Vail Daily letter: Church and state
Vail, CO, Colorado
“The phrase ‘Culture of Life’ is a term used in discussion of moral theology, especially of the Catholic Church. Its proponents describe it as a way of life based upon the theological truth that human life at all stages from conception through natural death is sacred. As such, a “culture of life” presumably opposes practices destructive of human life … including abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research … capital punishment, unjust war … etc.” (Wikipedia)
Having then before us a brief outline of the central argument that divides the American Catholic bishops and the American Democratic Party, consider for a moment the fragile arrangement between a citizen and the state simultaneous to that citizen’s worship within his church.
For the church (ecclesiastical power) is circumscribed within the state (the supreme public power within a sovereign political entity).
Thus, in order for the sovereign political entity in a democratic republic to maintain legitimate authority over all its citizens so as to bring order and not invite chaos, the church which represents legitimate authority over only those who claim citizenship within that church must, at times, concede to that state’s perceived interest in advancing the greater good for all in spite of certain of its moral failings.
According to Augustine, however, man’s spiritual entry into the City of God is of infinitely greater importance than his temporal condition in the City of Man, since the former concerns the eternal condition of his soul whereas the latter speaks merely to his material condition while in time.
Yet, while in time, the soul and body are united.
And if due to gross, negligent, political ineptitude a citizen’s temporal condition is reduced to dire material need, his soul may experience possible, irreparable damage.
For the soul governs the will to live, which guides the intellect, which in turn directs health to the body.
And so it would appear that the American Catholic hierarchy is somewhat deficient in promoting a more extended “culture of life” beyond its present imposition of collective guilt in dwelling far too long on a particular area of minutiae — that being the matter of abortion.
For if a woman has a question concerning this contemplated action, her reponsibility is to seek the advice of her priest, pastor, or rabbi, and not her congressman, since this is an individual moral concern and not a collective political consideration.
As Arthur Schlesinger wisely observed (in 1949) concerning the larger danger to a democracy amidst irrational political beliefs and actions, “We should stick to the last possible moment to the traditional Anglo-Saxon view that guilt is personal and not by association.”
In closing, it should not be forgotten by American Catholic bishops that had the reckless, non-Catholic Republican triumvirate of 2001-08 been empowered during the Cuban missile crisis, rather than the then rational Catholic President, there would certainly have been an end to abortions in America, but only at the possible expense of an end of all civilized life.
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