Al Kresta was fulminating about this article (and another similar one) on his show this afternoon, which suggested that the American bishops got what they deserved with the HHS mandate mess. He was carried away with it enough that I kept clicking the radio off and then back on. I’m going to take his points in no particular order.
1. Kresta says that government was not a result of the Fall. Huh? Yes, man had dominion over the animals, and God had a one-law government in Eden. But perfected man has no need of government, as he won’t violate his neighbor’s rights, and he will help his neighbor. Under King Jesus, our wills will be aligned with God’s; is it government when everyone is doing what the ruler wants anyway? Now, that the Fall made government necessary does not make government a bad thing; far from it. But governments are run by fallen people. So, for that matter, is the Church. But the State does not have the Magisterium.
2. Kresta says “It’s the wrong time” to criticize the bishops. OK, let’s give credit where credit is due. The quality is risen in the past 10 years or so, and the response of the bishops to the HHS mandate has been nothing short of magnificent. I’ve got their backs on the battlefield. But… this is an act of repentance, and while they’re now on the straight and narrow, it is still legitimate to suggest that we got here through specific erroneous beliefs. That “we” applies to the laity as well as the bishops, but I would suggest that the reason the bishops are finding backbone is that the laity is learning the faith through lay evangelization, and are insisting they act like bishops and priests. EWTN and the blogosphere are doing the clergy’s job for them, and that’s not right, but better that than that the job not be done at all, or that “Catholicism” be defined by that well-known devout Catholic, Nancy Pelosi. Yes, the bishops opposed Obamacare as passed. But they supported healthcare overhaul, and did so in a way that led directly to this.
Here’s the problem: a good end can not be achieved by bad means. Per CCC 1903: “Authority is exercised legitimately only when it seeks the common good of the group concerned and if it employs morally licit means to attain it.” How can governments be said to act for the common good when half of all citizens contribute nothing to that government? How can a state be morally licit when it takes wealth from some at gunpoint to give to others, whether they be crony capitalists or the voting poor? What empowers a government to perform acts which would be clearly sinful if performed by any other group of people? How is human dignity served by the financial enslavement of generations not yet born; where is the concern for the unborn at budget time?
The rot goes back to Luigi Tapanelli, who invented the nonsensical term “social justice”. (“Society” is not a moral actor, so how can it be just or injust?) The events of 1848 were much like the events of 1968, and in both cases, the Church tried to accomodate the Zeitgeist. Rahe calls out Cardinal Bernardin and his “seamless garment” (The body is a seamless garment too, but note Matt. 18:8.). I don’t see it at all as an attack on “the bishops” as “these guys sitting in the chairs right now.” but rather as a whole history of failure to act, with a few exceptions (like shutting up Fr. Coughlin?) Indeed, Rahe’s piece ends on a positive note; it’s very possible that bishops will soon “get” personal freedom again. But it won’t happen unless we talk about principles.