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March 01, 2006

Catholic Democrats

Yesterday, fifty-five Catholic Democratic members of Congress issued a joint statement on the central role that the Catholic faith plays in their public lives.

Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.) said the Catholic Democrats "have decided to stop letting others define us." But Tom McClusky, a Catholic who is acting vice president for government affairs at the Family Research Council, predicted they would fail.

"What is at the core of being Catholic is the life issue, and that's something the pope has never strayed from," he said. "While other issues are important -- such as helping the poor, the death penalty, views on war -- these are things that aren't tenets of the Catholic Church." [Emphasis added.]

Is there some theological difference between a tenet and a teaching that I'm missing? Because I always thought that opposition to the death penalty and the duty to help the poor were central teachings of contemporary Catholocism.


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How is it that 'views on war' and 'the death penalty' are distinct from 'the life issue'?

That's what I was wondering.

Opposition to the death penalty on the part of the Church is a relatively recent phenomenon IMHO. And its based on the common mistranslation of the biblical command " thou shalt not murder". Its ok to be opposed to the death penalty, but its not really based on anything that Christ said.

If the "life" issue means "no abortions," I would point out that only about 9 of the 2865 paragraphs of the Catechism (Second Edition) ( address abortion/life at conception.

And the Prologue finishes by saying:

Above all - Charity

25 To conclude this Prologue, it is fitting to recall this pastoral principle stated by the Roman Catechism:

The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends. Whether something is proposed for belief, for hope or for action, the love of our Lord must always be made accessible, so that anyone can see that all the works of perfect Christian virtue spring from love and have no other objective than to arrive at love.19

Love that never ends ... vitriol toward fellow Catholics who disagree with you. Sounds the same to me.

The claim is that some statements by the Pope are ex cathedra and binding, whereas others are the Pope's personal opinion and not obligatory for Catholics. Whether this claim is true or not I don't know.

"Conservative" Catholics have effectively been following the Church but ignoring the Pope, and this is allowed. You could say that they respect the office of the Pope, but not the Pope himself.

As far as I know, this Pope is anti-death-penalty too.

Some pro-death-penalty Catholics take a kind of sick glee in executions which is a step worse than just supporting the death penalty.

While the Catholic opposition to the death penalty is comparitively recent (certainly the Church has had no problems putting people to death in the past) belief in the duty to help the poor is as old as the Church, and deeply embedded in scripture.

McClusky's claim is so obviously false that it can only be made in bad faith. While the Church has always opposed abortion, the opposition does not come directly from scripture and the justification for it has shifted throughout church history. The equation of abortion and murder, and the emphasis on the moral status of the fetus, is a product of the late nineteenth century.

The duty to help the poor, though, is just scripture

Christ did, however say a great deal about the importance of helping the poor. Surely that showed up somewhere in the tenets of Catholocism. I know the church's opposition to the death penalty is relatively recent. After all, the Catholic Church imposed the death penalty for much of its history. The Church's views on abortion have also>fluctuated during its long history. As far as I know, the committment to helping the poor has always been fundamental, at least on paper.

--Some pro-death-penalty Catholics take a kind of sick glee in executions which is a step worse than just supporting the death penalty. --

I've not seen this...speaking of anyone known?

Posted by: The Phantom | March 01, 2006 at 10:38 AM


this is going to be good.

Because I always thought that opposition to the death penalty and the duty to help the poor were central teachings of contemporary Catholocism.

Posted by Lindsay Beyerstein at 10:01 AM in Politics, Religion

You are right. those item are derived directly from central dogma. (there is no parsing of 'tenet' or 'teaching') Those time of issues has been defined very strickly by the vatican. Obviously that person is trying to make politically expedient statement.


Revealed truths become formally dogmas when defined or proposed by the Church. There is considerable hostility, in modern times, to dogmatic religion when considered as a body of truths defined by the Church, and still more when considered as defined by the pope. The theory of dogma which is here expounded depends for its acceptance on the doctrine of the infallible teaching office of the Church and of the Roman pontiff. It will be sufficient to notice the following points, (1) the reasonableness of the definition of dogma; (2) the immutability of dogma; (3) the necessity for Church unity of belief in dogma (4) the inconveniences which are alleged to be associated with the definition of dogma.

(1) Against the theory of interpretation of Scripture by private judgement, Catholics regard as absolutely unacceptable the view that God revealed a body of truths to the world and appointed no official teacher of revealed truth, no authoritative judge of controversy; this view is as unreasonable as would be the notion that the civil legislature makes laws, and then commits to individual private judgment the right and the duty of interpreting the laws and deciding controversies. The Church and the supreme pontiff are endowed by God with the privilege of infallibility in discharge of the duty of universal teacher in the sphere of faith and morals; hence we have an infallible testimony that the dogmas defined and delivered to us by the Church are the truths contained in Divine revelation.

(2) The dogmas of the Church are immutable. Modernists hold that religious dogmas, as such, have no intellectual meaning, that we are not bound to believe them mentally, that they may be all false, that it is sufficient if we use them a guides to action; and accordingly they teach that dogmas are not immutable, that they should be changed when the spirit of the age is opposed to them, when they lose their value as rules for a liberal religious life. But in the Catholic doctrine that Divine revelation is addressed to the human mind and expresses real objective truth, dogmas are immutable Divine truths. It is an immutable truth for all time that Augustus was Emperor of Rome and George Washington first President of the United States. So according to Catholic belief, these are and will be for all time immutable truths -- that there are three Persons in God, that Christ died for us, that He arose from the dead, that He founded the Church, that He instituted the sacraments. We may distinguish between the truths themselves and the language in which they are expressed. The full meaning of certain revealed truths has been only gradually brought out; the truths will always remain. Language may change or may receive a new meaning; but we can always learn what meaning was attached to particular words in the past.

(3) We are bound to believe revealed truths irrespective of their definition by the Church, if we are satisfied that God has revealed them. When they are proposed or defined by the Church, and thus become dogmas, we are bound to believe them in order to maintain the bond of faith. (See HERESY).

(4) Finally, Catholics do not admit that, as is sometimes alleged, dogmas are the arbitrary creations of ecclesiastical authority, that they are multiplied at will, that they are devices for keeping the ignorant in subjection, that they are obstacles to conversions. Some of these are points of controversy which cannot be settled without reference to more fundamental questions. Dogmatic definitions would be arbitrary if there were no Divinely instituted infallible teaching office in the Church; but if, as Catholics maintain, God has established in His Church an infallible office, dogmatic definitions cannot be considered arbitrary. The same Divine Providence which preserves the Church from error will preserve her from inordinate multiplication of dogmas. She cannot define arbitrarily. We need only observe the life of the Church or of the Roman pontiffs to see that dogmas are not multiplied inordinately. And as dogmatic definitions are but the authentic interpretation and declaration of the meaning of Divine revelation, they cannot be considered devices for keeping the ignorant in subjection, or reasonable obstacles to conversions, on the contrary, the authoritative definition of truth and condemnation of error, are powerful arguments leading to the Church those who seek the truth earnestly.

Posted by: The Phantom | March 01, 2006 at 10:38 AM

only smaller churches discuss "wrong translation" since there is no such thing as official translation, let alone central structure of interpretation (ie. translation)

so anything can be pulled out of those text even pink elephant, let alone killing business.

This is mostly a convinient interpretation, snce the collective memory of smaller church probably doens't last longer than two or three decades. (ie. it's an interpretation of one charismatic figure or so.)

Phantom: Christ didn't say "Thou shalt not murder," either.

Official "teachings" come from documents called encyclicals, which are theological statements issued by the Pope. Both what the FRC calls "life issues" and the issues the Catholic Democrats have alluded to -- social justice, the death penalty, war, etc, have all been covered in encyclicals. Political pressure groups formed by fundamentalist Protestants are trying to "package" Catholicism and American Catholics by saying that the teaching of one encyclical is primary and more important than all the others. There's one problem: that's not true. It's been very effective marketing for them, however.

-- Christ didn't say "Thou shalt not murder," either.--

But as he did not say a word against the common at the time practice of capital punishment, you can make a compelling case that what was prohibited was murder and not killing.

Killing in a just war ( such as Iraq, Afghanistan ) or justly killing a vicious criminal ( Tookie the author ) are not prohibited by Christian doctrine.


The current position on the death penalty derives primarily from Matthew 5:38-42, and there are other New Testament passages that are used.

John Emerson--

It's true that "ex cathedra" statements are binding on all Catholics, but there is disagreement as to which statements can be considered "ex cathedra." The Pope never sits down and says, "OK, I'm speaking ex cathedra now, so listen up!"

Statements by a Pope that include words that indicate that the statement is definitive ("We declare, decree, and define...") and an anathema ("If anyone shall declare willfully to deny...") are closely studied, as they are potentially ex cathedra. The theologians of the Church debate the issue, and sooner or later a consensus emerges as to whether or not the statement should be considered dogma. For example, the concepts of The Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary are almost universally considered dogma, while only a tiny minority view John Paul II's declaration that only men may be priests as dogma.

It's unthinkable that a position on a political issue like abortion would come to be accepted as dogma, as it would create a schism in the Church. Cardinals have hearts full of faith, but minds full of politics.

Phantom -- I've seen a fair amount of sick glee, and some of the individuals were Catholics I'm pretty sure. I even have some names, but no documentation.

I didn't expect that that statement would be controversial. A lot of people enjoy the idea of executions, and some of them are Catholics, and it's pretty sick if you ask me.

Killing in a just war ( such as Iraq, Afghanistan ) or justly killing a vicious criminal ( Tookie the author ) are not prohibited by Christian doctrine.

Posted by: The Phantom | March 01, 2006 at 02:13 PM

my advice, you are way in trouble. stop digging before somebody ask, what is church position of "just war"


obviously, you are one of those rambler who has no idea what you are talking about except keep spouting stuff.

I am talking of the Phantom's definition of a just war. I issued an encyclical the other day from the Raccoon Lodge on Warren St. I bleseed both wars as just and moral

I am talking of the Phantom's definition of a just war.

Posted by: The Phantom | March 01, 2006 at 06:31 PM

cute. try to have something next round. nobody will take you seriously otherwise.

How did you get this far anyway? shss... you should try lighter libby site. this one seems a bit oversize for you. I mean, do you want your post to be debunked every other minutes?

They are central tenets of the faith.

And Cardnial Mahoney (for whom my feelings are ambivalent) came out today (Ash Wednsday, when the lesson, here in San Luis Obispo) was on the duty to help the poor, and the the world will be well when we all do that) came out today and said that if the attempt to make those who give aid to the poor responsible for finding out if they are legal residents (and deny them aid if they aren't) passes into law, he will direct the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to ignore it.

Abortion issues are part of the church, but they are not a shibboleth which defines who is a "real" catholic and who isn't.



What is your native language?

Posted by: The Phantom | March 01, 2006 at 07:08 PM

New Sargonian. why?

I wish to commend you on your magnificent command of the language of Shakespeare.

It has always amazed me that those who try to use Christanity as a club... know so little about the faith... like Tom McClusky/

treatment of the poor and those in need is from the beatitudes... the direct teachings of Christ.

"Then the King will say to those on His right hand, `Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 'for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me'…Assuredly I say to you inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me." Matt 25:34-36,40

Now it may not be a tenet of McClosky's church, but then he can't be a member of the Catholic faith because it sure as shootin' is the very backbone of Catholic Christianity.

I don't know when abortion became the central issue of american conservative christians. To hear them talk it is as if the central message of christianity.

The bible doesn't really say much about abortion, other than to specifically define it as less of a crime than murder (Exodus 21:22-23), but even in this instance the crime was attacking a woman and causing a miscarriage, not a woman choosing to end her own pregnancy. That is not addressed in the bible. In fact, as far as I know, there is very little discussion of women choosing anything, aside from tempting various men or disobeying God's commands.

The rest of the so-called biblical justification for abortion is mostly various affirmations of the fact that yes, babies come out of pregnant women. In the highly patriarchal societies of biblical times the men that wrote the scriptures didn't spend a lot of time think about what women did aside from giving birth to sons. Why then do these so-called catholics take it upon themselves to assert that the live issue is at the core of being catholic?

Congressman DeLauro needs to recite the creed a few more times and this time pay attention. Where, in the creed, does it say ANYTHING about abortion? If it ain't in the creed its pretty hard to claim an issue as at the core of being catholic. Pro-life dems drive me do christians who don't have a clue what the bible says.

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