Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Biden Joins Pelosi On Heresy Row

From left to right...
Bishop Michael A. Saltarelli
Senator Joseph Biden
Bishop W. Francis Malooly

Archbishop George Niederauer
Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Archbishop Donald Weurl

"My views are totally consistent with Catholic social doctrine," says Biden, a six-term Democratic senator from Delaware. "There are elements within the church who say that if you are at odds with any of the teachings of the church, you are at odds with the church. I think the church is bigger than that...

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THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: One would think that after the Pelosi heresy flap, Biden would be keeping a low profile. But then, that wouldn't be consistent with Joe Biden's personality. Barack Obama's vice presidential nominee, a supposed "Catholic," charged right into the whole heresy row over whether it is permissible for Catholic politicians to go against Church teaching and adopt a "pro-choice" (pro-abortion) political posture.

House Speaker Nanci Pelosi, also a so-called "Catholic," recently made a complete fool of herself on national television last Sunday, by actually committing what the Church defines as heresy. She asserted that a "pro-choice" political viewpoint was totally consistent with Church teaching (read more on that here).   She then went on to say that one can be a "good Catholic" and a "practicing Catholic" while holding to the view that abortion is morally permissible because the Catholic Church really does not profess to know when life begins. This immediately prompted a flurry of official responses from bishops, archbishops and cardinals around the nation, reiterating the Church's teaching that all human life is sacred, discrediting Speaker Pelosi's argument, and lamenting that such a high ranking official in the U.S. government would be so ignorant about her own religion.

Now Senator Joe Biden joins the mix. A long time advocate of "abortion rights," the vice presidential nominee has now come out wearing his Catholic religion on his sleeve. Eager to point out that he's a "practicing Catholic" who carries a rosary in his pocket, and looks forward to mass every week, he concluded his religious bluster with the assertion that his political views (apparently including those on abortion) are "totally consistent" with the social teachings of the Church.  That sounds a lot like the position held by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Hopefully Biden's comments will not go unnoticed by the bishops of the U.S. Catholic Church, many of whom reacted strongly to Pelosi's heretical assertion. They should be applauded for that. Unfortunately, as laudable as their rebuke of Pelosi was, it all goes to underscore the notion that talk is cheap, and actions speak louder than words. Both Pelosi and Biden are a product. They were created, partly by their own political choices, and partly by the atmosphere of "tolerance" that has far too long existed within many diocese of the U.S. Catholic Church. Virtually all bishops, throughout America, echo the Vatican in it's defense of the unborn. One would be hard pressed to find a single American bishop who does not assert the sanctity of all human life from the womb to the tomb. But by the same measure, one would have to look far and wide, just to find a handful of bishops willing to back this teaching with concrete disciplinary action toward Catholics who publicly oppose the Church on this matter. 

The former Archbishop of St. Louis, Raymond Burke, stands out as a shining leader in this arena. He denied communion to "pro-choice" Catholic politicians in his archdiocese, forbade them from speaking at Catholic gatherings, and did not hesitate to exercise his episcopal authority over all matters of rebellion within the Church. For this, the pope rewarded him with the office of Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura - effectively the "chief justice" of the "Vatican Supreme Court."  In an recent interview he divulged his official opinion that "pro-abortion" Catholic politicians should be denied communion, and that it is indeed the responsibility of the one administering communion to withhold it when such politicians present themselves at the communion rail. How this will actually translate into official Church policy remains to be seen, but one thing is certain. The U.S. Catholic bishops, for the most part, have been completely derelict in this duty. 

In refusing to exercise their episcopal authority on this matter, in accord with Canon Law 915, the bishops have effectively created an atmosphere of "tolerance" toward dissenting Catholic politicians - one which was ripe for the production of "pro-choice" heretics like Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden. Here we have Catholic men and women, who may honestly believe that their dissent against the Church, on the issue of human life, is morally permissible simply because, in their personal experience, the Church does not back what it teaches on the matter with concrete disciplinary action. The simple fact of the matter is this. In most diocese throughout the United States, a Catholic may be excommunicated from the Church for many reasons, but publicly advocating the legalized murder of helpless unborn babies is not one of them. Is it no surprise then that some politicians, steeped in the political rhetoric of a highly polarized culture war, might start to believe their own lies - especially when their own bishops do virtually nothing (of any real consequence) to stop them?

Once again, the focus falls back to the bishops of the U.S. Catholic Church. What will they do now? They can publicly rebuke the likes of Pelosi and Biden, as well they should, but after all is said and done, the bishops have to recognize they are more than partially to blame for this. A good majority of them are principally responsible in creating the environment necessary for such Catholic politicians to rise to power. Now that they've "tolerated" this mess for so long, should they be the least bit surprised when these very same politicians turn around and try to tell the public what the Catholic Church "really teaches" about abortion? Come on! We all know the Vatican comes down tough on abortion, and the U.S. Catholic bishops have to echo that in their own statements. But when it really comes down to it, the average pro-abortion Catholic politician is met at the communion rail with the proverbial "wink and nod" just before receiving the sacrament. With that, what kind of message are our bishops really sending?