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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Law as a Gateway to Oppression

Bush Lauds Catholics' Role in U.S. Freedom: "'Pope Benedict XVI recently warned that when we forget these truths, we risk sliding into a dictatorship of relativism, where we can no longer defend our values,' Bush said. 'Catholics and non-Catholics alike can take heart in the man who sits on the chair of Saint Peter, because he speaks with affection about the American model of liberty rooted in moral conviction.' The keynote speaker was Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, who said during the presidential campaign that voting for a candidate who supports abortion rights would be a sin that must be confessed before receiving Holy Communion. 'When a public official claims to be Catholic but then says he can't offer his beliefs about the sanctity of the human person as the basis of law, it always means one of two things: That person is either very confused or he's very evasive,' Chaput told the prayer breakfast. 'All law is the imposition of somebody's beliefs on somebody else.'"
I don't understand how I, as a non-Catholic, "can take heart in the man who sits on the chair of Saint Peter." How is that an encouragement to me? In what sense is this an issue of any importance whatsoever? As likely I should be concerned about the person of the current Dahli Lama. And why does the leader of this civic government need to observe this? Why does it matter to him as President? Mr. Chaput is clearly making a power play here. I know it is obvious to most thinking people, but I wanted to take a brief moment to point a light of truth as the pious power structure of the Catholic church. Finally, Mr. Chaput is certainly presenting the Catholic view law: the imposition of belief on others. However, there is another, and I think more viable, view of law: the protection of one individual from another. This view of law is much more conducive to a free society. The view that law is to impose beliefs on others is certainly a precarious point from which to tip into totalitarianism. In this light, is it any wonder that the Catholic church has participated in most of the great totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century? It is easy enough to rationalize behaviors when one has only to rationalize a faith statement to find the basis for oppression of others.

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