Saturday, September 29, 2012

Catholics and Politics: Intra-Catholic Discussions Enter Public Square in 2012 Elections

One of the interesting side-effects of the overt politicking of the U.S. Catholic bishops of late is that the bishops are succeeding in pushing conversations previously held entre nous, within the confines of the Catholic sanctuary, right out into the public square.  Where God and everyone's aunt can see the serious fault lines running right through the center of American Catholicism.

Insofar as the bishops insist on making the practice of Catholic faith a political matter, what Catholics think, believe, and do in the sanctuary space will now necessarily grab public attention, since who would not be concerned to understand what Catholics are thinking when the Catholic institution wields such enormous political influence?  Who that cares about the health of the body politic and the common good would willingly ignore the influence of Catholic ideas on public debates, especially when the bishops trample down the wall separating church and state and seek to dictate to society as a whole when it comes to matters like contraception and healthcare coverage or the civil right to marry?

And so we find Abby Zimet reporting at the Common Dreams site today--a site that isn't church-affiliated in the least--on the crude, heavy-handed attempt of Bishop Thomas John Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, to bludgeon Catholic voters into voting GOP by arguing that the Democrats promote "intrinsic evils."  While the Republicans, you understand, don't do so (!!!!!!).  

Zimet also mentions the recent "pastoral" letter of Archbishop John Myers of Newark, New Jersey, informing Catholics who support marriage equality that they're not welcome at the Lord's table.  As she notes, James Salt of Catholics United has responded to that atrociously unpastoral statement by noting,

We live in a time when Catholics are walking away from the faith in record numbers. Archbishop Myers’ tone-deaf pastoral letter might explain why.

As she also notes, Myers's letter comes on the heels of Cordileone's recent statement that gays involved in intimate relationships must not receive communion--though 90%+ of married U.S. Catholics use contraceptives at one point or another in their marriages and never hear a peep about being shoved from the Lord's table due to their infringement of the very same moral norms that gay Catholics are said to infringe by engaging in sexually intimate acts.  And as Zimet also points out, what Cordileone and Myers are saying comes as bishops in both Minnesota and Washington state are working hot and heavy to impose their will on the voting public in the area of marriage equality.

So, yes, James Salt: it's clear to many of us who are looking at the data precisely why many American Catholics are walking away from their faith in record numbers.  And you're to be commended for pointing out the connection between the bishops' overt partisan politicking and their ugly, unChristian treatment of their gay brothers and their sisters and this mass exodus.

Perhaps more Catholics would find it possible to stay if religious women--the faithful nuns who are now under attack by the very same shepherds of the church issuing statements like the preceding ones--had more of a voice in defining what it means to be a faithful Catholic in the world today.  This is certainly a conclusion one's tempted to draw after reading Frida Berrigan on Sister Simone Campbell and other nun-activists in the same issue of Common Dreams.

Meanwhile, here's something that puzzles me tremendously.  Also at Common Dreams today, Linda McQuaig, a Canadian journalist, points out that at the very heart of neo-conservative political ideology--the ideology Mitt Romney was defending with his slighting comments about the 47%--are economic greed and economic exploitation.  Exploitation of the least among us to keep enriching the already rich.

McQuaig writes,

Once upon a time, “conservative” could be used to describe people — Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower, Robert Stanfield, Joe Clark — who had a vision of society in which a privileged elite dominated but also had a responsibility to less fortunate citizens and to the broader “public good.” 
But about 30 years ago, a new breed of “conservative” slithered onto the political scene. Stealing the moniker of conservatism, this new breed embraced the inequality of traditional conservatism (driving it skyward) while unburdening itself of the responsibility for others and the public good. 
This new breed has proved itself to be self-centered, greedy and indifferent to the public good.

As McQuaig notes, in his off-the-cuff remarks to a group of wealthy donors in Florida, Romney wasn't breaking new ground: he was vocalizing what's at the heart of neo-conservative thinking and has long been at the heart of this ideology.  He was telling an open secret.

And if that point is so obvious to so many people of good will, why does it continue not to be obvious to Catholics who keep right on trying to promote the failed trickle-down economic theories that are right at the center of this philosophy of self-centered greed and indifference to the public good?   What is it about some of us American Catholics that makes us so oblivious, so blind, to what's obvious to many other people of good will--that it's impossible to reconcile an ideology of naked greed with Catholic teaching about the common good?

That there's something intrinsically evil about this philosophy that should make Catholics perk up their ears when they hear any political group promoting it . . . .

About Archbishop Myers's "pastoral" statement: if you want to make your voice heard, Faithful America now has a petition online to let Myers know that for many Catholics, his desire to punish and shove people who disagree with him away from the Lord's table is deeply repugnant.  Since the petition appeared online yesterday, it has already exceeded its goal of 15,000 signatures.

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