Saturday, October 11, 2008

The King’s good servant, but...

In the play later adapted to film A Man For All Seasons, there is a scene where the Duke of Norfolk attempts to pressure the High Chancellor, Thomas More, into signing the Act of Succession -- recognizing Anne Boleyn as King Henry VIII's lawful wife, and their children legitimate heirs to the throne -- under pain of death for treason.

Norfolk: Oh, confound all this... I'm not a scholar, as Master Cromwell never tires of pointing out, and frankly I don't know whether the marriage was lawful or not. But damn it, Thomas, look at those names... You know those men! Can't you do what I did, and come with us, for fellowship?

More: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?

Closer to the present, this past Sunday, the first of October, was designated as "Respect Life Sunday" by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. It was also the occasion for three young men to stand outside the cathedral church in the Diocese of Arlington, and hand out literature which, in one instances, indicts a candidate for president for failing to promote the Gospel of Life, through his support of abortion and infanticide. This would include The Freedom of Choice Act, which would eliminate all state and federal restrictions on abortion, including partial-birth abortion, and which said candidate has pledged to sign into law on his first day in office. As the trio's press release states:

The group peacefully passed out the pro-life literature for each of the morning masses. The church called the police when the group refused to leave. The police came and were literally unlatching the handcuffs to take the "trespassers" into custody when the pastor hurried out of the Cathedral to stop the arrests from taking place.

The pro-life activists returned to pass out brochures for the 5 PM mass and were met by the police waiting. This time the pastor did not stop the arrests from taking place.

The incident was reported in this week's edition of the Arlington Catholic Herald. A spokesman for the Diocese explained the reasons for the arrest:

Distribution of partisan political materials is not allowed on Church property.

"This rule applies equally to all political parties, all parts of the political spectrum," Herrmann said. "This year, especially, there are anumerous groups who want ot try to tell Catholics how they should vote. But the Church has been quite clear: While it is imperative that Catholics vote with well-formed consciences, and numerous resources have been provided by the Church to assist them in doing so, it is not the Church's role to advocate on behalf of individual candidates."

In the letter, "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship," the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) stated that the Church is "to avoid endorsing or opposing candidates or telling people how to vote."

A particularly troubling aspect of the trespassers' pamphlets, Herrmann said, is the use of a logo that closely mimics the "Faithful Citizenship" logo of the USCCB.

"It seems that the goal was to mislead people into believing that these pamphlets were authentic Church documents," he said. (from the 10/09/08 Issue)

What is also "particularly troubling," is what the Herald neglects to mention.

While the brochure being handed out does indeed cite Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama by name for his position on abortion, more than half the text of the brochure is direct quotations from the decree of the late Pope John Paul II entitled Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life). Most of the rest is an explanation of how that would apply in the instance of voting for candidates for public office. The excerpts were intended to demonstrate that Barack Obama is clearly, unmistakenly, and unapologetically, cooperating now, and does intend to continue to cooperate in, a grave moral evil, through the legalized murder of innocent unborn life. As a result, a Catholic could not vote for him as President with a clear conscience, without formal cooperation in that grave moral evil.

No presidential election year goes by without pulpits of, say, African-American congregations, being actively used to promote a particular political candidate, even to the point of providing a stage for that candidate himself. And yet, such is the fear of losing their precious tax-exempt status, that the Catholic bishops in the USA are prepared to throw to the dogs, those with less fear of the wrath of the state.

The three gentlemen from Operation Rescue -- Randall Terry, Joseph Landry, and Brian Sherwood -- have been released, pending a court hearing in November. As this is being written, they have already announced their intentions to continue distributing the same literature outside the same cathedral, after tonight's evening Mass.

One cannot help but notice a certain irony, that the Cathedral itself is named for Saint Thomas More, the man who risked his life to defy Henry VIII for ignoring God's law in putting away his lawful wife to marry another. Even as every English bishop save one, fell in line with the Crown, it was Thomas, the King's own High Chancellor, who went to his death, admitting to being "the King's good servant, but God's first."

As to the issue of misleading, the brochure makes no attempt to duplicate or otherwise come across as having been published by an official organ of the Church. It does, however, quote generously from a papal decree, which contains teaching that is binding on the faithful, regardless of who publishes it. It is not an "authentic Church documents," but it does contain the text of authentic Church teaching.

Who is doing the misleading; three men who risk being arrested, or other men who, unlike their predecessors in England, do not risk either their lives or their safety? Click on, and decide for yourself.

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