Monday, February 13, 2012

Grant Gallicho at Commonweal and the Writing on the Wall, Post-Obama Compromise

And, though I know I risk looking like the disaffected crank I may well be as I continue to blog about the response of centrist Catholics who signed on as the bishops' co-belligerents in the war against the Obama administration, and who now have to deal with the bishops' response to Obama's compromise:

I'm very interested in what Grant Gallicho writes at Commonweal about Catholic centrists' well-nigh unanimous defense of the "religious freedom" of the U.S. Catholic bishops v. the Obama administration: 

First, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops complained that the religious exemption in the original mandate was far too narrow. They pointed out that Catholic institutions — animated by religious belief — that provided service in the areas of health care, education, and charitable work would be made to purchase health coverage that included services inimical to Catholic teaching. In other words, the bishops argued that their religious freedom was being infringed upon. And I agreed.  Commonweal agreed. America agreed. The National Catholic Reporter agreed. E. J. Dionne. Mark Shields. Amy Sullivan. The Washington Post. The Economist. We all agreed that the Obama administration had overreached and needed to walk back the policy. 
But then we started hearing other noises from the USCCB prolife office. The Hawaii arrangement? Phooey. It would force us to refer for immoral services. Then we heard bells. Taco bells, specifically, when USCCB Associate General Secretary Anthony Picarello floated the theory that the even if a Hawaii-like compromise was reached, the bishops still wouldn’t be satisfied because good Catholic employers, say, ones who owned Taco Bells, who didn’t want to provide contraception coverage — wherever they are — would not be exempt. That’s when some of us started to see the writing on the wall.

And that’s when some of us started to see the writing on the wall.  And that's the sentence that baffles me: it took the bishops' cantankerous post-compromise suggestion that what they've been defending all along is the right of any individual who has conscientious faith-based objections to laws prohibiting discrimination to get their centrist co-belligerents to begin seeing the writing on the wall?


All the leading Catholic centrists and beltway pundits who couldn't wait to get on the bishops' religious-freedom bandwagon in recent weeks never saw until after the fact that the real goal of the bishops has been all along to fight for a non-existent "right" of individuals to refuse to adhere to nondiscrimination laws that bind everyone else in American society?  And to assert this "right" when the consciences of  individuals demand that they have a "right" to discriminate in violation of laws that apply to everyone else?

The leading Catholic centrists who couldn't jump fast enough in recent weeks to do the bishops' bidding  (and to continue assisting the bishops in marginalizing their progressive brothers and sisters) didn't see that the bishops never intended to engage in any kind of reasonable discussion with fellow Catholics or the American public about the issues at hand, but have committed themselves to a scorched-earth, deeply cynical partisan attempt to  destroy a Democratic president because they want a Republican, who they imagine will be more pliable, in the White House?

The leading Catholic centrists who couldn't do enough to help the bishops spread their false religious-freedom meme and to wage their made-up war over made-up non-issues couldn't see that all kinds of voices that must count in these conversations--notably, when women's health care is at stake, the voices of women--were totally marginalized in the conversation?  Ignored.  Catholic centrists couldn't see that the conversation has been dominated almost exclusively by male talking heads?

That the Catholic conversation in general has typically been dominated by male talking heads at all the centrist websites and in all the centrist publications.  That the kind of Catholicism these centrist websites and centrist publications have worked hard for some time now to create is highly exclusive, elitist, gender-skewed, dismissive of the viewpoints and voices of progressive Catholics and of ordinary Catholics throughout the nation who don't happen to live and work within the elite cultural enclaves within which those running the centrist journals live.

If it takes this long to see writing on the wall that many others have long since seen, I wonder what this says about centrist Catholics.  And their blindness.

Start that conversation, and pursue it with any honesty, and the American Catholic church might rediscover its soul, and might begin to revive itself.  But to assure the effectiveness of that conversation, you'd have to invite the chatty wallpaper to come into the conversation circle as something other than talking wallpaper.  You'd have to agree that wallpaper though it be, it has a right to exist, a human soul and a Catholic identity.  And perhaps something rather interesting to say precisely because wallpaper often sees and hears quite a bit as it hangs around in silence while everyone in the room treats it as though it's not there.

And I just discover, as I upload this posting, that the image of the wallpaper elephant in the living room, versions of which I've used several times on this blog, is from an exhibit (?) of British artist Banksy in Los Angeles in 2006.  My apologies to this artist (and to readers) for not having discovered this information before and not having given credit to Banksy for the image until now.

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