My response of Dec.9, 1989 *****
The Sun's Dec. 5th "Sanctions" editorial concerning Bishop Maher's disciplining of Lucy Killea for her advocacy of abortion attempts to reinforce a popular and by now respectable intellectual trend, the wondrous premise that we are to respect and even admire people who believe one thing in private and espouse another in public. We used to have a name for such behavior: hypocrisy. Another is political expedience. Of this, at least, the Church does not stand accused. Her condemnation of abortion has never wavered nor softened in order to please her constituents.
You cite A.E.P. Wall as taking note that Gov. Bob Martinez, also a Catholic, has signed 101 death warrants in the face of public opposition to the death penalty voiced by Florida's Catholic bishops. (We will set aside the fact that juries may recommend, but only judges impose, this penalty.)
Equating the punishment inflicted on a man duly convicted of a capital offense and that inflicted on a fetus for appearing in the right place at the wrong time (the blame for which appearance falls, by the way, squarely on the executioner) is a parallel I cannot accept. But if it were acceptable, so would be the following scenario: Martinez, let us say, privately opposes the death penalty; he perceives, however, that his electorate does not, and so, by his words and actions, carries out their will. We might then expect editorials in The Sun extolling the courage manifested by his extraordinary ability to subordinate private beliefs to the public good, to keep the "lines between church and state" from becoming "blurred."
Now it is a historical fact that the Catholic Church has always ceded to the state the right to administer capital punishment, with due regard for mercy in individual cases. (Mercy, like any virtue, is made visible by the clarity of its focus, not by its serving as a blanket dispensation.) No bloc of bishops, however great their numbers, can ever change this. Who possesses the authority to proclaim what is and is not Catholic teaching is an internal church matter, theological in nature. I do not expect, nor do I get, such expertise from The Sun.
As to Ms. Killea's discipline, Bishop Maher has merely interfered to a significant, and purely private, degree with The Sun's ability to classify her as a "practicing Catholic." Unless you wish to be accused of blurring the line between the secular and the sacred, content yourselves with the knowledge that she remains free to advertise her opinions and that there is nothing the Bishop can do about it.
The case is simply this: You admire the bishops when they admonish us on the evils of the death penalty, but disdain them when they do the same with abortion. But the parallel drawing a moral equivalence between them is of your own hand, not mine. If you do not wish us to heed them on the one issue, how can you expect us to heed them on the other? ****
The paper, of course, issued an immediate apology for its logical flaws and even considered changing its stance on the abortion issue....as the kids like to say, jk.