Skip to main content

Challenging Those 'Personally Opposed but Politically for'

Father Michael Hull's Address at Videoconference on "Church and State"

NEW YORK, OCT. 31, 2004 (Zenit) - Here is the text prepared by Father Michael Hull, a professor at St. Joseph's Seminary of New York, for today's theological videoconference organized by the Congregation for Clergy, on "Church and State."

* * *

The Politician and Faith
Professor Michael Hull

The application of Christian morality in public service is no different from the application of Christian morality in private life. There is no disparity between a Catholic's moral obligations when he is in public service and when he is not. Unfortunately, a persistent and pervasive error -- often disseminated by misinformed or mistaken Catholics and others, and not infrequently encapsulated in vacuous phraseology such as "personally opposed but politically for" -- insists that one can publicly support and propagate evil while claiming to remain privately against such evil.

Today many politicians, who claim to be good Catholics, actively back policies that are contrary to the natural moral law and teaching of the Church, for example, the murder of unborn children in abortion and infanticide ("partial-birth" abortion). Can a Catholic politician who advocates and promotes an intrinsic moral evil licitly receive holy Communion? The answer is, of course, "no."

Why? Because Catholics are obliged to promote the common good. Currently, the best articulation of Catholic teaching on this point is proffered by the Most Reverend Raymond L. Burke (archbishop of St. Louis) in his Oct. 1, 2004, pastoral letter "On Our Civic Responsibility for the Common Good."

Archbishop Burke notes that Catholics must vote in such wise as to eventually achieve the "total conformity of the civil law with the moral law," to fulfill their responsibility to the common good as best they can. That obligation is not mitigated but intensified when a Catholic holds public office. It is sadly the case that some Catholic politicians believe they can uphold an unjust law, for example, the Roe v. Wade (1973) "right to choose," and at the same time remain good Catholics and receive holy Communion.

During a conference at the National Press Club (Washington, D.C.; Sept. 16, 2004) entitled "Public Witness/Public Scandal: Faith, Politics, and Life Issues in the Catholic Church," sponsored by the Ave Maria School of Law (Ann Arbor, Michigan), the Reverend John J. Coughlin, OFM, a professor of law at Notre Dame University, articulated clearly and cogently the Code of Canon Law in regard to the illicit reception of holy Communion by a pro-abortion Catholic, who is not to be admitted to holy Communion because he continues to "persist in manifest grave sin" (Canon 915).

At the same conference, Dr. Robert P. George, a professor of law at Princeton University, explained the inanity of those who claim that the Church does not have the right -- never mind the duty, in season and out of season -- to bar those who "persist in manifest grave sin" from holy Communion. In the United States of America, where the issue is especially salient during this presidential election year, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops discussed it at their June 2004 meeting in Denver (Colorado). The USCCB stated clearly that "decisions [about the denial of holy Communion to some Catholics in political life] rest with the individual [diocesan] bishop."

Fortunately, some diocesan bishops have been courageous in publicly forbidding pro-abortion Catholic politicians from approaching the altar rail. Their courageousness not only highlights the folly of "personally opposed but politically for" but also strengthens the body of believers.

We, like St. Paul, need to remind ourselves that "God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control" with which we are to guard the truth that has been entrusted to us by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 1:7,14).


Catholic Online  CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000



Politics, Politicians, Faithful, Citzenship, Church, State

Rate This Article

Very Helpful Somewhat Helpful Not Helpful at All

Yes, I am Interested No, I am not Interested

Rate Article


Leave a Comment

Comments submitted must be civil, remain on-topic and not violate any laws including copyright. We reserve the right to delete any comments which are abusive, inappropriate or not constructive to the discussion.

Though we invite robust discussion, we reserve the right to not publish any comment which denigrates the human person, undermines marriage and the family, or advocates for positions which openly oppose the teaching of the Catholic Church.

This is a supervised forum and the Editors of Catholic Online retain the right to direct it.

We also reserve the right to block any commenter for repeated violations. Your email address is required to post, but it will not be published on the site.

We ask that you NOT post your comment more than once. Catholic Online is growing and our ability to review all comments sometimes results in a delay in their publication.

Send me important information from Catholic Online and it's partners. See Sample

Post Comment

Newsletter Sign Up

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Jonah 3:1-10
The word of Yahweh was addressed to Jonah a second time. 'Up!' ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 130:1-2, 3-4, 7-8
[Song of Ascents] From the depths I call to you, Yahweh: Lord, ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 10:38-42
In the course of their journey he came to a village, and a ... Read More

Saint of the Day

October 6 Saint of the Day

St. Bruno
October 6: Bruno was born in Cologne of the prominent Hartenfaust family. ... Read More