Guest Commentary: Brave leaders a good sign in our culture

Catholic News Service

Responding to editors’ requests for a regular sampling of current commentary from around the Catholic press, here is an unsigned editorial titled “Brave leaders a good sign in our culture,” from the June 17 issue of NZ Catholic, New Zealand’s national Catholic newspaper.

In this issue five members of Parliament explain how their faith influences the decisions they make in Parliament. The other — often more intriguing — side of that debate is how Catholic leaders seek to guide politicians who are members of their own flocks.

Italy has always been a country where the church has tried to influence legislation, often with some disheartening results.

Disturbing threats were recently leveled against the pope and the head of the Italian bishops’ conference after the church spoke out against same-sex unions.

In recent years, the spotlight has fallen on the United States, where some bishops, albeit a minority, have refused Communion to politicians who have supported abortion or other hot-button issues, including embryonic stem-cell research, euthanasia, cloning and same-sex marriage.

The debate recently moved closer to home, with Cardinal George Pell in Sydney and Archbishop Barry Hickey in Perth both making their opinions known ahead of votes on legalizing cloning.

“Catholics who vote for the cloning of embryos destined for destruction are acting against the teaching of the church on a very serious matter, and they should in conscience not vote that way but, if they do, in conscience they should not go to Communion,” Archbishop Hickey said.

The West Australian speaker said Archbishop Hickey’s comments constituted threatening Catholic members of Parliament and referred the matter to the privileges committee.

We doubt the archbishop is all that concerned. He has taken what some might consider a courageous stance, but it is a continuation of the gradual regrowth of backbone in some bishops.

The 2004 U.S. presidential election reignited discussions around Catholic politicians and how their voting could impact on their worthiness to receive Communion.

A document issued by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to the U.S. bishops said “consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws” involves “formal cooperation” in those grave evils.

It said a bishop dealing with such a politician should meet with that person; discuss the church’s teaching; inform the person he or she should not take Communion while persisting on such issues; and, ultimately, if necessary, warn “that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.”

Some critics accused the Catholic Church of covertly supporting the Republican Party in the 2004 election because the majority of Catholic politicians with records of supporting abortion were in the Democratic ranks. In anticipation of the 2008 election, though, a Catholic group has already been established to oppose the nomination of Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani because of the former New York mayor’s record on abortion.

Such efforts are seen by some as “single-issue politics,” and those people are right to some extent. For Catholics, though, abortion must be a bottom-line issue, along with embryonic stem-cell research, cloning, euthanasia and same-sex marriage. Voters, here and abroad, should find out what candidates think on those issues before an election.

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