Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What to do about Joe?

Dr. Ed Peters brings up a very interesting point as regards the issue of National Catholic Reporter correspondent Joe Feuerherd's call for the damnation of the Bishops of the U.S. before he would vote for anyone but a Democrat:

Feuerherd's words of contempt were not shouted in a heated argument wherein, say, a lack of time for reflection or "anger hormones" might mitigate one's culpability for uttering invectives. No, Feuerherd's curse, "the bishops be damned", was expressed in cold, deliberate, prose intended for maximum effect in a prominent national publication.

Now, Canon 1369 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law states that "a person who . . . in published writing . . . expresses insults or excites hatred or contempt against religion or the Church is to be punished with a just penalty." Canon 1373 states that "a person who publicly incites among subjects animosities or hatred against the Apostolic See or an ordinary because of some act of power or ecclesiastical ministry . . . is to be punished by an interdict or other just penalties."

Yes, that's right, he's suggesting that for this statement Mr. Feuerherd is facing an interdict, i.e. exclusion from the sacraments including from Christian burial. That might sound awfully harsh to the modern sensibility which is so accustomed to being told to "just get over it". Isn't it indeed possible though that one of the greatest problems the Church has had in the last forty years has been its overly-indulgent willingness to "just get over" anything that might be uncomfortable?

We tend to think of that problem purely in terms of homiletics, catechetics and pro-abortion politicians these days. We also know those as categories of "bad, but they'll never get better". This, however, isn't in one of those hardened, well-defined categories of "post-Vatican II problems" that by now everyone knows the song-and-dance to. Yet the Church in Her law tells us this is a serious issue and one to be dealt with swiftly, with care, and clearly. Perhaps if we start treating all of our laws, rules, regulations and precepts with the weight with which they were promulgated people might stop thinking the Church only takes a precious few issues seriously.

But doesn't this mean we'll start looking like the big bad bullies? Sure, to some out there. Then again, anyone who perceives the Church as a big bad bully after evenly applying her law was already prejudiced in that direction and merely looking for an excuse. Eventually the Church will have to stop dodging the fight with modern mentality by being "pastoral" and walking around with a perpetually bloody nose - you don't always need to punch back to fight a bully, just make it clear that an empty-headed threat or attack will not deter you from the Truth. If ever there were a case where the Bishops could make the point that they are not a free-fire zone without causing a major political ruckus, this would be the one. Will they? Time will tell. Even if they don't, it's a guarantee they'll have another chance in time - this is not the type of problem that goes away by wishing and ignoring.