Critiques & Controversies: May 2004 Archives

I have been asked to add this link to my side-column. I do not believe I shall do so, but I put it here for those who would like to investigate what is said about Opus Dei. I really don't know what to make of either the prelature or its detractors and I would be interested in hearing from persons who know better than I do what is going on.

Later: Mr. Cork made clear that I should express my purpose in posting this link more clearly. It is this--I don't know enough about Opus Dei to say anything whatsoever informed about them. However, I have long heard rumors about "dark practices" among the group--among these practices the use of "the discipline" and other things that seem foreign to modern sensibilities. Whether or not these things constitute real problems I suppose has yet to be seen. However, this site points out many of the "rumors" I have heard and I think it would be wise for those with greater understanding that I have to address some of the things this site presents as fact. I do not intend to detract from Opus Dei nor from its founder St. Josemaria Escriva whose works I read and whose spirituality of work I truly admire.

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Our Coadjutant Bishop recently came out with a statement that all politicians who claim to be Catholic and who support abortion ought to be denied communion. I see very good purpose in making such a statement. The Bishops are charged with teaching the true faith. While the Catholic faith can tolerate a diversity of opinion on issues such as liturgy, language, just war, and all manner of other issues; there is no "wiggle-room" on the issue of abortion. To hold one opinion is to be in line with Catholic teaching to hold the other is a sign of faulty understanding. To act upon this fault understanding is to break communion--you have left even the wide bounds of Catholicism. When a bishop issues such a statement, he is giving notice as to the truth of Catholic teaching.

Now, I don't right know if our Bishop intends to act upon the statement or is speaking in solidarity with brother Bishops who may already be doing what he has supported. It is one thing to say that this is what should happen. Oddly, I find myself torn apart as to whether it ought to happen or not. In one sense, such Catholics ought to voluntarily absent themselves from communion so as to not create scandal. They know the teaching and this is one of those places that no matter what their personal conscience, there is no chance that Catholic practice and doctrine will change to accommodate them. For example one could reasonably hope that the practice of celibacy might go by the wayside. (I don't particularly care one way or the other on this one--there are very strong arguments both ways.) However, to hope that doctrine might bend to allow for procured abortion under any circumstances is just to be ignorant of the reality of the Catholic faith.

But should they be denied communion? Certainly it sets an example. Certainly it is within the rights of a bishop to regulate this. But something about it disturbs me. It strikes me a bit like debtors prison. You throw a person in jail because they can't pay their bills. How does one ever get out of prison, as one will never earn anything to pay them. If people are forced to stay away from communion because of their stand on abortion is there some way in which we might be depriving them of what would be necessary in order to change? By that I don't mean communion itself, but the entire Mass. A person who will not receive communion might not come to Mass (and this responsibility falls on no one except the person who chooses not to.) Isn't it possible that continued attendance at Mass is the only thing ever likely to help form/change an opinion?

That said, how likely is the eventuality I suggest? How often would a person attending Mass and not receiving communion change their opinion on abortion? I don't really know. And abortion is a crime of such great hideousness, of such horrible offense to the Lord that one can reasonably argue that the only thing to do is to follow to the letter Church law on the matter.

I'm not really all that conflicted about it in one sense, but there is a deep sympathy for people who have been confused by the world and its values that makes me not want to encourage this. I wonder how often I would consider taking communion if I were to look intensely at all the things I believe and weigh them in the balances of Church teaching. Look how often I have found myself on the opposite side of the fence as Tom at Disputations--and how incorrect I have been on essential matters. If I were to hold myself responsible for each of those opinions, I might never receive communion. If I were to wait until the illusions of the world cleared away from my vision before I were to come to communion, I might never make it.

So as I say, I don't fault the Bishops. The real fault is in the people who support abortion and expect the church to support them. However, I do strongly sympathize, not with the opinion, but with the position they find themselves in. We are all sinners, and I know that I find a myriad of justifications for what I want to do. The world is all too supportive of whatever foulness I want to commit. There is room for every manner of deviance in the heart of the world. So I do empathize with the predicament these people find themselves in--they are told by the world one thing and they listen with one ear--by the Church another and they listen less intensely. Perhaps these bold pronouncements do the bracing good of a faceful of cold water. I don't know. But I guess my solution shall be to continue to pray for those ignorant lost ones to face-to-face with the reality of God's love and realize their lostness. What I cannot and will not do is criticize the pastors who simply reiterate church teaching. (But then, I suppose that comes as little surprise to those who have spent any time here.)

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Quoted from Tom's blog, Ono Ekeh, whom I like but whose views I do not share, says this:

If social conditions were changed so that women were empowered, and if we effectively addressed issues such as health care, child care, family leave, wage inequity, domestic violence and other women’s issues, we could reasonably expect a significant reduction in the number of abortions in the United States.

I believe this to be the usual utter nonsense liberals like to feed us in the promotion of their cause. I don't think bettering social conditions will undo the perceived need for abortion. In fact, as we empower women, it may increase that perceived need as they move into positions of authority that require more attention than a mother of two can give them.

I don't think addressing social issues (as defined above) addresses the abortion problem at all. I think we need to address spiritual issues. We need to address very real fears held by individuals--not some shapeless mass of Women and their needs. Women who are driven to seek abortions are individuals with individual problems, needs, and concerns. When I speak of addressing this level, I'm not talking merely about health care and empowerment. I'm talking about loving concern for an individual in time of trial. Support, a kind voice, a shoulder to cry on, a person to come to when everything is overwhelming. When I argue that this is better than legislation, I do not mean to rule out legislation but to promote this "hands-on" person-to-person caring.

Let me try to use a very loose analogy to convey what I mean. There are several ways of addressing the issue of poverty and helping the poor. One way (shown to be largely ineffective) is to throw a lot of money at agencies designed to research, address, and remediate the problem. Another way was Dorothy Day's. She didn't theorize about poverty, she ran kitchens and shelters to help the poor. I don't know if her way was ultimately any more productive in a strictly bottom-line sense, but I do believe that it was redemptive. It show passionate, caring, redemptive, personal love.

When I eschew the high-falutin' laws, it isn't in favor of more laws about other things, it is in favor of this personal one-on-one contact--the kind of contact that occurs with people who pray at abortion clinics every day. I can't pass legislation. I can't make the courts leave it alone. But I sure as heck can reach out one woman at a time and try to help. I can try to let scared and frightened teenagers and children know that there is someone who cares and there are alternatives, viable, real alternatives. I can reassure them that life is not at an end, but at a thrilling new beginning. It is scary, but it isn't or needn't be the end of the world. (Although in some cases, these women need help constructing a new world--parents who have thrown them out of the house, boyfriends who have prostituted them, etc.) No law as outlined by Ono will ever touch these things. These things are only helped by concerned, prayerful individuals.

When I tout individual action over legislation this is where I am standing. If we can pass laws that stand--by all means, let us do it. Let us help society understand morality through our instruction. But as long as we face the impediments courts place in our way and the reality that we might not see a reasonable law that stands any time soon--the greatest action we can take is not to pass a passle of laws and regulations and requisitions for money to go to agencies to study the problem, but to reach out as one caring, loving person to another. To be the hands, feet, eyes, and ears of Jesus Christ and to let these women know, each and every one that they are loved--first by our weak and vacillating love, but more importantly by the Almighty love that never wavers and shows no shadow of change.

Anyone who believes the line espoused here has been duped. We've been doing this for thirty years only to see the abortion rates continue to rise. If we must legislate we should not legislate around abortion, but those who have the ability to do so should agitate for direct action. I doubt its efficacy at this point in time, but it is better than deceiving ourselves that we can leave the central issue alone and legislate all around it to achieve our ends. If we can't make it illegal, then we must not rely upon other laws to redress it. The problem calls for the presence of Jesus Christ in the world.

And I'm back to my central point--the Presence of Christ in the world requires me to contemplate and live His life for others. There is, so far as I know, no other way to bring His love to others. We do not bring His love and His healing by passing another series of utterly unrelated laws. It has done nothing heretofore other than salve the consciences of those who would say, "We've done the best that we can." We have not done the best that we can until we have done all that Christ commands.

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Critiques & Controversies category from May 2004.

Critiques & Controversies: April 2004 is the previous archive.

Critiques & Controversies: June 2004 is the next archive.

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