The Church of Burke: The Catholic Church Should Listen to Catholics and Remember Its Own History

By Boyle, Frank | Conscience, Spring 2004 | Go to article overview

The Church of Burke: The Catholic Church Should Listen to Catholics and Remember Its Own History


Boyle, Frank, Conscience


THE LEADERSHIP OF THE Catholic church and I have never made any secret of our political disagreements.

My stands on reproductive health and end-of-life choices have clashed loudly with the political proclamations of the church hierarchy, and my outrage at the clerical child molestation cover-ups was neither graciously intended nor graciously received. These conflicts have landed me on the church leaders' political "hit list."

So be it.

But unfortunately less well known, church leadership and I share a number of political views, perhaps even on a majority of issues.

I am often deeply compelled by the church's advocacy for the availability of affordable healthcare, housing and social services, particularly for the poor. I am inspired by Catholic leaders' criticisms of heedless greed and the havoc it inflicts on the people of this and other nations. I share Catholic disapproval of the death penalty and distrust of attempts to put millions of guns onto our streets and into our public places. I admire enormously the church's outreach to the exploited and its condemnation of the exploiters, and historically the church and I have stood side by side when it comes to some of the United States' less credible wars.

There is a reason the church's progressive positions are not what we chiefly associate with its political activities: Abortion is the only issue Catholic leader ship puts any real muscle behind anymore.

For proof, we need look no further than former La Crosse Diocese Bishop Raymond Burke's recent decree that prohibits priests from delivering the holy sacraments to Catholic politicians who vote in favor of reproductive choice. Not only does the decree disgracefully violate the traditions and practices of American democracy's separation of church and state, it reveals the church's deep political hypocrisy. …

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