Sunday, October 19, 2008

Good Shepherds?? Silent Shepherds??

Colin Powell has just announced his endorsement of Barack Obama (

And to the discredit of the U.S. bishops as pastoral leaders, I hear far more wisdom--more pastoral wisdom--in Colin Powell's words about his reasons for endorsing Mr. Powell than I have yet to hear from the shepherds of the American Catholic flock.

I am scandalized. This election is turning out to be a referendum on the failed pastoral leadership of the U.S. Catholic bishops. And they are losing the referendum.

Colin Powell directly addresses the polarizing hatred of his party--"the" "pro-life" party bishops are still trying to bully us into electing. He addresses it while the U.S. Catholic bishops remain silent, or, if they speak at all, while they continue promoting "the" "pro-life" party without a word about its tactics of polarizing hatred at this critical juncture in the life of our nation.

Mr. Powell uses words and phrases like "inclusive," "reaching out," and "crossing racial and ethnic lines" to characterize Barack Obama. Catholic words; Catholic-value words; words the bishops are failing to speak as they instruct us about our political decisions and inform our consciences.

Mr. Powell calls Mr. Obama a "transformational figure," a representative of a "new generation coming onto he world stage and the American stage."

Some direct quotes from Mr. Powell's endorsement of Mr. Obama:
I think this [i.e., the drift towards polarizing hatred] goes too far . . . . It’s not what the American people are looking for. And I look at these kinds of approaches to the campaign and they trouble me. And the party has moved even further to the right, and Governor Palin has indicated a further rightward shift. . . .

I’m also troubled by not what Mr. McCain says, but by what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said. Such things as, “You know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.” . . .

Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion that he’s a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America. . . . .

We have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way . . . . I am troubled about the fact that within the party, we have these kinds of expressions.

And while this eminently wise pastoral response to the political choice facing Americans today comes from the lips of a secular leader, and while the pastoral leaders of the American church are silent when they are not telling us to side with the polarizing hatred, take a look at what continues to spew out of the mouths of the polarizers: These are supporters at a rally of "the" "pro-life" party that the U.S. biships continue to tell good Catholics us to support (

Listen to the shouts of hatred: "gay fairies," "communists,", "socialists," "go back to Africa," and the predictable "pro-life" capstone, "Baby killers!"

I am sick of the hate, frankly. I am sick of the silence of the bishops.

At the time of Hurricane Katrina, I had a fantasy about the bishops. I wanted, oh so strongly, to have the magic power to put them all into a room with texts of all their fervent pro-life speeches on behalf of the party they drove us to elect last go-round. I wanted them to re-read those texts.

Then I wanted to force them to sit and watch the footage of real life human beings in New Orleans, when the pro-life leaders we were told to elect did absolutely nothing to aid those human beings as a devastating hurricane arrived. No food. No water. No shelter. No medicine for people dying in hospitals. No nutrition or hydration even for medical personnel working in sub-human conditions, 100+ degrees, to attend to the dying. No burial for corpses on the street.

Poor faces. Black faces. People with no way to escape the destruction of the city, as the hurricane approached.

I am sick. I am sick of being told by the leaders of my church that their primary interest for lo these many years now has been to assure that we elect people who respect life.

And now, when the abysmal record of the "pro-life" leaders we were told to elect is so stunningly apparent, and when the slogan "baby killer" comes out of the same mouths shouting "gay fairies," "go back to Africa!" "kill him!" and "off with his head," all the shepherds of the church have to offer is silence, or threats of eternal damnation if we fail to vote "right"?

Shameful. Scandalous. I do agree with Bishop Robert Herman of St. Louis when he says, in the Clerical Whispers article to which I link above, that we must remember Judgment Day as we go to the polls.

I will definitely be thinking of Judgment Day as I vote. But I suspect I won't be voting for the same candidate that Bishop Herman will be voting for. And as a member of the flock, I have to ask him respectfully (and Archbishop Chaput, and Cardinal George) if they will also be thinking of Judgment Day as they vote--and of Katrina, and the people in Iraq, and the countless Americans that have no healthcare after years of pro-life leaders?

Judgment Day comes for all of us, after all.