Catholics do recognize Ten Commandments
Published 2:35 am Wednesday, October 23, 2002
To the editor:
In articles recently printed in both The Tri-City Ledger and The Brewton Standard there was reference to the current case in federal court regarding the question of the possible/probable unconstitutionality of the placement in the rotunda of the state judicial building of a monument featuring an abbreviated list of the Ten Commandments.
The articles have apparently been interpreted by many people to infer Ms. Melinda Maddox, one of several attorneys, organizations and individuals attempting to have the monument removed, said or implied that she objects to the Ten Commandments because she is Catholic.
Just to set the record straight, that is not exactly what was said in her legal complaint; even though the few words quoted are, strictly speaking, technically accurate. In fact, Catholics, like all Christians I know, do most certainly recognize and accept the Ten Commandments as an important part of our Judeo-Christian scriptural heritage. Unfortunately, technical legalese, such as is required in most court documents, does not always result in clear and easy interpretation for most of us.
While there are certainly (sometimes very important) differences among the many various versions and translations of the Bible, there are no substantial distinctions between Catholic and Protestant renditions of the Ten Commandments; though the overwhelming majority of Christians normally reference a version other than the King James when quoting scripture.
More importantly, it seems to me, when asked: "How many commandments are there?" Christians should be most apt to respond: "Two." When Jesus was asked: "Which commandment in the law is the greatest?" (Mt. 22.36-40) He did not even mention the Decalogue, but rather, responded: "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments." Neither Jesus, most Jewish scholars of the day, nor the early Church considered the Decalogue to be the end-all and the be-all of morality, much less of civil law.
A full reading of the official complaint, which includes plaintiffs of other Christian denominations such as Southern Baptist, makes it clear that the real issue is whether the display of the Commandments suggests that "adherence to a particular faith is a prerequisite or advantage in obtaining justice in Alabama." If such is the case, it would clearly be a violation of the principles of religious freedom which Catholics, like most Christians, strongly endorse.
Rev. Adrian L. Cook