Earlier in the day, Radio 4 had an item on PM about the election and the influence of religious leaders on voting patterns. In particular, the statement in the NY Times of the Archbishop of Denver, one Charles J. Chaput, that voting for Kerry would be a sin that would need to be confessed before receiving Communion. This is because, despite Kerry's Catholicism, he supports abortion, stem cell research and gay marriage. For the Archbishop, these are foundation issues and non-negotiable for observant Catholics.
I don't like abortion. However, nothing riles me more than a bunch of misogynists standing around an abortion clinic dictating how women should choose in this regard. I'd love to live in a world in which abortion didn't take place, I certainly think that the general concensus on abortion is mistaken and yes, your Grace, sinful. Nevertheless, I think that issues surrounding conception are issues that should be decided by women and not men. No matter my moral beliefs, I will always treat those who are considering abortion, or who have had an abortion, with compassion and sympathy.
I'm not a fan of stem cell research. For all the possible advantage that may result from it, it will only be an advantage that the rich world will benefit from in the immediate future. I'd much rather that the finances of the medical cabals and others were invested in improving the lot of the rest of the world. Simple things like water supply and basic medical care. We live long enough here in the first world already. We are all going to die. In the meantime, let's improve the lot of others. That's our Christian duty. Fat chance...
You'll never see a gay marriage in the Orthodox church [although that brotherhood rite is curious...] and it doesn't bother me particularly. Yes, Church teaching states that homosexuality is sinful and the Church can't turn against its tradition on the basis of modern conceits. It wouldn't be Orthodox if it did. The actions of man and woman here in the world, every day we are committing sin. Sin, in its simple definition, is the act of turning against God. Countering sin requires us to be mindful of God within every action and thought. I fail. We all do. I don't walk around condemning people for their sinfulness. I'm more aware of how much I falter in my every step. The question of degree in sin is problematic. Are the married couple who stray from one another in thought, and perhaps deed, less sinful than the gay couple who don't? Well, the marriage is blessed, the other relationship is not. Is that good enough? Not for me. I'd like to see more love in this world, rather than less. Whether that's in straight world or not. So, yes, according to Church teaching such relationships are sinful. Well, I don't see such apparent harm in fidelity between two consenting parties. You do see plenty of miserable and harmful heterosexual marriages. As the bumper sticker says, let God sort them out. For He is the Lover of Mankind... Enough said.
So this trinity of affairs should guide the faithful Catholic in the election. Well, the views of the flock are often at odds with that of the priesthood. Contraception is one matter that many Catholics disregard Vatican instruction upon. But there are some more prominent issues that the Archbishop seems to be ignoring. The death penalty for one and then this small matter of American actions within the international sphere. Are these not moral concerns also?
Damn right they are and, frankly, a priest who believes that the role of the Church is to involve itself solely within the morality of the personal is mistaken. I don't think that the Church should be uninvolved in politics, the idea is preposterous. Yet, the Church needs to take a stand on all moral issues, not just three. But taking such a stand, according to Christian teaching, would quickly lead to open conflict. For Christianity should be at odds with worldly government. Alright, so war is okay (despite endless commandment to the opposite) and the economy isn't our concern (so ignore all that instruction upon your duties of charity and personal possession) and neither is the treatment of the poor, disadvantaged and criminal. When, Archbishop, do we get to start practising our faith in this world? Oh, yes, by condemning women and gays. That's the religion I recognise as my own.
Of course, the contract between Christianity and the State (whether in Rome, Byzantium, Moscow or Washington) is that meddlesome Christians are not encouraged. The Church in general supports the status quo and in return doesn't get persecuted, taxed to the hilt or told what to do. Ahem... It's a contract we should be ashamed of, but then no one is that eager to get thrown to the lions anymore these days. At least here in the bulging wallet West.
The Archbishop's instructions suggest that Christian morality is single-issue politics as opposed to a complex and fraught affair often entirely at odds with the modern world around us. It was Evagrius of Pontus who is often ascribed as the originator of the seven deadly sins. Perhaps the Archbishop might consider them awhile and let the American electorate know who the better to vote for. I'd suggest nobody at all.
And when he invokes the theologian Karl Barth to his aid, I wonder whether he's actually bothered to read him or not. Forgive me, your Grace, "claiming that "we don't want to impose our beliefs on society" is not merely politically convenient; it is morally incoherent and irresponsible." I agree with you. But is this all that you believe? Hello? Can you hear me, Mother?
Well, that's rather a religious slant to today's entry, but I did get through it without dissing Rome. It did take some doing.