For Fellowship: A Contemporary Riddle

A politician cannot rely on saying they are Catholic while supporting intrinsically evil laws, such as acting pro-life while supporting abortion. Worse, Catholics who cave to peer pressure and show public support for such a politician become willingly culpable in the sin as well.

Once upon a time, there was a political contest in a suburban legislative district of a large city. One of the candidates for office was a Catholic young man, well-known, popular, sincere. He was also active in a prominent way in his parish where the priests openly declared Church teaching against abortion from the pulpit.

One day, when the young man was out door-knocking to generate voter support, he engaged in a dialogue, parts of which ran something like this:

     “Hi, I’m….”

     “I know who you are and I’m not voting for you. You’re not pro-life.”

     “Can I talk to you about that?…I’m just as moral as you. I don’t consider myself an immoral person. I’m personally opposed to abortion. But I don’t think any law banning abortion will work. The abortions won’t stop. How will you enforce it? Women will get abortions in other ways that are more dangerous….

     “A lot of people who are pro-choice feel like I do. They are personally opposed, but….”         

     “None of the pro-choicers I know feel that way.”

     “Oh, well, did you know the Feminist Caucus of my own party won’t support me? They say I am too moral….”

     The conversation continued, touching on the Catholic teaching on abortion, which the candidate said wasn’t uniformly held by all Catholics; the results of a pro-life group’s poll which the candidate had answered negatively but claimed the questions were badly worded. Toward the end of the conversation, the topic of teen pregnancy came up. Then:

     “I wish you pro-lifers would just sit down and talk to the pro-choice side. You’ve got a lot in common. You’re both working for the same goals.”

     “We are?”

     “Yes, and one of them is finding a moral and decent way to solve the problem of teenagers getting pregnant.”

An impasse, in more ways than one. The candidate went his way, looking elsewhere for his support.

Two weeks later, during Respect Life Month, the neighborhood blossomed with political signs. The Catholic candidate’s name graced many front lawns and some of the yards so decorated were those of his fellow parishioners.

When confronted, one pro-life parishioner said that just because he had the sign in his yard didn’t mean he was going to vote for the candidate in question. That, either way, he was providing free advertising for someone with whom he did not agree, was lost on him.

Would the others with the lawn signs answer in the same vein? Do their signs indicate support for the name emblazoned thereon and the promise of a vote? Or are they a lie, free advertising erected merely to please a fellow neighbor, a fellow party member, a fellow churchgoer, in spite of the fact the Church’s teaching and candidate appear to be on opposite side of an important moral issue?

One possible answer to this riddle occurs in a situation in the play, A Man for All Seasons, by Robert Bolt. The story concerns a man of principle, Sir Thomas More, chancellor of England during the reign of Henry VIII. In the play, More refused to swear an oath to something in which he did not believe, even though a good friend begged him to, for fellowship. And More replied:

“And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship?”

This article, For Fellowship: A Contemporary Riddle is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
Do not repost the entire article without written permission. Reasonable excerpts may be reposted so long as it is linked to this page.

Cindy Paslawski

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