May 22, 2007

Imagining Conversations with God About Political Necessity...

Justin Katz

Commenter Rhody gets to the heart of liberal/Democrat Catholics' rationalizations with respect to what their faith is supposed to encompass and what their politics are supposed to require:

When a Catholic is elected to public office, he or she is representing everyone in the district, not just Catholics (the crucial distinction JFK made). If a Catholic has trouble making that distinction, maybe he or she ought not to run for office.

I believe Harry Reid makes the distinction, realizing that he is representing people other than Mormons, as does Congressman Ellison(IIRC) in Minnesota who represents constituents who don't share his Muslim faith. On the Republican side, Arlen Specter seems cognizant he represents gentiles.

Separation of church and state is a great advance the American government created by our founding fathers made over the British model. Does Carlin believe separation of church and state should go the way of dial-up? ...

I get a laugh out of the contrast to 40 years ago. When JFK ran, Republicans were afraid he'd tear down the separation of church and state. It seems it's conservatives who want to knock that separation down today, and enjoy seeing Bush and Rove use the Vatican as an ideological enforcement agent (the Catholic Church I grew up in was not obsessed with abortion and gays to the exclusion of other social justice issues).

Catholic Democratic candidates should not be intimidated by this argument. Neither should Rudy Guiliani.

I mean no slight to Rhody, with this, but his thoughts with respect to the separation of church and state resonate as evidence of liberals' inability to make critical distinctions in the face of ideological necessity. As I understand the record, the core objection that Kennedy faced — sifted and iced with an unhealthy dose of anti-Catholicism, to be sure — was that the hierarchical nature of his Church would, in essence, give the Pope a permanent office in the White House. That favorite understanding of hostile Protestants leaves out precisely the realm of religiously informed individual conscience and personal accountability that liberals now wish to characterize as contrary to the principle of separation.

Especially within a Church that considers its ecclesiastical structure to have been instituted by God and to be indispensable to an understanding of His will, politicians who claim that dire matters of conscience such as abortion must be handled in accordance with their constituents' wills, and not their own, are either:

  • Misrepresenting their beliefs to their constituents


  • Compromising their beliefs and perpetuating utter evil for their own personal gain.

If you do not believe that which your Church emphatically teaches, then your professed religion is a lie. If you believe that your position requires that you suppress your internal revulsion at evil acts that are popular with your constituents, then I humbly suggest that your soul would have better odds with a whore's more honest labor.

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If you do not believe that which your Church emphatically teaches, then your professed religion is a lie.

Is this an argument against all religious liberalism/moderation? Or is it a comment about Catholicism in particular? (I feel qualified to comment on the former, but not the latter.)

Posted by: mrh at May 22, 2007 10:29 PM

I believe Justin means that if you profess to be a follower of a religion while at the same time rejecting the fundamental teachings of that religion, your claim to be a member of that particular religion is a lie.

If someone professed to be a die hard Red Sox fan, but continually rooted for the Yankees whenever they played the Red Sox, it is reasonable to conclude that their claim to be a die hard Red Sox fan is a lie. The same goes for religion.

Posted by: Anthony at May 23, 2007 12:20 AM

And I can't wait to see how quickly conservatives turn on the small but growing number of evangelicals who are no longer slaves to right-wing orthodoxy on issues like the environment, immigration, etc. These are the voters who could put Obama over the top, votes that Hillary could never get.
Is there anything that will make religious conservatives tear their hair out quicker than people who believe in a Christian deity but don't necessarily subscribe to the right's whole required package? What will they do if more Democrats start listening to the message of Jim Wallis, Michael Lerner, etc., that faith and liberalism aren't mutally exclusive?
As far as my religion, to paraphrase Reagan, I didn't leave the Roman Catholic Church. The church left me (and quite a few of my contemporaries).

Posted by: Rhody at May 23, 2007 12:27 AM

Why always the prioritization of politics, Rhody? Guess I'm the sort who believes it to be more important to be correct on religious and moral matters than on political calculations. Political success is not proof of divine approval.

For a closed system, the laws of physics don't appear different if it's moving than if it's stationary. I can't help but feel that your view of the Church's "leaving" you is entirely a function of your own motion.



Anthony's right.

Posted by: Justin Katz at May 23, 2007 5:32 AM

I think it's a fundamental truth that you can't be a Catholic and believe in killing unborn children. *COUGH*Kennedy family*COUGH*

Posted by: Greg at May 23, 2007 10:11 AM

There are a multitude of issues on which a Catholic is free to differ with Church policy and teaching without running the risk of excommunication.

There are a few very important issues (such as abortion) upon which there is no room for doubt or dissent regarding the beliefs and conduct of a faithful Catholic.

What is a Catholic politician to do when confronted with a question of conscience on one of these fundamental issues?

Assignment: Watch the film "A Man for All Seasons," and then report back on the answer.

Posted by: brassband at May 23, 2007 10:32 AM

May be true, brassband. But it increasingly seems like the only two issues the Catholic leadership cares about anymore are abortion and gay rights, two issues on which their position is absolutist.
If only we saw the Catholic leadership in this country and the Vatican take similarly passionate stands on the Iraq War, crime, hunger...and I hate to say it, but sexual abuse of children by some of its own. Belief in God and having to follow the dictates of a church's earthly leadership are not mutually exclusive.

Posted by: Rhody at May 23, 2007 11:30 AM

Rhody --

I don't know what your sources are for information about the positions of the Church on issues such as hunger . . . but I respectfully suggest that if you have not heard about those positions, you are not listening . . . or, perhaps more accurately, the media who inform you are not covering those positions.

Take a look at the website of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. You will find quite a bit of information about their positions on a number of moral and social issues.

Of course, Church teaching some of these issues do not have the same clarity or degree of seriousness as teaching on issues such as abortion. And they certainly do not generate the same type of panting media coverage . . .

Posted by: brassband at May 23, 2007 11:53 AM

Let's get this straight so you all read it correctly:

If those of us who are socially Liberal leave the Catholic Church, then there will be no more Catholic Church. It would wither and die within months.

The Church is just as wrong know about abortion and issues dealing with homosexuality, or gender for that matter, as it was in Galileo's time.

The good news is that science always wins. The other good news is that the world always moves towards Social Liberalism.

The last thing I need is some clown who practices "faith without works" on a daily basis telling me what science I have to accept.

By the way, the Pope was against the war. I see no thread on that. The Pope came out against the tax cuts. I see no thread there. The Bishop wants open immigration policy. When many of you post your foolish racism, I notice you do not quote him.

Seems like many are picking and choosing what issues matter. Not surprisingly, they seem to be picking all of the ones science will decide for us.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at May 24, 2007 3:59 PM

Someday science will prove what we all already know and liberals work hard to ignore. That abortion is the wanton and premeditated murder of an unborn child.

Posted by: Greg at May 24, 2007 4:36 PM

Dear Greg,

Even the Church of the Middle Ages did not accept life to exist before "the baby moved." Leviticus has "life in the blood" at about 40 days. Life at conception is a sexist construct invented in the 1800's. By the way, neither views are scientifically acceptable.

You seem to forget that it's her body until the fetus can survive on its own. It is never going to be your body at any time.

Posted by: Bobby Oliveira at May 24, 2007 6:55 PM

The Catholic Church could use a few more men (and women?) like Father Robert Drinan, a man of faith who used his pulpit as a Jesuit priest and a member of Congress to speak out against the Vietnam War, even as he voted the church's position on abortion.
Why do I get the feeling that John Paul II wouldn't have ordered Drinan out of the House if he had focused solely on abortion? There was a time when Catholics were allowed to be liberal, before JP and Benedict allowed themselves to be used as tools by right-wing political interests.
Maybe Christopher Hitchens (I'm not a big fan of his) was right when he said bigoted, phobic and sexist comments are rendered legitimate when the speaker's name is proceeded by a "Rev."

Posted by: Rhody at May 25, 2007 12:39 AM

* preceded

Posted by: Rhody at May 25, 2007 11:06 AM
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