Thursday, March 25, 2010

Anthea Butler on the Self-Chosen Irrelevancy of the U.S. Catholic Bishops

 My last posting yesterday suggested that the U.S. Catholic bishops have become—through their alliance with the rabid religious and political right—enablers of the violence that has roiled American political life from the last election cycle up to the present.  Verbal violence and threats of overt violence are peaking again following the passing of the health care bill.

And the bishops remain silent.

And they have no choice to be anything but silent in the face of the crescendo of ugly threats and dangerous words, given their unholy alliance with the religious and political groups fomenting violence.

Anthea Butler makes a similar point a day ago at Religion Dispatches.   As she notes, the bishops have chosen to stake their opposition to health care reform on a lie—on the lie of the viciously anti-Catholic Family Research Council that the new health care program will fund abortions.

And by staking their political future (not to mention, their credibility) on that lie, the bishops have consolidated their alliance with political and religious groups now shouting racial and homophobic slurs at Congressional members—as well as with groups who do not respect Catholic positions on issues of life or anything else, for that matter.

Butler notes, 

It isn’t surprising that they chose to take a lie to support what they believe is an ultimate truth about abortion. What is amazing is that they have decided to follow someone else’s battle strategy to remain relevant to a constituency that is not their own. Think about this for a minute... they are hitching their fortunes up to the Tea Partiers whose ranks spit at and yelled the N-world at John Lewis. They are hitching their futures to the Family Research Council, whose membership most likely think that the Vatican and its followers are one step away from the Antichrist, and certainly aren’t Christians.

As Butler points out, this alliance is going to make it exceedingly difficult for the bishops to be effective spokespersons for immigration reform, given that their allies are solidly opposed to such reform—as they are to health care reform. 

The bishops appear intent on painting themselves into a corner of utter irrelevance in political debates at this point in American history.  While a majority of Catholic laypersons, whose wisdom could richly inform the bishops’ thinking about political issues, as well as the official Catholic stance to many issues, go unheard, rebuffed, told to listen and not speak, when it comes to finding Catholic truth at this point in history.