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"An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last."
Sir Winston Churchill


Was Tim Russert Catholic?

Hadley Arkes reads my mind:

But beyond everything else, the recoil from my piece, with a sharper edge of feeling, came with the view that I had been uncharitable, that there was something gravely wrong in questioning Russert’s avowal of his own faith. But if nothing had been said on Russert’s faith during the mourning, there would have been no more reason to discuss it than his allegiance to the Buffalo Bills. If the question was, "Do you credit a man’s own account of himself," I’m as ready as anyone else to credit Russet’s account that he considered himself a Catholic and a fan of the Bills. But the argument was, Who are you to call into question Russert’s understanding of his faith? That criticism implied that Russert’s understanding of Catholic teaching must be respected because it was his. The implication is that any of us would be free to offer our own version of Catholic teaching that fits more comfortably with the state of our own lives and moral shadings. But that could be the case only if there were no Catholic teaching with a coherence and integrity of its own. Evidently there are many Catholics who have made themselves suggestible to these notions. But the truth that has not yet broken in on them is that, as they have backed themselves into this understanding, they have backed themselves out of Catholic teaching and the logic of what it means to be Catholic. With a certain serenity, and without quite realizing it, they have ceased to be Catholic.

Indeed, the Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear Russert's obligation, one he set aside on behalf of his Democrat bosses and buddies:


2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.72

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.73

My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth.74

2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:

You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.75

God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.76

2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. "A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,"77 "by the very commission of the offense,"78 and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law.79 The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.

2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:

"The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being's right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death."80

"The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined. . . . As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child's rights."81

2274 Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being.

Prenatal diagnosis is morally licit, "if it respects the life and integrity of the embryo and the human fetus and is directed toward its safe guarding or healing as an individual. . . . It is gravely opposed to the moral law when this is done with the thought of possibly inducing an abortion, depending upon the results: a diagnosis must not be the equivalent of a death sentence."82

2275 "One must hold as licit procedures carried out on the human embryo which respect the life and integrity of the embryo and do not involve disproportionate risks for it, but are directed toward its healing the improvement of its condition of health, or its individual survival."83

"It is immoral to produce human embryos intended for exploitation as disposable biological material."84

"Certain attempts to influence chromosomic or genetic inheritance are not therapeutic but are aimed at producing human beings selected according to sex or other predetermined qualities. Such manipulations are contrary to the personal dignity of the human being and his integrity and identity"85 which are unique and unrepeatable.

This is the teaching that Tim Russert rejected. This is the teaching which the famously tough interrogator didn't deign to ask many questions about, even though his career spanned a most contentious period in the sorry history of infanticide.

One cannot serve God and Mammon both, and Tim Russert was sadly no exception. He undoubtedly was called to reckon for this, and I hope his response was not found wanting.

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