How should we conduct our affairs? Oh, reasonably, responsibly, we suppose. Not trusting ourselves, though, we have agreed as a nation to act, and be governed, under a set of laws. That should be a pretty straightforward thing. But in practice, we find that brain versus heart, logic versus conscience, protocol versus exigency makes it often a very interesting existence.
A short blog post at the American Spectator sparked our latest mental exercise in exploring ideal behavior and purity of motive and …….coping. It seems prominent Catholic Bishops want to have their cake and eat it too in America. Remember this for a moment – There is this…..concept….of a separation of Church and State, a rendering unto Caesar that which he expects and to a Deity that which is His due. Butting in, these Bishops argue, apparently, for stipulating the goodness of people they have never met.
Once again, some compelling and straightforward observations from Philadelphia Archbishop Chaput on a most pressing issue of our time – ”…an issue of treating people with dignity and understanding that they’ve made a contribution to the common good and therefore that can’t be rejected because they’re here illegally.”
Sayeth they: in order to withhold recognition, the authority must prove a negative. It must be assumed that illegal immigrants deserve all the accouterments of citizenship because they are….just good folk. The illegal immigration issue rears its ugly head once more and the definition of ‘Rights’ is once more mangled. Bishop Chaput’s premise is that “they’ve made a contribution to the common good” and therefore we are to excuse their illegal entry. Well, we find fault with the logic that a class of people or any subset of them, have, by their existence, even presuming they didn’t commit other crimes, made a ‘contribution’ of any kind. They are simply here. They may or may not have ‘contributed’. Neither the bishops, nor any other outfit can make blanket statements like that. And especially not use that as an excuse to give them more recognition, or benefits, than they have already reaped, or wrongly assumed, just by taking up residence in the United States.
And to approach the issue using certain of their assumptions against them, those being that the government’s province does not extend to Church doctrine, and that they have certain rules, or church laws that they as Catholics must live by and insist on, separate of government and regardless of what government thinks is the right thing to do for a subset of the population associated with the Church. So, too, must the Church cede to the government its authority to set the rules for official recognition of legal status and whatever benefits accrue therefore. After all, just because women may have made contributions doesn’t entitle them to be priests, now does it, your eminences?
This notion that just because something is perceived as noble or ideal or would perhaps ultimately be for ‘the greater good’, even if every last Tom, Dick and Harry in attendance agree that such is likely, does not qualify it to ignore or replace law, or canon of ethics or code of conduct or standard operating procedure or anything else. The reason for that is as simple as the fact that death is certain. That’s why in Civilization we have codification and not gentlemen’s agreements. We cannot inquire of the dead what they meant. What is claimed to have been agreed upon is often subject to dispute, even if it is written down. If it is not written down, it is near impossible to adjudicate, interpret or settle in a non-arbitrary manner. This is just basic reason, logic and foundational truth. And this is so whether it’s the Church, a democratic Republic, or Little League Baseball, Inc.
For example, there are such things as State Constitutions, Corporate Charters, and Bibles. Officials of those entities who are bound by those texts in their official capacities can claim that the document authorizes a position, or course of action, and they can simultaneously claim that it is “the right thing to do.” But even if it falls within the scope of the document they are bound by in their primary capacity, they cannot demand its acceptance by the other body (the Church, the government, the corporation) based on an esoteric notion that it’s the “right thing to do.” Only that it is compelled for survival.
It is very difficult for some people to reconcile their dual responsibilities and dual memberships. But nobody ever said Western Civilization was easy. If you are a pacifist Catholic priest who happens to also be a Member of Congress, you can argue passionately, and cast your vote, against a resolution for War. But the Rule of Law prevails despite your convictions. It doesn’t preclude your options, but you must be governed by the Law.
Another interesting quandary for all of us whose hearts bleed for those in certain circumstances is this notion that convicted felons, having paid their debt, should have their voting rights restored. Well then, would that be all convicted felons? Are murderers “contributors” ? (See illegal immigrants above). What about non-violent offenders? They’re a pretty benign group, hey? What did they “contribute” before they got sent up? If it was for fraud, for lying and cheating, for con games, are they any more likely to have reformed than a murderer? How about a child molester, one of the most universally-detested of the lot of the felons? If you’re going to let the murderer, the con man, the robber vote…….just think about it, okay?
What is “compelling state interest”? We could say it is that sine qua non, that which if not followed would tend toward demise of the institution, that which would cause it to lose control of conduct of its affairs and ultimately its destiny and the benefits of membership…for its members.
What is sovereignty? We could say it is that state of being that conveys with it authority, of an absolute kind, which, while having discretion, retains the power to perpetuate itself.
In the examples we used above, we have a sovereign government determined to establish the qualifications of the populations living within its domain so that said populations do not dilute either the meaning or the benefits or the rights of citizenship, regardless of the saintliness of those crossing into that domain, their purity of motive or “contributions” to that or any other domain. Simply, it is turf. Every sovereign body sets the rules for admission to its turf and membership qualifications. At the same time, we have a ministry which wants to minister to the migrating ones, to represent them and vouch for them, and could do so either in their native land or this one, but insists they be permitted membership in this society by some sort of ‘divine right’. They consider it ‘immoral’ for the government to refuse to acknowledge the proposed right, when in fact the issue has nothing to do with morality.
On the other hand, you have a government, in the person of the Progressivists at the seat of power, determined to impose their version of “the right thing to do” in matters of “health” (actually in assisting the outcome and consequences of sexual acts), which is nowhere to be found in its charter.
So what we have are two entities, two sovereign bodies in their own domains attempting to deny the sovereignty of the other body in its rightful sphere of influence, when if that occurred, it would be antithetical to the concept of ‘state interest’ or ‘self interest,’ in the case of the Church, and render membership in either body meaningless, pointless.
Another example of this would be the cases (there are more than one) of religious associations, or clubs, on university campuses losing their campus privileges and official recognition when they exclude, even from leadership positions, people opposed to, or not willing to express commitment to, the values and organizational policies of these clubs. Now, while inhabiting a domain (the University) and otherwise agreeing to be bound by domain rules, does not the notion that a Muslim Society being forced to admit a Wiccan into its fellowship more or less defeat the whole raison d’etre of an Allah-fearing club? What “compelling state interest” could a university have, what would threaten it so to let like-minded people freely associate with, and only with, themselves in their extra-curricular activities? (Answer: the threats from Political Headquarters to sanction and punish for political incorrectness, but then you knew that.) In practice, of course, the “liberal” Universities don’t unsanction Muslim Societies, only Christian ones, but of course hypocrisy knows no bounds.
The common thread in all of this is the unwillingness to recognize the necessity of another authority to be bound by its laws, as a matter of self-preservation. It is as plain a duty as can be imagined. However, within each sphere, there is discretion. The Church can sanction, withhold sacraments, excommunicate or forgive – on an individual basis, but cannot ignore sin. It is……written. Similarly, there is prosecutorial discretion, temperate jurisprudence, and temporary suspension of rules for expediency and emergency within a sovereign government.
In the case of the Imperious University, refusal to allow association by conscience, or commitment to principle, or demonstration of performance is so counterintuitive to the pursuit of knowledge, or understanding or achievement as to cause one to wonder why they award degrees in, say, physics? Not only do they degrade the Organization of Campus Christians, if carried to it’s logical conclusion, they would degrade the School of Business by eliminating requirements, insisting on the forced accommodation of art students and suspension of adherence to the curriculum. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. The next target for diversity is the American Kennel Club. (Purebred is s-o-o-o-o yesterday, don’t you know?)
In many ways, besides turf wars, all this boils down to some eternal attributes – pride, enlightened (or unenlightened) self-interest, or preservation, or envy, or mindless (or mindful) prejudice. Even where responsible parties have laws to follow, even when they have treaties or agreements or pacts with other entities, they have an urge, perhaps a primal urge to impose, to be dominant, not in just their own domain, but in adjacent ones. It reaches outlandish proportions when these entities expect neighboring domains to surrender their authority in matters which define them. Not only do sovereign bodies not do that, MEN do not do that. They do not do that because they are unreasonable, they do not do that because they are men. They live by the Rule of Law, or the precepts of faith, but those guidelines are theirs. They wrote them, they posted them on their properties. They teach them to their children. They have rights as men, not just as Buddhists, or Biologists. The Rule of Law, the Qualifications for Membership, the Confessions of Faith all these things are purposeful, not merely to the survival of the bodies they pertain to, but the people who belong to them. It is all quite…personal.