Thursday, April 30, 2009

An Open Letter to Virginia Foxx: Please Apologize for Denigrating Our Shared Faith

To build on what I posted yesterday about North Carolina Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (here): as my posting notes, on the House floor, with Matthew Shepard’s mother sitting across from her, this Catholic mother and grandmother stated that the claim that Matthew Shepard was murdered because he was gay is a hoax.

I wonder if Congresswoman Foxx has forgotten the circumstances of Matthew Shepard’s murder, how he was brutally pistol whipped, his facial bones cracked and his skull crushed, and then left to die hanging on a fence in the Wyoming countryside. It strikes me as strange that a woman serving in the United States Congress would not have read the abundant clear statements—including the testimony of Matthew Shepard’s murderers!—proving that Matthew Shepard was murdered in this atrocious way because he was gay.

I wonder, as well, how any mother and grandmother can be so conspicuously cruel in the face of the murder of someone else’s children—let alone a Catholic mother and grandmother who claims to value human life from the cradle to the grave.

For her statement on the House floor yesterday, Keith Olbermann awarded Virginia Foxx his Worst Person in the World award yesterday (here). An excerpt from his remarks:

There is no excuse for Congresswoman Foxx’s remarks. She is at best callous, insensitive, criminally misinformed. At worst she is a bald-faced liar, and if there is a spark of a human being in there somewhere, she should either immediately retract and apologize for her stupid and hurtful words, or she should resign her seat in the House. She is not worthy to represent this country nor any of its parties nor any of its peoples. She is our shame. And adding to our shame, she said all that as Matthew Shepard’s mother sat in the House gallery.

Is it fair to point to Virginia Foxx’s religious beliefs in a critique of her statement about Matthew Shepard’s murder? I think so.

Foxx herself has made a great deal of her Catholicism as the basis for her political viewpoints (though, in her heavily Baptist district of wester North Carolina, she has the reputation of being Baptist in North Carolina and Catholic in D.C.). Websites like One Nation Under God ("Proudly Bringing Faith Into the Public Square") tout Foxx’s Catholic identity and Catholic stands (here).

And Foxx has taken it on herself to lambast another Catholic member of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for (as Foxx believes) betraying authentic Catholic values. Last August, Foxx was one of several Catholic members of Congress who sent Nancy Pelosi a letter (here and here) stating,

On the Sunday, August 24th, broadcast of NBC’s Meet the Press, you stated “as an ardent, practicing Catholic, [abortion] is an issue that I have studied for a long time.” As fellow Catholics and legislators, we wish you would have made a more honest effort to lay out the authentic position of the Church on this core moral issue before attempting to address it with authority.

Foxx et al. upbraid Speaker Pelosi for “mangling” Catholic doctrine, and announce that they are compelled to refute Pelosi’s “error.” They note Catholic teaching that all human life is sacred from cradle to grave:

In the interview, Tom Brokaw reminded you that the Church professes the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. As stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being” (2274).

Foxx informs Speaker Pelosi that her “erroneous claim” about Catholic teaching on abortion “denigrates our common Faith.” She and her cohorts call on Speaker Pelosi to address the scandal they believed her to have caused, to correct her errors, and to apologize for misrepresenting church teaching and misleading fellow Catholics:

To reduce the scandal and consternation caused amongst the faithful by your remarks, we necessarily write you to correct the public record and affirm the Church’s actual and historical teaching that defends the sanctity of human life. We hope that you will rectify your errant claims and apologize for misrepresenting the Church’s doctrine and misleading fellow Catholics.

And since Virginia Foxx appears to think it important that Catholics correct other Catholics who misrepresent Catholic teaching and values in the public square, I’d like to apply the preceding observations to Foxx herself in the following open letter to Congresswoman Virginia Foxx:

Ms. Foxx: you are absolutely correct when you note that Catholic teaching emphasizes the sanctity of human lifeall human life—from conception to death. This means, of course, that the Matthew Shepards of the world have sacred worth: those children and grandchildren of someone else, about whose murder you can speak so callously, have sacred value. They are of inestimable worth in the eyes of God.

As with any murder, their murders cry out to God, who calls on us to build a world in which the sacred worth of every individual can be respected. In either lying about or unintentionally distorting what happened with the murder of this child of God, you have caused me and other Catholics “scandal and consternation.”

Will you please now “correct the public record” and “affirm the Church’s actual and historical teaching” about the sacred worth of every human being—yes, including
gay and lesbian human beings? Will you also please “apologize for misrepresenting the Church’s doctrine and misleading fellow Catholics” in what you said on the House floor yesterday?

Please do not claim to have been misinterpreted or to have misstated your point. You have represented yourself as an exemplar of Catholic values and Catholic truth.
What you said yesterday on the House floor “denigrates our common faith.” I am asking you specifically to address your betrayal of authentic Catholic teaching about the sanctity of all human life, in your remarks about Matthew Shepard’s murder.

Thank you for listening to my appeal to you as a fellow Catholic interested in what Catholics have to contribute to the public square. I feel sure that your financial backers with business connections—e.g., representatives of Anheuser-Busch brewing company (
here)—some of whom are also fellow Catholics, will be happy to have you correct your misrepresentation of Catholic teaching and apologize for the scandal and confusion your remarks have caused.