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U.S. is not under the Pope's thumb

May 20, 2007|By ROBERT GARY

Jesus said, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's." This was very good counsel. All leaders of the church should heed it. If Rudy Giuliani took to heart the recent utterances of Pope Benedict XVI as he flew to Brazil on Alitalia, it could spell a very bad turn for the Catholic Church in the U.S.A.

Giuliani is not entirely a well man, at least not to 100 percent certainty. He recently had surgery for prostate cancer. They sometimes don't get it all, it sometimes comes back. It's a pretty fatal form of cancer if it metastasizes.

What happens if tomorrow morning Giuliani finds out that he is liable to be excommunicated if he persists in his pro-choice stance? The fear of God enters Giuliani's soul, he embraces communion with the church and his possibility of salvation and renounces his pro-choice view.

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He now becomes unambiguously pro-life, and he candidly admits it was the words of the Pope that turned him around.

When politicians in the U.S.A. have to be slaves to the Pope's ideas in order to not be damned to hell, that's theocratic tyranny, plain and simple.

It's not different from Ayatollah Sistani and his influence over politicians in Iraq. Why did Christ think this was a bad idea, why did he counsel against it and direct that precisely the contrary be done?

Could it be that he thought the hand of God was already on the politicians and whatever they may imagine they are deciding? Could it be that he wanted the authority of the church to avoid entering the fray of ordinary politics?

What would happen if Giuliani knuckles under, and then it is determined that the Catholic Church is an undeclared, illegal, political-action group, which is not entitled to tax-free status under U.S. law? Would that advance God's work, or hinder it?

I have every sympathy with the notion that life begins at conception. But it's not the life of a child. A child has to be born to be a child. Before that, it is an embryo, and before that it is a cluster of cells called a zygote.

The sovereign nation of the United States, through its court and its legislature, is entitled to decide what constitutes a child for purposes of its laws.

Roe v. Wade says that a woman has a right to choose to terminate her pregnancy, as long as she does it in the first trimester. In the second trimester the state and the woman have concurrent interests, and in the third trimester the state's interest in protecting the life of the embryo is so strong that it can, if it chooses, prohibit abortions entirely.

This is a moderate and balanced position, not a position that is careless about life.

Justice Harry Blackmun's idea is that zygotecide or embryocide is excusable in order to vindicate the liberty interest that an American woman should enjoy in the first trimester of her pregnancy. Freedom reigns for 90 days. After that it gets more complicated if the state wants it to be more complicated.

And in the last 90 days, the state can just say "no" to abortion, if that's what the legislature of the state decides.

For the Pope to say, "The killing of a human child is incompatible with being in communion with the body of Christ" begs the question, "What is a human child?"

That question, I submit, is one for government to decide, not the church. Blackmun, like a good Supreme Court justice, did not decide more than he needed to in order to dispense a solution to the problem before him. Roe v. Wade tells us what the procedure is to reach a legal decision about the termination of a pregnancy.

The liberty interest is balanced against the life interest on a sliding scale divided into three parts in which the liberty interest prevails at the outset and the life interest prevails in the final phase, if the state chooses that course.

So we have a rule to follow, and the language of the law calls a child the outcome of a live birth and not the embryo that precedes such a birth.

The Pope has wandered in and put the church in a very perilous position. The worst thing that could happen to the church is for Giuliani to get the fear of God in him and alter his political position in response to the improvident words this Pope, who is known for his improvident words.

Christ had it right, his Vicar has gone astray.

Robert Gary is a Hagerstown resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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