We must also keep in mind the distinction of three things: 1) doctrine; 2) laws; 3) prudence. The doctrine is protected by the promise of Christ, as above. Laws, not from the Holy See, but from Bishops, could contradict the Church, e. g. , by ordering bad textbooks for Catholic schools. But as to the third item, prudence or good judgment: there is no promise of Christ, no claim by the Church, to protection in prudence. Hence it is not wrong to think or even say some things are not done prudently. And if a Pope gives a practical decision on something in which morality is concerned, that is not the same as giving a teaching on a given matter.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Nino Has it Right
Someone named Mike at Crime and Federalism has repeated an old canard about Justice Scalia which holds that he is not really a good Catholic because while he opposes abortion and supposedly acts on this religious belief in his professional capacity, he ignores or positively violates the Church's teachings about subjects like just wage and the death penalty.
Now it's hard to attribute mere ignorance to someone who knows his way around blogdom. It surely would not have been difficult for Mike to find a source like this one which lays out briefly the various levels of authority involved in Church teachings. He might have taken particular note of the following passage:
The prudential or "practical decision" part of this passage is key to understanding Scalia's posture about the death penalty. If Mike had looked a little further into the matter, he might have found that Cardinal Avery Dulles succinctly shows that there is (and can be) no change to the Church's teaching about the morality of the death penalty. There is indeed a new emphasis on more narrowly using this penalty only when it is truly necessary to protect society from agression by the offender; however, as Cardl. Dulles explains, this new emphasis is a prudential (there's that word again) judgment by the Pope, not a magisterial prounouncement that would bind all Catholics on pain of sin.
Nevertheless, as I have attempted to show repeatedly, there is really no conflict between the way the death penalty is administered in this country and what the Church actually teaches even on this new prudential level (not to be confused with what individual laymen, clerics, bishops, or groups of bishops may wish the Church taught).
Viewed either way, Scalia is justified in upholding the death penalty: the new emphasis is just that, a prudential emphasis, not a new moral teaching and therefore is not binding like a teaching on faith or morals would be; and regardless, our practices in this country conform with even this new prudential emphasis.
Mike apparently thinks he's found a "gotcha," look-at-the-hypocrite-Catholic moment, but all he's really shown is his own shallow idiocy.