Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Cart Before the Horse: Accusing the Church of Political Motivations

It is not that his Church tyrannously claims the right of forbidding to him a freedom allowed to others.  [The Catholic] must not say "My Church forbids it" – that is inaccurate.  What he must say is "God forbids it and my Church fortifies me in that belief."

—Msgr. Ronald Knox, The Beliefs of Catholics (page 158 Image Book version)

One of the real problems in America and the rest of the Western world is that the concept of democracy tends to override everything, and the view that everything has a political motivation.  The result is nowadays, instead of religion being viewed as some form of relationship with God, religion is seen as misogynistic, homophobic, autocratic… basically whenever the Church must say something is contrary to how a person who professes to be Christian must live, the response is to accuse the Church as having a malicious intent.

This sort of mindset plagues certain dissenters within the Church and ideologues outside the Church alike.  They see the disliked Church teaching as being politically motivated by people who must be intolerant – otherwise they would think like the dissenters and ideologues.  When the Church must condemn certain behavior as being outside what is part of being a follower of Christ, the result is to accuse the Church of meddling in politics.

This sort of view entirely misses the point of the Church's mission of evangelizing the world.

The Catholic Church has been around far before there was a United States of America.  It was established in the first century AD, a time when Europe was divided between the (relatively) civilized Roman Empire and the barbarian tribes of the North.  The Church condemned abortion then too.  They condemned use of medicines to artificially prevent conception.  In fact, while the Church teachings have become more refined in response to the innovations of technology, the basic premises have not changed.

The first century document, The Epistle of Barnabas,for example, states:

Thou shalt not slay the child by procuring abortion; nor, again, shalt thou destroy it after it is born. (Chapter XIX)

It should be noted that this document, which shows the Catholic belief existed at this time, was far before the creation of the United States in 1776 (or 1787 if you want to count the implementation of the Constitution as the beginning), the establishment of the Democratic Party about 1800, the formation of the Republican Party in 1856.  In fact the Catholic teachings on these subjects existed far before Christianity was legalized in the Roman Empire.

The point of the above is not to make use of an argument from antiquity fallacy (this view is older therefore it is true).  Rather, it is to show how foolish it is to claim that the Catholic teaching and the actions of the Pope and Bishops are politically motivated when they remind us that modern attempts to legalize evil are still contrary to what God tells us to do.

When the Church does speak on issues which are "hot button" issues in the political sphere, we need to remember that her motivation is not to get a Republican in the White House or to pass a liberal agenda (the Church has been accused from both sides).  When the Church teaches, her motivation is to be faithful to Jesus Christ who commanded the Church to go out to the nations.  This includes warning the people of all nations to turn from evil and seek to good.

Some may deny that Christ established the Catholic Church, and we can't help it if some refuse to accept her teachings.

But it is foolish to claim that just because these opponents may be politically motivated, that the Church must be too.

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