I’ve held some pretty stupid opinions in my day, but I’ve never had the balls to actually see them in ink. Thomas Paris boldly rushes in where I’d just as soon shut up, as last weeks editorial on the Vatican demonstrates. Condemning the Pope for urging all American politicians to ban gay marriages, Paris concludes that the Vatican has no right to meddle in the domestic affairs of a sovereign nation.

“Perhaps the Vatican doesn’t understand that our elected representatives aren’t elected to represent themselves or the Catholic Church, but to represent their constituents, not all of whom are Catholic.” (Paris)

Wow, Tom. That’s about as brilliant as a kick to the face. Too bad we live in a Republic, not Ancient Greece. You and I don’t make policy, our elected officials do. It’s our responsibility to elect the guy whose opinions and values are closest to our own. It is the responsibility of the elected official to make policy in the way she best sees fit, and never sacrifice her own judgment for what is popular with her constituents. Were we to live in the America of Paris’s design, all issues would be decided by the referendum and the over-night poll. No doubt control of the government would be far more direct, but it would also be far less informed.

Of course, it’s not simply the US Constitution that’s been mangled. To expect one nation not to comment on the actions of another is both dangerous and idiotic. Did we condemn the UN when it demanded an end to apartheid in South Africa? Since when does expressing an opinion somehow violate national sovereignty? After all, the Pope didn’t invade America with his elite Swiss guardsmen; he mailed a letter. Yes, he tried to affect public opinion. Yes, he wanted to shape American legislation. Would you prefer that the Vatican never comment on the internal policies of a sovereign nation? If so, then no doubt you were quite pleased to learn of the Vatican’s uncritical silence toward Germany in the 1930s.

God knows you don’t have to agree with the pope, but you can’t fault him for seizing every possible legal recourse in the name of what he thinks is right. He has as much right, and even more responsibility, to shape global policy as anyone else. If John Paul II has more influence than you or I, it is because of the piety of a politician, not the malevolence of the papacy.

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