Monday, December 26, 2011

In the News: The Kiss, the Newt, and Stinky Right-Wing Bedfellows of U.S. Catholic Bishops

Tidbits of news from the past several days--items that caught my eye:

1. Truthdig gives its Truthdigger of the Week designation to Marissa Gaeta and Citlalic Snell, whose reunion kiss last week has become an iconic depiction of the post-DADT world in which we're now living.  The political and religious right in the U.S. predicted that the skies would fall if openly gay soldiers were permitted to serve in the American military.  Chasms would open and entire cities fall through them.  Birds would drop from the skies.

And none of this has happened.  The world goes on.  And two people in love are permitted to do what other people in love have long been permitted to do: to kiss in public after a separation.  (Except we who live in Arkansas didn't have easy access to this news: our statewide newspaper protected our delicate eyes from the offensive picture of the kiss, so that we had to see it in other media outlets catering to the less delicate.)

2. Discussion of the Newt and the Catholic vote continues: Stewart J. Lawrence thinks that the Catholic vote, which constitutes something over a quarter of all votes in the U.S., could prove decisive as a swing vote in the coming elections.  He also thinks Gingrich is aware of this and he and his Catholic handlers, including Vince Haley and Deal Hudson, are actively marketing him to fellow Catholics.  

But there's a catch.  Gingrich wants to cozy up to the Catholic hierarchy and accentuate his links to the gentlemen in miters.  But American Catholics are, to say the least, disenchanted with said mitered gentlemen, and cozying up to them might not be the way to win Catholic hearts and influence Catholic votes.  And overplaying the Catholic hand may also not work well for what is now the solid base of the GOP--white Southern evangelicals.  And so the Newt will have to tread carefully through the various mines littered along the "Catholic" path to the Republican nomination.

3. And then there's this: what connects the U.S. Catholic bishops, opposition to contraception, right-wing politics (and extremely rich right-wing funding groups), conservative evangelical organizations, and orchestrated attacks on the Obama administration?  Follow this story, and you'll find a fascinating trail of dots connecting to each other in precisely the way I've just described:

Last week, conservative evangelical Colorado Christian University joined right-wing Catholic college Belmont Abbey in its lawsuit against the federal government regarding the provisions of the new healthcare legislation requiring health insurance plans to provide access to contraceptives.  Colorado Christian University, which happens to have given one Sarah Palin a venue to do her pre-presidential campaign politicking in the past year . . . .

Belmont Abbey and Colorado Christian are being represented in their legal action against the Obama administration by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.  Which was founded by Kevin "Seamus" Hasson, who defended Catholic University when it fired Father Charles Curran, the eminent moral theologian, for voicing opposition to papal teaching about birth control . . . .  And so many academic and political observers have long wondered how the Becket Fund can, with a straight face, tout itself as an organization set up to defend religious liberty, when the religious liberty of an acclaimed Catholic moral theologian to speak his professionally informed mind about church teaching was squelched by the Catholic hierarchy, with the Becket Fund defending said squelching . . . . 

And, curiously, as the religious freedom of American Muslims has been under attack by American right-wing groups, the Becket Fund has seemed strangely unwilling to enter the fray and defend the religious freedom of Islamic Americans.  In fact, its founder Mr. Hasson has more or less prefigured former USCCB president Cardinal George's recent attack on the gay community as akin to the Klan by observing in 2008 that the gays are like Al Quaeda in their terrorist attack on American values.

And where does the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty get its money?  Its major funder is the Bradley Foundation of Wisconsin, a foundation whose charter members included people with strong ties to the John Birch Society and the Koch brothers--yes, the same Koch brothers who have been funneling huge amounts of money into tea-party attacks on the Obama administration for several years now.   Here's how Source Watch describes the overall objective of the Bradley Foundation: 

The overall objective of the Bradley Foundation, however, is to return the U.S. -- and the world -- to the days before governments began to regulate Big Business, before corporations were forced to make concessions to an organized labor force. In other words, laissez-faire capitalism: capitalism with the gloves off.

And, to this end, the Bradley Foundation gives an ever-increasing proportion of its donations to initiatives designed directly to influence public policy in a right-wing direction.  In fact, the current CEO of the Bradley Foundation Michael Grebe doesn't mind telling the public outright, "We're part of the right-wing movement." 

So an organization whose current CEO says that the organization is part of the right-wing movement is the primary funder of a legal group defending "religious freedom," which in its very foundation was involved in the attempt to suppress dissent from magisterial teaching about birth control.  And that legal group is defending a right-wing Catholic college whose lawsuit against healthcare guidelines implemented by the Obama administration is also now being joined by a right-wing evangelical university with strong political ties to the Republican party.

And the underlying objective of the right-wing group providing funding for these anti-Obama administration legal initiatives is all about protecting the "right" of big business to engage in laissez-faire economic practices that are ostensibly condemned by the Catholic magisterium.

All of which leaves me with the following questions: do the U.S. Catholic bishops really expect us to listen when they preach about economic justice, while their actions ostensibly designed to "protect" Catholic magisterial teaching about birth control put them in bed with unsavory right-wing groups working as hard as possible to undermine the social teachings of the Catholic church?

And do centrist Catholic intellectual journals like Commonweal really expect us to take them seriously when they say that they stand for the social principles of Catholic teaching, but they are in bed with the same unsavory folks in their opposition to the new federal guidelines about contraceptive coverage?

I think these questions are well worth asking.

For a brief addendum to this posting, see this subsequent piece.

No comments: