The reaction of conservative Catholics toward Sarah Palin dumbfounds me. When I was a teenager I was threatened with excommunication by my confessor when I joined the YMCA and participated in a non-Catholic wedding. He called me an apostate, which at the time amounted to being a heretic.
I was anxious to find out what the reaction of conservative Catholics would be to Sarah Palin's candidacy and her apostasy -- especially since many conservative Catholics obsess over the myth of the Great Apostasy; the so-called betrayal of Pope John XXIII in the 1960s. For them, the Church's abandonment of the Latin mass and other reforms were a mark of degeneracy
Taking a hard line Catholic Bishops in recent elections have condemned the candidacies of John Kerry; have been lukewarm to Joe Biden; and dismissive of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi because of their pro-choice stances. This is despite the fact that these politicos have adhered much more to the orthodox views of the Church than let's say John F. Kennedy who was vigorously supported by Cardinal Richard Cushing.
(It is fair to note that JFK's father Joseph Kennedy was a close friend of Cushing, and made generous contributions to the Church).
Last Sunday Tom Brokow questioned Biden on his stance on abortion. The questioning was fair, and it was probative. The senator was very explicit stating that as a matter of faith he adhered to Catholic doctrine on abortion but that he was unwilling to limit the choice of those who did not share his faith. Biden acknowledged that historically there has been controversy as to when life begins. Nevertheless, he accepted the official Church view that life begins at conception as a matter of faith.
Not withstanding, Washington Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl countered that there has never been controversy on the point of when life was conceived. The archbishop assumed authority although Wuerl is not infallible, and the Pope has never spoken about it under the authority of infallibility. The truth be told, Wuerl is wrong and there has been considerable debate as to when life begins.
There has always been controversy over this point. Augustine (354-430 AD) condemned abortion; however, the saint did not believe abortion was homicide. Thomas of Aquinas (1214-1274) agreed, saying that males had rational souls by the 40th day after conception and females at 80 days. (Hence women, according to Aquinas, were less rational and less evolved than males).
The controversy continued. Pope Sixtus V decreed in 1588, that abortion "at any time" was homicide. Yet his successor Gregory XIV said that the interpretation was extreme. His authority was none other than Aquinas. More recently popes have sided with Sixtis V; but the pontiffs have refrained from making an infallible statement on conception. No doubt it is a political hot potato that would reopen wounds in Europe – even lead to schisms.
Putting the controversy into perspective many European countries were divided over the question of papal infallibility. It was never a popular doctrine, and it was opposed by the American bishops. Spain suffered open warfare throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries with the doctrine accepted there only after fascist dictator Francisco Franco seized power.
Vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin chose to be baptized in the Assembly of God Church; she had previously been baptized Catholic. In doing so, she is an apostate at least from my understanding of Catholic dogma. She chose to join a denomination that was not Catholic friendly. Indeed, it has a history of anti-Catholicism.
Having attended Assembly of God services, I remember the minister referring to the errors of the Catholic Church that had to be corrected. He referred to decadence of the Church. How the Church had become an enemy of Christian truth.
Palin's former pastor Rev. Ed Kalnins among other things preached that critics of Bush would go to hell, and that those who voted for Kerry would be turned away from heaven. Neither the press nor the Catholic hierarchy has questioned Palin's associations; or held her views or those of her pastors up to the same scrutiny as they have Barack Obama and Biden; or mentioned her apostasy.
What the word apostate loosely means is deserter -- a person who has deserted her faith. At one time, apostates were considered heretics, and were excommunicated and even punished.
In more modern times the apostate is at the very least required as a gesture of respect for the Catholic Church and its canons to request a formal separation from the Church from her local bishop. Archbishop Donald W. Wuerl knows this but chooses to ignore the facts and attempts to bully Biden and other believers.
What concerns me is this cherry picking of morality issues by conservative Catholics and the Church's hierarchy. It has led to a decline of moral authority. They did not act with such definite authority in the case of the war in Iraq, or the case of George Bush, or the oppression of workers or pedophile priests. They are the same forces who will not waiver on the question of the point of conception but choose to allow millions of poor people to go without medical care and allow people to be starved out at the border.
But this said, the issue is not whether Sarah Palin is an apostate or not -- I could care less. The issue is the hypocrisy of many conservative Catholics and a few Catholic bishops. If Catholic politicos are to be held to a high standard then politicos such as Palin should be held to a similar standard.