|THE CATHOLIC THING|
|By Fr. Mark Pilon|
|WEDNESDAY, 10 SEPTEMBER 2014|
The other day, Joe Biden solemnly declared that the barbarians who beheaded reporter Jim Foley would be chased down to the very gates of Hell, and then he twice repeated that it was there that they would reside. The first part of his statement, that we would chase them to the gates of Hell, is obviously a metaphor indicating that the America will not give up in bringing these people to justice. But the second part is quite different. Biden declared that the terrorists would reside in Hell because of their barbaric murder of this American reporter and many others as well.
So Biden opened the door to a kind of severe judgment. Personally, I agree that these men are truly barbarians, and that their crimes deserve the punishment of Hell – but I would have to add: unless they repent. So that’s a moral judgment with a condition placed on it, not a final or eschatological judgment regarding the destiny of such moral monsters.
But then cannot one say something similar to Joe Biden? Biden is a powerful and energetic ally of the barbaric movement in this country that has led on his watch to the deaths – also very gruesome – of literally millions of unborn human beings. It doesn’t really matter what Biden says about his personal opinions regarding abortion, whether he’s personally opposed or not to this crime against humanity. Echoing Scripture, we could say that ISIS has killed its tens of thousands while American doctors have cooperated with American mothers in killing tens of millions.
However, while the Islamists have chosen to make a public spectacle of their barbarity, the barbarities of abortionists are largely hidden from view, and only become slightly visible, even today, when people such as Dr. Gosnell are indicted and convicted.
So Biden is part of this criminal enterprise through his political support. Like most Catholics who support the pro-abortion lobby and legislation by their votes, Biden seems completely insensitive to the scope and nature of the evil that he is involved in, truly and responsibly involved in, even if only indirectly. While he doesn’t encourage anyone to have an abortion, or give anyone his own personal financial support to have an abortion, his active political support has made him a true moral cooperator in millions of deaths. Like Nancy Pelosi, another self-declared Catholic, Biden seems completely oblivious to his moral responsibility.
Christ told us that not all those who say “Lord, Lord” will enter the Kingdom, but only those who do the will of the Father. It is certainly not the will of the Father that political leaders should cooperate in abortion. Biden and Pelosi and other Catholics who think they are in good standing as Catholics run the risk of hearing the words Jesus spoke at the end of the sermon on the Mount: “Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Moral blindness is always the result of persistent doing of or cooperation in moral evil.
Muslims who firmly oppose abortion could easily turn this around on Biden, and say to him that he is the barbarian and will reside in Hell. A Catholic must state it differently. They would charitably tell Biden that he will reside in Hell unless he repents and makes amends for his moral cooperation in this great moral evil. I wonder why no American bishop has had the courage and charity to tell Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi, and all the other Catholic cooperators, that they are heading for the judgment of Hell unless they repent. Unless Jesus was wrong in saying such a thing to the Pharisees, there can’t be anything wrong in trying to warn cooperators in monstrous moral evil that Hell awaits them unless they repent.
I suppose the bishops could be suffering from political correctness. Or they have a misunderstanding of the relationship between church and state. But it is likely that most bishops have effectively adopted a subjective notion of conscience, that conscience in the end trumps the moral authority of the Church. This is what seems to be behind their failure to deny Communion to Catholic politicians who support abortion. They assume that they can never judge the responsibility of these politicians for their actions. Canon Law doesn’t require any such final moral judgment to deny Holy Communion, but only when there’s been a judgment that certain Catholics are guilty of an objectively scandalous and public action contrary to the moral law in a serious matter.
But I think the problem goes even deeper than this obvious misreading of Canon Law. Many bishops, following the lead of numerous theologians rather than the bishops leading them, think that a person can have a morally good and upright conscience even when it is objectively in error – and where they are well aware that the Church’s teaching authority has consistently judged a particular moral action to be gravely evil. In other words, one’s subjective formation and judgment of conscience will always trump moral authority in determining moral responsibility when there is a conflict between the two.
This approach to moral conscience has been the theoretical basis for the “pastoral solution” to the massive rejection of the Church’s teaching on contraception for the past fifty years. Ultimately, of course, such a position will totally subjectivize the moral law, as Protestant Churches have learned. And that’s why we are where we are today when it comes to the responsibilities of the Joe Bidens and Nancy Pelosis. They seem to be continuing blindly on their path to Hell, while bishops continue to keep their silence and refuse publicly to admonish their flock. Can this really be pastoral charity?
Fr. Mark A. Pilon, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, received a Doctorate in Sacred Theology from Santa Croce University in Rome. He is a former Chair of Systematic Theology at Mount St. Mary Seminary, a former contributing editor of Triumph magazine, and a retired and visiting professor at the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College. He writes regularly atlittlemoretracts.wordpress.com.