Friday, September 25, 2015

Timely Vortex

The Bear thought you might find this interesting. The relationship between people's political leanings and their religious perceptions is something the Bear has noticed for some time. Someone who has liberal political views is going to be progressive in Church matters. Someone who is a political conservative is also conservative when it comes to the Church.

If you hate Obama, you're going to hate Francis.

The Bear thinks this is something to be aware of. If we dismiss Dorothy Day, are we doing so because she was a leftist, or because she was a bad Catholic? Could we go along with a Marxist saint, for instance, if he were otherwise holy and helpful to people? Have we honestly considered the issue of immigration in light of what the Catholic Church is telling us, or are we getting our values from our secular political beliefs? Are we sure we can rely our political leanings and ignore the Church when she now teaches firmly that the death penalty is wrong?

The Bear is not taking a position on any of these issues. He's not even sure on some of them. But if the Church taught you something that went against your political leanings, left or right, would you allow your values to be formed by the Church, or by your secular political beliefs? Why? For example, if you thought that immigration "reform" would not benefit your country, but were convinced by the Church that it was right, what would your position be?

The Bear is mostly conservative, and hasn't given it much thought until now.

Just (no doubt) unpalatable food for thought. Be sure to watch the video, though.


  1. Re: "If you hate Obama, you are going to hate Francis".

    I do not hate them, nor should any Catholc. They are children of God, returning soon to their Creator to give account, as will we all. THAT, Bear, is all that matters. Catholics help their brothers and sisters (Christian or not) to use their time wisely knowing they will one day stand in judgement.

    A Catholic does not care about politics or labels. He cares for Jesus Christ, first, middle and last.

    My "religious perception" is that the world is a dark and sinful place. America is the heart and source of so much of that darkness. Proclaim Jesus to the ends of the earth. Light a candle, dispel the darkness. Period.

    America will fall, (perhaps soon), and Catholics will remain to proclaim redemption to its conquering hordes.

    1. Well, perhaps you missed the hyperbole I used to make a point, and thus missed the point itself. You don't usually hear people saying, "I really dislike President Obama's policies, but I am very proud to have Pope Francis as our Pope! He is exactly what we need right now."

      Just as you didn't hear, "I'm a Democrat who can't stand Bush, but I think Pope Benedict is one of our greatest Popes."

      Am I the only one who thinks it is interesting that people's political leanings and religious sensibilities seem to align almost perfectly? Why should that be? In the case of a conflict, which do you go with? I think these are interesting and important questions and deserve honest and brave consideration. Otherwise we just go through life reacting, and may call ourselves Catholics, but refuse to recognize anybody or anything in the Church unless we happen to agree with him or it.

    2. Very wisely and catholically stated Brian.

    3. Actually, I do surprisiningly hear from my conservative colleagues and friends, Catholic and non-Catholic, how much they adore Pope Francis.

    4. I suppose that's not unlikely, on the celebrity level. I suspect it is not so common among those who are as into this stuff as we are. And to forestall, "But my uncle..." the point stands. Unless you're going to say there is no correlation between one's religiously conservative or liberal view and one's political conservative or liberal views. A conservative is not likely to say, "dang, I was against unfettered immigration from Mexico, but, heck that's what this here Pope says, so, hey, now I'm for it!" And a liberal isn't likely to say, "well I'm for a woman's right to choose, but the Church says abortion is horrible, so flip! I'm now pro-life."

  2. You write, "Are we sure we can rely our political leanings and ignore the Church when she now teaches firmly that the death penalty is wrong?" She can't do that without violating her own traditions. Why propose impossible situations as though they can be considered? What is the purpose of that?

    1. I don't see it as "impossible" at all. We all know the Church has accepted and even employed the death penalty in the past. She also burned heretics. There were well-reasoned justifications. She also employed torture. There were strict rules about how and when this was to be done. This is a historical fact. I don't know what level of teaching "it is alright to execute criminals" was, but I don't think it was very high. Just because something has been done in the past doesn't mean it can't be changed as societies and the perception of what is allowable changes. The Church started with a blank slate. Every doctrine and practice was a novelty or a change. That doesn't bother me. I guess that's why I'm not a traditionalist.

    2. P.S. I've always wondered why people are so attached to the death penalty, something that is very rare in this country anyway, subject to the rare but fatal error, is gruesome and horrible at best, and serves absolutely no purpose except retribution in a shifting class of cases to which it is applied, and depending entirely on what state accused happens to find himself in. Of all the places to draw the line on what is unchanging practice in the Church, the death penalty just seems an odd place to me. It would seem to be the perfect issue to show humility and obedience on, with zero impact on anybody except the very few people who are executed each year.

    3. The death penalty has never been regarded as an intrinsic evil. Our Lord Himself made that quite clear. St John Paul II acknowledged that in Evangelium Vitae. Whether or not it should be applied in specific cases falls in the realm of prudential judgment. Thus there is no equivalence between that and abortion (always intrinsically evil) as Evangelium Vitae plainly states. That's why the death penalty will never be solemnly declared to be evil. And doctrine is NOT a novelty; it always starts with Jesus's teachings and certainly never contradicts previous dogmas.

    4. So the Church could change her mind on her policy toward the death penalty. In fact, she has, or is doing so. Personally, I go with the Church in the matter, and can't understand why others don't. Both abortion and the death penalty take a human life. I spent most of my career doing death penalty defense (and 1 prosecution). No question the people I defended were human beings. Agreeing with the Church on the death penalty shows humility and obedience in a matter that has zero effect on the individual Catholic. It is hardly ever used, depends on what state you happen to be in, the prosecutor's appetite for such cases, and carries the possibility of executing an innocent person. (50% of Illinois death row inmates were exonerated by DNA when it became available. Ouch.) If the Church keeps telling us that the death penalty should not be used, why on Earth would we resist? I know that those who are politically conservative are wedded to the death penalty. Is this an example of political beliefs trumping Church teaching?

    5. Bear,

      You're confusing the difference between the Church teaching differently and *churchmen* teaching differently on the death penalty.

      There's been a lot of ink spilled on the matter to be sure. Of real note, is that in order for the Waldensians in 1210 to be re-established to full communion they had to take an oath acknowledging the essential justice of the death penalty:
      Cf. Denzinger, #425—“Concerning secular power we declare that without mortal sin it is possible to exercise a judgment of blood as long as one proceeds to bring punishment not in hatred but in judgment, not incautiously but advisedly.” As Steven Long pointed out, to now teach that the death penalty is wrong, would not be development of doctrine, but mutation.

      What gets missed in the death penalty debate so often is the fundamentally Catholic perspective: both in acknowledging the value of the life of the victim, and in the eternal judgment of the criminal. It is not that the death penalty need be (or should be) applied widely, but it is essential to the pedagogical value of law that it be available. To reduce homicide to mere prison time--even life--reduces the differences in penalty for theft and murder to one of degree, not kind. The victim's life becomes just more valuable property, and in some cases less valuable. Barry Madoff got 250 yrs for stealing a little money from greedy investors that should have known better.

      Secondly, what of the concern for the murderer's soul? Even assuming repentance for the crime, how many years in purgatory is one going to get for murder? Paying the penalty of death allows the murderer to pay the greatest penance he can pay, and in accepting that penalty actually has access to a plenary indulgence. He could go straight to heaven after the execution. Is it really a mercy--in the fullest Catholic sense--to deny a murderer that opportunity, only to likely be condemned to purgatory until the last farthing is paid? How much penance would a person need to do in life to make up for murder?

      Yes, I guess there have been those sentenced to death for crimes they didn't commit. But can you say they are *innocent*? Really? Are *any* of us really innocent? I can't say I'd be keen on being falsely convicted and condemned for murder, but it's not as if, as Eastwood in Unforgiven puts it: "we [don't] all have it coming." We live in an unjust world, and the price for sin falls on all of us. Running the risk of being falsely condemned is part of the price of living in our society if we are to have courts. It should be accepted heroically. Sound harsh? Consider, then, the innocent men first drafted and then selected--nay condemned--to storm the beaches of Normandy, Iwo Jima or a dozen others. Did they not have to pay the price for sin for our country? Why look at the civil prosecution differently? Are not both duly ordered by civil decree?

      We live in a society (and Church) that has gotten over sentimentalized and forgotten the Last Four Things. Real churchmen minister to the condemned to accept their fates, convert, and offer it up. The moderns blather about how the life of the murderer--not his salvation or purgatory time--is the highest human good. Can you really say that sitting around in a high security prison environment waiting for natural death is conducive to repentance and conversion? Are those outside the prison walls in our society doing any better in concerning themselves about *that day*, or delaying, delaying, delaying...until it's too late? "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."

      Our legal system no doubt needs reform, and I'm not one to demand death for every homicide--let the individual circumstances dictate sentencing, but declaring the death penalty wrong and removing it entirely from the available punishments destroys far too much in Natural Law and Catholic doctrine.

    6. "Being without mortal sin" to execute someone equals "the Church can never change her position on the death penalty?" I have never argued that the death penalty was approved and even used by the Church. There were exquisitely detailed rules for torture so that torturers might not go "too far" in their tortures, and the stake was at the end of the process for some. (Please, no details about it "not being as bad as people think, etc." -- this is not apologetics.) The point is was it a mortal sin to burn people at the stake? No! In fact, it was for the good of people's souls! Yet just because the Church has permitted or required some policy in the past does not mean that it must never change. (I realize that is the hinge on which most disagreements turn -- I am not a traditionalist and do not insist that the Church never change.) Have not some changes in approach or policy changed with society in general becoming more enlightened, or kind, or whatever? Are we to disregard the CCC because it makes the death penalty all but impossible to licitly perform? And are we taught to disregard the teachings of multiple popes on a topic? Isn't that a way that the Church may exercise it's magisterium? And I must say that your argument on why the execution of innocent people rather proves too much!

      No doubt this is why the Bear's theology studies were interrupted, so he could remain a simple Bear with greater trust in the Church. That is how the Bear -- who is a conservative -- can listen to the Church on the death penalty. It is a clean, simple position, and the Bear can understand it and go with the Church, even though it is a conservative litmus test.

    7. Of course "I have never argued that the death penalty was NOT approved and even used by the Church."

  3. "She can't do that without violating her own traditions. Why propose impossible situations as though they can be considered? What is the purpose of that?" I'm confused. Seems to me that you made my case that teachings on the death penalty can be changed by the Church. If that's the case, it doesn't seem impossible to me. If it's not impossible, then the virtual elimination in the CCC and comments like those by Pope Benedict and Pope Francis would seem worthy of listening to by loyal sons and daughters of the Church. Bear's aren't much into moral crusades, so this isn't my number one issue. But I'll certainly listen to my Church when she tells me how I should view the matter. I'm understand you agree.

  4. Well, if the Church did teach something that was against my political leanings, I would take on the Church's teaching....but there's room for figuring out how to apply Church teachings to given situations

  5. I don't think there is any question that political and religious beliefs tend to correspond within each religious denomination. as like attracts like. As far as the Catholic faith is concerned the conservative, rational point of view, is the correct one. Liberal/progressive Catholics are essentially Modernists (believers in the evolution of doctrine) which have been condemned by several Popes. Since Vatican II the liberals have been in the ascendancy and their actions have been clearly counterproductive to the mission of Christ as is perfectly obvious.

  6. A Marxist saint? That's pretty weird.. No, impossible. It's like a satanist saint basically. A saint who was a Marxist at some point? Sure, St. Paul was worse than that most likely.
    But... a saint who died a Marxist? No way! The that is no saint at all. I am thinking as Marxism not just as an economic theory in a vacuum. Which is not. It has definite ideas about man, which are contrary to the teachings of the Church. Just my thoughts :)


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