Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Father Koterski on "Conscience and Catholic Politicians"

If it hasn't started already, it will, soon. The usual Foolable suspects will pose those Reasonable equivalence of moral principles to prudential judgements based on such principles. Someone is bound to say that a Catholic can't oppose illegal immigration and abortion and be consistant. Well, folks, the very Foolish Father Koterski is here to burst their bubble.

Zenit News Agency has the story:
Q: Is there a distinction between a conscientious disagreement with the Church on immigration reform and disagreement on abortion?

Father Koterski: On both these questions, it seems to me, one can identify some matters of moral principle and other matters of practical judgments about the facts.

No Catholic legislator could support legislation on immigration reform that violated the moral principle that requires respect for human dignity.

But determining precisely what our immigration policies should be in order to respect human dignity turns on all sorts of practical questions, such as how many immigrants a region can really handle in any one period of time, or what the appropriate level of health care or welfare support for new immigrants should be.

There are some practical recommendations on these subjects by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Catholic legislators should definitely give these careful study.

I think that there is some latitude on the specific answers to these questions, whereas there is no room at all for a Catholic legislator to claim reasons on conscience as allowing support for policies that would treat immigrants, even illegal immigrants, inhumanely.

In regard to abortion, there is a similar distinction between principles and their practical application.

The Church has clearly taught that we must be opposed to procured abortion always and everywhere -- this is a universal moral principle, and on this point there are no possible grounds for disagreement with the Church based on some claims about reasons of one's own conscience.

But there remain various questions about how best to proceed on practical questions, such as on the recent initiatives to outlaw partial-birth abortion.

Here it is important to take note of the directives of "Evangelium Vitae," No. 73, on how a Catholic legislator whose unequivocal opposition to abortion is well known may still vote for legislation that does restrict some types of abortion even if it is not possible at that time completely to forbid the practice of all induced abortion.

In contrast with this careful vision of the relation of moral principles and their proper application, stands the sorry track-record of most of the individuals who signed on to the recent statement by Catholic Democrats in the House of Representatives. For many of them have voting records that the National Abortion Rights Action League considers "perfect" by virtue of their support for the pro-abortion agenda.

The assertions of that document about a commitment to protect the most vulnerable members of our society ring hollow by a comparison with the actual voting records of many of the signers.

The document's references to the "undesirability of abortion" might be thought a hopeful sign. But it is distressing to see that the farthest the signers of the document were willing to go in regard to real opposition to abortion is the document's statement that each of the signers "is committed to reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies and creating an environment with policies that encourage pregnancies to be carried to term."

From the pro-abortion voting records of many of the signers it could appear that their commitment to "reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies" includes keeping abortion legally permissible.
Judgements and principles differ. The magisterium binds Catholics' conscience. The particular judgements of facts, in which those principles apply, do not. However, the particular judgement of relevent facts by our Episcopals should be given due consideration.

In the end, however, Catholics may, in good Faith, disagree with a Bishop's particular judgement of certain facts. Like this one!

All the Foolable mouth-foaming for their Reasonable masters doesn't change this. They'll rend their garments in vain, for Fools still laugh as the Truth sets us free. Laugh on, Fools! Laugh on!