Monday, November 24, 2008

Playing the Odds

CNSNews is reporting that Catholic lawmakers who vote for the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) could face "automatic excommunication", if it is determined that such a vote constituted "formal cooperation" with the "evil" of abortion. This is a question of canonical law that I have no knowledge of, so I won't go into whether a FOCA vote actually warrants automatic excommunication.

What I am interested in is how much of a backlash the Catholic Church will suffer if it excommunicates a large number of high profile members. Obviously, this would be a very high profile act, sure to get lots of media attention. With more than half of all American Catholics holding the belief that abortion should generally be legal, it will be interesting to say how the American Catholic population writ large reacts to what amount to a huge escalation in the internal stand-off between pro-life and pro-choice members of faith.

It wouldn't surprise me to see many members simply leave the church as a result. That may not be a bad thing -- I know many more traditional Catholics would happily trade size for purity in practice. But it would definitely be interesting if an automatic excommunication triggered a significant chunk of the Catholic laity to leave their faith behind.

H/T: Southern Appeal

3 comments:

ryorkport said...

Mr. Schraub,

As an ex-catholic, I find the entry interesting. My view of this whole business of excommunication is quite simple.

The Roman Church is a fundamentally authoritarian institution. One of its fundamental precepts, developed over nearly 2 millenia (since Nice), is obedience. For any practicing Catholics to disobey the authority of this institution is basically anathema.

This all goes back to the ban on contraception. As I understand it, nearly 75% of practicing Catholics use contraceptives. I also understand that at least 50% of self-declared Catholics believe that abortion should remain legal. This is an even deeper attack on the authority than contraception.

By these acts, these Catholics have declared themselves apostate. Unlike the US constitution, the Roman church does not allow for serious dissent from its fundamental doctrine.

I understand the reluctance of Catholics to admit this to themselves. And, I understand their attachment to the institution. But a Catholic cannot choose which doctrines she will or will not obey.

That was my primary reason for leaving the Roman church 50 years ago.

Richard York

luci said...

Hi David,

If you ever have a few minutes between all of your law school reading, & want to explore this topic in some depth, check out John Noonan's "Contraception" (there's a subtitle to the effect of "the history of its treatment by Catholic theologians.") I found it quite enlightening - it explores abortion as well. If things had gone the way that several influential 16th/17th c. Spanish Catholic theologians had wanted, the Church as an institution would, most likely, have an entirely different position on contraception, abortion, etc.

Hope all is well in Chicago :)

luci

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