In today’s world, there are few things that inspire hatred like Christians living their faith. One good example of this was Rosie O’Donnell’s remarks responding to a Supreme Court decision to uphold a ban on partial birth abortion back in 2008.
On her daytime talk show at the time, The View, Rosie commented, “You know what concerns me? How many Supreme Court judges are Catholic?”
“Five,” fellow host, Barbara Walters, answered.
“Five,” O’Donnell confirmed. “How about separation of church and state in America?”
Walters responded, saying, “We cannot assume that they did it because they’re Catholic.”
Rosie continued, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.“
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Aside from the fact that they were confused by the decision to vote against a practice that murders babies as they are being born, they had a problem with the justices being influenced by their Catholic faith (not to mention Rosie’s insult at the end).
So what if the Supreme Court justices are influenced by their Catholic faith? Imagine that – Supreme Court justices voting their well-formed consciences. Apparently that is inappropriate according to the “authority” of Rosie and Barbara – at least in situations where the consciences are Catholic.
Granted, a Supreme Court justice must make judgments that adhere to the laws of our Constitution, but how they apply them from there has always and everywhere been up to their own individual moral conscience. What else could they ultimately rely on? Not only is it appropriate to rely on their consciences, it is an obligation – just as we all have a moral obligation to live according to our consciences.
The question, then, is how does one form their conscience? In a world full of noise and contradictions, forming one’s conscience can be a confusing task. Are Rosie and Barbara following their conscience? Probably. Have their consciences been wrongly formed? Undoubtedly, yes.
Unfortunately, we don’t have many positive influences to help form our conscience today. Should we look to Hollywood movies for the example? Watch MTV? Read the newspaper? Surf the internet? Listen to professors? Perhaps we should listen to Rosie’s show, “The View”? Or adopt the platform of a political party and use that as our guide? Would that be socially, politically, and judiciously acceptable?
All of these things seem to get a pass, but if a person forms their conscience using a 3,500 year old consensus of the greatest philosophical, theological, and moral authorities in our history (The Catholic Church), including direct revelation from God Himself, then their decisions are criticized and their qualifications questioned. That’s confusion.
This is not to suggest that one should blindly accept all teachings of the Catholic Church without applying any reason to them. It is quite the opposite. It’s an invitation to learn about the truth of the Catholic faith, apply it to one’s life, and experience a living, real and reasonable truth that, when understood properly, brings order and meaning to a confusing world.
Too often, having faith is equivocated with the denial of reason. And this is to be expected when so many Christians are out there denying their reason for the sake of their faith. But this is not true Christianity. Christianity is a reasonable faith. Yes, parts of Christianity are beyond our reason sometimes, but that is quite different than being unreasonable. Faith and reason must work together to find truth. This is the essence of the Catholic Church.
Pope John Paul II said, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”*
It is through both faith and reason that we can discover the truth to the fullest. Anytime either one of those is ignored, our ability to know truth has been impaired – often times severely. Not only is it a good thing that our Supreme Court justices are influenced by this faith, along with their reason, but it is entirely necessary that they be in order for us to discern truth to the fullest.
The next issue is how a complete misunderstanding of the idea of “separation of church and state” is now being misapplied by secularists to suppress others from making any public expression acknowledging God or a faith at all. They make the implication that it is unlawful for our public leaders to have any faith in God that actually affects their decision making. However, a faith in God that does not affect one’s decisions is not a true, living faith at all. Additionally, this implication that such public faith is inappropriate or unlawful is completely false.
Let’s get one thing straight: The “separation of church and state” has nothing to do with how an individual’s conscience is formed or what guides their moral judgment. It doesn’t even have to do with God being a part of our government, although many secularists would love to have us believe that. Separation of church and state means exactly what it says – the separation of a church…and the state.
In this case, a “church” is a visible, religious organization. The “state” is our government. The idea of the separation of church and state simply says that a church should not be running the state and vice versa. (Our founding fathers had just fled from a country controlled by a church, and they weren’t too fond of starting another one.) It does not mean, however, that the truths found in our faith should not be recognized or practiced by our government.
Further, it is impossible for a person, in good conscience, to separate their true, living faith from their moral decisions. And anyone, especially a public leader, that says they can and should separate the two are either lying or acting directly against their conscience (i.e. don’t vote for them).
As Christians, we should not stand down to the pressures suppressing the truth of our faith. We should stand up to them. I want to hear a public leader come out and say, “Yes, I am Catholic and I live my life according to my Catholic faith.” Is this not what we all should want to be able to say?
Again, many criticize judges and public leaders who rely on their faith, claiming that they should rely only on their “reason” to find truth. But to live in accordance with our Catholic Church is not the least bit unreasonable. In fact, it is the most reasonable thing to do. No dogma in the history of the world has been so reasoned as that of the Catholic Church. What is unreasonable is to ignore these teachings – ones that have been practiced, applied and perfected over thousands of years. It is unreasonable to rely solely on your own uninformed conscience to make decisions. And it is by far unreasonable, and ignorant, to assume that a person’s decision is untrue simply because it happens to agree with the Catholic Church.
I am proud that 5 of the 9 Supreme Court justices were Catholic. And I am proud that they voted in agreement with their Catholic faith to uphold the ban on partial birth abortion. They should be proud, too.
The shock to all of us should not be that 5 of the 9 Supreme Court justices were Catholic, but that 4 of the other ones actually supported a “right” in this country to murder a baby as it is being born. It is a great testament to the truth of the Catholic Church that the 5 of the 9 justices that made the right decision were Catholic. That is not theocracy – that’s justice.
If we worried less about the “separation of church and state” and more about the “separation of church and hate” then perhaps there would be a little more of this justice in the world.