From the list custodian RE: And Now For Something Completely Different

Volokh, Eugene VOLOKH at
Tue Mar 14 22:02:30 PST 2006

Folks:  Whether the Church is behaving consistently or well is not, it
seems to me, a matter of the law of government and religion.  I suspect
that the lines drawn by religious people often seem inconsistent or even
hypocritical to those outside the faith.  I imagine that there are those
who would speak of various alleged inconsistencies in Judaism, for
instance, with the same contempt that Prof. Finkelman shows towards what
he sees as inconsistencies in Catholicism.  I see little benefit in
debating these questions on this list; they are more suited to
discussions of Catholic theology and morality -- surely important
topics, but not ones that are terribly relevant to the law of government
and religion.

More particularly, I should note that what counts as complicity in evil
and what counts as amelioration of evil is a notoriously mushy area.  We
see that in secular American law.  We see that in secular moral debates,
for instance about needle exchange programs.  It shouldn't be surprising
that different religious groups would come to different conclusions
about the kind and degree of aid involved in different situations.  It
might be wiser, then, to accept that others may have a different view
without being hypocrites or supporters of destroying lives.  But in any
event, I stress again that this is a matter for other places than this

The list custodian

-----Original Message-----
From: religionlaw-bounces at
[mailto:religionlaw-bounces at] On Behalf Of Paul Finkelman
Sent: Tuesday, March 14, 2006 8:24 PM
To: Law & Religion issues for Law Academics
Subject: Re: And Now For Something Completely Different

The church claims to oppose capital pubishemt, but sends priests in to
the prisons to help calm prisoners and get them ready to be killed; the
church would say this is not complicitous; but I don't see a whole lot
of difference between working in the prisons to make capital punishment
easy for the exectuioners and the state and helping children find homes
with parents who might be gay.  In one case the Church says it is doing
it to help the victims of the state's execution policy (but it also
helps the state) and in another case it will not help the vicitms of
disfunctional families (the children) because it does not believe in
same sex relations; in NEITHER case is it endorsing same sex relations
or capital punishment but the Church chooses to work with one system
that takes lives against church teaching, but will not work with another
system that helps SAVE lives of children, because some of the people
involved do things that the church opposes.  I should add that one would
hope the church sees killing as worse than being gay.  

The way I see this the issue is all about politics and the church
playing ever anit-gay card it has.
Imagine the public reaction if the Church said it WOULD NOT work with
the prison system; that it would not offer communion to any politician
who supported capital punishment (as Bishops urged with John Kerry) and
would furthermore, not offer Communion anyone who who worked in prisons
where executions took place or to judges who ordered them or prosecutors
who asked for the death penalty or jurors who voted for it!  
I am not arguing the church should do any of these things, I am merely
pointing out the inconsistency and hypocrisy of the church's position on
these two issues -- 
Anti-gay to hurt kids; but not willing to follow through to save lives.
Perhaps the consistency is that both policies end up destroying lives.


Will Esser wrote:


The problem that I have with your use of the term "complicity" is that
it is so large as to have no meaningful boundaries.  You contend that by
allowing priests to hear the confessions of inmates who are on death
row, the Church is complicit with (and somehow shares moral
responsibility for) capital punishment.  Your reasoning seems to apply
equally to doctors who serve the medical needs of those on death row, as
well as the Red Cross providing assistance to those affected by war.  I
think everyone on this list would agree that there is no complicity in
such situations.

Providing priests to serve the spiritual needs of those on death row is
not inconsistent with the position which Catholic Charities is now
taking.  And Massachusetts should realize that an exemption from the law
is proper step to take to resolve this issue.

&nb! sp;

paul-finkelman at wrote:
As I suggested with the church complicity with executions (and maybe
unjust wars, and many other things in society), the church chooses its
causes based on politics. I real test of the church would come when
bishops condemn politicians who order executions or start unjust wars as
vigorously has they work to keep kids in our foster care system rather
than helping them find loving homes with loving adults.

The Human Rights campaign is right on target with this statement. Thanks
Rick for sharing this. 

Quoting Rick Duncan :

> Human Rights Campaign says:"Boston Catholic Charities puts
> ugly political agenda before child welfare." Link. Excerpt:
> "Denying children a loving and stable home serves absolutely
> no higher purpose! ," said Solmonese. "These bishops are putting
> an ugly political agenda before the needs of very vulnerable
> children. Every one of the nation's leading children's welfare
> groups agrees that a parent's sexual orientation is irrelevant
> to his or her ability to raise a child. What these bishops are
> doing is shameful, wrong and has nothing to do whatsoever with
> faith."
> Rick Duncan

Paul Finkelman
Chapman Distinguished Professor of Law
University of Tulsa College of Law
3120 East 4th Place
Tulsa, OK  74105

918-631-3706 (voice)		
918-631-2194 (fax)

Paul-Finkelman at

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