Sir Humphrey: The church [of England] is looking for a candidate [for bishop] to maintain the balance.
The Bursar: What balance?
Sir Humphrey: Between those who believe in God and those who don’t.
The Bursar: Is there anyone in the church that doesn’t believe in God?
Sir Humphrey: Yes, most of the Bishops.
Yes Prime Minister The Bishop’s Gambit 1986
Lord Germain: Whatever may be the outcome of this, I shall not forget your [Friar Tuck’s] interference (rides away)
Sir William of Marksbury: I advise you father to be a little more restrained. It’s not a very sound idea to make an enemy of that particular lord.
Friar Tuck: Nor of my particular LORD Sir William.The Adventures of Robin Hood Friar Tuck 1955
One of the spiritual works of mercy in the Catholic Church is to admonish the sinner, that is warn a person who is sinning that their actions put their soul at risk. However in the modern “touchy feely” church this is often forgotten or ignored by clergy who either:
- Do not believe
- Are cowards
This situation is exacerbated when the sin is public and even celebrated. To confront such a person brings a risk in terms of reputation and responses.
And that brings us to Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone who will not rule out excommunication in the case of Catholic pols who publicly advocate abortion. As he puts it:
You cannot be a good Catholic and support expanding a government-approved right to kill innocent human beings.
And he also notes that during the civil rights era Excommunication was put to good use to cause public Catholic to repent from serious sin
On April 16, 1962, he [Archbishop Joseph Rummel] followed through, excommunicating a former judge, a well-known writer and a segregationist community organizer. Two of the three later repented and died Catholics in good standing.
You see that’s the point. If you are actually interested in saving souls and the normal methods do not work Excommunication is a powerful tool. It may not work in every case as noted above but that was two souls saved out of three.
Now of course there was a time when the threat of excommunication carried a lot of weight, when people of power actually believed and feared for their souls to wit:
These days however you are more likely to get a Catholic Pol and a Catholic Bishop more in line with my Sir Humphrey Quote than the Friar Tuck quote.
The real question is this: Do they actually believe? For a pol who doesn’t actually believe excommunication will not move them but the other question is do you have clergy who actually believe?
Clergy who believe will take this passage from the prophet Ezekiel to heart:
Thus the word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel. When you hear a word from my mouth, you shall warn them for me.
If I say to the wicked man, You shall surely die; and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his wicked conduct so that he may live: that wicked man shall die for his sin, but I will hold you responsible for his death.
If, on the other hand, you have warned the wicked man, yet he has not turned away from his evil nor from his wicked conduct, then he shall die for his sin, but you shall save your life.
If a virtuous man turns away from virtue and does wrong when I place a stumbling block before him, he shall die. He shall die for his sin, and his virtuous deeds shall not be remembered; but I will hold you responsible for his death if you did not warn him.
When, on the other hand, you have warned a virtuous man not to sin, and he has in fact not sinned, he shall surely live because of the warning, and you shall save your own life.Ezekiel 3:17-21
A member of clergy who either does not actually believe or fears man more than God will not act or wish to rock the boat.
But a member of clergy who not only takes this passage to heart, but has actual love for the sinner, a love strong enough to bear the opprobrium of a post Christian society will act both for his own sake and that of the sinner. And when the slings and arrows come his way he will comfort himself with Christ’s words:
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.Matt: 5:12