October 20, 2006

Letters to the Editor

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Church teachings must be accurately portrayed

Two recent articles in The Criterion seem to oversimplify the Church’s teaching on social justice.

In his Sept. 15 column, John Valenti writes, “The Church teaches that killing is wrong.”

Without qualifying that statement, he goes on to argue that capital punishment is wrong and all wars are immoral. Yet, the Church, while setting limits on its use, has never condemned capital punishment in principle. Nor has it abandoned its traditional “just-war” theory.

The Church does embrace a “consistent ethic of life,” which links conditional evils (capital punishment, war and poverty) with inherent evils (abortion, euthanasia and embryonic stem-cell research).

That is because attention to the quality and duration of life shows respect for the sanctity of life.

The Church does not subscribe to the “seamless garment” theory, which places all these issues on the same moral plane. Catholics are free to disagree on the first three matters, but the other three are non-negotiable.

In his Oct. 13 editorial, Dan Conway asserts that Catholicism is “pro-immigration,” by which he also means pro- illegal immigration. As he puts it, “Every immigrant, whatever his or her legal status, ought to be welcome.”

It is true that, as Catholics, we are bound to give special consideration to the poor and the homeless whenever we can. This does not mean that the Church commands us to promote lawlessness in the name of compassion.

Though it is our highest priority, the individual’s right to immigrate is not absolute; it must always be weighed against society’s right to maintain order and preserve its traditions. This is not “nativism” (Conway’s term). It is simple common sense.

Distinctions like these matter at election time when Catholics are expected to vote with an informed conscience.

-Stephen L. Bussell, Indianapolis


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