The Roman Catholic Hierarchy: Putting the Squeeze on Politicians; the Catholic Church Is Pursuing a New Policy of Aggressive Interference in Lawmaking and Elections

By Grant, Robert | The Humanist, March-April 2005 | Go to article overview

The Roman Catholic Hierarchy: Putting the Squeeze on Politicians; the Catholic Church Is Pursuing a New Policy of Aggressive Interference in Lawmaking and Elections


Grant, Robert, The Humanist


When Pope John Paul II annually addresses the ambassadors to the Vatican in his New Year's "state of the world" speech, he sets forth his priority concerns for the coming year. In his 2005 address, given January 10 and followed by a posting of its English translation on the Vatican website, the pope maintains that the greatest challenge facing humanity "is the challenge of life" and that "the State has as its primary task precisely the safeguarding and promotion of human life." In this the pope specifically refers, first, to "the beginning of human life," declaring: "the human embryo is a subject identical to the human being which will be born at the term of its development." In this context he speaks against both abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Second, the pope refers to "the very sanctuary of life: the family," which he says is, in some countries, "threatened by legislation which--at times directly--challenges its natural structure, which is and must necessarily be that of a union between a man and a woman founded on marriage." He adds that the family "must never be undermined by laws based on a narrow and unnatural vision of man"--in other words, by laws recognizing gay marriage.

Though he takes up other issues in this speech, such as war and natural disasters, it's only in these matters that he argues in terms of government action. This is part of a pattern. The current leadership of the Roman Catholic Church has moved in recent years from pastoral persuasion to political pressure, using intimidation, coercion, and force to achieve obedience to its teachings on contraception, abortion, euthanasia, divorce, same sex marriage, and a range of other issues. The church seeks not merely to discipline recalcitrant church members but to require that church teachings on these subjects be imposed by coercive measures upon entire nations.

This is particularly clear in a Vatican statement issued in January 2003 by the authoritative Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and signed by the pope. In this statement, Roman Catholic politicians are told they aren't being faithful to church teaching if they vote against the church's position on issues such as abortion. "A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals." This reiterates church teachings that no division of public and private morality can be allowed. "There cannot be two parallel lives in their existence; on the one hand, the so-called spiritual life, with its values and demands; and on the other, the so-called secular life, that is life in a family, at work, in social responsibilities in the responsibilities of public life and in culture?' The statement goes on to say, "No Catholic can appeal to the principle of pluralism or to the autonomy of lay involvement in political life to support policies affecting the common good which compromise or undermine fundamental ethical requirements."

In 2004 the Vatican released another strongly worded directive demanding that Catholic politicians vote against the legalization of same-sex marriages, marriages that the pope had declared immoral. And, as reported in the May 1, 2004, New York Times, Cardinal Francis Arinze, head of the Vatican office of worship and sacraments, declared that "any Catholic politician who supports abortion rights is 'not fit' to receive the Eucharist."

This viewpoint was stated as American Catholic policy on June 18, 2004, when the Roman Catholic bishops of the United States, at their spring meeting outside of Denver, Colorado, approved a statement on "Catholics in Political Life" that brands Catholic politicians who support abortion rights for non-Catholics as "cooperating in evil? The statement insists that Catholic leaders are obligated to demonstrate their "fidelity to the moral teaching of the church in personal and public life" The bishops declare, "The separation of church and state does not require division between belief and public action, between moral principles and political choices, but protects the right of believers and religious groups to practice their faith and act on their values in public life. …

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The Roman Catholic Hierarchy: Putting the Squeeze on Politicians; the Catholic Church Is Pursuing a New Policy of Aggressive Interference in Lawmaking and Elections
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