The Catholic Thing
HOME        ARCHIVES        IN THE NEWS        COMMENTARY        NOTABLE        DONATE
Heads or Tails? Print E-mail
By Brad Miner   
Monday, 21 May 2012

Following President Obama’s embrace of same-sex “marriage,” which repositioning has been warmly received in the media (consider that astonishing Newsweek cover that portrayed the president with a rainbow halo), it’s time to ask how this and other social issues may affect his chances of re-election.

(By the way, I don’t believe Joe Biden’s expression of support for same-sex “marriage,” made several days before the president’s, was a gaffe. It was throat clearing. Knowing North Carolinians would reaffirm traditional marriage, the Administration acted to keep the upcoming Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. A N.Y. Times/CBS poll shows that just a quarter of Americans think it principled, whereas two-thirds consider the move political.) 

Catholic opinion on social issues – to the extent that it determines, whole or in part, an individual Catholic’s choice for president – may be key in November. Catholics live in every state and in very sort of village, town, and city, but we remain concentrated in urban areas and their suburban enclaves. (There are only seventeen states in the Union where Catholics are not the largest religious group.)

Because the president’s re-election plan is an urban strategy – especially in swing states – any significant diminishment of Catholic support may cause his defeat. Mr. Obama received 54 percent of the Catholic vote in 2008; he’s unlikely to receive more this time. It’s possible he’ll receive a lot less, although this depends upon the leadership and credibility of the nation’s Catholic bishops – more about that below.

But after Mr. Obama’s “evolution” on same-sex marriage, his rescinding of prohibitions on embryonic stem-cell research, his termination of the Mexico City Policy (which prohibited the use of foreign-aid dollars in the promotion or procurement of abortions), his ebullient financial support of Planned Parenthood, and his promulgation of abortifacient-contraception-sterilization mandates through the Department of Health and Human Services, it seems fair to say Barack Obama is the most anti-Catholic president ever.

It also seems fair to say that Catholic voters had no idea in 2008 that he’d undertake a frontal assault on Catholicism.

Even so, does any of this matter to most Catholics? Do most Catholics actually and actively oppose stem-cell research, abortion, same-sex marriage, etc. Polls suggest they don’t. Indeed Catholics are second only to white mainline Protestants in their support of the “progressive” agenda.

It may be that Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi recoil somewhat at their patronage of the culture of death. Though they’ve embraced the feminist and gay-activist arguments as politically enlightened (and expedient) – they probably know quite well that the Church teaches otherwise.

To “progressives,” politics and religion are not different: both may be changed; each is infinitely pliable and may evolve. Doctrines are merely “policies.” And in the bubble in which the vice president and former speaker live, few contradict the premise. Until recently, not even the Catholic bishops did so with much vigor.

But we’re witnessing an uptick in forceful solidarity by the bishops against the policies of the Obama Administration. The hierarchy has almost always been of one voice in opposing abortion and same-sex marriage, and every single bishop has come out against the HHS mandates. Cardinal George has been especially bold. Cardinal Dolan has stated the case plainly and effectively. 

But Biden and Pelosi remain unconvinced. Antediluvian God on the one hand; reformist Caesar on the other.

And here’s the trouble: because nominally Catholic politicians are allowed to publically advocate anti-Catholic policies, and because they are never called to task for it (on several occasions San Francisco’s archbishop, George Niederauer, has spoken without avail to Mrs. Pelosi), we have a situation in which the bishops’ positions (and with them Church doctrine) and the politicians’ opinions (and the laws that follow) appear to be two sides of a socio-political coin that one may reasonably flip.

I understand there are reasons – not least certain IRS rules – prohibiting bishops and other clergy from certain kinds political activity. And yet . . . we have now the example of the very outspoken comments of so many in the hierarchy about the Administration’s policies.

But are the bishops talking about the crimes and ignoring the criminals?

The great Adam Smith said: “Kindness to criminals is cruelty to their victims.” And so it seems to me with the bishops and the politicians. That, in their statements against Church teaching Biden and Pelosi (and Kathleen Sebelius) are blind guides, seems obvious. But I worry that the bishops are too often straining out gnats but swallowing camels. The victims in this case are the poorly catechized Catholics, riven by so much change and controversy within the Church, whose horizons are mostly temporal and who have come wearily to see moral decisions as coin tosses.

Mind you, I don’t believe our bishops are Pharisees about whom we should say: “they are blind, and leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the pit.” Neither do I think any of the various “Catholic” politicians should necessarily be excommunicated, ferendae sententiae. Hardly my expertise, although I suspect some are already excoms, latae sententiae.

But how are we supposed to know unless some “medicinal penalty” is applied? Are we at the point in freewheeling America in which no one is ever to be shunned (vitandus) or tolerated (in the formal sense, toleratus)?

It’s not the policies, stupid. It’s the persons.

 
 
Brad Miner is senior editor of The Catholic Thing, a senior fellow of the Faith & Reason Institute, and a board member of Aid to the Church In Need USA. He is the author of six books, and is a former Literary Editor of National Review.
 
 
 
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

Rules for Commenting

The Catholic Thing welcomes comments, which should reflect a sense of brevity and a spirit of Christian civility, and which, as discretion indicates, we reserve the right to publish or not. And, please, do not include links to other websites; we simply haven't time to check them all.

Comments (18)Add Comment
0
...
written by Martinkus, May 21, 2012
The bishops will not better communicate to the faithful and the nation the relationship between doctrine and public policy until they understand it better themselves. And that means cleaning up their staffs responsible for "social justice," if my own diocese is typical and if the story about the cars in the USCCB parking lot all having Obama bumper stickers in 2008 is true. The bishops need to regularly consult George Weigel, Robert George, James Capretta, Fr. Robert Sirico, the contributors to this website, and other orthodox Catholics who are knowledgeable and sophisticated about social analysis and social justice.
0
...
written by Manfred, May 21, 2012
One small ray of hope? One son of mine attends a N.O. parish one block from our home. For decades, "the Rite of Reconciliation" was offered on Saturdays from noon to 12:15. Yes! 15 minutes, once a week. He handed me the bulletin yesterday. The new "confession" schedule is Saturdays from 4 to 4:30 PM, and at 7:30, 9:30 and 11:30 on Sundays before and during each Mass! Further, "Remember that any mortal sin must be confessed before one can receive Holy Communion." Something has dramatically changed and I believe this tightening-up may be what effects a different attitude this fall. Of course, since no catechetics have been taught for forty years, the laity must now be instructed on what mortal sin is.
0
...
written by will manley, May 21, 2012
Brad, you are fighting a losing battle. The problem with the church is not so much with the church or with the bishops as it is with the culture in which it is embedded. The laity has been ensnared and captured by an overwhelmingly materialist, me first, narcissistic culture. It is fine to say that Catholics should vote for family values political candidates, but the number of Catholics with divorced or annulled marriages is truly astounding to those of us who grew up in the 50s. Believe me, Obama is the least of our worries. He is simply a cynical product of his times. It's not the people; it's not the policies; it's the culture. Read Luke. We are in pre-apocalyptic times. Buckle your seat belt. Things are going to get worse...much worse.
0
...
written by Chris in Maryland, May 21, 2012
And perhaps the USCCB could do better with very small parking lots...
0
...
written by Ray Hunkins, May 21, 2012
We must not forget to look for the good in Mr. Miner's excellent description of our current, sad, situation. A great thanks is due the Obama administration. In three years it has engendered more philosophic introspection and more intellectual courage among the faithful, than has been seen in a very long time. Lessons have been learned that otherwise would have remained dormant and unnoticed in the camouflage that is creeping dialectical materialism, ever advancing,like Yeats'sphinx.

We have seen the enemy. Thank you for the showing. Now,the enemy must be defeated.
0
...
written by Brad Miner, May 21, 2012
@Will Manley: I do not believe you when you say Mr. Obama is "the least of our worries." The least of our worries, if I may joke about Chris in Maryland's quip, would be the inability to find parking on a visit to USCCB. Barack Obama must — to the extent possible — be opposed by the Catholic hierarchy. If American Catholics are to awaken to the Church's Magisterium, which would ipso facto bring them into opposition of Obama et al., such awakening must involve (although would hardly be limited to) ecclesiastical leadership.
0
...
written by will manley, May 21, 2012
Brad, answer me this: is Obama the cause for Catholics neglecting their faith and abandoning their own family values.? Obama is simply a political cynic who is taking advantage of widespread Catholic apostasy. He didn't cause this apostasy; he is merely benefitting from it.
0
...
written by Brad Miner, May 21, 2012
@Will Manley: As I wrote in the column: Obama is the most anti-Catholic president ever. He is the most pro-abortion president ever, and defeating him ought to be job one for every Catholic who gives a damn. The question isn't how we got here but how we get out.
0
...
written by will manley, May 21, 2012
Brad, what you don't seem to understand is that the Catholic Church has very little credibility or clout in the political arena especially when it comes to sexual ethics and reproductive rights. The sexual abuse scandals have destroyed our credibility. Are you and I living in parallel universes? What we should be doing is practicing what we preach; not preaching what we don't practice. We need to repent and reform before we start telling other people who to vote for. I agree Obama is evil...but a majority of Catholics do not believe that. If you want to beat Obama focus on the economy. Catholics vote their pocketbooks, not their catechisms.
0
...
written by Tim, May 21, 2012
You nmention that Catholic voters had no idea about Obama. This is the point that angers me the most about the bishops and their surprise about what he has done in office. The bishops met with him and believed him and supported him. Obama has done nothing in office that is out of character for him. He has done everything he promised he would do. The bishops thought he would magically become someone else as President. Right after the election the local bishop sent petitions to the parishes to get Obama to change his mind on life issues, as though it would help. He is waht he has always been and the Bishops share the responsibility for putting him in office. Now they are fighting for their lives and although I hope and pray they win, they are getting what they deserde for getting him elected. Liberal Cathlics had every reason to know what Obama would do but voted for him anyway. Now they act surpirsed like the bishops and want make excuses for their behavior.
0
...
written by Rick DeLano, May 21, 2012
If Will Manley is right, then Catholics deserve Obama.

They will have an extraordinary lesson delivered: how easy it will be to apostatize-in-place, and how very difficult it will be to remain Catholic in the catacombs.
0
...
written by Maureen, May 21, 2012
Defending Bishop Jenky's homily with a petition. We should hear his homily in every pulpit, by every priest, and could we hope...the media. Pass it along, blog about it. You can find it online.
0
...
written by Frank, May 22, 2012
"Mind you, I don’t believe our bishops are Pharisees about whom we should say: “they are blind, and leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the pit.” Neither do I think any of the various “Catholic” politicians should necessarily be excommunicated, ferendae sententiae."

Mr. Miner, up until this part, you had a great article going. What you wrote above is with all due respect, verbal fence sitting and equivocation to a situation begging for clear and decisive action. Our Catholic politicians who are opposing the church are at liberty to hold dear to the evil they hold dear to maintain their political prominence, but they cannot continue to be Catholic.

As for the responses of will manley, I'll exercise self restraint except to say that I refuse to respond to self inflicted ignorance.
0
...
written by Brad Miner, May 22, 2012
@Frank: Sorry you feel that way. But let me emphasize that there are procedures for excommunication — and always have been — that especially make the ferendae sententiae procedure very rare. And it's a fate we ought not to wish on anybody. Of course I'm suggesting in the column that rare and painful as excommunication may be and as harsh a penalty as even refusal of Holy Communion is, these ought to be more under consideration that they lately have been. In each case, there are two reasons to impose the sanction: to stop scandal and to urge the sinner to repentance. Neither should be undertaken with vindictiveness.
0
...
written by Frank, May 22, 2012
Mr. Miner,

First, my thoughts and my feelings are sometimes mutually exclusive, sometimes they are in harmony. In this case, what I originally posited is thinking based and not feelings based. Excommunication is rare, painful, and severe and we can agree on this point, not something to be executed precipitously and certainly not to be taken lightly. Using a parallel analogy, do you think I was belly laughing as I had to sign the block as the Recommending Discharge Authority on one of my best airman because his urine test came back positive? All of those years of service and the money spent on the man's training down the drain because one time, he decided to experiment and got selected like we all did, in random no notice drug testing. Air Force regulations were clear and concise and there was no waiver, turn positive in a urine test and kiss your Air Force career goodbye. I remember going home that day in grief at the loss, it was one of those bad days. So NO and for the record, I don't take any fun OR VINDICTIVENESS in this either. But there comes a point and past that point where Catholics standing with evil and having national influence and prominence are being enabled well past the point of absurdity and to the point that an action like excommunication once executed has lost its effectiveness and becomes a laughing stock. I fear, we are past that point and I hope I am wrong on this possibility.
0
...
written by Starzec, May 22, 2012
Yes. Excommunicate the Catholic politicians. That will help your cause.
I cannot believe that is a topic for discussion. Excommunicate all those that disagree with you. Churches are empty as it is and you want to start excommunicating folks?
I always looked at myself as the prodigal son. But as soon as I returned I was immediately reminded why I left. Abortionists aren't even close to being the biggest problem in Catholic Church. Not even priest sex scandal; I came back after that. No the biggest problem is that on any given Sunday, after mass where the coffee and donuts are being served, the same cliques forms and rancid discussions take place. The same hatred and bigotry, the same taudry comments. The same hypocrites. They smile nice and give checks to the local parochial school then turn around violate all 10 commandments. Forget abortion, adultery and baring false witness are the real issues.
When the Catholic Churches stop recognizing people for their money and starts recognizing people for their actions, then maybe we can start talking about the other issues like abortion and gay marriage.
----
Also, you say the progressives look at politics and religion the same way in the sense that they both can change. Vatican II was a change so yes religions can change. That council threw out many old unproven beliefs. It was a recognition of human change. Why is that so difficult to comprehend? Ever hear the adage the more things change the more they stay the same? My faith in Christ is not challenged by whether some woman has an abortion. Neither my faith nor my marriage are in jeopardy if homosexuals are allowed to be married. I do not suffer crisis in faith. I do not worry about the faith of others.
0
...
written by Mark, May 22, 2012
Vatican II "threw out many old unproven beliefs"? Nonsense.
0
...
written by Starzec, May 23, 2012
Mark, A Catholic can marry a Jew now without the spouse having to convert to Catholcism. We can eat meat on Fridays except during lent. Mass is held in English. Spousal sex can occur and it's not just for procreation anymore they have to adhere to rhythm method for contraception. All of these unproven, no basis beliefs are now gone.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

security code
Write the displayed characters


busy
 

Other Articles By This Author

CONTACT US FOR ADVERTISERS ABOUT US