Kerry: Catholic No More!

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So says a report in Catholic World News. Michael Balestrieri, a Los Angeles canon lawyer, says:

"I went to Rome in person to submit two critical questions to the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith," said Balestrieri. "The first: Whether or not the Church's teaching condemning any direct abortion is a dogma of Divine and Catholic Faith, and if the denial and doubt of the same constitutes heresy. The second: Whether or not a denial of the Church's teaching condemning every right to abortion also constitutes heresy. Father Cole, an expert theologian who studied the matter carefully, responded in the affirmative on both counts."

Father Cole wrote, "If a Catholic publicly and obstinately supports the civil right to abortion, knowing that the Church teaches officially against that legislation, he or she commits that heresy envisioned by Can. 751 of the Code [of Canon Law]. Provided that the presumptions of knowledge of the law and penalty and imputability are not rebutted in the external forum, one is automatically excommunicated …."

Father Basil Cole's letter to Balestrieri can be found in full here.

Will it matter? This poll of 2,239 Catholics finds only 24 percent of them think they have a religious obligation to vote against a candidate who supports legal abortion.

UPDATE: Good Father Cole was only speaking for himself, says this Catholic News Service report:

Vatican officials contacted by CNS Oct. 19 said they did not agree with Father Cole's conclusion that Kerry has incurred excommunication.

"You can incur excommunication 'latae sententiae' (automatically) only if you procure or perform an abortion," one said.

In Washington, Father Cole told CNS the Holy See "gets these requests … tons of them," and that Father DiNoia asked him to respond to Balestrieri in a private capacity.

"I have no relationship to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith … and the letter that I wrote to Balestrieri was purely private," he told CNS Oct. 19. "I wrote it as a private theologian, not with any authority. It has no authority whatsoever.

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  1. File this under things I find interesting but can’t really identify with …

  2. We are in the year 2004, right? A.D., right? Just checking. In any event, the follow-up is here:

    http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0405749.htm

  3. Can a canon lawyer get an Irish cop to take the boot off my car?

  4. Would have been nice had he asked for a similar opinion about the death penalty and birth control.

    File this under things I find absurd and useless.

  5. Is it OK to vote for a gay Republican who supports the death penalty, as long as he still opposes abortion?

    Perhaps the bishops should run a candidate who is anti-abortion, anti-death penalty, pro-welfare, anti-gay, and anti-war, and then issue a Fatwa mandating that all Catholics vote for this candidate. I wonder how well it would work.

    And I’m a practicing Catholic, btw. It’s just that there’s a big difference between what I think people should do and what I think the gov’t should force people to do.

  6. hmmm…

    where?s the concept of earning grace by not commiting sin, even if the sin is legal in your society?

    btw, I wouldn?t be surprised if the Vatican still allows the death penalty. And a person can be gay, just not practice their homosexuality

  7. Hey, that’s cool. What do I have to do to get excommunicated from the Presbyterians?

  8. You know, I’m really tired of politicians sucking up to people like the Pope and Mother Theresa while they, in return, wag their creaky fingers and berate the politicos for not protecting the “unborn,” or whatever. I’ve always said, if John Kerry, or Clinton, or whoever would just tell His Holiness to shut the fug up and keep his mideval opinions to himself, I would vote for him in a minute. Ok, maybe he’d lose a lot of votes, but I’D certainly vote for him…

  9. It comes down to this — what does it mean to identify yourself as “catholic”? If you don’t go to Mass and disagree with what the Church teaches, then it is hard to argue that you are catholic. So a poll (by pro-abortion “Catholics for a Free Choice” — not conflict of interest there, eh?) which says 70% of catholics don’t agree abortion is wrong is in reality saying 70% of catholics polled are not catholic.

  10. I’ll listen to a bunch of cloistered pederasts from my faith tell me how to vote when I can elect them, or at least help them get fired for coddling sexual predators at the rectory. Until then they should shut the fug up.

  11. Re: questions about whether capital punishment is disallowed by the RCC.

    First, capital punishment is allowed, though discouraged. Second, I can’t stress this enough: Go read the catechism, pay attention to the mandatory punishments for various sins and discussions of what is “grave,” “very grave,” “extremely grave,” and so on, and you can not avoid the conclusion that the Catholic Church views abortion as absolutely the most serious sin human beings can commit, worse than murder, worse than genocide, worse than rape, worse than launching aggressive wars, worse than molesting children, worse than treason, piracy on the high seas, desertion of troops in the field, etc. Not one of these other actions is punishable by immediate alienation from the sacraments of the RCC-only abortion is.

    The popular notion that the church is psychotically fixated on abortion and birth control to the exclusion of almost everything else is not just an impression. It is supported by almost everything the church publishes and does.

  12. Risible and false. Please update.

  13. broed,

    If you don’t go to Mass and disagree with what the Church teaches, then it is hard to argue that you are catholic.

    I pointed this out a week or two ago, so please, everyone bear with me. The Catholic Church has a long history of Catholics who remained Catholics but refused to accept that the Pope was the final authority (and this is what you mean by the Church here) on matters of conscience, Christology, etc. This is the Conciliarist tradition, and it pre-dates the 12th century efforts to centralize authority with the Pope. People misapprehend the historical nature of the Catholic Church if they think that Papal authority has only been challenged by a few Protestant leaders.

  14. John Kerry doesn’t lecture the clergy on the proper way to turn unleavened bread into the flesh of Jesus. That’s not his field of expertise.

    They shouldn’t lecture him on the proper way to balance individual liberty, respect for life, limits on government power, and the will of the majority in a democratic republic. That’s not their field of expertise.

  15. Hey man, I know all about the history of challenges to Papal authority! I’m married in and one of my kids is baptised in the Antiochian church-though the anti-Semitism, general bigotry, inferiority complex about Roman Catholicism (resulting in the most overt anti-Catholic stuff I’ve ever heard), and general dark ages mentality of all the Orthodox churches has me hesitating on saying yes vis-a-vis Kid #2.

    You’re right about the history of Conciliarism, and I don’t think that tradition is quite dead: In the conclusion of my own long article about the “New Anti-Catholicism,” I addressed how the controversies with gays, Hutton Gibson, etc., demonstrate the Church’s big-tent inclusiveness as much as they do its intolerance. There’s also the little-discussed matter of subsidiarity, and how little authority Rome actually has.

    I would still argue that the current pope is no John XXIII, and has no serious interest in discussion. In fact, where there is dissent he’s most likely neither to engage nor excommunicate the dissenter (and the idea that they’re actually going to excommunicate a potential President of the USA is laughable), but just to remain silent on the matter. That’s a tremendous lost opportunity, I think, because maintaining the dogma means keeping it in active trim. I’ll defer to Chesterton on this matter: “People have fallen into the foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or exciting as orthodoxy. It was sanity: and to be sane is more dramatic than to be mad.”

  16. I thought being a Freemason was one sin that an ordinary priest could not absolve you of, it had to be sent up to the level of a bishop?

  17. a person can be gay, just not practice their homosexuality

    Forced asexuality — how tolerant of them!

  18. Forced asexuality — how tolerant of them!

    The Catholic Church doesn’t like sex. It isn’t anything against gays. Unless you intend to have a child, which is difficult for a homosexual, then you aren’t suppose to be doing it. It’s just that it is easier for the church to take a stand on gays, because they’re a little less popular with the masses.

    Aside from ex-communication what does the church believe the temporal punishment for abortion ought to be?

  19. The Catholic Church doesn’t like sex

    True enough. Anyone care to hazard a guess at what percentage of the world’s billions of “faithful” Catholics actually follow all of its teachings? And to guess at the amount of associated guilt complex caused by their “failure” to live up to expectations? None of that for me, thank you.

  20. I’ve always wondered how someone like me can be excommunicated. I’ve been wondering ever since I decided not to be confirmed when I was 16.

    Does anybody know? Is it really even possible?

  21. Ah, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, eh. At least it’s not the Spanish Inquisition.

  22. I was under the impression that abortion was not really an issue until Vatican 2? And that at V2 was the first time it was “criminalized”?
    Am I off base here?

  23. I wouldn?t be surprised if the Vatican still allows the death penalty

    There is not, for man, any right more fundamental than the right to life. Even so, a particular modern theory has wanted to deny him this right, going so far as to consider it too “bothersome” to defend. But no other right is so intimately bound to the very existence of the person. The right to life implies first the right to be born, and then the right to live until a natural death: “As long as I live, I have the right to live”.

    (“Enter into Hope”)

    It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.

    (Evangelium vitae)

    I think JPII has been pretty consistent lately in his condemnation of capital punishment.

    ———-

    For a person to commit a sin, he has to act against his (well-formed) conscience. He has to sin willfully.

    No one but God can judge that.

    (That, too, is Catholic teaching.)

    —————

    Under the threat of schism, the Lambeth Council issued a report (was it today?) requesting/demanding that the American church apologize for having ordained a gay bishop. I think they’re supposed to promise never to do it again. So it’s not only Catholics who have problems with sex. Pretty much all major morality-based faiths do.

    —————

    Lowdog. If you want, I’ll excommunicate you. All it takes is a bell, a book, and a candle. And I’ve got all three right here.

    What would you like to be excommunicated from?

  24. Joe, I concur. But, Kerry is the one who claims to be Catholic. Catholics have rules. Stupid rules, agreed, but those rules largely define exactly what it means to be a Catholic. If you don’t like the rules then you do like Martin Luther and go somehwere else. Kerry is the hypocrite not the Pope. At least in this one specific instance (I already know the Pope is a hypocrite in billions of other ways).

    Frankly, the more important question is what happened to the souls of all those chumps who ate beef on Fridays back when that little sin got you a quick trip to purgatory or worse.

  25. TWC,

    And Catholics have a long tradition of disobeying those “rules” and remaining Catholics; indeed, they have a long tradition of disagreeing with the notion that the Pope is the source of human authority in the Church – this is and remains the Conciliarist beef with the Church as envisioned by the Papacy. In other words, the Catholic Church has never, ever worked the way you imply that it works. Furthermore, making like Kerry is some sort of strange anomaly is disingenuous, especially in light of the comments I and others have made on the subject.

  26. “Every sperm is sacred, every sperm is great,
    If a sperm is wasted, God gets quite irate.”

    Monty Python clearly identified the Catholic Church’s reductio ad absurdum fallacy on humanity, reproduction and protoplasm.

    ’nuff said.

  27. “If you don’t go to Mass and disagree with what the Church teaches, then it is hard to argue that you are catholic.”

    I think there is a popular notion that one can be catholic without being a practicing Catholic in the same way one can be jewish without practicing Judaism. It can be a matter of tradition and upbringing, and not just the actual practice.

    After all, a Mexican (or Italian, or Irish, or whatever) raised by a super-devout Catholic mother and father and raised in a devoutly Catholic county would probably consider themselves Catholic even if they never went to mass as an adult.

  28. “Kerry is the one who claims to be Catholic”

    Claiming adherence to a religion and breaking it tenents is hardly reserved to Kerry or Catholics. Do Methodists believe Bush follows the teaching of their church? Do Muslims agree that Bin Laden represents them well? Do Jews agree that Sharon is a good example of their virtues?

    Answer to each is some do and some don’t. Part of the beauty of Jesus is teaching is in reserving judgement to God. Truth men make lousy judges of religious virtue, and the partisan crap is just one example of why.

  29. “The popular notion that the church is psychotically fixated on abortion and birth control to the exclusion of almost everything else is not just an impression.”

    “Psychotically”, really? (such well considered, temperate language). You know, this may be because abortion is the major moral issue the conventional wisdom of polite secular society vehemently disagrees with the church on? One tends to preach against the moral wrongs that are most serious and most likely to happen. Abortion fits that bill precisely.

  30. I think there is a popular notion that one can be catholic without being a practicing Catholic in the same way one can be jewish without practicing Judaism. It can be a matter of tradition and upbringing, and not just the actual practice.

    I know what you’re saying. But for whatever it’s worth, the official leaders of the Roman Catholic Church disagree with this popular notion.

    Also for whatever it’s worth, this is the way to look at it: I don’t think the RCC is trying to micromanage the voting habits of individual Catholics so much as trying to protect its “brand” by reining in putatively Catholic politicians. Since the days of JFK, politicians have tried to benefit by saying, “I’m a Catholic” to attract Catholic votes, but at the same waffle on abortion in order to avoid the downside of alienating voters who disagree with the RCC on this issue. It’s a cake-and-eat-too situation. Now the RCC is trying to yank these politicians’ “Catholic franchise.”

  31. “They shouldn’t lecture him on the proper way to balance individual liberty, respect for life, limits on government power, and the will of the majority in a democratic republic.”-joe

    Kerry votes the straight pro-abortion line at every opportunity, up to and including having the government pay for abortions, thereby forcing his fellow Catholic and other pro-life taxpayers to indirectly participate in the act. Exactly where is Kerry’s “balance” on this issue?

    P.S. Moral guidance to the faithful is the clergy’s job, by definition. If Kerry insists on including himself as member of the church, the clergy has the right, indeed, the duty to instruct him.

  32. I’m an ex-Catholic, Catholic-educated, too. If, as Mr. Kerry believes, abortion is a moral wrong, he ought to be able to make an argument from philosophical premises, without referencing his faith, that embryos, fetuses, etc. are persons whose right to life should be protected by the state. That’s what made the Natural Law tradition so powerful. Whether or not one agrees that nature has a god, those who accept an argument from Natural Law can talk to each other.

    Most arguments about this question boil down to:

    Interlocator…….Q. Is a fetus a person?
    Pro-Lifer………..A. Yes, Gawd sez so!
    Pro-Choicer……A. Look! It’s Haley’s Comet!

    They mostly talk past each other.

    For the record, I don’t think we should treat early-term embryos as persons, but do think late-term abortion is virtually infanticide. The great trick is figuring out how to delimit the continuum.

    Kevin

  33. If Kerry insists on including himself as member of the church, the clergy has the right, indeed, the duty to instruct him.

    But he hasn’t got the moral obligation to _obey_. He still must be true to his conscience.

    Despite papal infallibility, the human beings who run the Church have made several mistakes throughout the ages. “I was only following papal orders” isn’t a valid defense before the final Court, any more than it is… Oh wait. I mean, despite the fact that it may be when facing court martial for violating the right to Dignity of prisoners in abu Ghraib and numerous US prisons.

    Anyway. I thought the federal gvt didn’t pay for any abortions. (Though I see – and agree with – your point about forcing pro-life taxpayers to pay for – for example – executions.)

    (Disclaimer: I’m opposed to abortion, on human-rights grounds.)

  34. Fuck the Church.

    Tellin’ everyone that “condoms have holes in them, so don’t use them”.

    I hope the Pope chokes on one of the fat cocks on which he’s always sucking (either that or his own drool)

  35. “Catholics have rules. Stupid rules, agreed, but those rules largely define exactly what it means to be a Catholic.”

    “Kerry votes the straight pro-abortion line at every opportunity, up to and including having the government pay for abortions”

    I would expect readers of a libertarian magazine to get, without my having to explaing, the difference between considering something wrong, and considering it an appropriate target for government suppression.

    But then again, I would expect right-libertarians to ignore this principle when the opportunity arises to bash the Democratic nominee for President.

    So I’m one for two.

  36. The Church does not, in fact, require the faithful to support government prohibition of activities it defines as immoral – divorce, remarriage, adultry, etc. In fact, the only two I can think of – abortion and sodomy – also just happen to be wedge issues that have been used to benefit conservative politicians.

    Funny, that.

  37. abortion…and sodomy….
    make quite the…dichotomy

    my wife’s catholic education was quite interesting in many respects, especially in regards to her high school sex ed classes. they were told the failure rate on condoms was 75%. in addition to other interesting factoids.

    but what i find most interesting is that they spent four years covering aquinas and origen and half the heresies ever invented (mr. bourne is dead on, btw, about many catholic groups denouncing the pope to the point of antichristdom) but never really got into plato.

    that’s a lot like teaching a class on spanish cooking but never showing how to cook rice properly.

  38. “Most arguments about this question boil down to:

    Interlocator…….Q. Is a fetus a person?
    Pro-Lifer………..A. Yes, Gawd sez so!
    Pro-Choicer……A. Look! It’s Haley’s Comet!”

    That’s about the best summary I’ve seen.

  39. These days, automatic excommunication for a political stance, is hard to imagine. So it sounded funny…second the idea that a moral position, even on abortion, is a DOGMA sounds wrong. Most dogmas relate to therological esoterica, the nature of Christ, salvation, etc. not do’s and don’ts. One can be excommunicated for any number of minor things, but that’s becaue of a church rule violation. Heresy, for challenging a dogma, is a different animal, and since anti-abortion is not a dogma (and the Catechism doesnt define dogma) it sounds wrong that disagreeing on a political opinion about a moral issue would constitute heresy.

    So much for technical esoterica.

    OTOH if Kerry wants the benefit of Catholic membership, he has to at least give some lip service to the rules of the game.

  40. Yes Joe, and I would expect a reader of a libertarian magazine to understand the difference between voluntary association and government suppression.

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