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Commentary: Senator Biden, Prop 8, Marriage and the New 'Know Nothings’
By Deacon Keith A Fournier
October 28th, 2008
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
To all of our fellow Catholics, other Christians, and all people of faith and good will who value true marriage and the family founded upon it -and live in California- VOTE YES on Proposition 8!CHESAPEAKE, Va. (Catholic Online)- The “Know-Nothing Party” was rooted in the anti-Catholic bigotry which flourished in America between 1852 and 1856. America was the home of a nativist movement that opposed the immigrations of that era, especially from Ireland and Germany. The influx of new Americans brought many Catholics “yearning to be free” as promised by Lady Liberty.Some Americans did not want us here. At the beginning it was predominantly a movement of Democrats but then shifted to include Republicans as well. Then as now, the political labels were a problem. After all what characterizes a political party is its ideas and the people who lead it. This movement was known as the “know-nothings” because its members answered "I know nothing" when asked about their true anti-Catholic aims. They hid their bigotry behind such denials, with a wink and a nod. The “Know Nothings” did not like the way Catholics believed, lived or practiced their faith. They hated the way Catholics refused to separate their faith from their public service. It angered them that Catholics infused their faith within the cultural framework in which they lived their daily lives. I assert that in our own age there is a new “Know Nothing” movement which really feels the same way, at least as it relates to serious Catholics who refuse to compromise on truth. Ironically, some of its leaders are Catholics themselves. In fact, Catholics in Public Life who openly oppose the infallible teaching of the Church on the dignity of every human life as well as the truth concerning the nature of true marriage.
On June 3, 2003 the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, issued a directive entitled “Considerations regarding Proposals to Give Legal recognition To Unions Between Homosexual persons.” Along with millions of Catholics I received it with gratitude. I remember stopping to pray after my first reading of the document. I thanked the Lord for the clarity, wisdom, pastoral concern, and proper exercise of authority demonstrated by the Catholic Church in addressing one of the most vital issues of our day. The document presented nothing new concerning Marriage and rejected any effort to give equivalent legal status to homosexual unions. It restated the unbroken tradition of the Catholic Christian Church for over two thousand years. It sought to help Bishops and direct Catholics in Public Life: “The present Considerations do not contain new doctrinal elements; they seek rather to reiterate the essential points on this question and provide arguments drawn from reason which could be used by Bishops in preparing more specific interventions, appropriate to the different situations throughout the world, aimed at protecting and promoting the dignity of marriage, the foundation of the family, and the stability of society, of which this institution is a constitutive element. The present Considerations are also intended to give direction to Catholic politicians by indicating the approaches to proposed legislation in this area which would be consistent with Christian conscience”
The directive came at a time when a forceful restatement was absolutely necessary. As election day 2008 draws near and Ballot initiatives such as Proposition 8 in California will be placed before voters, it needs to be proclaimed from the pulpits of every Church and from the housetops, especially in California. There is a social and cultural revolutionary movement underway in the United States and beyond. One of its goals is the complete redefinition of the word Marriage and the building of some sort of brave new world. It is led by those on the fringes of the homosexual activist community who want to force legal recognition of homosexual unions and then enforce an equivalency with true marriage using the Police Power of the State. They will stop at nothing less than this legal “equivalency” between homosexual unions and true marriage. In fact, having learned from the evil of the movement to make the taking of innocent life in the womb through abortion “a right”, they are masters with words. They have reframed this anti-marriage movement as a movement for “marriage equality” much like the proponents of abortion succeeded in calling killing the unborn a “choice”. This movement undermines true marriage and the family founded upon it. It is destructive to the civil order and to the common good. However, Catholics must be brutally honest about some in our own house. Purporting to speak for the Church or to promote some “new way”, certain Catholic voices, (some deeply confused or misinformed, others deluded or disingenuous, and still others overtly rebellious) undermine the teaching of our Church, do violence to the truth, cause scandal, injure the common good and put their own souls in jeopardy. The most recent example of this was the action of the candidate for the U.S. Vice Presidency on the Democratic ticket, Senator Joseph Biden. Senator Biden is a Catholic. He appeared on the "Ellen" show, called California Proposition 8 "regressive" and "unfair", indicated he would oppose it if he lived in California and then added that he and running mate Barack Obama opposed a similar initiative nationally.
This was one more example of the infidelity demonstrated by Senator Biden to some of the teaching of his own Church. Already having been corrected for his absolute error in supposedly recounting the Catholic position on when life begins, he has chosen to oppose the Church again on another essential truth, the Catholic commitment to protecting true marriage. He is one of a number of unfaithful Catholic politicians who have already hidden behind a self erected “public/private” dichotomy in rejecting their absolute duty to defend life. They now want to do the same thing by failing to defend true marriage and family. They also engage in sophistry to explain away their error. In taking both of these positions, these Catholic politicians are not only being unfaithful to the truths proclaimed by their own Church, they are undermining the common good. The directive could not have been clearer in speaking to these folks: “When legislation in favor of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral. If it is true that all Catholics are obliged to oppose the legal recognition of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are obliged to do so in a particular way, in keeping with their responsibility as politicians. Faced with legislative proposals in favor of homosexual unions, Catholic politicians are to take account of the following ethical indications. When legislation in favor of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral.”
The directive is not simply speaking to Christians concerning true Marriage. Rather, in a ringing defense of true marriage and a stinging opposition to any effort to equalize or legitimize homosexual practice or unions, it openly addresses its reasoning to the whole of civil society: “Since this question relates to the natural moral law, the arguments that follow are addressed not only to those who believe in Christ, but to all persons committed to promoting and defending the common good of society.” The document systematically presents a lucid, solid, powerful defense of the truth about marriage and family. Yes, it presents this truth from within biblical revelation and the Christian Tradition. However, like all of the Church’s Social Doctrine, it also does so from the order of right reason, the natural law, the biological and anthropological order, the social order and the legal order. That is because truth is truth. The documents progressive defense of marriage, like all Catholic Social thought, defends the truth as not simply a being a “religious” position, but given for all. Catholic Social thought asserts a wonderful asymmetry between faith and reason, not an opposition. It insists upon a consistent unity of the truth as revealed in the natural law, confirmed by science and taught in revelation. This directive from Rome provides a coherent, philosophically rich framework for the real work ahead for Christians in this age. It was written to help Bishops and all of the faithful to defend and protect true marriage and the family and society founded upon it.
In our age we face a real irony. Some of the people opposing this truth are Catholics in public life like Senator Joe Biden! He has now joined the ranks of other anti-Catholic Catholics like Senator John Kerry who, in his unsuccessful bid for the White House, once told the Boston Herald Newspaper that the Vatican had erred in releasing this document “…by instructing pols to block legalization of gay marriage…It is important not to have the church instructing politicians. That is an inappropriate crossing of the line in this country”. Senator Kerry and Senator Biden need to pay attention to a truly important development of the last several years. The Prefect for the Congregation who issued this document is now in a new office, the Chair of St. Peter. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger is now Pope Benedict XVI. He has made his insistence that Catholics in every walk of life, including public service and political life, defend marriage and family a pillar of his Papacy. The Vatican directive made it clear. Just as Catholic politicians MUST unequivocally support the right to life for unborn persons, they must also support true marriage: “When legislation in favor of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic law-maker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral”. Catholics should ask Senator Biden, “What is it about this binding directive from the Holy See that you do not understand?”
Just as Catholics in the nineteenth century opposed the original “Know Nothings” so we must oppose the new “Know Nothing” movement. Some of its members are fellow Catholics who are purposely misstating the teaching of our Church and blatantly failing to heed its clear direction. The good news is that the Catholic Church is coming out as strongly in defense of true marriage as it is in defense of life from conception to natural death. Reports from California this past weekend were that the Ambos (pulpits) of California Catholic Churches (to use my friend Randy Sly’s image) “thundered” this past weekend. Bishops, Priests and deacons rose to defend True Marriage and to urge the Catholic faithful to support Proposition 8. They are joined by a crescendo of other voices, including other Christians, other people of faith and many people of good will. The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith concluded its directive with these words: “The Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions. The common good requires that laws recognize, promote and protect marriage as the basis of the family, the primary unit of society. Legal recognition of homosexual unions or placing them on the same level as marriage would mean not only the approval of deviant behavior, with the consequence of making it a model in present-day society, but would also obscure basic values which belong to the common inheritance of humanity. The Church cannot fail to defend these values, for the good of men and women and for the good of society itself.”
To all of our fellow Catholics, other Christians, and all people of faith and good will who value true marriage and the family founded upon it and live in California, VOTE YES on Proposition 8!
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