by the truth, which we learn through the counsel and teaching of the Church. If Catholics reject what the Church teaches on a serious matter, they break unity with the community of believers. And if they break that unity and then present themselves for Communion anyway they abuse the rights and the faith of other Catholics. Bishops have a serious duty to correct that. I only wish more Bishops would would do so.

Bishop Chaput actions should be applauded instead of condemned by those who dance up to the spiritual buffet where you can take the pudding and leave the brussel sprouts.

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