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God, Not Caesar, Endowed Us With the Right to Life

Discussion in 'One Bread, One Body - Catholic' started by Michie, Oct 18, 2020.

  1. Michie

    Michie Human rights begin in the womb. Supporter

    United States
    Catholic moral theology recognizes that even the state is subject to the moral law.

    The readings for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time cite the familiar Gospel passage of “rendering unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” That saying is especially relevant in an election year, but in ways that require a little unpacking.

    The separate claims of God and Caesar are not foundations for a “wall of separation” between Church and state nor even their division. While Jesus recognizes that God and Caesar may have different claims, He certainly is not making either them or their claims equal. God is not Caesar’s peer even if, as the Pharisees would later observe on Good Friday, “anyone who makes himself a King becomes Caesar’s rival” (John 19:12). The Lord does not reciprocate the sentiments, because as the great American black writer James Weldon Johnson noted, “your arms are too short to box with God.” (Similar sentiments are to be found in Job 38 and Isaiah 45:9-12.)

    We know the general story. The Pharisees are looking for ways to get Jesus in trouble, either with the people (for whom Roman authority was odious) or the authorities (if he opposed their taxes). The translation being used this year has Jesus being asked whether it is lawful to pay the “census tax.”

    Now, apart from the fact that Israel chafed under Roman rule, symbolized by the Roman coin, Israel also had an allergy to censuses. That sensitivity is already to be found in the fourth book of the Bible — Numbers — and in the description of David’s attempt to conduct a census as a Satanic act “caus[ing] Israel to sin” (1 Chronicles 21: 1,3].

    The reason for that hostility was simple: God’s people were God’s people, whose number he well knew. Jesus noted, after all, that God not only counted them but the hairs on their heads as well (Luke 12:7). Human authorities who sought to count God’s people in some sense claimed authority over who and what belonged to God. In some sense, that headcount reduced them to things and ciphers. It reified them.

    When describing the census at the time of Jesus’ birth, the Polish writer Roman Brandstaetter put words of pious indignation on the lips of St. Joseph, as he wrestles with the moral quandary of Caesar Augustus’ enumeration: “[Israel] has become indignant with a great indignation which I share, because it is not allowed to count Israel like cattle grazed by shepherds on a meadow. Israel is not the property of the Emperor but of Elohim, to whom she belongs. He is her Lord and King, so let no one living dare to count the possessions of the Lord, for He who records God’s property enters into His mysteries and, like a thief, puts his hand out for them.”

    Continued below.
    God, Not Caesar, Endowed Us With the Right to Life
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