My friend John Paul likes to reference Aesop’s fables when discussing politics. One of his favorites is “The Dog and the Wolf.” For those like me whose childhood memories are a little foggy, the story goes like this.
A lean, half starved wolf happened upon a fat, happy dog. After politely greeting one another, the wolf asked the dog: “Why are you so much better off than I am? I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m much more aggressive and fearsome, and yet you are fat and well-groomed while I’m always a day away from starvation.”
The dog replied: “Would like to live as well as I? Just do what I do. I guard my master’s house at night and play with his children during the day. In exchange, my master gives me good food, a warm blanket near the fire, and a roof over my head.”
“That sounds easy enough,” the wolf replied, and off they went to the master’s house.
While trotting along, the wolf noticed a crease in the dog’s neck. “How did you get that?”
“Oh, that’s nothing,” said the dog. “My master ties me up in the day because I’m a little fierce and he’s afraid I might bite somebody. But he unties me at night and lets me run free when nobody else is around.”
“Stop,” said the wolf. “You’re satisfied to remain tied up all day, without being able to do what you want at any time, and all because your master brings you some bones at night and lets you run around at a time when it pleases him?
“Yet you pity me because I sometimes want for food. It is only keeping your stomach so full which prevents your mind from working.
“I’d rather be free than fat. Goodbye.”
This fable comes to mind as I ponder the current Canadian election. During the previous presidential election in the United States, I had written an article for Catholic Exchange in which I put forth a simple proposition: Given that abortion hurts women, if the Church is truly serious about helping young women through difficult circumstances, then the Church would excommunicate those wayward Catholic politicians who exploit these young women for political office.
I was not the only Catholic fed up with Catholic politicians who take Holy Communion on Sunday while voting against Christian morals on Monday. With only a few exceptions, all of the responses I received to that article were positive. Handling these politicians with kid gloves was not working. It was time for the Church to take a stand.
In the months that followed, several American bishops weighed in on this scandal. Catholic politicians who advocated abortion and so-called same-sex marriage found themselves publicly reprimanded. In some cases, their local bishops also denied them Holy Communion and threatened excommunication.
The secular media denounced this action on the part of the bishops with the predictable sanctimonious cries: “Clean up your own pedophile scandal first!” “Separation of Church and state!” Yet the strong action on the part of the American bishops worked. Many of the Catholic faithful rallied to defeat those politicians who proved an embarrassment to the Catholic faith.
I was hoping to witness a similar phenomenon during the Canadian federal election. As of this writing, however, less than a week remains in the campaign. Since I do not know what type of government Canadians will elect, I cannot comment on the new government. Nevertheless, with the exception of Bishop Fred Henry, I cannot name a single Canadian bishop who has taken strong, decisive action in this election against Catholic politicians who support abortion, euthanasia or homosexual “marriage.”
Where is Canada’s episcopal leadership? Our nation has fallen behind enemy lines in the culture war, and yet the officers of Church Militant have gone AWOL. Repetition is the key to learning and our Catholic politicians have learned that the consequences of undermining Christian morals are nothing more than tepid words. After all, no bishop dares risk the Church’s tax-exempt status.
Far from helping her carry out her divine mission, the Church’s tax-exempt status has become the leash of Aesop’s fable. It has rendered us fat like the dog. And the Church’s tax-exempt status has also restricted our freedom to speak the truth.
This silence is not worth the price of nearly a hundred thousand children butchered in the womb each year. This silence is not worth the price of families being undermined and torn apart through homosexuality, contraception, and no-fault divorce. This silence is not worth the price of a guilty conscience.
Perhaps the time has come for us Catholics to forfeit the Church’s tax-exempt status. Better to be free to preach the Gospel than fat and muzzled.
© Copyright 2006 Catholic Exchange
(Pete Vere is a canon lawyer and a Catholic author. He recently co-authored Surprised by Canon Law: 150 Questions Catholics Ask About Canon Law [Servant Books] with Michael Trueman and More Catholic Than the Pope [Our Sunday Visitor] with Patrick Madrid. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Sault Ste. Marie, Canada.)