Civil Disobedience from civil servants.

Okay, so I’m an orthodox Catholic, which means I adhere intellectually to the church’s teaching on divorce.  This means that if you were a validly married Catholic who sought a civil divorce and remarried civilly, I think you’re a bigamist.  I don’t think you’re a bad person.  I probably like you.  But I still think you’re a bigamist.

And if I were a county clerk and you walked into my office looking for your theologically bigamisty marriage certificate, I would issue it to you, because my job is to follow protocol and issue marriage certificates to anyone who qualifies for them in the eyes of the state.  You’re asking for a civil service and I, as a civil servant (St. Thomas More, ora pro nobis), am going to do my job.

Because if I was uncomfortable with doing my job, I could resign from it.  Would it be uncomfortable? Sure. Would it be financially burdensome to find a new job?  Sure.  But if I didn’t resign the job out of financial considerations, is it really an exercise in religious freedom?

On the other hand, if I’m a priest and you want me to preside at your bigamist wedding, I’m certainly not going to do it, because you’re asking for a religious service, not a civil one.

In fact, if I was a doctor at a hospital, and the law required me to euthanize you, I would not do that.  And I would probably be willing to go pretty far in defending my right not to do so but to still practice medicine.

The difference is this: euthanasia is a physical harm, bigamy is a spiritual one.  I, humbly, cannot see the spiritual connection between two marriage seekers and their (our?) God.  I must leave it up to him to sort out the details of your spiritual relationships.  Should I advocate for bigamy? No.  Should I vote for it? No.  But if society requires me to allow you to do spiritual harm to yourself (even to facilitate it indirectly), I render unto Caesar.  Marriage is a civil institution as well as a religious one, and if Caesar says you can get married, I’ll issue the license.  If I feel uncomfortable indirectly facilitating sin, I resign my position.  (the same way that I quit working at for-profit universities because I felt like they were a scam; or I imagine, some bar-tenders quit their jobs after serving the local drunk driver one too many times).

But if Caesar requires me to physically harm you as a routine duty, I think I’m within my rights of conscience to refuse.  Luckily, I’m an American, and we have traditionally given wide berth to pacifist sensibilities.  Pacifist soldiers should be allowed to work in non-combat positions, just as doctors should be allowed to not perform abortions or euthanize but still keep their jobs.

If you’re a pizza place that doesn’t want to cater gay weddings, go right ahead.  I don’t care.  Private businesses should be private, with a minisculum of government oversight into how they run. But if you work for Caesar and refuse to follow a non-violent order?

Either resign or carry out Caesar’s wishes.  Actively seeking lions and jumping into their mouths isn’t martyrdom. It’s vanity.

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