Legislate with care

“Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God, the things that are God’s.”
The Gospel According to St. Matthew, 22:21

This was spawned in part by an article on The Cafeteria is Closed, supporting the ecclesiastical discipline of Catholic legislators who support abortion, and an article on Gay Patriot, about the University of the Cumberlands receiving tax monies from the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

No matter whether I support the stance or not, I strongly disagree with the ecclesiastical discipline of politicians for their voting patterns on issues — and I question whether the Church even has the authority to do so. After all, one who votes for a pro-abortion bill has not, technically, violated any precept over which the Church has authority; were a politician to have an abortion, that would be an entirely different situation, and the Church would have the authority to discipline her.

I question whether one can be a good, practicing Catholic and support abortion, but that is a matter of conscience (and one of ecclesiastical function). That does not mean, however, that I think Kerry or Kennedy, or whoever should be excommunicated because of his stance on abortion law in the United States.

The problem I have with this is that anti-Catholicism is alive and well, and for two hundred years here in the United States it was fueled by the belief that Roman Catholics would put their allegiance to Rome before their allegiance to the United States. This, after all, was the primary reason the Knights of Columbus campaigned for “one nation under God” to be included in the Pledge of Allegiance, and this belief was alive and well as recently as the campaign of John F. Kennedy (this is also why I sympathize with Mitt Romney, who is being put through the same questions Kennedy was).

If the Church starts excommunicating politicians who support abortion, then that belief will again rear its ugly head. And if politicians vote against abortion solely because they fear the discipline of the Church, then that belief is justified, and those politicians should be kicked out of office.

I use abortion here only because it is the key Catholic political hot button, but immigration or gay marriage would be equally applicable.

I am a practicing Catholic, and not a liberal kumbayah Catholic. But I would vote for no politician who would put his allegiance to the Vatican over his allegiance to the United States. And I would encourage other conservative Catholics to ponder this issue deeply before giving it their support. Such things have a way of biting back.

We see this in an incidental point Gay Patriot makes when he discusses the University of the Cumberlands, and whether the university should receive taxpayer funds. He says:

How ironic though that the Blaine Amendment adopted to the Kentucky Constitution, and indeed most state constitutions, during the height of anti-Catholic hysteria in the late 19th-century could now come back to bite them in the ass.

Indeed. The Blaine Amendment, more appropriately termed Blaine Amendments, since the Amendment was never ratified by the Senate but was adopted by all but eleven of the states, was fueled by anti-Catholic hysteria in the 19th century, in response to the large number of Catholic schools that had been established in the United States. Because there were quite a few individual state amendments, I cannot cite the text, but Blaine Amendments denied funding to Catholic students or schools (depending on which one of the various amendments passed).

The Blaine Amendments were pushed by Protestants and Protestant churches and organizations. They were, in fact, the beginning of the “wall of separation between Church and state,” at least in the realm of education.

Here we have an example of how legislation can bite back. The Blaine Amendments, or the “wall of separation” that descended from those amendments, are now being used against Protestants, and they don’t like it. Now, we see Protestants — some of whom feel the same way about Catholics as did their forbears who passed the Blaine Amendments — doing everything they can to undo the damage they created. And though I sympathize, part of me cannot help but feel that they brought it on themselves.

Be careful what you legislate — in Church or state — lest you become a victim of your legislations. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

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