Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Politics and Religion/Church and State


With the recent tippings of the hands of the Vice President and President (by relying on his Christian faith) to support the initiative to legalize same-sex marriage (a matter traditionally within the jurisdiction of the states), former Speaker of the House, Representative Nancy Pelosi [HERE], has thrown her support in favor of this “evolving” concept. Not only did she endorse the President’s views and embrace his rationale, she offered her own perspective in response to the related questions, “Do you believe that religion and the idea that you can support gay marriage should be separated? And how do you grapple with the idea that you support gay marriage as a Catholic?”, by stating that,

My religion compels me, and I love it for it, to be against discrimination of any kind in our country. And I consider this a form of discrimination. I think it is unconstitutional on top of that. So, I think that yesterday was a great day for America because the President in a very personal, as well as presidential way, made history.

Once again, with the greatest respect to the representative and her leadership post in Congress, I suggest that she does not understand very well what her religion—which happens to be mine as well—says about discrimination.

The first point is that the Church to which she and I belong does not condemn “discrimination of any kind” but, rather, it condemns unjust discrimination. If I interpret her statement correctly, she asserts that the Church is “against discrimination of any kind.” As she says, her religion “compels her” to be “against discrimination of any kind.” But even Rep. Pelosi discriminates, and her discriminations for the most part are probably not unjust—some may even be objectively reasonable and, therefore, perfectly acceptable and be in accordance with American and Christian values. For example, when she chooses a clothing ensemble, by selecting a red, or blue, or tan outfit, she discriminates. When she contrasts the policies and platform of her party and distinguishes them from the opposition party, she discriminates. When she is at a fundraiser and selects one beverage or no beverage, she discriminates. When she calls upon one questioner at a press conference when time is running out but there are many hands in the air or many voices calling out, she discriminates. Surely all these forms of discrimination, while understandable and widely practiced, are not unjust.

Of course, some who claim the office of theologian say that the Church and her bishops are wrong on the issue of same-sex marriage initiatives by opposing them and argue that the Church’s position on this subject is “not really an argument that has theological justification.” [HERE] Really? How remarkably astonishing! What is all the more surprising is that one of the theologians quoted in the link just cited argues that the bishops “are misrepresenting ‘Catholic teaching,’” and are “trying to present their idiosyncratic minority views as the ‘Catholic position,’ and it is not.” To ask again: Really? The justification upon which this person relies seems to be polls as he indicates by referring to “most Catholic theologians”, so if fifty-one percent of the Catholics in this country were ready to bring back slavery or mandatory sterilization of “imbeciles”, would that make the Church’s teachings against these policies additional “idiosyncratic minority” views? Another theologian who is quoted in the previous link claims that the Church’s position on marriage and the institution of civil marriage are distinct (but he fails to acknowledge that Catholic priests and deacons perform marriages which are recognized by the civil authorities), so the Church should declare: “It’s none of our business.” But if it is not any of the Church’s business, why does this Catholic theologian have on or around his office door (at a Catholic university) posters endorsing same-sex marriage? He might argue that this is his personal view. But if it is, why is he, who has influence over the intellectual and moral formation of young Catholics, underscoring his support to his students and anyone else who passes by his office at a Catholic university? Maybe that’s one reason why younger people who claim to be Catholic are increasingly inclined to support same-sex marriage: they haven’t been exposed to reasoned views to the contrary in institutions which claim the moniker “Catholic”.

But I must return to Representative Pelosi’s position before concluding this post. When people discriminate about who can marry whom, the discrimination that results need not be unjust and, therefore, not contrary to the religion of Rep. Pelosi. When the civil law (and the Church) prohibit minors from marriage, the discrimination is not unjust. When the civil law (and the Church) prevent marriages within certain degrees of consanguinity, the discrimination is not unjust. When the civil law (and the Church) do not permit marriages of several partners, the discrimination is not unjust.

Now that the President and Representative Pelosi have brought religion into the realm of the state vis-à-vis the question of marriage and what constitutes marriage, I wonder if we shall see Americans United for Separation of Church and State launching their latest legal crusade against such unconstitutional establishment, knowing that if Bishop Jenky should not bring religion into public policy issues, why should public officials be permitted to do this without objection?


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Araujo, Robert | Permalink

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