Sunday, September 07, 2008

My brother's keeper

Well, I just finished reading the transcripts from today's "Meet the Press," in which Joe Biden essentially repeats the ridiculousness that got Nancy Pelosi into trouble with the American bishops. He, like Pelosi, insists that the teaching of the Church on abortion has not been clear or consistent--which, by the way, the bishops continue to disprove--and updates Speaker Pelosi's citation of St. Augustine to the much more modern and biologically enlightened...St. Thomas Aquinas. Seriously. Senator Biden also essentially pulls out that tired old slogan, "I'm personally opposed, but won't impose my beliefs on everyone else." Tom Brokaw tries to get Biden to address the fact that, if Biden truly does believe abortion to be evil, then his votes are a participation in that evil regardless of whether they impose his beliefs on others or not. But Biden squirms and flails until there's no real choice for Brokaw but to move on.

Coincidentally, today's readings really couldn't be more relevant to the Pelosi/Biden situation. A quick recap: the first reading (from Ezekiel) is a warning that, even if a wicked person persists in being wicked after being confronted, whether a believer confronts him or her makes all the difference. The wicked "shall die for his guilt" either way, but if "you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way," you will be held responsible for his death. In the second reading, St. Paul exhorts the Romans to "love your neighbor as yourself." And finally, the Gospel is Jesus advising his disciples on how to respond if your brother sins against you: first, confront them personally, then bring a couple of other people to provide witnesses that you've tried, then tell "the church," and, if the brother who has sinned against you still will not listen, "treat them as you would a Gentile or a tax collector," i.e., exclude them from the community of believers.

Fr. J presented a very good homily about the nature of "loving your neighbor as yourself" and the importance of Cain's response when asked what had become of the brother he had just killed: "Am I my brother's keeper?" First, Father established with us that to love ourselves is essentially to do all we can do to make it to heaven, as the greatest act of love in history was God sending his only Son to redeem humanity. So, loving our neighbor is, at its heart, trying to help him get to heaven as well. In this light, confronting the wicked person as urged by Ezekial is a great act of love. So, going back to Pelosi/Biden, the bishops are truly being compassionate in their public corrections. Further, as Jesus teaches in today's Gospel reading, they will be acting wholly appropriately to "treat [Pelosi and Biden] as you would a Gentile or a tax collector" as a last result if the public disobedience to the Church continues.

But maybe the greatest lesson here is this: Speaker Pelosi and Senator Biden think they are serving women by allowing them to choose for themselves whether to abort their unborn children or not. Unfortunately, what they are really doing is allowing women to commit a grave evil when it is in their (Pelosi's and Biden's) power to prevent them from doing so. In essence, they aren't saying, "I respect your beliefs and don't want to impose mine on you;" rather, they are saying, "Am I my brother's keeper?" That response is as emblematic of their sin as it was of Cain's...and for that, God "will hold [them] responsible." (Ez. 33:8).

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