Christ among the Doctors of the Law



Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Feuerherd's curse cannot be ignored

To wish damnation on an individual or a group is to wish on them the absolutely worst fate conceivable: separation from God forever. CCC 1035. Catholics possessed of even a rudimentary catechesis know that one cannot invoke upon a human being any greater calamity than damnation, and that it is never licit, for any reason, to wish that another person be damned.

On February 24, National Catholic Reporter correspondent
Joe Feuerherd, writing in the Washington Post, expressed his desire to see the bishops (of the United States) literally damned before he would fail to vote Democratic this Fall.

Feuerherd's words of contempt were not shouted in a heated argument wherein, say, a lack of time for reflection or "anger hormones" might mitigate one's culpability for uttering invectives. No, Feuerherd's curse, "the bishops be damned", was expressed in cold, deliberate, prose intended for maximum effect in a prominent national publication.

Canon 1369 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law states that "a person who . . . in published writing . . . expresses insults or excites hatred or contempt against religion or the Church is to be punished with a just penalty." Canon 1373 states that "a person who publicly incites among subjects animosities or hatred against the Apostolic See or an ordinary because of some act of power or ecclesiastical ministry . . . is to be punished by an interdict or other just penalties."

I believe Feuerherd has gravely violated both of these canons.

The penalties for violating either canon are preceptive (puniatur); Feuerherd's public expression of contempt for the souls of the bishops occurred in the Archdiocese of Washington, although other venues afford jurisdiction for the case (
CIC 1408, 1412); and every potential penal case begins with preliminary investigation (CIC 1717). However much American bishops as individuals might willing to forgive Feuerherd on a personal level, they must also assess this terrible incident as Successors of the Apostles, that is, as men entrusted with a precious and holy office not of their making, but in their care.

I hope these matters will be considered with alacrity; in the meantime, we can pray that Feuerherd retracts the surpassing invective which he has directed toward the bishops of America.

Catholic News Agency, 27 Feb 2008; USCCB's Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, 27 Feb 2008;