This year, a number of actions taken by politicians have invited Catholics to examine how their faith should translate into the political world. The interrogation a week ago by a pair of Senate Democrats – one nominally Catholic – about a Catholic judicial nominee’s faith as it relates to abortion jurisprudence underscores this.
On this matter, some individuals representing the Church cause confusion rather than clarity. It sometimes comes in the form of publicly-rendered judgments such as with reactions to some executive orders issued by Pres. Donald Trump.
For example, early in Trump’s presidency, he barred U.S. foreign aid going to organizations that promote or pay for abortions. Diocese of Baton Rouge Bishop Robert Muench rightly, consistent with Catholic doctrine, praised the order for its protection of life.
However, just days prior, the Diocese’s Catholic Charities Executive Director David Aguillard, a Muench appointee, roundly criticized other Trump orders designed to speed construction of a border wall with Mexico, boost the nation’s border patrol agents and immigration officers, and eliminate funding for sanctuary cities. He termed these actions “anti-immigrant” and born of “prejudice” that Catholics should oppose. Last week, when Trump issued another order rescinding in six months former President Barack Obama’s that conveyed conditional amnesty on many illegal alien adults who had arrived in childhood, Aguillard lamented it as “American politics” that “try to turn us against one another.”
But such views incompletely analyze the issues through a lens of Catholic understanding. While the Church’s Catechism, which spells out Church doctrine, calls upon the faithful to assist migrants, it recognizes in the very same section that society must provide for the “common good” that features “stability and security of a just order” where the state must “defend and promote the common good of civil society [and] its citizens.” Trump’s orders achieve this by limiting potential criminal and terroristic activity in a nonprejudicial way.
Additionally, the most recent order reaffirms a bedrock principle of civil society: the rule of law. Even partisan Democrats do not defend the extraconstitutional nature of Obama’s order, subject of a suit threatened by Louisiana Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry, which improperly made law in bypassing Congress. When a country ignores the rule of law, the Church often becomes victimized like in Cuba, whose government constitutionally promises religious freedom yet until recently persecuted Catholics for their faith.
These examples are joined by others that foster ambiguity when a Catholic leader failed to act in support of the faith. Whenever government policy contradicts Catholic teaching, shepherds must remind the flock, as did Archdiocese of New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who expressed disappointment that Xavier University bestowed 2015 commencement honors on former Sen. Mary Landrieu and Eric Holder, public officials whose actions supported abortion.
But Aymond publicly remained silent this year when Xavier honored Rep. Cedric Richmond, also supportive of abortion in his official acts, at its commencement. And, unlike pastoral leaders made of sterner stuff like Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, IL and Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, he has not given guidance that disallows individuals who lived openly in same-sex marriages from receiving Catholic funeral rites; this summer, area media publicized one such person buried in a Catholic ceremony. Canon 1184 of the Church’s Canon Law prohibits an ecclesiastical funeral when this creates “public scandal” – an attitude or behavior which leads another to sin.
Thus, when evaluating politics relative to their faith, Louisiana Catholics must not let actions or inactions of their religion’s representatives confuse them.