Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Mala lex, nula lex

Thomas Aquinas offers us this delicious tidbit -a bad law is no law. More specifically, a law that doesn't serve the common good is no law at all. Phrased more positively, law is a function of reason; good laws are inherently reasonable. We should, then, be able to figure them out.

As you might imagine, I'm stumped. Two allegedly unrelated things are happening within the U.S. Catholic church, and I can make no sense of them co-existing in the same space.

Thing 1: Ten years ago, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz (google him; he's a piece of work)excommunicated all the members of his diocese (Lincoln) who are members of Call to Action and a few other groups. He did this because someone reported to him (or he saw, but I doubt that) that Catholics for Free Choice had set up a booth at the Call to Action conference. Therefore, Call to Action must be pro-choice. You're losing me on the reasonableness requirement, big guy. But hang on, there's more.

The excommunicated people thrashed around for a while. There was a bit of press. In the end, they decided to appeal the excommunication to the Vatican. Last week, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, head of the Congregation for Bishops upheld the excommunication. The excommunicated Catholics chose to appeal because they wanted to affirm that they recognize the authority of the Bishop (That Bishop??? That's a hard sell. But they're nicer than I am.) but just thought he'd made a mistake. It didn't work.

So, in that one diocese (and only that diocese) probably a few hundred people have been excommunicated because they support reform in the church, including really dangerous and world-view shattering things like female altar servers. They, of course, don't recognize the validity of the ex-communication. Mala lex, nula lex. This is from their press release:

But we will not be silent! This excommunication letter has no effect
upon our work for justice in the diocese of Lincoln . We will continue
to attend mass. We will continue to live our lives as faithful
Catholics. And, most importantly, we will continue to act for
justice, just as Christ called us to do.

Thing 2: You want to guess how many priests known to have sexually abused children have been excommunicated? I'll give you three guesses, but you're only going to need one. Thousands of pedophile priests.... hundreds of complicit bishops.... they can all receive the sacraments. Not one has been excommunicated.

What's the message here? My membership in Call to Action is more dangerous to the church than the actions of a pedophile priest? They can't believe that. They think, perhaps, that we aren't going to notice? Sorry, boys. We noticed. Really, I imagine that they believe that imposing order on the laity will actually help solve the clerical crisis. Why they believe this truly escapes me, but I think that's it.

But, allowing this kind of monstrously warped logic to exist within a church that actually prizes reason is cowardice unworthy of the season. Mala lex, nula lex, fellas.


Lisa :-] said...

The Catholic Church is doing some serious fishing around for good policy. And they haven't caught any keepers yet...

Trinity said...

From their point of view, errant clergy is not a threat to the core of their institution. However, Call to Action are just that, a threat to them. Hence the 'unreasonable' response.

Andrea Rusin said...

Well, they SAY they think errant clergy are a threat to the church. The documents from their recent meeting say that explicitly. (And then they go on to talk about protecting the errant priests' reputations... so who the heck knows what they actually mean.)