Thursday, October 16, 2008

Prowling Wolves and the Shameful Silence of the Shepherds

And the violent hate rhetoric continues pouring out: reports breaking now that Alfred S. Austin, a top Tampa GOP figure who has served as finance chair for both the Florida and the national Republican party, recently circulated an email “joke” calling for the assassination of Barack Obama (see William March, “Top Tampa GOP Figure Circulates Joke about Killing Obama,”

In the same few days, the GOP website of Sacramento, California, has published graphics calling for Obama to be waterboarded (see Joe Garofoli, “GOP Website Post Harsh Images of Obama”

Once again: these are novel developments in American political life. Our political life has always had an underbelly of hate, but that hate has been confined to a demi-monde status. It has not been out in the open and in the mainstream.

What is new in this election is the deliberate mainstreaming of hate—and violence—on the part of GOP leaders. Alfred S. Austin is a state and national leader of the Republican party. The calls to waterboard Obama were on the official Republican website of Sacramento.

As this profoundly disturbing and momentous turn occurs in American culture and politics, Where are our pro-life religious leaders?

Where are the U.S. Catholic bishops? The ones who have promoted the discourse of life, who have warned us repeatedly of the consequences of a culture of death. The ones who have told us to vote exclusively on the basis of a party’s pro-life record.

Why are the bishops silent? How long will the bishops remain silent?

Calls for killing, beheading, waterboarding a candidate, “jokes” about assassinating a candidate—hate rhetoric elicited and spread by a party’s top leaders—are serious pro-life matters. They have the potential to create real violence. In the starkest way possible, they undercut the pro-life claims of leaders may bishops are telling Catholics they must elect.
Silence is not an option. The violent hate rhetoric is spewing out of the mouths of the very pro-life candidates and pro-life voters the bishops have energized with their pro-life pastoral strategy. The “baby killer” slogan now finds common cause with racist, homophobic, and downright violent hate rhetoric at the campaign rallies of major political candidates: see Casey Kauffman, “Obama’s Fiercest Opponents in Ohio: Misinformation and Prejudice”

When will the U.S. Catholic bishops speak out to condemn the alarming turn of our political process to anti-life violence that is fueled by pro-life claims?