Tuesday, November 6, 2012

National Catholic Reporter Editorials on Catholic Winners, Catholic Losers in U.S. Elections

Two valuable editorial statements from National Catholic Reporter as election day arrives in the U.S.: the first maintains that three groups of Catholics are the "winners" in today's elections, regardless of the outcome of specific elections.  These are the nuns on the bus, LGBT Catholics, and Latinos.  

Re: the nuns (who are under attack by the men running the church and by their rich right-wing handlers):  

The nuns on the buses helped Catholics reclaim our sense of social justice and the full breadth of our social teaching. Win or lose at the ballot box, we at least could vote knowing our issues have been aired.

Re: LGBT Catholics:

This year, LGBT Catholics have also claimed -- maybe "earned" is the better word -- new respect within the church. To listen to our most public leaders, this may be hard to see, but in the pews across America, it is not. Whether it is citizens signing their names to newspaper ads or brave priests risking censure from their bishops, Catholics are telling our homosexual brothers and sisters that we are glad they stand in the assembly among us. We are family. Like civil laws, it will take time for church structures to formally acknowledge this, but we believe that this year will prove an important step toward achieving equality in the Catholic church. 

Re: Latinos:

This is another community that may have re-elected a president. Win or lose, Republican strategists have learned they cannot take this community for granted, which gives some hope for immigration reform in the next four years. Catholic Latinos, because they represent such a large demographic within the church, helped Catholic leadership formulate a consistent, humane policy stance on immigration. Latinos are the future of U.S. society and the church, and that future will demand that we embrace economic, racial and cultural diversity. 

The second noteworthy editorial statement NCR has made as election day arrives argues that the extreme voices of bishops who overtly politicized the Catholic church this election cycle are doing very serious harm to the American Catholic church:

The bishops are so beholden to the huge sums of money dumped on them by the Knights of Columbus (see story) that they can't imagine pushing back against the political agenda of an organization led by a longtime, high-level Republican operative. And who will raise a voice asking for some prudence when the likes of Bishop Thomas Paprocki threatens "the eternal salvation" of a person's soul over a decision to vote for a given candidate who may not conform to all of the church's positions? Bishop David Ricken is another who has neatly carved out the nonnegotiables of political decision-making along thinly disguised partisan lines with a similar threat that a vote for the wrong candidate could "put your soul in jeopardy." 
What will it take to make them aware that they are preaching to a small choir already convinced of their narrow and partisan view of politics while further alienating the rest?


The bishops have become adjuncts to and enablers of those who politically benefit from the grinding polarities surrounding the abortion issue. They have been complicit in narrowing "life issues" politics to a single approach to a single issue. Experience should inform them by this point that their efforts are largely wasted. Election cycle after election cycle they've had their pockets picked of political capital only to arrive home empty-handed. 

The NCR editors are absolutely correct in these observations, it seems to me.  It's going to take a lot of healing to staunch the wounds the bishops have inflicted on the American Catholic church during this election cycle, especially in places like Minnesota, where, in all likelihood, they will have goaded the citizens of the state into inscribing ugly prejudice in the state constitution.

The problem with healing those wounds is that many of the wounded will simply have walked away from the Catholic church in disgust after the damage the bishops have done.  And perhaps, God help us, this is precisely the outcome that the "shepherds" of the flock are counting on.

P.S. (later in the day): as Jerry Slevin notes in a comment in the thread below, he has made very important statements in response to the two NCR editorials I discuss above, and I encourage readers of this posting to look for these statements.  The first notes that if there are Catholic "winners" in today's elections, there are also Catholic losers--notably, Catholic women, whose interests and needs have been not only totally ignored but even trampled on by the bishops in this election cycle.  The second continues Jerry's valuable argument about why Pope Benedict appears to be encouraging the partisanship of the U.S. bishops: everything has to do with the abuse crisis in the Catholic church.

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