That's telling 'em, Your Excellency! Bishop of Scranton reads the riot act to Catholic forum on Voting

Speaking of organ transplants, you have (surely?) heard the joke about bishops and spinal columns? It seems that Bishop Joseph F. Martino of Scranton in the US got a double transplant at the laying on of hands (which might explain a few things in other dioceses…). (HT to Rocco Palmo for this story)

A bit of back ground. As you probably know (!!!), the yanks are going to the polls in a few days time. The big question Catholics are facing (again, as if you didn’t know) is whether Catholics can, with good conscience, vote for the Democrat candidate, Barack Obama – who is “pro-choice” and has a consistent voting record opposed to the Church’s “pro-life” stance.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) had this to say in their statement “Faithful Citizenship”:

34. Catholics often face difficult choices about how to vote. This is why it is so important to vote according to a well-formed conscience that perceives the proper relationship among moral goods. A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism, if the voter’s intent is to support that position. In such cases a Catholic would be guilty of formal cooperation in grave evil. At the same time, a voter should not use a candidate’s opposition to an intrinsic evil to justify indifference or inattentiveness to other important moral issues involving human life and dignity. (my emphasis)

In other words, the Bishops Conference left a loophole for die-hard Democrats to jump through if they really, really wanted to.

The Bishop of Scranton though has other ideas. In a pastoral letter to his diocese (of which he and he alone is pastor and teacher by divine right as bishop) he wrote:

Another argument goes like this: “As wrong as abortion is, I don’t think it is the only relevant ‘life’ issue that should be considered when deciding for whom to vote.” This reasoning is sound only if other issues carry the same moral weight as abortion does, such as in the case of euthanasia and destruction of embryos for research purposes. Health care, education, economic security, immigration, and taxes are very important concerns. Neglect of any one of them has dire consequences as the recent financial crisis demonstrates. However, the solutions to problems in these areas do not usually involve a rejection of the sanctity of human life in the way that abortion does. Being “right” on taxes, education, health care, immigration, and the economy fails to make up for the error of disregarding the value of a human life. Consider this: the finest health and education systems, the fairest immigration laws, and the soundest economy do nothing for the child who never sees the light of day. It is a tragic irony that “pro-choice” candidates have come to support homicide – the gravest injustice a society can tolerate – in the name of “social justice.”

Well, when he heard that a presidential election forum was being held at St. John’s Catholic Church in his diocese, he decided to attend. Nothing surprising in that – only no-one was expecting him. Nor were they expecting what happened next. Here’s a local report on what happened:

Prior to Martino’s arrival, the forum began with four panelists – local businessman Tom Shepstone, University of Scranton professor William Parente, Sister Margaret Gannon of Marywood University and county commissioner Wendell Kay – sharing their views about presidential candidates Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois.

Shepstone, who supports McCain and focused on abortion, said a vote for Obama will not protect the unborn… Kay, who supports Obama, touched on several national issues, briefly addressing abortion [but pointing out that a vote for the Republicans won’t stop abortion]… Parente, who supports McCain, said a vote for Obama “is foolish, although not sinful, for Catholics.”… Sister Gannon, who did not state her candidate preference, cited statements from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) , which say that a political candidate’s position on abortion must be weighed against other moral issues, such as unjust wars or stem-cell research, when it comes time to vote.

And then apparently, copies of “Faithful Citizenship” were distributed – but NOT copies of the Bishop’s letter. The story continues:

Martino, who arrived while the panelists were stating their viewpoints, took issue with the USCCB statement, which was handed out to everyone at the meeting, and also that his letter was not mentioned once at the forum.

“No USCCB document is relevant in this diocese,” said Martino. “The USCCB doesn’t speak for me.”

“The only relevant document … is my letter,” he said. “There is one teacher in this diocese, and these points are not debatable.”

…”No social issue has caused the death of 50 million people,” he said, nothing that he no longer supports the Democratic Party. “This is madness people.”

Martino also said that he wanted to persuade Father Martin Boylan, of St. John’s, to cancel the forum.

After his comments, most of the audience stood and clapped loudly while some were angry that the bishop usurped the forum.

About a quarter of the audience left after the bishop’s comments, which preceded the last half of the forum, a question and answer session with the panelists. Martino exited shortly after his comments.

For the aftermath, you can see here.

On a similar note, I listened just the other day to a very passionate address (passionate for him, anyway) by Dr Peter Kreeft on the very subject of whether a faithful US Catholic could vote for Obama. The answer? A very simple, very logical, very definite “No”. See here for that one.

Kreeft’s great quotable quote from the lecture is “I used to be a liberal Democrat. Now I’m a conservative Republican. I haven’t changed.”

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0 Responses to That's telling 'em, Your Excellency! Bishop of Scranton reads the riot act to Catholic forum on Voting

  1. matthias says:

    There was a “spat ‘ between two Australians on the mennonite web site THIRD WAY CAFE which deals with politics and Christians. One contended that Christian candidates should not be campaigning using their Christianity ,whilst the other said that Christians in politics must do so as part of the Lordship of Christ,and that Obama refers to a faith community and never to Christ.
    I have just come in from the Bible Study group i attenf fortnightly ,and we discussed howour Church should have been more active in speaking up about Abortion.Well one person was – me

  2. eulogos says:

    Hooray for Bishop Martino!

    Unfortunately, the sort of Catholic that will vote for Obama, doesn’t think she has to listen to her bishop. (I say she because I am thinking about a particular one, my oldest daughter, who lives in Bishop Martino’s diocese.) Neither I nor Bishop Martino can persuade her, alas.

    I count myself lucky to have met, as in shook the hand of, both Bishop Martino (at the Anglican Use group in Scranton, where he received the group into the church and later ordained Fr. Eric Bergman) and Peter Kreeft (at the Anglican Use group in Boston, where I fervently discussed the idiocy of gender neutral language with someone I didn’t know, and later discovered it was Peter Kreeft. )

    But, as I said, those who are not convinced, are not convinced. Alas.

  3. Schütz says:

    Wow, Susan! That’s spooky. If I had put up the question: “What do this blog, Peter Kreeft, Bishop Martino and the Anglican Use all have in common?”, who would have guessed that the answer is: Susan Peterson!

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