Showing posts with label canon law. Show all posts
Showing posts with label canon law. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Aw, that really sucks

The American Catholic Church is going after the Dutch Schismatics over the inerrancy of colloquialisms in the English language. Because, as St. Walker Percy warned us in "Love in the Ruins," the center would not hold.

Neither, apparently, would Catholics' sense of nuance in . . . everything.

As is evidenced by canon lawyer Edward Peters' contention that National Catholic Reporter writer Joe Feuerherd was damning the American bishops to Gehenna in a column he wrote for The Washington Post. Here's
what Peters contends:
On February 24, National Catholic Reporter correspondent Joe Feuerherd, writing in the Washington Post, expressed his desire to see the bishops (of the United States) literally damned before he would fail to vote Democratic this Fall.

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."

I believe Feuerherd has gravely violated both of these canons.
HERE'S WHAT Feuerherd actually wrote:
The bishops seem to have forgotten that it is not simply aspirations that matter, though they seem more than willing to accept rhetoric ("I am pro-life") over results.

Why should non-Catholic Americans care about the bishops' right-wing lurch?

Because the bishops can influence a good number of the faithful, many of whom happen to be concentrated in large, electoral-vote-rich states. In the key swing state of Ohio in 2004, for example, bishops vigorously supported an anti-same-sex marriage amendment to the state constitution, which helped drive Republican voters to the polls. Bush won 55 percent of the Catholic vote in the Buckeye State, up from 50 percent in 2000 and enough to provide his margin of victory.

There's little hope, unfortunately, that the bishops will adopt a more pragmatic approach to achieving their aims anytime soon. Younger American priests, the pool from which future bishops will be chosen, overwhelmingly embrace the agenda enunciated by John Paul II.

So what's a pro-life, pro-family, antiwar, pro-immigrant, pro-economic-justice Catholic like me supposed to do in November? That's an easy one. True to my faith, I'll vote for the candidate who offers the best hope of ending an unjust war, who promotes human dignity through universal health care and immigration reform, and whose policies strengthen families and provide alternatives to those in desperate situations. Sounds like I'll be voting for the Democrat -- and the bishops be damned.
(Emphasis mine -- R21.)
IF YOU BELIEVE Feuerherd literally meant to damn the bishops to hell when he said "and the bishops be damned," I shudder to think what pictures are in your head when your teen-ager declares that something "sucks."

Take your shoes off. Pour yourself a double of something, put on some Sinatra and chill.

In the context of Feuerherd's op-ed piece, "be damned" no more means a literal wish for the fires of Hades to turn the bishops into Krispy Kritters than "sucks" -- some 30-plus years removed from my junior-high days -- connotes the full . . . er . . . glory of what it did in 1974.

AS A LINGUIST, Ed Peters is a hell of a canon lawyer. Who should have common sense enough to know that if some bishop -- using all the moral authority that Catholic bishops possess these days (Hint: little to none) -- moved against Feuerherd on such specious grounds, the resulting derision would just add to the litany of woe the American Church has brought upon itself in recent years.

I am pretty sure that I skew much more orthodox Catholic than does Joe Feuerherd. Likewise, I am much less inclined to blithely cast a vote for Barack Obama than he -- which is not to say I intend to even consider casting a vote for John McCain and the Party of Endless War, Torture and Greed. As a Catholic, I have to take the Church's teachings seriously and consider what the bishops say carefully.

But if those bishops, like Ed Peters, can't find anything better to do than crack on a liberal Catholic reporter who colorfully throws some important questions their way -- questions that deserve an answer from shepherds who need to, you know, shepherd -- then to hell with them, indeed.

In the colloquial sense. Not the literal.