Fr Tom Doyle has written an article for the National Catholic Reporter explaining the fine points of Canon Law as they apply to the Arizona medical situation for which Bishop Thomas Olmstead publicly announced the latae sententiae excommunication of Sister Margaret McBride. It is worth reading for Tom's clear explanation of the fine points of Canon Law which directly apply to this situation. The comments section is also worth reading. A couple of conservative posters get into some very murky ground in their attempts to justify Olmstead's decision and refute Fr. Doyle's analysis.
In reading through the article I kept having this stray thought run through my head. Why does a Church which professes to follow Jesus Christ even have such a thicket of Canon Laws? Jesus basically asked us to follow two laws, both involving the primacy of love. He asked us to pursuit relationships based in love, not relationships based in law. In this context it would make more sense to have a Code of Canon Love, not law. Lest one think I'm being all felt bannered hippy sixties let me explain myself.
If we had a Code of Canon Love, the emphasis in Catholicism might be radically different. Imagine if you even can, a theory of just war in a Code of Canon Love. Since one of the major Canons would be learning to forgive one's enemies, justifying war in any circumstances would be very very difficult. One would seriously have to consider the very direct rebuke of Peter by Jesus when Peter cuts off the ear of a soldier as Jesus is captured in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus even heals the ear of the soldier. He reconciles the situation in terms of His own world view about the preeminence of love. Love does no harm no matter the provocation. Love heals, love matures, love gives witness to a higher order of organization. It does not enshrine the imbalances of the status quo.
I often forget in my frequent writing on the status of women in Church teaching that lay men have not historically had their lives valued either. Nor have they as fathers been given the respect for their relationship in their families. Certainly not when it comes to war. I thought about that yesterday watching Memorial Day ceremonies. It appears war is the sacred process for men that child birth is for women. Just as women must sacrifice their own lives for the sake of their fetus, men have been legally bound to sacrifice their own lives for the sake of war. It is a woman's duty to die in creating, it is a man's duty to die in destroying. In both cases we're told this is in the interest of the common good and that this relationship with the common good takes precedence over any other relationship. Even one's existing children. Even one's conscience. Both sexes are treated as canon fodder for the common good, and neither lay men nor lay women have a voice in determining the Canon Law which has historically relegated their primary love relationships and responsibilities a secondary status. A Code of Canon Love might actually reverse this thinking.
If the Church was really pro life and pro family it's code of Canon Law would be rewritten to suggest a father's primary responsibility was to his wife and children, not to the political and economic interests of the ruling state. In my mind the connection between demanding the sacrifice of a mother's life for the life of her child is directly tied to the demand that a father sacrifice his life for the sake of the culture. Neither demand is ultimately pro life or pro family, and both demean the importance of the marital and parental relationship.
I guess that's why we have public displays of affection for our soldiers who have died in our wars--just or not--and public humiliation for Sister McBride.