|June 27, 2006|
Exactly what, Justice Scalia, don't you understand about "Thou shalt not kill"?
Catholic justices violate the "strict constructionist" teaching of their church
A BUZZFLASH READER CONTRIBUTION
When John Kerry was running for president in 2004, some Roman Catholic bishops openly stated that if he were to ask for communion from them, the bishops would refuse to give the Roman Catholic candidate the host, which is a symbol of the body and blood of Jesus Christ, according to tradition.
In fact, one bishop said that any Catholic who voted for Kerry would be guilty of a sin.
The reason? Because Kerry, and many other Catholic politicians, accept Roe v. Wade, the case that established a woman's right to choose, as the law of the land.
However, when five Catholics on the U.S. Supreme Court voted on Monday to let stand a Kansas law that permits the state to take the life of a person, not a whisper was heard from the Catholic Church or from its bishops.
This legal act is referred to as capital punishment, and the Catholic members of the court who voted in favor of it -- Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, and Anthony Kennedy -- violated the principles of the Roman Catholic church in doing so.
In fact, Scalia has openly stated that the Catholic pronouncement against capital punishment, which is now followed as church doctrine in the Catholic catechism, is wrong.
Yes, this Scalia who calls himself a "strict constructionist' on matters regarding the U.S. Constitution, publicly disregards his church pronouncement on capital punishment. "I like abortion, okay. I dislike capital punishment, not okay."
I have a question for Scalia: Just what is there about these words, "Thou shalt not kill," that you don't understand? The strict constructionist version of this is easy. You need not look at the "Right Wing Cliff Notes on the Bible" to understand this. No one, not an individual or the state, can take the life of another person, according to that commandment. Simple.
The late Pope John Paul II, whom the right-wingers loved when he agreed with them on abortion, was the person who first used the words "culture of life." That phrase has been hijacked by Catholics and right-wing Christians alike. When the pope discussed the culture of life, he explained that the Catholic Church follows a true vision of life, what the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin called a "seamless garment of life," opposing abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, stem cell research, contraception, and an unjust, preemptive war.
The Supreme Court justices pick and choose among the church's teachings, making them "Cafeteria Catholics," the words that so many anti-abortion voters used to castigate Kerry and others two years ago.
In reality, the justices should decide a case based on case law -- stare decisis -- congressional laws, and on the U.S. Constitution, not on what their church declares. However, when Democrats attempted to express that rationale to follow civil law regarding abortion rights in the 2004 presidential campaign, the Catholic clergy went ballistic. The bishops argued that the church's principles should override civil law.
No doubt, those right-wingers illustrate why only one Catholic has been elected president in the past two-plus centuries. Voters are fearful that a Catholic would follow its church and not dictates of the Constitution or laws passed by Congress. President John F. Kennedy, the only Catholic president, demonstrated that such critics were guilty of discrimination against Catholics as JFK governed based on the rule of law in the U.S., not in Rome, during his too-short term in office.
Scalia, in a speech at the University of Chicago Divinity School in 2002, tried to use the same logic that he criticizes in the current court -- viewing the constitution as a living document -- to justify his moral opposition to capital punishment. Scalia said that he did not have to obey the capital punishment prohibition of his church. "I am therefore happy to learn from the canonical experts I have consulted that the position set forth in Evangelium Vitae and in the latest version of the Catholic catechism does not purport to be binding teaching -- that is, it need not be accepted by practicing Catholics."
Unfortunately, Scalia is off-base on his interpretation. In fact, Scalia should realize that the encyclical Humanae Vitae, issued in 1968 by Pope Paul VI, stated the church's opposition to abortion and contraception, and it is the law of the church today. In reality, the contraception is very controversial with Catholics. Some priests even tell women to follow their consciences, not the encyclical, when deciding whether or not to use contraception. That encyclical became the law of the church, although many Catholic women continue to ignore it.
So, Catholic bishops will tell you that the doctrine against capital punishment that Pope John Paul enunciated in his encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, in 1995, is indeed church doctrine. The catechism is the teaching tool for young Catholics, and the church does not issue such a dictate unless it is to be followed by the faithful.
Therefore, to the five "Cafeteria Catholics" who issued the capital punishment decision on Monday, you are to be commended to following the civil law in this country (even if you should have let the Kansas Supreme Court judgment stand).
You are, however, to be condemned morally for your inconsistency on the "culture of life" that the church is expressing today.
The meaning of "Thou shalt not kill" is simple enough for a 10-year-old to understand.
A BUZZFLASH READER CONTRIBUTION
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