The “Seamless Garment” – Are You Kidding?

President Barack Obama and Senator Ted Kennedy

After pondering great posts concerning the abortion problem in this country on Biltrix and 8 Kids and a Business, I am drawn again to wonder, from my foundational view, where the Church is in this cultural war. Not that the official voice of the Church isn’t plain on the subject because it certainly is. Abortion is a grave mortal sin and we need to eradicate this barbaric practice.

However, it always seems somewhat contradictory when we see high profile people (think Pelosi, Biden or the late Senator Ted Kennedy) who push to keep abortion legal, treated as Catholics in good standing. The man in the street sees this as an enigma not to mention a scandal of the highest order. When discussing this with people in the Church they often argue that it is the hope that keeping them in the Church will allow them to hear the message that may eventually bring about a change of heart. Though I accept the idea of the Church being the best place for these people to learn the teachings of the Church, do we never use the “big stick” anymore; that of excommunication?

I don’t have access to the degree of grace given to our priests and bishops so I cannot tell them or you if they are acting under this grace. I can only tell you what an ordinary lay Catholic sees in this hypocrisy.

For instance, we claim that we are against abortion, same sex marriages and the loss of religious liberty. However, the number of priests that actually preach against these things or lead their parishioners to action is a noticeable minority. When it comes to voting for a candidate that is for these things, the common reply is that there are more than these few social issues to consider. Many love to use the horrid “seamless garment” argument of the late Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago. It is a scandal that this argument has been used to equate socialist government programs not only as a substitute for our individual charity but to elevate these programs to equal importance with abortion. Do they not understand that 60 million babies have died in the supposed safety of their mother’s womb? Besides the loss of their lives, do they not know that these 60 million babies were denied 2 things that we feel all individuals are entitled to in life: baptism and a funeral?

It is my contention that the reason we don’t see this as a holocaust of unprecedented proportion is because we never see their caskets or go to a funeral for any of these little ones. If we could see the number of these deaths it would change more than a few minds and hearts. But alas, these evil deeds are hidden from our eyes, our minds and our hearts by throwing their tiny bodies and body parts into a hazardous waste disposal unit. Evil loves to hide in the shadows and hates to have their deeds recognized for what they are.

So for this layman, I have difficulty in understanding why, after 20 years of being a Catholic, I can count on 2 hands the number of actual homilies given on this Sin of sins. It is also amazing how little interest our priests have shown in organizing the parishioners to act or to vote out candidates who support such barbarism. Where are the excommunications? Where is the Catholic Will to eliminate this scandalous affront to human life? I hear the official words but I see little support in the ranks of the bishops or priests that is truly and effectively trying to bring this sad chapter of moral depravity to a close. The Holy Spirit must be telling them something He is not telling the rest of us; because I cannot understand the lack of fortitude we have shown. I and many other Catholics are ashamed at the polls of supposed Catholic “faithful” that record their intention to vote for pro-abortion candidates in the coming election. How can that be?

Is our rhetoric about these objective evils merely that: rhetoric? I pray it is more than that and that someday God will forgive the complacency we have shown. In my mind, no peace will be found in this country until we end the war on the unborn. Why would God hear our prayers when we can’t hear the cries of the poorest of the poor: the helpless and hopeless plight of our own children?

76 thoughts on “The “Seamless Garment” – Are You Kidding?

  1. Yes, the silence from the ambo is deafening. Fr. Testa’s homily on my blog stands in the minoritiy. I don’t understand it, either. Pro-abortion arguments consistently include high-profile Catholics like Kennedy, Pelosi, and in Canada, Trudeau, McGuinty, Clarke. The argument is that if they are still going to church then what’s the matter with the rest of us who cling to our pro-life stand. Thanks for this. You articulated what I, and many others couldn’t.


  2. Very good post, Servus! Excommunication is a touchy subject. The problem is that most people do not understand the motive behind it or its pastoral purpose. On the one hand, it serves to rectify the injustice of scandal, as when a Catholic politician confuses and misleads other Catholics by holding particular stances that are blatantly at odds with Church teaching. On the other hand, the public sentence of excommunication gives the one who receives it the opportunity to reflect, repent, and rectify his behavior for the good of his soul.

    The problem with people not understanding this is that they tend to see it as an overbearing condemnation on the part of the Church. They fail to recognize that excommunication is not simply an act of condemnation. When the sentence is properly applied, it is merely a statement testifying to the fact that the person in question is no longer in communion with the Catholic Church. The public pronouncement of excommunication only outwardly expresses a reality that has already taken place. Excommunication, then, is really just a service to the individual in question and to the rest of the faithful. The formal act of excommunication also makes it clear that the person in question cannot receive communion in a Catholic Church and that he should not refer to himself as a Catholic. Nevertheless, before it reaches the point where the Church would pronounce a sentence of excommunication, the individual in question must have already performed actions whereby he has already excommunicated himself, ipso facto (e.g., in the case of participating in the act of carrying out an abortion, which can entail, counsel, consent, compulsion, etc…).

    There is an apparent disconnect between the fact that many politicians clearly fulfill the conditions for latae sententiae by their words and actions, on the one hand, and their being allowed to appear in public as practicing Catholics, who go to Church sometimes and receive communion, on the other. You have made a very good point that something more needs do be done to address the scandal this causes for many Christians.


    • Boy is that the truth Biltrix. It would only take a few hard line stances on the most high profile individuals to send a message to all the rest. The other thing is that the bishops surely need to take a harder stance with their priests to combat this kind of behavior and at the very least, refuse them Communion until they get right with the Church.


  3. Outstanding Post, SF. As you know I’ve raised the question myself- By the way could you arrange an interdict on my church while you’re about it as well.

    And yes, it does make our churches at the very least look hypocritical.


  4. It’s often seemed shameful to me that someone like Ted Kennedy would be allowed to remain in full communion with the Holy Mother Church without being censured in any way. Same goes for Nancy Pelosi. The only thing I can figure is that it’s a power thing. Maybe the bishops involved were afraid because of the possible consequences on account of the power those individuals had in their locales.


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