MSNBC television talk show host Chris Matthews bullied and attacked Bishop Thomas Tobin (Providence, RI) on his show (Hardball) yesterday. Like a pitcher who intentionally throws a baseball at the head of the batter, Mr. Matthews did all he could to throw everything but the kitchen sink at his 'guest' (better to say 'victim') He never gave the Bishop adequate time to answer his questions as he kept interrupting and resorted to non sequitur and ad hominum arguments which anyone in first year college Logic class learns are FALLACIES.
Thank God for courageous shepherds like Bishop Tobin. After an unprovoked attack and inaccurate description of Catholic teaching by U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy, Bishop Tobin used fraternal correction and exercised his lawful right to impose a canonical penalty in the hope that the offender would repent and reconcile himself with God and the Church. One cannot advocate and support abortion and still claim to be a good Catholic since the Church condemns all abortions as the unjust killing of innocent life (a.k.a., murder or homicide) The doctrine on the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death is inviolable as it is rooted in BOTH the Natural Moral Law and the Divine Positive Law.
Chris Matthews was offensive, rude and showed no impartiality. I thought journalists were supposed to REPORT the news and interview people, not ambush them and defend ideologies of a political persuasion. At best, he should demonstrate a neutrality on the issue of abortion instead of coming out of the bullpen presuming the so-called 'right to abortion' is Constitutionally guaranteed. Imagine a reporter interviewing a civil rights advocate like the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and acting as if racial segregation is an exercise of personal freedom of those business owners who want African-Americans to sit in allocated parts of the bus or restaurant. Racism and segregation were and are immoral, unjust and sinful. However, both were legal in the USA at one time and even upheld by Congress and even the illustrious Supreme Court had defended slavery. Courageous religious leaders led the way to challenge the civil toleration of these gross injustices. It was religious people who started the Abolition movement to end slavery. It was Rev. King and others who peacefully and non-violently marched and protested to overturn racist laws and practiced. Bishop Desmond Tuttu helped the fight to end apartheid in South Africa. In all cases, no one today would say that the religious leaders were overstepping their authority or violating the first amendment.
"What laws would you write" was his constant harassment, implying the Bishop was attempting to usurp the Congressman's civil authority as a lawmaker. This irrational argument never goes away. Neither Bishop Tobin nor the USCCB make any claim to have the right to legislate civil law. As religious leaders, however, they have the MORAL right and by our Constitution have a CIVIL right to TEACH. Part of teaching is to enunciate and explain PRINCIPLES. The application of those are the job of each individual but they are still subject to ethical assessment. For example, the principle that it is never right to intentionally end the life of an innocent human being is absolute. Murder is never allowed. Justified killing is limited to very specific instances (e.g., self-defense, just war, etc.) Killing the innocent, as in abortion and euthanasia, is always wrong, evil, immoral and sinful. It is also un-Constitutional since every human being is endowed by their Creator with an inalienable RIGHT TO LIFE. So, when a Bishop tells a politician that the laws he writes or supports violate the Natural Law, they are de facto bad laws. Immoral laws are non-binding. Citizens, both voters and politicians, are obliged to eradicate unjust laws. The essence of law is the pursuit of the COMMON GOOD. Killing unborn children, slavery, racial segregation, et al. are UNJUST and IMMORAL and any laws that protect, tolerate or promote these evils are bad laws that need to be abolished.
Would you arrest a woman for having an abortion, was Matthews' question to Bishop Tobin. Making abortion illegal is conforming civil law to the Natural Moral Law just as is the outlawing of slavery and segregation; rape and murder. Nazi Germany had enacted racial laws that allowed the government to incarcerate Jews and seize their property, land and assets. Anti-Semitism was legalized by the Nuremberg Laws of the 1930's but the Nuremberg Trials at the end of WWII made it clear that legalized immoral laws have no authority and must be opposed and disobeyed. Outlawing abortion does not demand the imprisonment of women who obtain them but do we not have laws that prohibit certain behavior but only incur fines and other penalties without throwing the perp into jail? Arresting the doctor who performs the abortions is something which would be more effective. Fining women for having illegal abortions would be more prudent. Criminalizing the act, however, is not a choice. If we outlaw in civil law such injustices as theft, lying (perjury), assault, homicide, rape, etc., then we must also outlaw abortion and euthanasia since both are forms of murder (killing of innocent human life).
Bishop Tobin does not have to come up with specific legislation, that is the job of civil lawmakers. HOWEVER, it is the job of the Bishop as a religious leader to make a moral judgment on the laws that are made and to assess them as either conforming to the Natural Law or not. This is not just a Catholic leader telling Catholic followers what to believe or how to behave. The Natural Law was used in the Nuremberg Trials to convict Nazis who claimed they were only obeying orders or just following the law. Cicero and Aristotle, as well as St. Paul and St. Thomas Aquinas, speak of the Natural Law being known to ALL human beings who have the use of reason. Unlike ecclesiastical law which binds those of a specific church, the Natural Law is rooted in reason which is part of our human nature (intellect) and thus applies to everyone, everywhere, anytime.
Matthews was insisting that the Bishops have no business to interfere with legislation. Is that not what we heard before the Civil War by those who claimed it was an issue of States' Rights to own slaves? Did not the states that permitted or promoted racial segregation claim it was not the Federal government's business? The civil rights of the unborn transcend state and federal law and transcend any Supreme Court decision. These rights come from God, not the government. Just as a parent cannot murder their toddler or adolescent, likewise, no parent has the moral or legal right to kill their unborn child, either. Worse, however, is the doctor who performs these ghastly murders in the womb. The woman is often stressed and under enormous anxiety whereas the abortionist and his/her assistants are more culpable as they are less emotionally attached and supposedly more objective.
Bishop Tobin was in his civil and canonical rights to reprimand Rep. Patrick Kennedy since he claims to be a Catholic and furthermore claims he can support abortion. As a lawmaker, he can be guilty of material if not formal cooperation in evil, by facilitating the legalization of abortion. He can also be guilty of heresy in denying the official church teaching that abortion is a grave evil and that human life begins at conception. It would be a sin of omission and spiritual negligence had Bishop Tobin remained silent once the Congressman spouted off in the media as he did on these issues. Chris Matthews should REPORT not MAKE the news.