I disagree: are the bishops being selfish?

While we’re on the topic of unfair criticisms, I’m tired of hearing things like this from conservatives:

As you are no doubt well aware, Obama yesterday in effect decreed an amnesty for young illegal aliens, bypassing Congress and the Constitution. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is now APPLAUDINGthis action! [The document is in pdf.]

It was just a few months ago that they were screaming like stuck pigs over the administration’s unilateral order that that they include contraception in their health care plans. You called the bishops contemptible and you were absolutely correct. This corrupt group has no objections to the use of lawless power when it benefits their aims and objectives, but don’t you dare tread on their little bailiwick. This bunch of unprincipled leftists is why I left the Catholic Church.

Yes, that’s it;  the Catholic Church is selfish for not wanting to participate in evil.  How is this apostate’s opinion different from a Leftist’s?  The bishops can say, quite honestly, that their principles underlie both positions.  (A better criticism, made from time to time by Auster himself, is that the USCC’s “conservative” and “liberal” principles contradict or at least frustrate each other.  There’s some truth to this.)

15 thoughts on “I disagree: are the bishops being selfish?

  1. the Catholic Church is being called selfish because being pleased with the results, it does not seem to mind that the procedure to bring upon the result was not conducive to the Rule of Law and thus not productive of long-term common good.

    • Yes, the highest duty of the Church is to uphold “Constitutionalist” cranks’ ideas about just governance. Who could disagree?

      • Would you agree that the Church does have an interest in promoting the common good? Unless I’m missing something, the rule of law is conducive to the common good, and in the US the Constitution is central to that. Whether the ends the USCCB wants are good or not, those ends to not justify bypassing the law, which harms the common good in the long-term.

      • I do agree, and I agree that their amnesty-pushing is bad for the common good. I just think it’s a case of following false principles rather than selfishness.

      • Of course the Church has an interest in promoting the common good, and of course the rule of law promotes the common good.

        The rule of law which promotes the common good, though, means having rules of behavior and punishments for their violation which are both in accord with natural law and reasonably well understood by the public generally. That rule of law has to do with the relationship of the government to the governed.

        It has nothing to do with inter-branch squabbles over policy or power, with who wins them, or with whether or not they are resolved in accord with the Constitution. The US Constitution obviously has no fixed meaning and whatever temporary meaning it might have cannot be understood by anything so prosaic as reading it. If you don’t believe me, go read any originalist. Now, you could call a system of fixed, enforced division of responsibility among government branches governed by a Constitution the rule of law if you want, and people do this. But that kind of rule of law isn’t the kind that promotes the common good.

        Failing to deport illegal immigrants is poor policy. The USCCB is on the wrong side of the substantive policy debate. But there are no Constitutional principles at stake because there are no Constitutional principles. Thus, there is no issue of the USCCB being unprincipled.

        What Obama is doing is almost an example of how the US government normally runs—the only real difference is that Obama, for political reasons, is being more explicit than usual. In most policy domains, the executive is supreme. It writes, interprets, and enforces regulation. With respect to laws, it exercises essentially unlimited, unchecked prosecutorial discretion. That’s the system we have. That’s how policy really gets made.

        A better critique of the USCCB is the one Bonald made elsewhere. Instead of appealing to some farcical “freedom of religion” reason to oppose Obama on the birth control mandate, they should have just said birth control is evil, and forcing people to participate in evil is also evil. This wasn’t enough for them, though. They had to try to appeal to principles “above” or “beyond” mere Catholic truth, like, say, the Constitution.

  2. Yes, that’s it; the Catholic Church is selfish for not wanting to participate in evil.

    The “principles” of the USCC are to help the open leftists destroy the American society and polity. That is morally wicked.

  3. He who has power makes (positive) law. When he does so against the Natural Law, it is no law at all. (It may not, however, do us much practical good to say it is no law, except to disobey it cheerfully.) But in instances where the Natural Law does not bind the man with power, the man with power is the law. Simply is. It’s just physics.

    The Bishops were, therefore, ill-advised to criticize the HHS mandate on this, i.e., constitutional, basis. They should have criticized it because it is evil. Of course, if they had, they would have been accused of Imposing Theocracy™, and that would have both hurt their feelings and been socially embarrassing to the vast majority of Catholics.

    The Bishops have been in state of ill-advisedness on the leftist immigration agenda for the better part of two generations.

    Both ill-advised inclinations, the late one and on-going chronic one, in addition to being constitutionally incoherent, have the added feature being incoherent with respect to the Natural Law.

    • Exactly. The reason to oppose the mandate is that contraception is evil, so that the government shouldn’t be promoting it at all, much less forcing other people to subsidize it. If it’s just a question of “religious freedom”, i.e. our arbitrary customs declare us ritually impure if we purchase contraceptives, then Obama’s accommodation should be perfectly satisfactory. Really, without attacking contraception’s status as an unquestioned good, I don’t know what more we could expect or even ask for.


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