Friday, June 22, 2012

John Fisher, Thomas More, and the Big Picture

Authority comes in many varieties. There's the authority of a school's hall monitor, which doesn't reach beyond the school grounds: if that.

Mayors have a degree of authority over the town or city they run. A governor's authority covers an entire state. And the American president? Wow. That's a lot of authority.

Compared to a hall monitor's, anyway.

Looking at the Big Picture

Roughly 37 centuries back, someone named Hammurabi made history by carving laws in stone: literally. Time passed, empires rose and fell, and about four years ago somebody named Obama became leader of a relatively new nation.

Right now, in America, President Obama is a very important person. It's possible that he will be as famous 37 centuries from now as Hammurabi is today.

But I think it's a good idea to remember that even today, there's a higher authority than the American president. Or even the United States Supreme Court.

Who does God Think He Is?

Someone named Jesus made a remarkable claim:
"So the Jews said to him, 'You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?' 23

"24 Jesus said to them, 'Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.' "
(John 8:57-58)
Any lunatic could say, in effect, "I'm God." That's not what made Jesus stand out:
Jesus not staying dead made quite an impression on his followers, and it's a major reason for my taking God and God's authority seriously.

The Church has quite a bit to say about authority. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1897-1917, is a pretty good place to start.

As a practicing Catholic, I have to respect legitimate authority. That's not the same as blindly following orders.

Tremble Before the Awesome Majesty of - Some Guy in a Suit?

Here's what got me started on this post:
"Legal experts say HHS dispute pits government against God"
Benjamin Mann, CNA/EWTN News (June 22, 2012)

"The HHS contraception mandate shows the federal government asserting its own authority as a 'rival' to God, legal scholars warned, as the U.S. Church began two weeks of action for religious freedom.

" 'Power hates a rival, and allegiance to an all-embracing, monotheistic God poses a significant threat to power,' University of Oklahoma law professor Michael Scaperlanda said during a June 21 panel discussion on religious liberty at the 2012 Catholic Media Conference in Indianapolis.

" 'We are told today that our nation is too diverse to be influenced by religious moral principles. But history reveals a deeper and darker reason for marginalizing religion,' Scaperlanda said. 'Simply put, the state is jealous of the rival source of authority.'..."
This isn't the first time a ruler decided to take over his turf's religion, and I've been over that before. (March 7, 2012)

I'm inclined to agree with Scaperlanda. The current American administration's attempt to define and regulate how Americans practice religion looks like jealousy.

But since I'm a practicing Catholic, I have to do whatever my country's top authority wants, right? Wrong.

"I was only following orders" won't cut it. (March 12, 2012)

God's Law, Civil Law, and Taking Sides

"...'Canon law defers to civil law in those matters where it doesn't conflict with 'Divine law' - or God's law, - [Canon Law Society of America President Rita] Joyce said. 'Civil law, here, is conflicting with our law. It's conflicting with God's law, with the Church's law.'

" 'We do need to resist it, from a canonical point of view, because civil law here is coming in conflict with canon law.'

"Snead, who specializes in public policy and bioethics at Notre Dame, stressed that the Obama administration had not followed through on a promise to 'accommodate' employers with moral objections to contraception, sterilization, and abortion-causing drugs...."
(Benjamin Mann, CNA/EWTN News)
Folks in America who think that God exists, and matters, may soon face difficult decisions:
"The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel. Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community. 'Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.'48 'We must obey God rather than men':49
"When citizens are under the oppression of a public authority which oversteps its competence, they should still not refuse to give or to do what is objectively demanded of them by the common good; but it is legitimate for them to defend their own rights and those of their fellow citizens against the abuse of this authority within the limits of the natural law and the Law of the Gospel.50"
(Catechism, 2242)
Today's Americans aren't the first folks who had to chose between obeying a rogue ruler or following God's law.

Thomas More is supposed to have said "I die the king's faithful servant, but God's first." Then he was executed for "treason."

Today, June 22, is the feast day of Saint John Fisher and Saint Thomas More.

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Anonymous said...

nice posting.. thanks for sharing.

Brian H. Gill said...


My pleasure, and you're welcome.

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From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.