March 20, 2006


Beyond the Party: Catholics and Government's Moral Purpose [Samuel Gregg, D.Phil. (Oxon.), 3/08/06, Acton Institute]

Last week, 55 Catholic Democrat members of the House of Representatives released a self-described “Historic Catholic Statement of Principles.” It asserted their identity as Catholics and their commitment to working towards realization of basic principles of Catholic social teaching.

Some hoped that the statement would indicate that the spirit of the late Bob Casey, the pro-life governor of Pennsylvania, was alive in the Democrat Party. They were, however, to be disappointed.

While the statement claims to break new ground, there is in fact nothing historic about it. Sadly, it merely represents the latest attempt by some American Catholic politicians and their unnamed theological advisors to rationalize the untenable: their claim to be faithful Catholics while supporting practices that intentionally violate what the Church teaches is inviolable: innocent human life. [....]

That some signatories are conscious of their position’s incongruity is apparent from their qualification that while they “seek the Church’s guidance and assistance,” they “believe also in the primacy of conscience. In recognizing the Church’s role in providing moral leadership, we acknowledge and accept the tension that comes with being in disagreement with the Church in some areas.”

Certainly the Catholic Church has always emphasized the importance of conscience. But it does not teach that conscience is somehow above the truth – this, the Catholic Church teaches, is revealed by reason and, ultimately, the Catholic faith. Conscience in fact only acquires morally binding characteristics when grounded in objective moral truth. Otherwise “primacy of conscience” could be used to justify all sorts of barbaric behavior. Thus we do not absolve Communists and Nazis who killed millions because they sincerely believed “in all good conscience” they were doing the right thing.

In other words, the “tension” experienced by some signatories does not simply arise from the inconsistency between their position on certain issues and Catholic teaching. Rather it arises from their denial of truth: the truth about what science tells us about the beginning of each human life and the truth that all innocent human beings - regardless of their stage of development - ought, as a matter of natural justice, to enjoy equal protection from lethal force.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 20, 2006 12:00 AM

How can they claim that they are different from Henry VIII?

Posted by: GER at March 20, 2006 11:54 AM

A ploy to get some face time on TV?

Posted by: erp at March 20, 2006 12:34 PM

GER, I have a hard time picturing these folks invading France.

Posted by: Random Lawyer at March 20, 2006 12:54 PM