Friday, September 16, 2005

Catholic Faith and the Public Servant

By Mitchell

OK, I said I wouldn't write much about Roberts either, but I'm a sucker for a well-written and thought-out piece, and here's one from Patrick O'Hannigan of The Paragraph Farmer, which appeared this week in the online version of The American Spectator. The question before the house is what role we can expect Roberts' Catholic faith to play in his decision-making. By that, of course, we're talking about abortion, euthanasia, and embryonic stem-cell research.

In response to a question from everyone's favorite senator, Arlen Specter (thank you, President Bush and Senator Santorum), Roberts says he agrees with John F. Kennedy's statement that "I do not speak for my church on public matters and the church does not speak for me."

Should we be nervous about Roberts' answer? Patrick isn't sure that we should. Everyone knows Specter's just up there grandstanding, and Roberts is giving the answer that's expected of him under the circumstances - an answer that still doesn't commit him to any position on the controversial issues. But although the confirmation hearings are little more than a carnival sideshow, Patrick finds more to ponder in the question of what role Catholic moral teaching should play in the lives of public policymakers. Without passing judgement on Roberts' qualifications as Chief Justice, Patrick concludes:

Anyone so inclined could also read Roberts' answer as a tacit admission of Christian failure. If you accept the twin Catholic propositions that we live in a fallen world and that the church speaks not simply for Christians but also for Christ, then any divergence between what the church says and what individual Christians say, while not necessarily regrettable, is at least cause for pause. Individual Christians (never mind Americans) can't presume to have the benefit of doubt if we've ignored the voice from the clouds saying "This is my Son, on whom my favor rests. Listen to him."

Boy, I really love it when someone comes right out and says this. It's the question that always occurs to me - Jesus gives you the guidelines on how to live a Christian life. We call ourselves Christians, it kind of obligates us to some kind of acceptance of those guidelines. Now, how do you figure that you can decide those rules don't always apply? Might as well throw them out the door then, because I look at it as an all-or-nothing kind of proposition. Isn't that what the "I believe" part of the Creed means?

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