“This isn’t Compassion”

From the statement by the California Catholic bishops after Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill making physician-assisted suicide an end-of–life option:

“Pope Francis has warned us about our “throw away culture.” Have we become so callous in protecting the sacredness of life that we easily approve of a physician handing over a lethal dose of drugs to someone to end their life at their most vulnerable moment when they most need to be cared for with love and attention?

“We are particularly disappointed that the very real concerns and risks posed to our brothers and sisters in vulnerable communities of the disabled and elderly have been consistently ignored by our state’s elected officials. In a health care system grappling with constantly escalating costs, the elderly and disabled are in great peril now that assisted suicide has become legal. Application of such a law elsewhere shows that the option to offer the low-cost alternative of lethal drugs instead of proper medical care is a temptation not long resisted.

“For vulnerable people, this isn’t compassion. There’s nothing in this law that supports or promotes the common good. This bill does nothing to validate the lives of the vulnerable. If anything, this bill says just the opposite and only serves to increase their emotional burden. And it facilitates subtle but potent pressures on the elderly and the disabled to end their lives rather than become a financial or emotional burden on their children.

See more here.

Should Public Officials “Check their Conscience at the Door”?

Pope Francis says no — thank God.

You’ve almost certainly heard about it by now. In Washington D.C., Pope Francis met with beleaguered Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who has refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses, and on the plane going back to Rome gave a ringing endorsement of conscientious objection for government officials like her.

My purpose here is nor to discuss who arranged the meeting or when, or how many people were there or what the Pope knew and when he knew it — though you can read an interesting update here. No, my primary interest here is in the reaction.

The reaction included a predictable nuclear meltdown from the left, which includes most of the press. They came up with the wildest conspiracy theories explaining how the Pope was “tricked”  into meeting Davis. Or they would whine that Francis has “ruined” his U.S. trip. He’s squandered all the good will he’s received! He’s the Pope who is supposed to be cool with gays. What happened to “Who am I to judge?” Yes, but who  made up that narrative? The left and the press, of course. They have spent the last two years twisting and distorting Pope Francis’ every word, taking things out of context,  and ignoring everything he said that didn’t fit the preconceived script. They were betrayed not by the real Pope, but by an imaginary Pope of their own creation.

There are certainly some on the left who know that this is a false narrative. But they are still burned about the meeting anyway, and this includes the Catholic left. It’s difficult to understand why. The left has always been for conscientious objection and civil disobedience, haven’t they? From Vietnam draft dodgers to infiltrating nuclear facilities, the left has praised principled lawbreaking. Evidently the Catholic left is uncomfortable about this seeming hypocrisy. So Michael Sean Winters of the National Catholic Reporter comes up with a justification. You see, Davis is not a “real” CO:

Davis lost her right to consider herself a conscientious objector when she forbade other people from issuing the marriage licenses she did not wish to issue herself. Davis was not jailed for practicing her religion. She was jailed for forcing others to practice her religion. . . She is a public official with a sworn duty. If she cannot carry out that duty, she should seek a work-around or an accommodation, which is what she ended up accepting, or she could have done what a real person of conscience would do: quit. (NCR)

Here we have two major mistakes of fact in a single paragraph. First, the other clerks in Davis’ office are not independent agents; they can only issue licenses under her authority and with her signature. She objected to having her authority used in this way. Second, Davis has sought a workaround from the beginning, as clerks in other jurisdictions have successfully done. She had no desire to force others. She was willing to have licenses issued by other clerks as long as it was without her signature. But the governor refused to accommodate her. It took a court order to give her what she had been asking for all along. If this is the argument that Kim Davis isn’t a “real” conscientious objector, the argument is a failure.

Other, less sophisticated commenters, usually in comboxes, simply say: “She’s a public official, she swore to follow the law and if she doesn’t want to do that she should just  resign.” Or “Public officials should check their consciences  at the door” (These are actual quotes I’ve seen). Do they realize what they’re saying? In an age when lack of  conscience in public officials is one of our country’s greatest problems?

We should all be concerned about the erosion of  support for conscientious objection evidenced in these arguments. Have people forgotten Nazi Germany? Remember the Nuremberg trials? What was the response,again and again,of government officials who committed the atrocities, but “I was just doing my job”?

Those officials who ignored their consciences, by the way, included those who followed orders to throw homosexuals into concentration camps.

We need conscientious objection more than ever as a witness against unjust laws and tyrannical government. We have a chance now to witness now as free people, before tyranny takes over. I’ve never been an alarmist, but in the face of not a patently unjust and harmful law and blatant abuse of judicial authority of the Obergefell decision, resistance is necessary. We won’t keep our freedom long unless we resist abuse of authority from the beginning.

That’s why I’m so grateful for what Pope Francis said. Terry Moran of ABC News asked him what he thought about CO cases like Kim Davis’.

Pope Francis: Conscientious objection is a right . . . And if a person does not allow others to be a conscientious objector, he denies a right.Conscientious objection must enter into every juridical structure because it is a right, a human right. . .

Moran: Would that include government officials as well?

Pope Francis: It is a human right and if a government official is a human person, he has that right. It is a human right. (read the whole thing here)

The Church has made this clear, especially in regard to the specific question at hand. The document “Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons,” published by the CDF, in June 2003, with the explicit approval of John Paul II: says:

In those situations where homosexual unions have been legally recognized or have been given the legal status and rights belonging to marriage, clear and emphatic opposition is a duty. One must refrain from any kind of formal cooperation in the enactment or application of such gravely unjust laws and, as far as possible, from material cooperation on the level of their application. In this area, everyone can exercise the right to conscientious objection. (Emphases mine).

So I would say to those hating  on Kim Davis, including those with their hands out for those gay marriage licenses: Thank your lucky stars  you  live in a  nation where conscientious objection is a recognized right. You don’t have to agree with Kim Davis or think  she’s a terrific person, but you should support her right to her conscience. Because a society that trains people to “check their consciences at the door” to public life, is a society that will not let you or anyone keep their rights for long. And if you don’t start caring about this now, when tyranny comes, and tells an official without a conscience to throw you into a concentration camp, it’s going to be too late.

The Pope John Paul I Association: Taking Our Work to the Next Level

Much has happened since the John Paul I Centenary Conference in 2012. That was when we first saw the possibilities for a Pope John Paul I Association.

We incorporated in 2013, did lots of planning and discussion, and slowly built our web presence. Now we are ready to take our work to the next level, but we will need your help.

Our present needs include money to pay legal fees and the fee for filing to obtain tax-exempt status as a 501(3)c organization, as well as transcription, editing, proofreading, etc. for the 2012 conference talks and sound editing for the audio, so they can be published soon. (Go here for a description of the conference). We will also need funds to plan and carry out future conferences and workshops, arrange for speakers, etc. We want to put out more publications None of these can be done without funds.

So . . . We will soon be announcing the beginning of a major crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.com. Stay tuned for the details as they are announced. There will be surprises, free giveaways — and a new video on John Paul I!

Sign up here to get updates as they happen!

The Pope is in New York!

Yes, as I write this, Pope Francis is leading Vespers in St. Patrick’s Cathedral! He’s just made a short ride in the Popemobile down Fifth Avenue, shaken hands with  all the dignitaries and been greeted with thunderous applause inside. He looks very tired. He just recalled the terrible tragedy of the Muslim pilgrims killed in Mecca. His homily, however, begins on the theme of joy. . .

popenyJust one of the many stunning moments so far during this trip, moments ranging from the sublime — the singing of the Litany of the Saints during Junipero Serra’s canonization Mass — to the surreal — the Pope offering, during his plane-ride press conference, to recite the Creed to prove to journalists that he is Catholic and not a “leftie.”

A personal favorite: Did you notice how uncomfortable, even embarrassed, President Obama looked during his White House greeting to the Pope, when he came to speak of religious liberty? I was hoping for ashamed, but I’ll take embarrassed for now. He hesitated, his voice fell, he even stammered. And the Pope, after responding with his own strong words on religious liberty, delivered an even more stinging though silent rebuke to the Obama Administration by paying a visit to the Little Sisters of the Poor. Bravo, Papa!

Now Cardinal Dolan is speaking, welcoming the Pope. Francis is smiling broadly; evidently he loves the cardinal’s zest. An electric moment as the two embrace.

Looking forward to more great moments during the rest of the trip!