Monday, May 16, 2016

Want to Know Why "Pro-Life" Democrats Are Vanishing Breed? Go See "Spotlight," Fred Clark Advises: On the Catholic Bishops, the Culture Wars, and Mr. Trump

Want to know why the "pro-life" Democrats have vanished, Fred Clark asks? And then he recommends: "Go see 'Spotlight.' " Fred writes,

Here's the deal, pro-liferism comes in two flavors: Catholic and white evangelical. White evangelical pro-liferism isn't really relevant to the subject of "pro-life Democrats" because white evangelicals are not allowed to be Democrats.* 
That leaves the Catholics. This is mainly what we’re talking about when we talk about the brief phenomenon of a coalition of 'pro-life Democrats' — Catholic Democrats. The Catholic doctrine of full personhood from the moment of ejaculation** carried weight due to the moral authority of the church. There was a time when Catholic politicians, and Catholic voters, were obliged to submit to that moral authority, and when many were glad to do so. 
But that moral authority disappeared in a SNAP
The horror of the sexual abuse of children by clergy, and the pervasiveness of the cover-up, has obliterated the dynamic that once obliged Catholic politicians and voters to submit to the doctrine of criminalizing abortion. For most Catholic Democrats these days, church leaders' insistence that they oppose legal abortion carries about the same weight as those same church leaders' insistence that they defend short and strict statutes of limitations for sexual crimes against children.

Fred's posting has the following notes attached to connect to the asterisks above:

* This was the purpose of the creation of evangelical anti-abortionism not quite 40 years ago — to ensure and enforce partisan identity, transforming a previously religious identity into a reliable voting bloc. If that statement sounds too sweeping, please feel free to respond with a list of all the pro-choice white evangelicals permitted to remain within the tribe. Or just one name. 
OK, then. 
Yes, the tribe does allow for a tiny, "controversial" faction of white evangelicals known or suspected of voting for Democrats, but only insofar as those folks repeatedly and emphatically reaffirm their opposition to legal abortion. The number of such evangelical "Pro-Life Democrats" has thus remained both constant and inconsequential over the years. (And, in any case, Jim Wallis and Ron Sider have never been elected to public office.) 
** That's not snark. This is the official religious doctrine of the U.S. Catholic bishops as well as of Wheaton College and the retail chain Hobby Lobby — as recognized by the highest court in the land. This is what they insist they believe and what they demand we respect as their deepest religious conviction. Their faith, they say, teaches — and must teach — that the morning-after pill is not a form of contraception, but a form of abortion that involves the killing of a fully human person. That's not a belief in human personhood beginning at conception, but of human personhood beginning at ejaculation.

And just in case you missed this article, which circulated widely in my circle of Facebook friends on the weekend: as George Joseph reported for The Guardian several days ago, the U.S. Catholic bishops have poured millions in the past decade into lobbying efforts in various states to expose extension of statutes of limitations. Millions desperately needed to feed the hungry, house the homeless, care for the sick, educate those in need of education, clothe the naked — to heal the world . . . .

As Patricia Miller notes in a recent Religion Dispatches essay, having made a fateful political alliance with right-wing evangelicals in the latter part of the twentieth century and having declared the GOP God's Own Party, the U.S. Catholic bishops are now in a pickle, with Mr. Trump emerging at the Republican presidential candidate this election cycle. The bishops could respond to this development, she notes, by deciding to tone down some of their culture-war rhetoric.

She doubts that's going to happen, however, as she notes the significant leadership role the USCCB has had in the religious right, even when the movement's rank and file members tend to be drawn from white evangelical communities:

The Catholic bishops were never the heart of the religious right, nor did their congregants ever swell the grassroots the way evangelicals did. But from their strategy of using Medicaid to cut off abortion access for poor women, to their clever leveraging of health insurance to create faith-based carve outs, which led directly to the expanded definition of "religious liberty," they were in many ways its head.

And I think she's right about this: having belligerently pressed their warfare against the Affordable Care Act all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court (which referred Zubik v. Burwell back to the lower courts today),  how can they possibly retreat now? Those who choose to take up the sword commonly learn to like the sword — before they end up falling on it.

I shared the "Spotlight" trailer at the head of the posting, from Movieclips at YouTube, when the film first appeared in theaters. In case some of you haven't seen either this clip or the film, I'm sharing it again.

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