Monday, December 01, 2003

Church May Penalize Politicians

Great article in Monday's L.A. Times about the rustlings within the Catholic Church to discipline Catholic politicians whose public positions contradict Church orthodoxy. The article is here (requires free registration). According to the article, "Punishments could range from bans on speaking appearances at Catholic institutions to excommunication." It's not just a theoretical possibility, either: "A few of America's 195 dioceses, including Dallas and Philadelphia, bar abortion-rights politicians from speaking at Catholic churches and schools. In April, news leaked that Bishop Robert Carlson of Sioux Falls, S.D., had sent a letter asking the state's Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle to stop calling himself a Catholic."

I have no quarrel with the Catholic Church advocating public policy, nor should the Church -- or any church or religious organization -- feel constrained about identifying politicians with whom it agrees and disagrees. And any faith community has the right to define the content of its core beliefs, as well as to identify those whom it regards as "in" and "out" of the faith's traditions and beliefs. But at least since JFK tried to put this issue to rest, I thought American politicians, and the polity to which they appeal, had a pretty clear idea that politicians don't (and shouldn't) take their lead from church leaders. More to the point: Can't a Catholic politician believe privately that abortion or the death penalty is wrong and yet profess publicly that the country's policies should be open to alternative moral views? That a pro-choice law represents an appropriate balance of competing private moralities, even if -- as a practicing Catholic -- that politician might fervently desire that the law was otherwise?
posted by tommayo, 10:11 PM

Health care law (including public health law, medical ethics, and life sciences), with digressions into constitutional law, poetry, and other things that matter