Monday, November 21, 2011

James Carroll on USCCB Pro-Republican Political Game-Playing: Lose-Lose for Democrats and for Catholics

James Carroll finds the U.S. Catholic bishops' blatant anti-Obama politicking bad news for the Democrats, for Obama--but, above all, for American Catholics, many of whom are intensely pained to see our bishops fracturing the pillars of the common good on which a healthy society is built and around which our church's social teaching is constructed: 

It is no surprise that today’s Catholic bishops are lining up with Republican aspirants for the White House. After all, these bishops were vociferous in objecting to President Obama’s being honored at the University of Notre Dame in 2009; they worked against Obama’s signature health care reform in 2010 (and might have succeeded if the Catholic Health Association’s endorsement had not given swing-vote Catholic lawmakers cover to support the bill). In September, key bishops denounced federal regulations about the provision of contraception as “a radically new and unprecedented attack on religious freedom.’’ This month, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the conference president, warned the Obama administration that its refusal to stand behind the Defense of Marriage Act would “precipitate a national conflict between church and state of enormous proportions.’’

Carroll's reading of what the bishops are doing is, of course, pace Michael Sean Winters at National Catholic Reporter, who persists in reading the bishops' politicking as all about making nice to the Democrats--while demanding that the Democrats respect the religious freedom of "us Catholics" to deny contraceptive coverage to employees in our institutions, whether those employees are Catholic or not, and whether they believe that use of contraceptives is morally permissible, regardless of their religious outlook.

As I said a few days ago, this is a largely symbolic battle, a manufactured political battle, and those who have lined up with the bishops to carry water for them in this battle (as Winters has done) are spurred on by a desire to gain a symbolic victory that will, they think, demonstrate their continued ability to make the Democratic party dance to their "faith-based" tune.  This will prove to the world, you see, but, above all, to the beltway movers and shakers who count more than anyone else to these "centrist" faith-based Catholic media mavens, that the bishops (and they themselves, as media mavens) still have clout.

Even when they don't represent what the adherents of their own faith community think, believe, or do.

The graphic shows President George W. Bush attending the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in 2005, where he shared the stage with dignitaries including the new archbishop of Philadelphia, Mr. Chaput.

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