Thursday, June 21, 2012

In the News: More "Religious Freedom" Shock and Awe from U.S. Bishops, Civil Rights for Gays

Some news analysis that seems to me worth noting today:

1. At National Catholic Reporter, Tim Townsend asks, "Who's funding the U.S. Catholic bishops' religious freedom campaign?"

A good question, it seems to me: inquiring minds want to know.  The USCCB's head "religious liberty" honcho, Archbishop Lori, simply responds to the question by talking about the "heartening" generosity of unnamed somebodies.  But he's not more forthcoming than that.

Hint: think Supreme Knight Carl Anderson and the Knights of Columbus.  Think Carl Anderson with his background working for arch-conservative North Carolina senator Jesse Helms and Ronald Reagan.  And his close ties to the Vatican Bank.  Think the Knights of Columbus, who gave more than any other single group to yank the right of civil marriage from gay citizens of California with proposition 8.  And who have been playing a huge role in the attempt of the Catholic bishops of Minnesota to try to enshrine discrimination in that state's constitution.

As the next stage of the shock and awe kicks in today with the "religious freedom" rallies around the nation sponsored by the U.S. Catholic bishops, think GOP.  And Carl Anderson.  And the Knights of Columbus.  And other yet-to-be disclosed GOP handlers using the bishops to pursue political ends.

2. As a footnote to the preceding discussion, have a look at this article by Elise Viebeck in Washington Post about an "association of lay Catholics" that's going to start airing ads on Fox news today to support the latest phase of the shock-and-awe campaign.  

Isn't it interesting that Catholics for Choice, who provided a quote for Viebeck's article and who are critical of the bishops' shock-and-awe "religious freedom" politicking, are totally transparent about who they are and who's speaking on their behalf?  Viebeck directly quotes Jon O'Brien of that group.

By contrast, the "association of lay Catholics" buying the expensive Fox news shock-and-awe ads--the "Catholic Association"--speaks through an unnamed spokesperson and uses an unnamed narrator in its video.  

Where did this group come from?  When was it formed?  Who formed it?  Who governs it?

Where do its funds--which have to be significant, given the cost of its ads--come from?

Inquiring minds would surely like to know.

3. And then there's this: as Annie-Rose Strasser reports at Think Progress, the National Center for Health Statistics has just issued a report entitled "Estimated Pregnancy Rates and Rates of Pregnancy Outcomes for the United States, 1990-2008," which shows that abortions dropped dramatically between 1990 and 2008 due to wider accessibility and use of contraceptives.  

The U.S. Catholic bishops tell the faithful that no single issue counts as much as abortion as we form our political consciences, and that we should do everything possible to resist abortion.

But they also want to resist the wider availability of contraceptives and to declare contraceptive use immoral.  Why, if combating abortion is their overriding concern and if abortion is the great evil to be overcome at all cost?  Inquiring minds surely want to know.

4. Also, don't miss Sr. Jeannine Gramick's measured, thoughtful reflection on the bishops' stance vis-a-vis civil marriage for same-sex couples at Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish site.  Here, and in a previous video about gay marriage to which the preceding link also points, Sr. Gramick is clear and unambiguous about the fact that civil marriage for gay citizens is a civil right.  Which she and many other American religious women unambiguously support.

Meanwhile, the Southern Baptist convention has just elected its first African-American president, reversing over a century of ugly history in which most Southern Baptists actively worked against the civil rights of people of color, now only to announce that while black folks may have civil rights, gay folks don't.  Because the Southern Baptists say so.  And that new SBC president, who has benefited so largely from the civil rights movements of the latter half of the 20th century, wants to lump gay folks together with pedophiles and racists.

To keep the hate alive, even as the SBC mendaciously declares it loves gay sinners.

5. Finally, does anyone other than me think it's more than a little . . . interesting . . . that the Supremes, a majority of whom are right-wing Catholics, appear poised to issue their death knell for verdict on the Obama administration's health care plan on the very day that the next phase of the U.S.C.C.B shock-and-awe campaign kicks in?

Though more than one Catholic media commentator blindly follows the bishops' lead in depicting American Catholics as an embattled minority whose cherished traditions and values are under fire in American society today, Catholics exert tremendous influence in American culture from the very top of society.  Catholics have great influence on the direction of the nation's future, and through their control of the future of the U.S., on the future of the planet.

Catholics dominate the Supreme Court.  They are richly represented throughout the elite economic sectors of American society and in its governing structures.

And it may well be Catholics who are decisive in determining the future of the nation (and of the planet) in the 2012 U.S. elections.  If Catholic influence is determinative in these elections and things become as grim as I think they are poised to become when the greater evil triumphs in the election, will American Catholics and the American bishops accept and acknowledge their responsibility for what they've done in destroying the hopes and lives of many citizens of the globe?

Somehow I doubt that many American Catholics--and notably the powerful centrist academic and media commentariat who are assisting the bishops in their dirty work--will take responsibility for the evil they are now setting into motion.  Not any more than most Catholics in Germany, Austria, and other places under Nazi domination in the 1930s and 1940s have ever fully admitted their complicity in that evil . . . . 

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