One of the reasons we have bishops is to explain the wisdom of the Catholic Church.
Not that you would know this from their recent public pronouncements. Because going by these, you could be forgiven for thinking that they preferred instead to hide or obscure the Church’s clear cut teachings.
First we had Bishop Putney from Townsville tell us that each and every family had a gay member. Then he waxed lyrical on the ABC for some time about the Church and homosexuality, without once mentioning what the Church’s actual position on this topical issue is.
Now we’ve got Archbishop Porteous, newly installed as the head of the Archdiocese of Hobart. He’s gone one step further than his northern brother and actually started advocating the exact opposite of Catholic teaching.
This time the subject wasn’t the perversion of sexuality, but rather life itself.
The two are connected you know. You don’t get the latter without the former. That’s why sexuality is so important. It actually allows us to work cooperatively with God Himself in the creation of new life.
But Archbishop Porteous didn’t mention anything about the sanctity of life when he wrote about Tasmania’s new abortion free-for-all on 30 November.
Instead, he wrote this:
“A doctor or counsellor can calmly outline the various options and their consequences- abortion, having the child and putting it up for adoption, having the child and keeping it. In each instance there are an array of consequences both good and bad. These can be outlined to the woman to assist her in making an informed decision.”
In case you didn’t quite get the Archbishop’s drift, he stated that abortion can have positive consequences. And that supporting life can be negative.
Which is a little surprising coming from a Catholic bishop with a duty to uphold the Church’s teaching.
For his benefit, because he clearly is not familiar with the Catholic Church’s position, abortion is gravely immoral. It is one of the few acts that carries the penalty of excommunication for those who formally cooperate in it.
Not that the Catholic politicians who formerly cooperate in abortion by legalising it, defending it and administering it would know. The bishops never talk about excommunication. They are silent. Which, given their duty to point out error, is kind of like formal cooperation as well.
So I’m sorry Archbishop Porteous, but you are wrong. Dead wrong.
Abortion is not good in any circumstances. It is gravely evil. Every single time.
And Archbishop Porteous should know that.
Archbishop Porteous’ comments are bad enough but they are also hypocritical. In one breath, he claims that women should be assisted to make an informed choice. Yet in his whole entire article he did not once provide the information that they most need to hear from a bishop to make a truly informed decision.
If you have an abortion you head towards Hell because you take a child’s life.
I would’ve thought that was a pretty important thing for women contemplating abortion to know about.
And while Archbishop Porteous did raise post-abortion grief, there was no mention that those struggling with guilt can find relief through the Catholic sacrament of Penance and the power of forgiveness. Again, that might have been something that many women dealing with depression and mental anguish might have been comforted to read.
Instead, Archbishop Porteous wrote about why women need access to impartial advisors who can calmly explain all the options – including those that result in the death of their growing child.
One of the great frustrations that Catholic Australians have is that supposedly Catholic politicians, time and again, vote against Catholic teaching on black and white issues of objective morality.
And the reason for that is not hard to find. Catholic bishops give them every opportunity to do so.
They are silent during the debate. They are silent after it happens. They are irrelevant.
Every other stakeholder makes a point of outlining their position – publicly. Every other side expends time and effort ensuring that the politicians know the public consequences if they fail to support their cause.
Yet the Catholic Church, with the largest grass-roots organisation in Australia, sits mute and inert.
What a waste. What a dereliction of duty.
Even worse, when the bishops do speak, the only politicians who can use their words to support their case are the ones voting for objective evil.
Certainly a pro-life politician could not table Archbishop Porteous’ words in parliament. He’d be laughed out of the chamber by his opposition. They would jump on the fact that Archbishop Porteous’ words clearly support the belief that abortion can be good. And they would use the Archbishop’s text to justify their support of pro-abortion ‘reform’.
Just in case you don’t believe me and need a few examples, go and look at the website of Australian Marriage Equality – the leading homosexual marriage lobby group. Bishop Putney got a right-royal write up on their pages. He didn’t get such a good write up on the web pages of the pro-marriage groups. What pro-marriage group wants to highlight a Catholic bishop that spreads the lie that every family has a homosexual member?
Or go and look at the Hansard of Queensland parliament. The former Archbishop of Brisbane had his letter tabled by pretty much every pro-surrogacy politician during the 2010 debate. One of them even used his letter to justify homosexual surrogacy. That’s because Archbishop Bathersby said the Catholic Church did not oppose the decriminalisation of surrogacy. The few politicians who voted against surrogacy were not so fortunate to have a Catholic bishop in their corner.
When the media is so ferocious in its attack on pro-life and pro-family politicians, who can really blame them for failing to fight? Especially when the Catholic artillery crumps pro-life politicians with ‘friendly fire’ more often than landing any blows on the enemy.
We have a moral crisis in this country. It starts with the bishops. And it will remain while they are too afraid to speak clearly and confidently. Even worse, the situation will deteriorate while the bishops actually promote grave evils like abortion.
Archbishop Porteous has done just that. He should correct the record immediately.
Below are some words from St Thomas Aquinas regarding principles that lay faithful should adhere to when dealing with superiors who publicly stray from clear Catholic teaching:
St. Thomas Aquinas, in many passages of his works, upholds the principle that the faithful can question and admonish Prelates. For example: “There being an imminent danger for the Faith, Prelates must be questioned, even publicly, by their subjects. Thus, St. Paul, who was a subject of St. Peter, questioned him publicly on account of an imminent danger of scandal in a matter of Faith. And, as the Glosa of St. Augustine puts it (Ad Galatas 2, 14), ‘St. Peter himself gave the example to those who govern so that if sometimes they stray from the right way, they will not reject a correction as unworthy even if it comes from their subjects.” 1
Referring to the same episode, in which St. Paul resisted St. Peter “to his face,” St. Thomas teaches: “The reprehension was just and useful, and the reason for it was not trivial: there was a danger for the preservation of evangelical truth… The way it took place was appropriate, since it was public and open. For this reason, St. Paul writes: ‘I spoke to Cephas,’ that is, Peter, ‘before everyone,’ since the simulation practiced by St. Peter was fraught with danger to everyone.” 2
The Angelic Doctor also shows how this passage of the Scriptures contains teachings not only for Hierarchs, but for the faithful as well: “To the Prelates [was given an example] of humility so that they do not refuse to accept reprehensions from their inferiors and subjects; and to the subjects, an example of zeal and liberty so they will not fear to correct their Prelates, above all when the crime is public and entails a danger for many.” 3
In his Comments on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, St. Thomas teaches how respectfully correcting a Prelate who sins is a work of mercy all the greater as the Prelate’s position is higher: “Eccl. XVII: 12 says that God ‘imposed on each one duties toward his neighbour.’ Now, a Prelate is our neighbour. Therefore, we must correct him when he sins. …… Some say that fraternal correction does not extend to the Prelates either because a man should not raise his voice against heaven, or because the Prelates are easily scandalized if corrected by their subjects. However, this does not happen, since when they sin, the Prelates do not represent heaven and, therefore, must be corrected. And those who correct them charitably do not raise their voices against them, but in their favour, since the admonishment is for their own sake. … For this reason, … the precept of fraternal correction extends also to the Prelates, so that they may be corrected by their subjects.
1. Summa Theologiae (Taurini/Rome: Marietti), 1948, II.II, q. 33, a. 4.
2. Super Epistulas S. Pauli, Ad Galatas, 2, 11-14 (TauriniRome: Marietti, 1953), lec. III, nn. 83f.
3. Ibid., n. 77.
4. IV Sententiarum, d. 19, q. 2, a. 2.