Thursday, February 23, 2006

Baker Bishop Calls Pro-Choice "Heresy"

Not a word to drop lightly among Catholics, it nonetheless made a deliberate and published appearance in Eastern Oregon last week: profession of pro-choice belief may in fact be grounds for heresy.

OPB runs the story with some local reaction: "Francis Kissling with the abortion rights group Catholics for a Free Choice, says she's been called a heretic by lay people, but never by a Bishop." It also notes that the Baker diocese applauded the analysis if emails are an indicator; what little reaction I found echoes those sentiments.

Here's the bishop. See what you think:
As a point of information, the present Code of Canon Law does include a couple of canons on heresy. Canon 751 defines heresy as “the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt, after the reception of baptism, of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith. . . .” There are a number of teachings of the Church that must “be believed by divine and Catholic faith.” We must believe, for instance, that Jesus is true God and true man. To deny or doubt this, with obstinacy, is heresy. We must believe the God exists in Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We must believe that Jesus rose from the dead. We must believe that He ascended into heaven. These phrases will all be familiar because they constitute the Creed that we recite each Sunday. It may come as a bit of a shock, but there are a number of Catholic theologians who now seriously call into question these basic teachings, these Creedal tenets.

There are also moral teachings that constitute a part of the deposit of faith that must be accepted and adhered to, “firmly embraced and retained.” Canon 750 concludes: “therefore, one who rejects those propositions which are to be held definitively is opposed to the doctrine of the Catholic Church.” It is certainly necessary to exercise a great deal of caution and care in arriving at a founded conclusion that someone accepts or teaches heresy. There is something terribly harsh about calling a person a heretic. This is not something that is ever done lightly or capriciously. Nevertheless, there are those of the household of Faith who obstinately deny some truth that is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith.

There is some question, for instance, about whether those who openly profess to be “pro-choice” are, in fact, holding to a heretical position. The teaching of the Church in the area of life is clear and unequivocal. Human life must be respected and protected from conception to natural death. Those who maintain that any and all decisions about the disposition of pre-born human beings are exclusively the right of the mother or the parents, at least implicitly, reject the clear and consistent teaching of the Church.

Once again, OPB: "The Bishop also said he did not mean 'to imply that anyone who votes for" what he called "an anti-life politician is denying some truth of Catholic faith.'" I don't think implication was necessary, do you?