Faith and law

The Fordham Center on Religion and Culture held a public forum on April 28, Matters of Conscience," with a distinguished panel discussing conscience exemptions and the role of conscience in making public policy. The transcript should be posted shortly. I found the following observation from Douglas Kmiec well worth considering by all, but perhaps especially by the bishops.

This notion of creating an ideal world through law is a forfeiture of the faith and the power of the faith. It is directly contrary, it seems to me, to the Thomistic teaching about not seeming to enact every virtue or prohibit every vice. The human condition is just simply not capable of that and it is more variegated than that.

But it doesnt mean you give up on the transformation of the culture. It just means you dont expect the Supreme Court of the United States to be the chief catechist. You expect yourself to in fact embrace the Scripture and the Catechism, and through homiletics and through good works and your own personal witness and what happens in that parish community. Thats where the ideal world gets constructed.

In terms of the conveyance of the significance of marriage and these other teachings on contraception, you dont need to stop the coverage of insurance for contraception for people who have no moral objection to it in order to convey to Catholics the significance of Humanae Vitae. Now, you are going to need a lot of help conveying the significance of Humanae Vitae, and people have been working on it for a long time. But you are not going to get help from this passage of the law.

Margaret O’Brien Steinfels is a former editor of Commonweal. 

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