Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Matter of Jurisdiction, I: What Did He Say NOW?


Pope Francis, formerly known as “the coolest pope ever,” has once again overstepped his bounds and said things that neither “liberals” nor “conservatives” understand.  That man should be ashamed of saying things that people actually have to think about instead of pigeonholing immediately into whatever preconceived prejudice they prefer.

Okay.  What did the pope really say?  Oddly enough, what Francis said seems to bear very little resemblance to what people are saying he said.  Surprise, surprise, surprise:

Always invite God. He makes his own.
Marriage is between a man and a woman. Secular states want to justify civil unions to regulate different situations of cohabitation, pushed by the demand to regulate economic aspects between persons, such as ensuring health care. It is about pacts of cohabitating of various natures, of which I wouldn’t know how to list the different ways. One needs to see the different cases and evaluate them in their variety.”

As far as we can see, Francis said precisely two things: 1) He reaffirmed the traditional Catholic understanding of marriage.  2) With respect to civil unions in general: “No comment,” i.e., none of his business (or ours) until he knows the facts of a specific case and whether it falls within his competence to say anything.

Thus, all the pope really did was to reaffirm that the Church, as an interpreter of the natural law, has the power to define marriage.  That is about the extent of the Church's power in domestic society, i.e., the Family, with respect to this issue.  Civil unions per se are outside the Church's jurisdiction.

No endorsement.  No condemnation.  No nothing.  All he said was that he wasn’t saying anything.  Does the pope even have the right to say anything?

The pope as head of the Catholic Church has the right to say any [blessed] thing he wants, when it comes down to that.  As far as his worldly power to comment on civil unions (or anything else outside the Catholic Church), and to give guidance, he can do that, too, at least once he knows the facts (and they’re stated in a way that can’t be twisted into something else, later).

Masonic Stuff
Francis cannot, however, legislate in any way, except for members of the Catholic Church, all of whom are perfectly free to leave if they don’t like what they hear, or within the civil boundaries of the Vatican city state.  Thus (for example), the Catholic Church is fully within its rights to forbid Catholics to become Freemasons, but not to have a civil law passed making it illegal for Catholics to become Freemasons, except at the Vatican, where we understand the Masons do not have a lodge.

The issue of redefining marriage is a little different.  It is the State, not the Church, that lacks competence with respect to the issue.  Marriage is not a civil right, pertaining to the State, but a domestic right, pertaining to the Family.

The legal “problem” with the State redefining same-sex unions as “marriage” is therefore twofold.  One, the State has no such power.  Contrary to what such “authorities” as John Maynard Keynes asserted, the State does not have the right to “re-edit the dictionary,” and change the substantial nature of anything.

From the viewpoint of many religions, this would, in fact, make the State more powerful than God.  Many religions in part define God is a perfect Being.  He, She, or It cannot contradict Him-, Her-, or Itself . . . okay, we’ll just use the masculine pronoun . . . (i.e., make Himself less than perfect) by changing the substantial nature of anything.  He created everything, and therefore the substantial nature of everything is a reflection of His Nature.

Changing a thing’s substantial nature means that God can change, too.  That would mean that God is less than perfect, which contradicts His definition as a “perfect” Being.  This is because change necessarily implies movement toward or away from perfection, which in turn implies that whatever changed wasn’t perfect to begin with.

"Damme, it's okay to edit, but not RE-edit."
Two, even if the State had the power to “re-edit the dictionary” and was thus more powerful than God, it does not have the jurisdiction over domestic society that redefining marriage to include same-sex unions that such redefinition necessarily implies.  The Family is governed by paternal and domestic right, not the commutative, distributive, legal, and social justices that govern civil society.

In order for the Catholic Church to prevent the recognition of same-sex unions under civil law, it would have to show that such contracts have a material and harmful effect on the common good, and to get the courts and the legislature of a country to one, recognize that the Catholic Church has legal standing, and, two, accept the argument(s).

Frankly, neither one is likely to happen any time in the near future.  People can contract for anything that is not illegal within civil society, and same-sex unions are not illegal in most places.  Pope Francis obviously believes that same-sex unions are not peachy-keeno, but he is not stupid, and knows full well that it would be a tremendous waste of resources to try and fight that battle . . . at this time.

Marriage?  Let’s talk about that tomorrow.

#30#

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