Monday, August 23, 2010

The Corrupt Theology of "The Seamless Garment"

The Corrupt Theology of the “Seamless Garment”
By Matthew J Bellisario 2010
I will begin this article by saying that it addresses a highly controversial topic, and I apologize in advance if I offend anyone. But I feel that what I have to say is of the utmost importance for Catholics today. If anyone disagrees with my conclusion, I would welcome a live or a formal written debate on the subject. With this being said, I will start my critique of the “Seamless Garment.”
With the advent of the “Enlightenment” the world began to turn a blind eye to objective truth. Instead of embracing objective truth, the false subjective philosophies of Hume, Hegel, Descartes ,Kant, and many others began to be embraced by the world and later by many in the Church.

The movement of the “New Theologians” who embraced these deficient philosophies towards the end of the 19th century, but only really started to take up residency en masse in the 1950s and 60s. Theologians like Maurice Blondel planted the seeds in the late 19th century, followed soon after by theologians like Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar, Karl Rahner, Edward Schillebeeckx, Yves Congar, Joseph Bernardin and the like, and with them the liturgical deconstructionists like Annibale Bugnini, and to a lesser degree Josef A. Jungmann, and Louis Bouyer. They were all part of the quickly sprouting crop of weeds that was planted and watered earlier on by the modernist movement. Soon the great garden giving life to the fruits of Thomism were quickly overgrown by the rotten weeds of modernism. Their errors spread like wildfire throughout the Church and most of the bishops were more than willing to go along with the whole corrupt mindset. The consequences have been disastrous and they can be seen in many arenas throughout the Church today. The degradation of the celebration of the Mass and the destruction or degradation of Church architecture are a couple of highly visible examples, but the corruption goes much deeper to such areas as the destruction of sacramental theology, which we see in most parishes of the Church today, to the subversion of moral teaching. The entire theological foundation of Catholicism, although objectively still intact, as it will be until the end of time, has been hidden under this heretical cloak. As important as it is to recognize these problems in the Church today, I want to focus on another area that has been assaulted by this “new” theological/philosophical movement. A popular platform that many bishops today use to further this destructive mentality is that of a corrupted view of social justice. The best way to get someone to swallow poison is not to put the bottle of poison on the table and tell them to ingest it, but to cleverly mix it in with something that appears to be perfectly edible. It is the vehicle of social justice poisoned by the concept of what is largely known as the “Seamless Garment” that I want to address in this short essay. 
The vehicle of corrupt social justice has been a clever Trojan horse used to spread falsehood in the Church. This corruption, or poison pill is known as the “Seamless Garment.” This idea is one that proposes that there is some “seamless garment” that unites and makes all moral issues and acts regarding human life somehow equal in nature. This is one of the more clever Trojan horses that the modernists have used to spread their errors, since it feeds on emotion and not the intellect. The “Seamless Garment” idea is a flawed moral theological position that claims that all life between conception and the grave are all to be treated equal in regards to social justice issues. It is often based on a misrepresentation of human dignity. The term is thrown around with little or no precision in definition. The distinctions of innocence and guilt however are completely done away with in relation to moral life issues, as well as the morality of the acts in and of themselves. The promoters of this nefarious idea falsely promote that the saving of a convicted mass murderer is as important as saving an innocent child in a mother’s womb, although their actions often make it seem as if the lives of the guilty are somehow worth more than the innocent. 
Although Cardinal Bernardin, the main proponent of this theologically bankrupt idea, often paid lip service to these distinctions of guilt and innocence, he did not apply them in principle. This is typical for those who have been in the game of corrupting Catholic doctrine in the modern age. Notice the bait and switch tactic he pulled in his William Wade lecture series given in 1984. He stated first that he acknowledged the distinction between the innocent and the guilty in regards to moral issues such as abortion and capital punishment, but the conclusion that he draws right after this statement is completely at odds with his acknowledgment. It is like saying, “I am against abortion, but I think I should not let that influence my decision on who I will vote for.” First Bernardin said, “Some of the responses I have received on the Fordham address correctly say that abortion and capital punishment are not identical issues. The principle which protects innocent life distinguishes the unborn child from the convicted murderer. Other letters stress that while nuclear war is a threat to life, abortion involves the actual taking of life, here and now. I accept both of these distinctions, of course, but I also find compelling the need to relate the cases while keeping them in distinct categories.” Sadly however Bernardin does not keep them separate at all. He continues on using a cloak of contradiction and ambiguity stating, “Abortion is taking of life in ever growing numbers in our society. Those concerned about it, I believe, will find their case enhanced by taking note of the rapidly expanding use of public execution. In a similar way, those who are particularly concerned about these executions, even if the accused has taken another life, should recognize the elementary truth that a society which can be indifferent to the innocent life of an unborn child will not be easily stirred to concern for a convicted criminal. There is, I maintain, a political and psychological linkage among the life issues—from war to welfare concerns—which we ignore at our own peril: a systemic vision of life seeks to expand the moral imagination of a society, not partition it into airtight categories.” (Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, A Consistent Ethic of Life, 1984) 
Far from Bernardin’s rejection of airtight categories, he completely rejects any distinction or categorization at all in relation to the moral acts that are actually being addressed. Bernardin attempted here to sell the idea that if one embraces the State’s right to exact the just use of capital punishment, then they are somehow complicit and psychologically linked to the acceptance of abortion! The two acts are not even in the same category. Not only is this “connection” simply nonexistent, most of the public that supports a pro-life position, (That is they are against abortion and euthanasia, ie the killing of innocent life) are usually consistently pro-capital punishment and vice versa, those who usually support abortion are usually against the death penalty, so even his logic here is severely flawed. It was not as if the acceptance of abortion brought about the acceptance of capital punishment. The connection he imagines simply does not exist on any noticeable scale in society, and where it does exist it is fueled by the noxious fumes of modernity. Notice how he also mentions the political realm here. We should not let this go unnoticed since ones’ perception on these moral issues will affect how Catholics vote on such issues. How anyone can fall for such an absurd concept is truly amazing, but none the less, most bishops today have taken the bait, hook line and sinker. 
It must be stated that there is no sound theological principle that can support the Cardinal’s fallacious conclusion of this “linkage.” There is really no comparison of the two distinct moral acts of murder, and the act of just retributive punishment. One is a negative precept, that of murder, the other is not an immoral act at all. In regards to Catholic morality, and the proper principles used to arrive at understanding the moral act, which is that of Divine Revelation, the Natural Law and the Church Magisterium, it impossible to even equate the two acts, let alone link them in the manner the Cardinal was attempting to do. Aside from them both relating to morality of human beings, there is no related to connection between the two. Only a malformed ideology conjured up by a heavy reliance on modernist philosophy can account for such an incongruous concept. 
In order to drive home the seriousness of this modernist error I would like to quote another comment made by Cardinal Bernardin in 1985 in his address to the criminal court of Cook County. (The Death Penalty in Our Time-1985) It is here that he readily admits that the core moral principles the Church held in a consistent form (The form of Thomism) in regards moral acts like capital punishment had been rejected by the bishops en masse. Pay close attention here, “First, they review four traditional arguments justifying capital punishment, retribution, deterrence, reform and protection of the State. Based on their review, the religious leaders have argued that these reasons no longer apply in our age.” This comment is startling and it is the true telling of the tale. The bishops fully rejected sound moral theology in favor of their modernist inventions. Somehow the bishops concluded that the natural law and moral theology change with the age like dust that blows on the changing wind. Bernardin cited the USCCB’s statement penned in 1980 as denying the traditional Catholic teaching in regards to retributive punishment, “Such punishment might satisfy certain vindictive desires that we or the victim might feel, but the satisfaction of such desires is not and cannot be an objective of a humane and Christian approach to punishment.” No longer did the UCCB regard retributive punishment as a valid argument for the use of the death penalty, despite the Council of Trent’s doctrinal claim to the contrary hundreds of years before, ”well founded is the right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty." The USCCB simply turned retribution into a form of vengeance instead of a just punishment pertaining to the restoration of the moral order. This is simply a dishonest redefining of what retributive punishment really is. It is not done for vengeance, and the Pope Pius XII made that very clear in 1954, “It should be noted that to vindicate the moral order means not the taking of vengeance upon the criminal, but imposing upon the criminal some act or loss or suffering as a form of compensation to right the balance of justice.” Justice however has no place in the minds of most bishops today. Bernardin continued on to summarize his position after citing the above passage from the USCCB's erroneous assessment of retributive punishment, “Basing their judgment on this and similar lines of reasoning, many religious leaders conclude that, under our present circumstances, the death penalty as punishment for reasons of deterrence, retribution, reform or protection of society cannot be justified.” Simply put, the USCCB had wholly rejected the accepted norms of defining the moral act, and in doing so rejected every principle used to determine just punishment. In short, Thomism had been substituted with a smorgasbord of modernist philosophies which has resulted in a rejection of sound moral theology. 
One may ask, what can be the harm in equating the prisoner on death row with an innocent life in a mother’s womb? A life is a life correct? The problem with this position is that it undermines objective truth. It is a vehicle that spreads a false philosophy under a cloak of something that appears to be a very noble position indeed. After all, what kindhearted Christian could be opposed to saving a life? It also forces Catholics to either embrace the false system of the “Seamless Garment” or else be ostracized by the mainstream powers that be, like the media, political bodies, or even councils like the USCCB, because of a delusional theory they invented of there being some perceived inconsistency among the views of trying to preserve human life. The lie has now been so widely accepted in society that it appears that one cannot be against the killing of an innocent human baby via abortion, and yet allow a guilty person to undergo the just punishment of the death penalty. In other words, this delusion of the “Seamless Garment” is a tool used to spread the heresy of modernity among the Church faithful. Objective truth is undermined under a veil of a perceived good, that of saving a life. 
This falsehood also has another corruption factor built in that is very useful in promoting political agendas. It allows the horrors of abortion to be downplayed as just another life issue among many. This results in entire bodies of bishops, like the USCCB again for example, to spend enormous amounts of time, resources, and money, to stop the executions of guilty criminals, rather than focusing on real immoral actions such as the mass slaughter of innocent babies. Whenever objective truth is sacrificed there are consequences that will follow. So far the bishops of the Church have paid little more than lip service to stop the atrocity of abortion. Instead they write letters promoting campaigns to completely abolish a fundamental right that every State has been given by divine authority, that of just retributive punishment. Why don’t the bishops write a letter every time an abortion happens? It is much easier to write a few letters a few times a year when a mass murderer gets executed in their diocese or state than it is to write thousands of letters for every murder that takes place in abortion mill isn’t it? As we see mentioned by Cardinal Bernardin above, these conclusions have strong political ties and consequences. This fallacious reasoning has unfortunately given the impression that issues like capital punishment, immigration and just war are just as important as issues like abortion, homosexuality, and euthanasia. As a result, we see Catholics often voting for politicians who support atrocities like abortion, ignorantly claiming that they are against an unjust war, capital punishment or some other lesser moral issue of the day. These ideas have prevailed largely because the bishops promote them!
The “Seamless Garment” also implicitly gives a false notion that all taking of human life is somehow a moral evil. This however is not the truth at all. The Fifth Commandment has always pertained to the taking of innocent human life. In other words, the negative precept is not the taking of “any” life by anyone or any public entity, it is the taking of an “innocent” life by anyone or any public entity. The taking of a life can be justified when the object of a moral act is ordered towards self defense for example, or the State can rightfully take the life of a guilty person for the sake of keeping or restoring the moral order through proportionate retributive punishment. These are fundamental principles that have always been held by the Church, but have now just recently been swept under the carpet by the bishops of our age. It is almost impossible to find anything written on capital punishment before the Vatican II age by any of the bishops. Instead, they only pay passing lip service to these most serious distinctions long held in Catholic moral theology, while treating them in their actions as if they are equal in moral stature. To put the distinction between the moral acts of abortion and capital punishment in simple terms, the act of abortion falls under a negative precept and can never be done under any circumstance, it is murder. Capital punishment on the other hand, if carried out by the State in a proper manner on a guilty party is no way an immoral act, but a just act carried out to restore the moral order of society. To make any connection between the two acts in regards to morality demonstrates either a complete failure in understanding of basic moral principles or a complete rejection of them. Judging by the USCCB’s statement in 1980 I will let you determine which is true.
It is my fear that we are in danger of completely overturning the divine natural order by allowing the bishops of the Church to promote such rash positions such as the complete abolishment of the death penalty or the emphasizing of moral issues like immigration over the atrocity of abortion. Of course I do not believe that these are “either or” issues, or that they be looked at in a complete vacuum in complete isolation from how they sometimes effect one another, but we must have our priorities straight, and it is clear that the bishops as whole do not because they have adopted faulty principles. The bishops are trying to usurp a divine right and duty that every State has, not only to defend human life, but more importantly, to retain a strong moral order among society by use of just retributive punishment. There is absolutely no theological principle that can justify or support the complete abolishment of capital punishment. One may argue for a more prudent use of its application based on how it fits in with restoring or keeping the moral order in a society, but to lobby for the complete abolishment of the punishment is in my opinion clearly against the natural law. It denies the State’s the right to properly determine what just means it will use to restore and retain the moral order, and that is not a right that can be taken away by anyone, including misguided bishops who have divorced themselves from right reason and instead have substituted it with the double-dealing concept of the “Seamless Garment.” The bishops do not have the right to determine whether or not a State should use a certain form of just punishment. It is the State’s right and duty to prudently decide what are the most effective just means it will use to retain and preserve the moral order. This notion that the bishops have a right to dictate what type of just punishments the State can use is a delusional one.
This may be taken as being a bit harsh, but I think that it must be noted that even bishops that are considered to be “orthodox” are falling into these fallacious positions as well, many of them possibly by pure ignorance. The well respected bishop of Denver, Colorado, archbishop Charles Chaput, who I admit is normally a very sound bishop, was quoted in the Denver Catholic Register as saying the following in October of 2005 "In modern industrialized states, killing convicted murderers adds nothing to anyone’s safety. It is an excess." Chaput here appears to be missing some important pieces to the puzzle. He fails to recognize a need for retributive punishment. Its all about protecting innocents in society from future aggression that may be committed by the criminal if he were allowed to go free. This is an error of the gravest kind. We can see what the outcome is when you reject core moral principles like the USCCB did in 1980. It leads the archbishop into drawing an erroneous conclusion, which he makes clear when he states, "We need to end the death penalty, and we need to do it soon." Based on what theological grounds or moral principles does his conclusion rest on? It rests on a perceived excess of the use of an act which he views as being only ordered towards the protecting of innocents from possible future crimes that the criminal may commit. He gives an acknowledgement to rehabilitation and the possibility of repentance and restitution, but never mentions the foundational principle of retribution in the restoration of the moral order. Rehabilitation and the like are quite desirable, but are not always possible, and are only secondary reasons for punishment. Yet these secondary principles have now been put forth as being the primary principles for just punishment. We will soon demonstrate how this inversion technique is quite a common ploy used to further modernist agendas. A true moral theologian must ask Archbishop Chaput what happened to the retributive punishment that must accompany the crime for the expiation of the criminal’s guilt? This foundational principle squares solidly with Pope Pius XII’s statement in 1952, “Rather public authority limits itself to depriving the offender of the good of life in expiation for his guilt, after he, through his crime, deprived himself of his own right to life.” Retribution and expiation are part of the equation in this puzzle, and they are an integral component to how crime and punishment falls within the natural law. Only by using proper principles can we determine the nature of moral acts with any accuracy. Archbishop Chaput however just throws that crucial part of the equation to the four winds. I must say that I admire the Archbishop in many ways, for the good that he has done in the Church, but I must oppose him on this particular issue. I would kindly ask him to reconsider his stance on this issue, or at least carefully scrutinize his position using the principles of Thomism. The “Consistent Life Ethic” that he endorses is based on a flawed premise. 
We must address yet another clever Trojan horse used to undermine the moral order of objective truth, that of ambiguity. If there is no sound theological or philosophical argument for such wily ideas, then you have to invent clever vehicles to carry your contraband. How are these ideas able to be so easily embedded in the modern Catholic mind? The answer lies largely in the ambiguity of documents released by the Church over the past 40 years or so, and the ability to promote these views via the media. In order to oppose a certain truth most effectively, you either make the truth obscure by not mentioning it often or  in an inexplicit manner, or secondly, you take a less important truth or principle and emphasize that over the foundational principle. A perfect example to use is how the celebration of Mass has been corrupted over the last 40 years. The foundational principles of the Mass put in very simple terms is that of sacrifice, the representation of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary, in which Our Lord makes Himself present in the Holy Eucharist via the consecration of the priest. From these general foundational principles all others like those of the communal element flow from, and the lesser elements or principles cannot be sustained or properly understood without the understanding and acceptance of the foundational ones. The “New Theologians” of the day however have taken a lesser principle or element, like that of the communal aspect of the Mass, and have made that the foundational principle. As a result we have the entire foundation undermined and turned on its head by substituting a lesser principle for a foundational one. Then we wonder why Father acts the way he does in the sanctuary and why the tabernacle is hidden or de-emphasized, why we have absurd dancing, why Our Blessed Lord in the Eucharist is ignored, and the list goes on ad nauseum. The same has happened in the social justice arena. Intrinsic evils like abortion and homosexuality have been de-emphasized while social issues that are not as important to the social order, like capital punishment, and immigration are now emphasized. The priorities regarding the moral social order have been turned upside down. Suddenly the attention gets drawn away from such abominable offenses to God like abortion, and the focus instead gets put upon a convicted criminal who is getting a just punishment for his crime. The common battle cry the modernists have made in the social justice arena is that those who do not make capital punishment their “social justice” priority are somehow not charitable, or have no compassion for people whatsoever. This however is a lie. I have dealt with such arguments before in other essays I have written that directly pertain to the morality of capital punishment. (See "Keeping the Death Penalty Alive", 2010)
Now that we have identified the problem, what can be done to correct it? The answer quite simply resides in Thomistic philosophy and theology. We must get back to the roots of Thomism so that we may understand and make the proper distinctions in regards to moral theology. The corrupt theology of the “Seamless Garment” is only able to fly because of the noxious modernism that fuels it. Removing the Thomistic principles that allow for the proper examination of the moral act, which allows for distinctions to be drawn and thus proper conclusions to be made to determine what are licit moral acts and what are not, has been a complete disaster. Few theologians before the acceptance of these modernist philosophies would have never come up with a rancorous movement to completely abolish capital punishment. They knew better than to try and pass off such a theological blunder, because Thomism exposes it as such. It is only with the adoption of modern, corrupt philosophical principles that this nonsense could have prevailed to the extent that it has. Today we see ignorant bishops in the Church who are directly opposing a God given right and duty of the State, as well as emphasizing lesser moral evils over greater ones because they adopted a corrupt ideology. Most are not familiar with Thomism as it has been traditionally understood, or the natural law theory that has been so widely praised by the Church over the centuries, and this has been detrimental to Catholics worldwide. Thomism is the key to bringing back a solid theological and philosophical foundation to the Church at large. Since social justice issues are such a hot arena for the Church today, there is no better place to start the resurrection of Thomism.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for an excellent refutation of the "seamless garment" theology. You would enjoy this article by Steven A. Long of the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN); although it does not mention abortion directly, it offers a very good reinterpretation of Evangelium Vitæ: "EVANGELIUM VITAE, ST. THOMAS AQUINAS, AND THE DEATH PENALTY"

    ReplyDelete