Sunday, March 3, 2013

Jesus Founded a Kingdom, Not a Democracy

I remember walking into a discussion back in 2004.  One of my co-workers was in my boss's office, lamenting the recent statement from our city's Archbishop that if the Democratic presidential nominee, John Kerry, campaigned within our Archdiocese, he should not present himself to receive Communion. 

Our Archbishop, (now Cardinal) Raymond Burke, was vocal in his conviction that Catholic politicians who publicly persist in grave, manifest sin such as supporting abortion, must be denied Communion.  Their reception of Communion was both a sacrilege 
(see 1 Cor.11:27-32) and a scandal to the consciences of the  faithful - giving the confusing impression that it was possible to receive the Lord in Holy Communion while simultaneously persisting in grave sin (see 1 Cor.5:1-13).

My coworker felt it was completely wrong for a churchman to tell someone how he should vote.  We live in a democracy where every one has the right to vote their conscience.  My boss, knowing how committed I was to the Faith, asked me to weigh in.  Here was how I responded to my coworker:
"Senator Kerry is free to vote however he wishes.  What he cannot do, and Archbishop Burke is reminding him of this, is support the killing of unborn children and, at the same time, be united to Christ.  The Church is not the "Democracy of God," it is the Kingdom of God.  Jesus is the King, and His statement of what is good and what is evil is absolute; it's not up for a vote.  So John Kerry must decide which is more important to him - union with Jesus or his support of abortion.  The choice is his, but he can't have it both ways."
Why am I bringing this up 9 years later?  I was reminded of it yesterday while watching PBS's Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.  With the election of a new pope about to get underway they wanted to revisit a Vatican report released earlier this year citing “serious doctrinal problems” within the United States' Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) - a group that has expressed approval of same-sex relationships and contraceptives, and signed the New York Times letter stating there were legitimate, diverse opinions possible on the matter of abortion.  The program (transcript available here) interviewed Sr. Mary Hughes, past president of the LCWR, who seemed hopeful that the Church might adopt a more democratic model in the days to come:
"This is not just about the Vatican versus the nuns. This really is about the future of how we interpret the message of the Second Vatican Council, and what’s going on right now quite frankly makes me sad, because I see certain people in Rome, in the Vatican, who want retrenchment, who want to go back to the church the way it was before the Second Vatican Council, when the church was essentially the hierarchy, and they determined everything down to sometimes the minutia of Catholic life ...  There’s always a blessing that comes with every conflict. Perhaps the blessing is that we continue to open up within the Church avenues for true dialogue and true dialogue isn’t about winners and losers. It’s about people truly being able to listen to understand the other perspective before making any judgments."
To its credit, Religion & Ethics also interviewed author Colleen Carroll Campbell, who responded:
 "Women religious need to stand with the Church, and if they don’t feel that they can in good conscience do that anymore then I think it would take more integrity to simply step back and say, you know, maybe we’re not called to be Catholic women religious anymore. Maybe we want to be something else."
The Church isn't a democracy; it's a Kingdom.  The Pope and Bishops cannot dialogue on these matters because they aren't matters upon which diverse opinions can exist among disciples of Jesus.  They aren't positions that can be changed over time.  They are the directives of our King, "Jesus Christ - the same yesterday, and today, and for ever" (Heb.13:8). 

1 comment:

  1. Some of this reminds me of Pascal's wager. Basically, a believer is speaking with a non believer. The non believer says that he doesn't believe in God, Jesus, salvation, etc. The believer responds that it is safer to believe and find out that he is wrong, than to not believe and find out he is wrong. Those who persist in thinking that the majority rules in eternity is not taking the safer road. God IS the majority!!!!! His holy Word will have the last say. You used an excellent verse to end your discussion: The same yesterday, today and forever.