Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chris Matthews Beans Bishop Tobin


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.


sandy said...

Thank you for your post Father; an excellent response to Matthews. I just wanted to smack him upside his head.

Anonymous said...

Kennedy claims to be Catholic and support abortion--that's kinda like saying he supports God ways and Satan's ways. But to be Catholic you have to choose God's ways over Satan's. Kennedy, I'm sure has tons of support from people like Matthews--but if your truly Catholic--if a Bishop is brave enough to speak truth and tell you NOT to keep taking Communion--maybe he ought to listen--and change his ways.

And to arrest a woman for killing an unborn? A woman is arrested for killing an infant--born--or a toddler--wouldn't that be the same crime, and deserve the same punishment?

The problem is our society believes the unborn child is not human--not a child--just two cells that are together--easily terminated. How after the baby is born it becomes human--because now one can "see" the child, whereas in the womb they cannot "see" the child--is really bizzare

Man cannot believe what he cannot see, but as Catholics we walk by faith--not by sight--and as Catholics we can "see" the baby the moment it is concieved.

pathickey said...


The twin flannel mouths O'Donnell and Matthews should invited ( we insist) to every KofC Council in America.

Elly Ross said...

What a charade perpetrated by Chris Matthews. He needs a spiritual director yesterday! Let's pray he finds a good confessor before taking the plunge.

I could hardly contain my anger.

Anonymous said...

I think Matthews's arguments can be boiled down to a few concepts.

1) Abortion is somewhat different from murder. Many pro-lifers say "abortion is murder", but then they back off when they are faced with what to do with the formerly pregnant woman and the abortionist. I think most pro-lifers would take the "hired gun" approach - pregnant woman hires a hitman to kill her child (in this case fetus), therefore the hitman faces the biggest charge. However, how does one then punish the pregnant woman, the one, without whom, this crime could never have existed? As distraught as the pregnant woman may be about her decision, she is the one who puts the plan in place. (I am amazed at the belief that pregnant women are somehow duped into abortions. It's very hard to get an abortion. It takes work. If you believe it is a crime, it usually takes malice aforethought.) Matthews recognizes the instinctive apprehension that many of us feel when we are faced with having to charge the once-pregnant woman as a co-conspirator in the murder of her fetus. There is something qualitatively different about this situation, and Matthews uses this as his cudgel. If abortion is the taking of an innocent life, why NOT punish the mother in a manner close to, equal to, or even worse than you punish the hired gun.

2) If one criticizes a legislator for his voting record, it is necessary to at least consider what laws you would like to have in their place or what they SHOULD vote for. Very few pro-life activists will say what they actually want. Revert to pre-Roe v. Wade? That's abortion-on-demand on a state-by-state basis. Outlaw abortion nationally? Then, how do you criminalize it? What are the penalties for each participant?

I think there are valid Roman Catholic answers to both points, but Bishop Tobin was too timid in arguing them. (The valid RC answers really are that an embryo is a human life, worthy of all of the protection of a born-human life. Abortion is homicide at best, murder at worst. Mothers need to be punished. Fathers, who may be accessory, can be charged with felony murder. Abortionists can also be charged wtih murder. It is the only logically consistent way of dealing with the belief that an embryo is a human being worthy of protections of a born human being.)

I also think Matthews undermined his argument by bullying the bishop and not letting the bishop speak. He could have been more of a gentleman, and he still would have won this round and wooed some wavering Catholics. JFK will always be more popular than anyone in the RC hierarchy (JP II excepted.)

Anonymous said...

It is interesting that the use of the JFK speech in the beginning has been used as a defense of pro abort Catholics when abortion wasn't legal then and we also know that at one time, Patrick's dad was pro life. So as far as the abortion issue, that speech is out of context because we would hope, as Ted did,that JFK could see the horror of abortion and the evil. Or at least he did in the beginning and we know the rest of the story for the late Senator.

That was the first time I had seen this show and was very disappointed because it didn't seem like an interview at all.

Paul said...

But Mathews is always this way with the guests that he disagreees with - Always. Furthermore, it should be obvious to everyone that his beliefs are rabidly Kennedy-Catholic as the phrase goes. Only somone who knows absolutley nothing about hos TV show and knows only that he says he's Catholic would go on his show. He was being typically Mathews in EVERY WAY. That's why no one watches his show and why MSNBC keeps him. It would be good for the guest of any reported or journalist or show first read or view a couple articles/shows HIMSELF before agreeing to the interview. If he trusted his staff - that makes two people painfully naive or of contrary beliefs in the same office! Be a lamb, but not a sheeple(!) to the slaughter. Fortunately, only the Mathews and Olbermann family watches the show.

Art Cardenas said...

Well said Fr Trigilio. Now that Bishop Tobin has taken Patrick Kennedy to task, I have a question: Can Chris Matthews bishop take him to task as well? As a prominent "Catholic" (I use the term loosely), Chris Matthews holds a position in which he misleads Catholics and non-Catholics for that matter with his views on Catholic teaching.

I feel that it is long overdue that dissidence should be silenced! Perhaps a fraternal correction by his Bishop would be in order. Has this been done?

Thank you

Anonymous said...

I wonder if you would ever be brave enough, or have enough fortitude, to write a similar column about Bill O'Reilly. That man has also promoted mass murder and hatred against Muslims, Arabs, and the War in Iraq. I hope you know that your Pope was never happy with the Republicans being so gung-ho about the war in Iraq and even went far enough to label it immoral. Your attack on Keith just reminds me of two simple words: POTS AND KETTLES

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