Saturday, May 19, 2012

Droppings from the Catholic Birdcage: How Should Charlotte Catholics React to Democrats in Our Midst?

This is from an interview with Charlotte, North Carolina, bishop Peter Jugis in the local Catholic newspaper, the Catholic News Herald.  I ran across the interview in the past week or so as I read about the shameful involvement of Jugis and his brother bishop Michael Burbidge in the recent political drive to enshrine anti-gay discrimination in the North Carolina constitution, and about the response this involvement was eliciting within the Catholic community these bishops lead. 

As a North Carolina resident and Catholic AileenUSA reports in this recent National Catholic Reporter thread, the "unholy jihad" of the two gentlemen bishops of North Carolina has divided the Catholic community in the state and created anger among many Catholics who do not wish to be associated with toxic prejudice and who are outraged that diocesan funds have been used to that end.  As she notes, the bishops could not even convince the citizens of the two cities that are their seats, Charlotte and Raleigh, to vote for amendment one.  Similar reports about the serious damage done to the local church by similar actions of Catholic leaders came from Maine in the wake of its heavily Catholic-supported drive to repeal the right of civil marriage for gay citizens several years ago--and are also now coming from Minnesota, where there are reports of many Catholics walking away from the Catholic church as that state's bishops promote an amendment similar to amendment one in North Carolina.

In the interview to which I link above, Patricia Guilfoyle, editor of the Charlotte Catholic News Herald, asks Bishop Jugis the following: 

Another significant event in 2012 will be the Democratic Party's national convention in Charlotte. How should Catholics react to the likely presence of a large number of pro-abortion people in Charlotte during the convention?

And then Jugis replies.  But it's the question itself on which I'd like to focus here.  Some political-religious commentary is simply so stupid that it's hardly worth the effort to comment about it and try to unpack its "sense" (or lack thereof).  But at the risk of finding myself enmeshed in stupidity, I'm going to try to descend into the the depths of doltishness from which this question proceeds and make a few observations:

1. First, pro-abortion?  Really?  That's what most of the supporters of the Democratic party are: they're  pro-abortion?  They actively promote abortions and want people to have abortions? 
2. Or is the reality, instead, that many Democrats call themselves pro-choice, which isn't at all an endorsement of abortion or an encouragement of people to have abortions?  But which represents an entirely different and far more nuanced moral stance than "pro-abortion"? 
3. And so Charlotte, North Carolina, is normally God's chosen city on earth?  Really?  Who knew?  It's only when the Democrats descend on the holy city that Catholics need to be perturbed about unholy barbarians breaching the gates? 
4. There are no barbarians in Charlotte already?  And none of them attend Catholic churches?  Really? 
5. There are no "pro-abortion" folks already in Charlotte?  They only get there when the Democrats come to town?  Really? 
6. And it's really this way: the Catholics vs. the Democrats?  The Catholics vs. the godless pro-abortion Democrats? 
7. It's really this way: the Catholics = the Republicans?  And the Republicans = the godly? 
8. Catholics shouldn't worry about the presence of Republicans in their holy cities?  There's nothing at all about Republicans that should ring warning bells for Catholics with Catholic values?  Militarism, defense of the rich who exploit the poor, attacks on rights of minorities: these don't matter to Catholics?  It's all about abortion?  There's not a single other moral issue on whose basis Catholics ought to cast votes?  Voting for "pro-life" candidates who in every possible way betray the values of life might not be an unholy and downright stupid thing to do?
9. And it's really this way: Catholics = holy = Republicans = holy?  So that one political party is anointed as the holy political party by real Catholics, and the kingdom of God has come into history through that single political party and its leaders?  With its defense of the super-rich, its attacks on the rights of minorities, its overt militarism? 
10. It seems to me that history illustrates that it's always extremely dangerous to equate ourselves and the ideologies to which we lean with God and God's ways in the world.  It's extremely dangerous to make that equation in the unthinking way in which Ms. Guilfoyle (and Bishop Jugis, to whom she's clearly playing here) do in this interview.  To anoint one political movement and its political leaders as God's chosen instrument in the world.  To imagine that we stand with the holy and righteous.  That our city and our culture are Zion, insofar as they buy into our chosen political ideology.  And that we ourselves are not capable of extreme stupidity and cruelty insofar as we don't question ourselves, our motives, our ideologies, because we've created a black-white picture of reality in which we and ours are with God, and they and theirs are headed to hell.

This schema is altogether too easy.  Too morally lazy.  Too self-serving.  And far too stupid.  And it should be beneath the dignity of educated gentlemen like Bishop Jugis to play these stupid, easy, self-aggrandizing political games that do not further the cause of God's kingdom in the world, but that have precisely the opposite effect--dividing the flock of Christ into sheep and goats along political lines, forcing "real" Catholics to be instruments of malice and division in the world along political party lines, etc.

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