On Heresy, Bribery, and Conservative Arrogance

Fr. Jerry Pokorsky writes for CatholicCulture.org — an organization led by manifest schismatic Phil Lawler — a suggestion that conservative parishioners use donations as a way to pressure Bishops to comply with the conservative understanding of orthodoxy: Appealing to the better angels of pastors.

One example of this plan is stated thusly: “This $10,000 donation is to be used by Catholic Charities to feed the poor after the Bishop publicly denies Communion to the nominally Catholic pro-abortion governor.” How would Catholic Charities convince the Bishop to deny Communion to the governor? What if the organization cashes the check? Then the donor must go to court, and Catholic Charities has more money for lawyers than most donors. Good luck getting your money back.

Apart from the likely ineffectiveness of the first example above, is such a donation moral? When Jesus taught us to give alms, did He mean that almsgiving should be used to compel the successors to the Apostles to do as the donor wishes? You are essentially saying that you refuse to help feed the poor, unless the Bishop acts as you, a non-Bishop, see fit.

And the assumption is that the donor is right in what he wishes to accomplish, and the Bishop is wrong. What makes the donor right? Is such a tactic restricted only to conservatives? Is the conservative position on any question of doctrine and discipline always the correct one? The donor merely has money. Anyone with money could use that tactic, such as a liberal donor or liberal group or a non-Catholic group wishing to influence Church decisions.

There is no moral content to Fr. Pokorsky’ suggestion. Anyone with money could use that “restricted donation” to try to influence the Church in any direction.

Another example is more direct: “Creative major contributors could establish a foundation that offers significant donations to bishops who suffer the ignominy of public disapproval for standing up to pro-abortion politicians.”

Fr. Pokorsky wants Bishops to deny Communion to pro-abortion politicians. He assumes that he is right, and therefore he justifies the use of financial pressures to accomplish his goal. But the goal is essentially this: to pressure Bishops to do as non-Bishops wish, that is, to take control of the Church away from the successors to the Apostles by means of money. The end does not justify the means, and this is a wicked means: It is wicked pride in assuming that the conservative donor must be right, since he is conservative (in all of father’s examples). It is usurping proper authority, in attempting to deprive the Bishop of his episcopal authority by financial pressure. And it is a method that can be used by liberal Catholics or non-Catholics, if it would work at all (which is dubious).

Fr. Jerry anticipates the objection that this might be termed bribery: “Some Catholics may object that placing restrictions on donations amounts to vulgar bribery. But such ‘bribery’ of ecclesiastics should always be respectful, and done for the cause of orthodoxy.” Well, bribery is intrinsically evil, like perjury, and neither bribery nor perjury is justified if done with respect and for the cause of orthodoxy.

Bribery defined by the Catholic Encyclopedia: “The payment or the promise of money or other lucrative consideration to induce another, while under the obligation of acting without any view to private emolument, to act as the briber shall prescribe.” Yes, it is bribery. It is inducing the Bishop to act against a person, then that person ought to be judged by the Bishop without any financial influence from an outside agency.

Exodus {23:8} Neither shall you accept bribes, which blind even the prudent and subvert the words of the just.

So Fr. Jerry Pokorsky is publicly suggesting that wealthy donors commit the intrinsically evil grave sin, condemned by Scripture, of bribery, to cause Bishops to excommunicate politicians. And the fact that the person bribed is a Bishop makes the sin even more grave. Then, when he makes this suggestion, the editors at CatholicCulture.org publish it, participating in this grave sin.

The other problem with his analysis of his own plan is the assumption that the donor is orthodox and the Bishop is not. The donor has money, that’s all. Anyone with money could follow this plan. The Bishop has the help of the Holy Spirit, his communion with the other Bishops, and his communion with and obedience to the Roman Pontiff. So the Bishop is the one who should decide what is and is not orthodox, not persons with money, not even conservatives with money.

Unsurprisingly, teacher of heresy Dr. Ed Peters offers some support for this idea over at his blog: A canonical look at Fr. Pokorsky’s idea. Peters discusses the canonical issues around the idea, but he does not condemn it as bribery, as a way to usurp the authority of the Bishops, and as a method that might be used by persons of ill will or misguided good will. Ed Peters can’t see beyond the book of Canon Law at the end of his nose.

And now we come to the worst part of this idea, which is that it is being used in the examples by Pokorsky and Peters mainly to pressure Bishops to deny Communion to pro-abortion politicians. The hypocrisy here is that Dr. Ed Peters, under Canon 915, should be denied Communion for the manifest and obstinate grave sin of teaching heresy. In addition, Phil Lawler at CatholicCulture.org is guilty of public schism for his two schismatic books, one attacking the Roman Pontiff and the other attacking the Bishops in communion with him. Schism and heresy both carry the penalty of automatic excommunication, which includes denial of Communion. Peters and many of his peers wish to deny Communion also to the divorced and remarried, in contradiction to the lawful decision of the Roman Pontiff. So many Catholics who wish to deny Communion are themselves unworthy to receive because they commit schism, teach heresy, or lead people to rebel against the Pope. Pharisaical hypocrisy at its most ridiculous extent.

What would Jesus say about using financial pressure to cause Apostles to deny reception of the holy Eucharist — reception of Himself — apart from an official decision by His Church?

[Matthew 7]
{7:1} “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.
{7:2} For with whatever judgment you judge, so shall you be judged; and with whatever measure you measure out, so shall it be measured back to you.
{7:3} And how can you see the splinter in your brother’s eye, and not see the board in your own eye?
{7:4} Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter from your eye,’ while, behold, a board is in your own eye?
{7:5} Hypocrite, first remove the board from your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.

The arrogance of this plan, suggested by Fr. Pokorsky, is astounding. The attitude is essentially this: “We’re conservatives, therefore we know better than the Bishops. When Bishops don’t do what we want, they must be wrong, and so we are justified in pressuring them to do our will.”

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian
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