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An Expanding Readership?

Anyone who writes for publication wonders from time to time whether anyone is reading their work. It was with some interest, then, that I noticed that the Papal Nuncio to the United States,Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigan, quoted a post from DotCommonweal in a recent address he made on the subject of "Religious Freedom, Persecution, and Martyrdom."To be sure, the Archbishop was not entirely pleased with the post in question--which was penned by our own Eduardo Pealver--as can be gleaned from the following paragraphs:

Cardinal Dolan has recently exhorted the Catholic faithful to confront the challenges which the faith faces today. His brother bishops in this country and around the world have taken similar action. It is a desperate day when well-educated persons label these efforts as attempts by the hierarchy to control the activities ofCatholics in public life. Some have even criticized publicly Cardinal Dolans call to the faithful to defend the Catholic contribution to political debate in this fashion: Dolan to Lay Catholics: Be Our Attractive, Articulate, (and Unpaid) Flacks.I pray that theauthors meant well in saying this, in spite of the statements disparaging tone, but these persons fail to recall the nature of the Church as explained by the Second Vatican Council and reiterated by Blessed John Paul II in his Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici (1988).

In this exhortation, the Pope urged the lay faithful to be mindful of their crucial role in temporal affairs as disciples of Christ rather than as elements of some political or secular ideology that bases its platform on an indecipherable formula established on the ambiguous foundation that unsuccessfully relies on the cure of social justice. It is theproper function of bishops to be teachers of the faith, but it is also true that the laity exercise a major role in implementing this same faith in the affairs of the world. This is why John Paul repeatedly encouraged the faithful with the words of Jesus: You go into my vineyard, too (Mt 20:4).

In order to respond affirmatively to this call, religious freedom is essential. We are still a far cry from fully embracing the Holy Fathers encouraging exhortation when we witness in an unprecedented way a platform being assumed by amajor political party, having intrinsic evils among its basic principles, and Catholic faithful publicly supporting it. There is a divisive strategy at work here, an intentional dividing of the Church; through this strategy, the body of the Church is weakened, and thus the Church can be more easily persecuted.

I'm tempted to post some thoughts on the Archbishops' remarks, but to be honest I am growing rather exhausted with this whole debate. In any case, my hat is off to Eduardo for gaining the attention of such a distinguished reader...:-)

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"We are still a far cry from fully embracing the Holy Fathers encouraging exhortation when we witness in an unprecedented way a platform being assumed by a major political party, having intrinsic evils among its basic principles, and Catholic faithful publicly supporting it. There is a divisive strategy at work here, an intentional dividing of the Church; through this strategy, the body of the Church is weakened, and thus the Church can be more easily persecuted."Isn't the implication of these two sentences that the "body of the Church" will be divided and weakened until all Catholics vote for the same party? Are political disagreement among Catholics really a sign that the Church is weak? This may be so, but it isn't obviously so at least not to me.And is it really unprecedented for a major political party to have "intrinsic evils among its basic principles"? Most political parties in Europe are in favor of legal abortion, to take only one important example. Or maybe the papal nuncio was referring only to America's major political parties. Even in that case, however, there is nothing very novel about the current situation of the Democratic Party. As David Cloutier recently pointed out, neither of our major political parties is interested in outlawing several things taught to be intrinsically evil by the Church (e.g. adultery and artificial contraception). True, their unwillingness to prohibit these things hardly counts as a basic principle of their platforms, though maybe it would if these issues were actually in dispute. The papal nuncio was making a speech, not writing a treatise, so maybe it isn't fair to expect that he would define all his terms. But I wonder what he means exactly by a "basic principle."

Matthew:I am just curious: how did Mr. Cloutier support the statement that adultery and contraception are "intrinsic evil" as opposed to just plain, regular sins? Are all sins "evil" to the same degree?

Carlo,You can read Cloutier's article here. As he points out, in Catholic moral theology an action is intrinsically evil if it is always and everywhere evil, no matter what the circumstance or intention. Intrinsically evil acts are not necessarily more gravely sinful than extrinsically sinful acts (those whose sinfulness does depend on circumstance or intention). The critical question for Catholics engaged in politics, either as voters or as politicians, is not which evils are intrinsic and which aren't, but which immoral acts (or sins) should also be treated as crimes since no one believes that all sins should be treated thus.

On reading your thread, congratulations, Eduardo Penalver.

Dear Archbishop Vigan: if you are reading this, would it be possible for you to take some action regarding Bishop Finn? Thank you!

Matthew:thank you, that makes sense. I wonder, however if really the nuncio (and many other people) really intended to use that expression in such precise trheological sense, or rather they used it loosely to indicate the negative counterpart of what Pope Benedict XVI recently called "non-negotiable" principles for Catholics involved in politics (whoich include life and the nature of the family if I remember correctly). Personally, I would be inclined to believe the latter scenario.

I thought the Archbishop's point here was ecclesiological. Laity aren't "flacks" of the bishop. We are Catholic Christians, full stop, with our own responsibility for the welfare of the Church.

Kathy is exactly right.

"In this exhortation, the Pope urged the lay faithful to be mindful of their crucial role in temporal affairs as disciples of Christ rather than as elements of some political or secular ideology that bases its platform on an indecipherable formula established on the ambiguous foundation that unsuccessfully relies on the cure of 'social justice.'"What party do you think he's talking about?"We are still a far cry from fully embracing the Holy Fathers encouraging exhortation when we witness in an unprecedented way a platform being assumed by a major political party, having intrinsic evils among its basic principles, and Catholic faithful publicly supporting it."And do you think this statement means something other than "Catholics should not publicly support the Democratic Party"?

Peter,I found the Archbishop's talk well worth reading -- so thank you for making it available.I think his discernment of rising threats to religious freedom in the North Atlantic world deserves attention. He does speak from a not inconsiderable experience as a reader of the signs of the times -- even in the Vatican. As he says:"In my service to the Holy See, I have worked in various parts of the world including Iraq and Kuwait, Great Britain, Strasbourg, Nigeria, in the Vatican, and now the United States, it has been a part of my personal makeup and official duties to monitor and register concerns to my superiors about efforts that harm, intentionally or otherwise, the Church and Gods people."

Carlo--If you are correct, I find this trend quite disturbing. One of the beauties and strengths of the Catholic tradition is that we have developed--over centuries of thought, argument, and discussion--certain languages that allow a great deal of nuance in moral discussion. Intrinsic evil is one of these, as are the gradations of moral complicity encapsulated in discourse about remote, proximate, and other cooperation with immoral acts. If this language is indeed being flattened by official church teachers to mean something as vague as "non-negotiable" (morally? politically? legally? Is adultery more negotiable than gay marriage? If so why, and what does that possibly mean? Negotiable by whom and for whom?) we are all the poorer for it. Sadly, however, due to the sloppy way all these terms are bandied about at the highest levels, I fear you may be correct.

Andy:I agree to some extent but not completely. The Church has also a long tradition of what are called "prudential" judgments. The statements that the legalization abortion or the separation of marriage from gender and procreation are "non-negationable (because the magisteruim regards them as mortal wounds to our shared social life) while adultery clearly is not, fall in such category.

Andy:sorry for the sloppy typing: "non-negotiable." I will add a comment on your last question: Negotiable refers to what Catholic can tolerate as unavoidable effects of mankind's fallen condition (say, prostitution). Non-negotiable is what by its scale or seriousness gravely harm human rights and dignity and imperils the existence of whole societies (and the salvation of souls, but our neo-Pelagian culture does not know what that means). Again, it is a prudential judgment to which the teaching authority of the Church is perfectly emtitled, in my opinion.

Carlo--All the language that I'm referring to is precisely intended to help our prudential judgments. The distinction between proximate, material, and remote cooperation, for instance, is only useful in trying to discern where one can and cannot conscientiously cooperate. Muddying these waters hinders sound prudential judgment, it does not further it.As for the "wounds to our shared social life," it seems to me that adultery and divorce are far more harmful than gay marriage to these points (actually I would argue that gay marriage is not harmful at all, but that's neither here nor there at the moment). The early church placed adultery in the same category as murder and apostasy. It was certainly "non-negotiable" then. Why do you think it is clearly not now? It was also illegal until fairly recently, largely for the same claims about "moral wounds to our shared social life" that you are currently espousing. What changed that shifted these wounds from mortal to minor? And again, are there no distinctions between moral, civil, political, and legal planes? The rich taxonomy in Catholic moral thought is intended precisely to allow for these distinctions. The current rhetoric serves only to obscure them, and, pace the good nuncio, it is not unreasonable to wonder which political party profits from such obscurantism.

I think comparing the contraception mandate to the experience of Christians in Nigeria, China and Syria is very callous and dismissive of the experiences of those persecuted peoples elsewhere in the world.

Carlo: Sorry I just saw your second comment. I appreciate your clarification. I am still far from convinced how gay marriage falls into this category, but even more importantly, I am not at all clear how many more things don't fall into it as well. Perhaps I'm dense here, but I'm very unclear as to why prostitution, adultery, and divorce fall into a "tolerable" level, but gay marriage into the "intolerable" level. All the above are clearly assaults on the "traditional" conception of marriage in different aspects. Why is the gender aspect more essential than the indissolubility or the faithfulness aspect (or the procreation one, for that matter, since adulterous relationships are just as likely to create children as married ones)?

Irene--I agree with you completely. Or even comparing it to the very complicated and neuralgic issues of infant, male circumcision or the hijab in France.

Andy:I would say that prudential judgments by definition have to respond to historical circumstances. In the 1960's no-fault divorce was non-negotiable for Catholics, and so was slavery, if anybody had tried to re-introduce it. At the time of St. Paul standing against slavery would have been perfectly correct in principle but prudentially useless. Today, if the Pope told Catholics that they have to make a principled stand against divorce (which is not on the table anywhere in the Western world) how would that respond to the challenges of the time?So even if I agree with you that (as the Church predicted) divorce and pornography have done greater damage to our society than gay marriage may ever do (who knows), the Pope has to speak to what is on the table today.

I don't remember when the Democrats became so tied to the abortion issue. It is a marriage at this point, a (the) core of the platform, and a basic requirement for candidates being backed by the Party. Why is that? And are liberal Catholic Democrats up in arms about it? If not, why not? I don't think anyone would suggest that people ought to sever ties with the Democratic Party if they were fighting just as hard, and just as publicly, against the abortion policies as against, e.g., Roman Catholic bishops.

I am delighted to see that the Papal Nuncio to the US does read Dot Commonweal. It is excellent, indeed.I may be throwing in something here that may belong with another concern. But when talking about sin---Original Sin---"mankind's fallen condition" as Carlo phrased it---I look at some MAJOR problem in our theology. The official Church has accepted evolution (at least physical evolution). We are not Creationalists. BUT---our Church has yet to adjust our doctrinal teachings to express that reality.In the CCC, in art. 374---it is written that the first man was situated in harmony with all of creation (in paradise as the article heading has is), and in harmony with God. But that did not happen in reality. There was no time when creation was completely in harmony. And there were more than one "first man and first woman" in different parts of the world. In subsequent articles 337-378-379----there is the discussion of a state that never existed. In speaking of sickness, suffering, and death---(art. 418), the CCC states that because of original sin---these evils entered the world. Sorry, but sickness, suffering and death existed in the animal world (who cannot sin), thousands and thousands of years BEFORE a single member of the 'homo' species ever appeared.It seems that the whole concept of original sin---was devised by St. Augustine. That sin exists----yes. But the Jewish community in Christ's time did not understand Original Sin as the Catholic Church teaches it. And the whole concept doesn't wash if we accept evolution as the means by which God created the world. In dealing with sin

Little Bear:you are speaking too confidently about very mysterious matters. Even if biology could explain in complete detail how our bodies were formed from "the mud of the earth" through an evolutive process, that would still tell us nothing about who was the first "human being" in the sense of a conscious, sentient being able to enter into relationship with God. By definition those notions fall outside the scope of the empirical sciences.

Carlo,I think many reasonable people of good will would conclude that your argument, despite its appeal to changes of historical circumstance, amounts to this: the state can accommodate the wayward desires of heterosexuals, but it must carefully guard against every accommodation of homosexual desire. I don't think this is a winning argument, or a prudent onenow or ever. It makes Catholic moral norms look like a cover for bigotry. Our sins are weakness, the predictable result of human fallenness; your sins are depravity, a "wound to our shared social life."

Matthew:where did I say that? That's a very unfair interpretation of my statement, especially because we were not discussing gay marriage per se but the nature of certain magisterial pronouncements.If you really want to start the millionth discussion on gay marriage, I would say that if Catholics really want to start a fight to restore some seriousness to our common cultural understanding of marriage, they should begin by criticizing the current fairly meaningless notion of civil HETEROSEXUAL marriage. Of course, extending it to other groups of people is an indirect endorsement of such faulty notion, which to me does not make much sense. At the end of the day, as cultural and social collapse accelerate this whole controversy will look like a semi-comical episode, but at least the Church should witness to the truth as she sees it.

Carlo,When the biblical authors and even the medieval doctors of the Church were writing, people's understanding of the world about them was still at a primative stage. The popular understanding of biological and medical science at that time, was that rats, mice and flies were spontaneously generated from trash and filth.In the 18th and 19th centuries, people believed that devasting cholera epidemics ere caused by breathing bad air. Before the 1800's we had no sense of the vast scale of anthropological time. Nothing about early humanity was known until old skulls were discovered in Belgium in 1829.It was not until 1857, that is was announced that human bones found in Germany's Neandertal Valley were different from ours; they were the remains of an earlier race. The science of astronomy was at a primitative stage as well, for people believed, that the plethora of smudges of light in the sky that were not stars, were part of a close geocentric sphere. It was the numerous branches of science that cleared these mysteries up. And science has gone on delving into the heart of matter itself and into the deepest reaches of space. But our values remained rooted in the philosophies, religious traditions and ethical structures constructed one or two thousand years ago. Our religious views and theologies were firmly set before anyone knew the world was a globe. They reflect how we understood the world when we did not understand the world. According to scientist Carl Safina, "our economis, religiious and ethical institutions ride antique notion too narrow to transport what we've learned about how life really works. Our theology hasn't assimilated the last century's breakthroughs: that all life is realted by lineage, by flows of energy, and by cycles of water, carbon, and nitrogen. Resources are finite, and creatures are fragile."It is a wonderful thing that many of our outstanding theologians today have a very strong background in science---e.g. evolution, as well as in theology. We can see that Christ comes from the heart of creation, rather than from outside of it. Christ came to re-connect us to our true nature in creation instead of saving us from our 'sinful nature' caused by original sin (as Augustine saw it).

Little Bear:as a working scientist myself I love science, but it certainly does not shed much light on mysteries such as the identity of Adam and Eve or the nature of original sin.If I may tease you a bit, your first paragraph seems to be taken straight out of Comte, while your last paragraph sounds like Teilhard De Chardin. To any connoisseur of the history of Catholicism in the XX century, this fusion of Comte and Teihlard is highly symbolic of the intellectual trajectory of a certain strand of left-wing Catholicism.

+ Vigano knows corruption and injustice when he sees it. It was for seeing those things at the Vatican that he was removed from his lofty post there and promoted to his present one here. I think he is doing nothing more than lamenting the fact that so many Catholic laity apparently owe their first allegiance to a political party that embraces without reservation evils regarded as intrinsic by the teaching church. On these pages we regularly find the well educated articulating thoroughly secular views on issues such as pro "choice" and gay marriage while dismissing those who question such views as intellectual troglydites. Pope Ratzinger is surely not beyond criticism, but his mind is sharp and well honed by the disputations of scholarship. But his views--unlike those who merely claim the Catholic faith--include as a primary reference point the Gospel tradition. Vigano is his envoy in the US and is himself no intellectual slouch. Thanks for your opinion, Archbishop.

The Archbishop really should come straight out and say "American Catholics shouldn't vote Democrat", if that,in fact, is what he meant. Why all of the coyness?

the state can accommodate the wayward desires of heterosexuals, but it must carefully guard against every accommodation of homosexual desire.Matthew,The state is not sanctioning adultery, it just chooses not to criminalize it. Gay marriage is asking for official approbation which is distinctly different. Also, adultery and divorce attack marriage from the inside, while the gay marriage concept is an attack from the outside.

The other question I have is: how does the Archbishop's blanket criticism of the Democratic party and, by extension, this Administration, further diplomatic relations between the US and the Holy See? Isn't he supposed to be the Vatican's ambassador to the US?

Bruce,Your first point is a good one. Your second point, not so much.Adultery does not attack marriage "from the inside," whatever that might mean. I could be wrong here, but it seems to me that such talk of "inside" and "outside" attacks is really about what is inside or outside our own experience. People "like us" are responsible for adultery and divorce; we can even imagine being responsible for them ourselves. But homosexuality, that's someone else's problem.But to your good point. The distinction you're getting at is real and important, and it may be decisive. The question, however, is whether our nonconfessional state is, or ought to be, in the position of granting "official approbation" to any sexual relationshipand whether it needs to do so in order to allow people to marry. In other words, is permission to marry the same thing as approval?The natural-law argument against same-sex marriage is that the state can't allow two people of the same sex to get married because that just isn't what marriage is. Advocates of same-sex marriage reply that it's up to us to decide what marriage will be for us now: the definition of marriage, like that of any other social institution, may change from one time or place to another. The natural-law team responds that while certain things about the institution may have changed over history, other things have notbecause they couldn't without evacuating marriage of its basic meaning. They say the state ought to grant its official approbation only to traditional marriage because of its interest in the welfare of children. And in response to this response, a critic may reply: Then why doesn't the state forget about marriage and concern itself only with households in which children are being raised? Leave the rest to the privacy of consenting adults and their elective communities. For legal purposes, one could designate anyonespouse, sibling, or close friendas one's "partner." Individuals can decide what counts as marriage for them just as they now decide what counts as friendship (which has as much social weight as marriage in some societies).And on and on the argument goes. The important thing to notice is that the most persuasive arguments in such a controversy may not be the best ones. But in politics it doesn't matter if one's arguments are better if they aren't persuasive, or even intelligible, to most of one's fellow citizens. The best argument against same-sex marriagethe one that doesn't boil down to bigotryis also an argument against divorce and deliberately childless marriages, and the natural lawyers aren't about to win that one. You can lament that state of affairs but there's no point in denying it.

Right on, Irene Baldwin. Archbishop Vigano is an ambassador of the Vatican head of state (Pope) to the U.S. head of state (President). It seems to me that his not so subtle political comments against this administration are not helpful to his diplomatic function to foster peaceful relations between states.Interestingly, the apostolic nuncio to the U.S. has another function that I think is unique among ambassadors to the U.S. He is the point-of-contact between a specific group in the U.S., the Catholic hierarchy in America, and the Pope. Cardinal Dolan was one of the secretaries to the Apostolic Nunciature in Washington, D.C. (1987-1992). So he knows how things work in there.I suspect that there are some back room negotiations going on between Archbishop Vigano and Cardinal Dolan. Perhaps their paths crossed when Cardinal Dolan was Rector of the Pontifical North American College in Rome (1994-2001).

what is inside or outside our own experienceMatthew,I was actually thinking of inside or outside in the context of marriage as an institution as understood by the Church. So divorce is an attack on marriage by insiders, i.e. participants, similarly adultery defined where at least one party is married; while gay marriage is an attack by outsiders i.e. would be participants.I think your comment about households with children would be a workable solution but it presents an 'ex ante' 'ex post' problem. That is, the child forces the parents into a commitment which society (I'll assume) requires after the fact. Thats a kind of enslavement (forced decision) which the marriage first solution makes voluntary and explicit.Finally, I would note that gay marriage is essentially allowing any two people to claim they are 'partners'. There is no external way for outsiders to observe whether the relationship is sexual other than a verbal claim by the participants, who may or may not lie, unlike a heterosexual relationship where children are observable by all. I've often thought that were I in college again, I might 'marry' one of my roommates to take advantage of the benefits afforded to married students. Then just 'divorce' when those circumstances were no longer favorable or wanted. I suppose 'no-fault divorce' affords a similar opportunity now, but I personally think its more difficult to convince an opposite-sex friend to game the system than it would be a friend of the same sex. But who knows...

"The natural-law argument against same-sex marriage is that the state cant allow two people of the same sex to get married because thats just not what marriage is." The natural law team needs to take a refresher course on natural law. What does "thats just not what marriage is" have to do with reason planning action so that good may be done and evil avoided? With protecting life, doing what accords with our physical nature, and doing what accords with our rational nature? With being guided toward those behaviors which can move us to happiness through the love of God and fellow creatures in charity? Bupkis.

I am so glad to learn that "the magisteruim regards them (abortion and same-sex marriage) as mortal wounds to our shared social life) while adultery clearly is not, ......"Now if someone will show me how 2 people loving each other and wanting legal recognition of their relationship "wounds our shared social life" and adultery clearly does not.I'll speculate (and am willing to be proven wrong) that adultery harms and causes more heterosexual marriages to dissolve than does same-sex marriage. But that might be simply "prudential" of me.For a law to be "natural" it has to be clearly justifiable by reason to those who see and experience it. In this day and age, the natural law argument against same-sex marriage is not clearly justifiable by reason to a large number of people throughout the world, including a substantial percentage of Catholics in the U.S.

Ill speculate (and am willing to be proven wrong) that adultery harms and causes more heterosexual marriages to dissolve than does same-sex marriage.Jim,I totally agree with you, but that is no argument for same-sex marriage. In fact, its completely irrelevant.

Why do we have diplomatic relations with the Holy See anyway? I think it encourages a confusion of spiritual and temporal matters. As a state, the Vatican is insignificant. As a religion, the See of Peter is highly significant. I think a web of official state relations confuses the relationships. This nuncio is here as a representative of the government of the Vatican. But how common is it for ambassadors to tell citizens of another country how to vote? He says this legitimately under his religious hat, not his diplomatic hat. But he wears his diplomatic hay to say it.

What does thats just not what marriage is have to do with reason planning action so that good may be done and evil avoided?Jeanne,If marriage is conjugal and procreative, then any relationship which on its face fails those requirements, but attempts to mimic marriage, is by definition evil, because it is claiming a truth which it is not. Conforming our will to Truth is good and the opposite is evil. We do not get a vote on what accords with our nature; that is determined by our Creator. And our fallen nature means we can get it wrong by following our desires or misinformed reason.

I suppose it would not have suited Archbishop Vigan's case to mention, along with the martyrdoms of Thomas More and John Fisher, the hundreds of Protestants burned at the stake for heresy when Roman Catholicism was temporarily reestablished in England under Mary Tudor. Those included at least one pregnant woman and her presumably heretical fetus, an instance in which respect for life from conception to natural death was dishonored at both ends.The archbishop gives the game away with this narrow definition: "Religious freedom is the exercise of fidelity to God and His Holy Church without compromise." Does he really believe that that is the whole of it? Is there no religious freedom for non-Catholics? What of those people who, right or wrong, wish to enjoy freedom from religion? It is headshakingly absurd to see these men grumbling on about loss of religious liberty in the country that has been the Catholic Church's happiest home. Under the free-exercise clause of the First Amendment, it is free to worship and evangelize and carry on its works of mercy as it sees fit; under the non-establishment clause, it is preserved from its worst totalitarian instincts. And when disputes do arise, they are referred to a judicial system that has always treated the claims of religion with great respect, while still giving a fair hearing to competing interests.

Carlo,Teilhard de Chardin is a hero of mine. I do believe that he was given the shaft by the Vatican---and eventually it will rue the day that it did.What is considered a certain 'left-wing strand' of Catholicism here in America is considered the medium by many in Europe.

Bruce, if you want to make up your own version of natural law, then what you say is true. But that's not the natural law that's a part of the Catholic intellectual tradition as fleshed out by Thomas Aquinas. I think we need to pay attention to the real thing, and be guided by it.

Thanks, Peter. I'm guessing that the Archbishop is not familiar with the norms of sarcasm in blog post titles. Still, it looks like I can cross "getting chastised in public by a Papal Nuncio" off my bucket list.

doing what accords with our physical nature,Jeanne,per your natural law quote above, the physical nature of sex is about procreation and that makes in male-female.

"In order to respond affirmatively to this call, religious freedom is essential."This statement by the archbishop reflects the problem with the church as empire. While we hope that laws will be just that was not the track taken by Jesus who was crucified by the state. The examples of our lives is what makes us followers of Jesus not philosophical treatises. Plato and Aristotle, who are given too much credence by theologians would have thought Jesus a complete fool. The bishops shamelessly, "Underline this Archbishop) chose one party over the other. The archbishop chimed in disgracefully by mocking social justice while reverting to one issue politics. And Cathy is quite right when she notes how the archbishop is representative of a state while pretending to defend the gospel. The Archbishop and the American bishops insistence on legislation for their apostolate is a farce. They should shed their corporate palaces and identification with the rich and stay with the gospel which is: " a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." The church thrives on the witness of its members. Not Vatican declarations.