My personal musings about anything that gets on my radar screen--heavily dominated by politics.


Next Round of "The Catholic Thing"

I wanted to wait 24 hours to comment on the Pastoral Letter from Bishop Sheridan of Colorado Springs. If you've missed it, the thesis is "Sheridan singles out politicians who support abortion rights, stem-cell research and euthanasia, saying those candidates "ipso facto place themselves outside full communion with the Church and so jeopardize their salvation."" The reason for my delay was, for one thing, I wanted to wait and hear the response from the political class; for another, I needed to chew on what he said for a little while to see how I stand on it.

A key line from early in the letter:
For many, conscience is no more than personal preference or even a vague sense or feeling that something is right or wrong, often based on information drawn from sources that have nothing to do with the law of God. Keep this in mind when politicians who claim Catholicism say they vote on issues based on their understanding of the Constitution or the Supreme Court's rulings.

I don't, however, want to get too bogged down in a doctrinal debate. The first point of interest for me is how the political class will respond to this. To pull a few quotes out of the Post and News stories:

from Mike Miles, Democratic Senate Candidate (and non-Catholic): The notion of clerics or some other religious leaders really controlling a political situation is anathema to democracy. . .Right now, we have people fighting to build a democracy in Iraq, and we don't want to see religious clerics controlling their political system. . .I don't think that's too great a stretch or a false analogy" Except for that whole forced worship thing. Catholics do have a choice to stay in the church or not--Iranians and Saudis really don't.

from Bill Ritter, Democratic DA of Denver (a Catholic): "I just think this is a tragic direction for the bishop to take," Ritter said. "My great fear is that it will drive Catholics away from the church, Catholics who abide by the church teaching in everything they do,. . ." You know, perhaps except when they're exercising their greatest right in our democracy--VOTING.

from Terry Kelly, Denver attorney (and Catholic): "American bishops are neither equipped by education nor life experience to understand democracy, especially the concept of woment's rights within a democracy. If anybody has left the church, these guys have. They've gone Taliban." Taliban? Really? I'm trying to remember the last time I saw a group of thugs strutted around under the auspices of the Church beating and stoning women for having an abortion, much less the far more heinous crime of . . .SHOCK. . . not covering their heads. Besides which, is the Post trying to intimate by running this quote that there are those who think Bishops are stupid?

Curiously, Ken Salazar was silent on the issue. Might have learned a lesson or two a couple weeks ago, huh?

Predictably, Democrats who identify themselves as Catholics are going to be apoplectic about this. And not just because it's inconvenient. If I may slip on my amateur psychiatrist hat for a moment, I think the reason for their discomfort is much more fundamental: this, and Archbishop Chaput's recent writings, have forced an internal crisis within these Catholics. At some point, at some level, they have to look in the mirror and decide if their Faith is more important than their politics. This will force an examination of paradigms, and that is never a comfortable pursuit. Perhaps, just perhaps, this will drive lefties away from the Catholic Church; or, perhaps, this will cause a slow seismic shift in the way the country looks at abortion.

On the second level, I am not quite as comfortable with this statement as with earlier statements from bishops. For one thing, I think voters tend to vote on a variety of subjects, and while abortion is one of them, I'm not sure it is a top-three consideration. Even Catholic voters, who tend to think in very socially liberal ways, especially with regard to social spending and the governmental safety net, only split their vote in 2000. For my part, reducing the election process to one issue dramatically oversimplifies things; besides which the edict about denying communion will be impossible to enforce. The Catholic Church also opposes the death penalty--why wasn't this mentioned by the Bishop? There is a justification within Church doctrine, that of institutional and societal self-defense, but this is still a point of deviation.

Bottom line is I applaud the Bishop for his bold stance (though, granted, it doesn't effect me), and I think more religious leaders ought to try to point out the connection between personal morality and electoral choice. However, I don't think this will, in the long run, be good for either the Church or the pro-life movement.

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