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Tuesday, October 26, 2004

One big happy family, gathered around the table of the Lord.

Or so the USCCB continues to pretend, avoiding the inconvenient fact that American Catholicism is hardening into warring camps.

Exhibit A, Campaign Season in Metropolitan Detroit:

The tense, passionate fight for the Catholic vote arrived Sunday morning on the sidewalks around National Shrine of the Little Flower church in Royal Oak.

If you are in the Detroit area, make sure to visit the National Shrine--it is a magnificent church.

About 50 Catholics from peace groups and the liberal Catholics for the Common Good passed out flyers and carried signs reading "War is a Life Issue, too" and "Health Care is a Life Issue."

CftCG (sounds rather like Catholics for a Free Choice, eh?) is the rather slow brain child of several progressive Detroit priests and religious bent on pumping an overdose of ether into the consciences of the Faithful on life issues. It includes amongst its ranks the illustrious Frs. Anthony Kosnik and John Nowlan, two of the Detroit Four who wrote a 2002 homage to the abortion stylings of then-candidate Jennifer Granholm in the Detroit Free Press. Fr. Kosnik is also justly renowned for his book Human Sexuality, which, among other fascinating insights, professes befuddlement with the reason why the biblical prohibition of bestiality was instituted. Me, I would have simply figured that a God who demands unchanging standards of personal moral behavior and human dignity created in His image and likeness would naturally have a problem with those creations boffing cattle. But then again, I'm not a Certified Post-Conciliar American Catholic Theologian™.

Moving on.

Despite my problems with the CftCG, I find myself in agreement with the placards, but somewhat befuddled (!) with all the fuss over health care. I mean, didn't Bushitler just sign the largest expansion of health care benefits (Medicare prescription coverage) since the Great Society in the past year?

And you bet war is a life issue--Caesar has a duty to protect me and mine from slaughter at the hands of people resistant to interfaith dialogue.

Art Cairo emerged from mass and rebuffed a handout, which asks Catholics to consider the range of positions besides the church's teaching against abortion when choosing a candidate.
"Are you pro-life? If you don't have life, you can't have clean air or health care," said Cairo, 51, an auto company employee, said to those handing out flyers. "I think you're off base and don't belong here. I'll pray for you."

All hail the sensus fidei! Mr. Cairo nails it in one.

Asked later whom he supported for president, Cairo said he'll vote for President George W. Bush and that he considered it the only way a Catholic should vote.

I'm actually going to disagree with this one somewhat. I think a faithful Catholic could quite reasonably come to the conclusion not to vote for either candidate on Catholic principles (as opposed to the Detroit News editorial which came to the same conclusion based on the Gospel according to Ayn Rand), though that calculus would be influenced by such factors as the closeness of the election, a better viable alternative and so forth. Strictly speaking, there is no candidate running who squares really well with Catholic teaching. And if the Schwarzenegger wing of the party becomes ascendant, the Republicans are toxic, too.

But Ellen Cook, 60, of Birmingham, held up a sign proclaiming "Environment is a Life issue" and said she was dismayed by conservative Catholic groups stressing the primacy of abortion.
"As a concerned citizen of the planet, I value all life at all levels," said Cook. "There's more than one way to look at it."

Would it kill people to use the definite article? Also, I certainly hope "Penmanship is a life issue" got its own sign.

"I value life at all levels." Uh...huh. Translation: "Abortion is so not an issue! Shut up shut up shut up! I can't hear you na-na-na-na...."

Some human life can be snuffed and experimented on at will, and Ms. Cook is A-OK with that, even if she wouldn't do it herself.

But don't screw with mourning doves.

[Restating of the obvious regarding the divided Catholic vote snipped.]

In Michigan, the Kerry campaign mailed letters to about 130,000 Catholic households.

Haven't gotten it. Which is good, given that I like to calm down when I get home.

That, and the stuff is so hard to flush.

A group of Catholic nuns, among them Sister Maureen Sinnott, Sister Gerry Sellman and Sister Beth Rindler, who were leafleting at Shrine on Sunday, also are staffing phone banks -- to say that they oppose abortion, but feel Kerry's positions support Catholic values.

At last! It wouldn't be a good Catholic story without the appearance of a conscience-deadening leftist nun pumping sarin into the moral atmosphere. See above for the translation for "they oppose abortion, but..."

"They've heard that some Catholic bishops say it's a sin to vote for Kerry," said Sinnott, a psychologist. "I tell them that my understanding ... and my own personal prayer has led me to believe that my only moral choice is to vote for Kerry."

Ah, Sr. Sinnott is not just a nun, but a Psychologist! So us goobers must take her more seriously, I suppose. Well, gollll-ee, Sergeant Carter! Hyuck!

Apparently, Sr. is having something of a difficulty grasping the importance of life issues. Since she is not alone among American religious, I offer the following thought experiment for the vowed (ex-embryos, all):

Candidate A is in favor of relaxing certain emissions requirements for industry, but is essentially pro-life.

Candidate B is cool with Kyoto, but supports an open season--no bag limits--on nuns in pantsuits. And he'll even pay for your gun and ammunition.

Who should we vote for? Remember, Candidate B isn't mandating the hunting of nuns--he just believes that the choice should be available to all citizens, regardless of economic circumstances.

Aw, doesn't matter. Anything for a group hug with the Senator!

The Bush campaign has devoted a staff person to Catholic outreach and assembled parish contacts since spring, said Michigan campaign spokesman John Truscott. "It is unprecedented. There's more outreach than we've ever seen before" by the conservative religious groups, said Truscott.
The campaign's polarizing impact is on view in weekly parish bulletins.
Conservative Catholic groups have targeted the archdiocese's 300-plus parishes with their voter guides that favor Bush by claiming that Catholics cannot vote for any candidate who is pro-choice on abortion. Meanwhile, Catholic groups concerned with issues such as health care, jobs and social-justice issues are sending parishes messages favoring Kerry.
Since July, the Archdiocese of Detroit, has three times asked parishes to stop printing material from those groups, and instead asked parishes to use excerpts from the "Faithful Citizenship" guide, which includes the church's position on abortion, as well as information on 50-plus issues outlined by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Ah, "Faithful Citizenship." A somewhat helpful document, but one that is the product of a committee that winces a lot and screams "Don't Sue Us!" A document that unfortunately puts a large number of issues on an equal moral plane, e.g., the 10 question list on pages 3 and 4.

Also notice the leadership of the Archdiocese on this one--it's hard to say where the directive is coming from, and with what authority (this article was the first time I heard of it). I am coming to the firm belief that Detroit's chancery would be better off issuing its edicts in Esperanto. Sure, nobody would understand, but that would-at worst-maintain the status quo.

But some parishes have ignored the directives. The Shrine of the Little Flower, for example, has run items by a conservative Catholic group, Catholics in the Public Square, suggesting voters are sinning if they back candidates who support abortion rights or expanded fetal stem-cell research, both backed by Kerry. "Citizens vote in favor of these evils if they vote in favor of candidates who propose to advance them," said the Oct. 10 Shrine Herald bulletin.
On the other side, the Oct. 10 bulletin for Sacred Heart of the Hills Parish in Auburn Hills contained an article entitled "Voting Our Faith" by a Kansas Benedictine nun that asks voters to consider "Were the reasons given for the Iraq War lies?"

Is it any wonder that Catholicism's influence on the body politic is about that of the Mennonites?

Rev. John West, pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic parish in Farmington, said he has stuck to running the approved excerpts from the bishops' "Faithful Citizenship" document.
"In the middle of a political campaign, we have to stay on message, and stay in the center," said West.

What message would that be? Seriously, I have no idea what FC is trying to say, except that a lot of issues can be important. Right in the center, all right: with all the dead squirrels and possums.

Remember what I said about Esperanto?

A handful of U.S. bishops have said Catholic politicians who favor abortion rights, and the Catholics who vote for them, are committing grave sins and have argued they should not receive the Catholic sacrament of Communion.

Spokespeople for Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida and other bishops have said Catholics must give primary weight to a candidate's abortion position in voting, but that Catholic teaching does allow anti-abortion Catholics to support a pro-choice candidate if voters believe the candidate's other positions outweigh the serious evil of abortion.

That's news to me about the "primary weight." Was it said in January? A very vague recollection begins to form. The most that can be said is that the AoD has been lying awfully low on that issue.

At the very least, something could have been done to explain the concept of "proportionate reasons" in the consideration of voting for a p-c candidate. Too late now. At least it's nice to see a reporter take a flier at the concept, if not in so many words.

On one hand, liberal Catholics say thousands of lives are lost because of poverty, inadequate health care and the war in Iraq, also positions on which Pope John Paul II and U.S. bishops have taken clear stands. Conservative Catholics say there is no other issue facing Americans that can outweigh thousands of human lives they regard as lost to abortion every day.

Actually, liberal Catholics, too, would have to agree with the "thousands of human lives" argument. Odd that they never quite get around to saying that. And yes, there are very just points that can be made about poverty, health care and Iraq.

I just wish my progressive brethren would stop pretending (1) that poverty and health care problems began on 1/20/01, (2) the Administration has not increased funding to address those two problems, and (3) whatever the problems with the Iraq war (and they are many), we are currently in a "you broke it, you buy it" position, and (4) at various times, the challenger has sounded indistinguishable from the incumbent on all three.

Nationally, conservative Catholics groups are distributing the "Voter's Guide for Serious Catholics" contending observant Catholics only can vote for candidates who are against abortion rights, fetal stem-cell research, same-sex marriage, euthanasia and cloning. In Michigan, 250,000 guides were passed out by Catholics in the Public Square, a group cofounded by Marlene Elwell, a longtime abortion-rights opponent from Farmington Hills who also runs Citizens for the Protection of Marriage, the group behind Proposal 2, which would amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

I could tell you stories about the the AoD has treated CitPS. But I won't. Suffice it to say, you can thank them for the Catholic contribution in getting Prop 2 on the ballot. Though a tip of the cap is owed to the AoD for its unalloyed support of the campaign with both time and resources.

California lawyer Karl Keating, who is behind the "Serious Catholics" guide, said the bishops' "Faithful Citizenship" document is "valuable, but less useful in the voting booth than our document would be."

Does Karl Keating still practice law? Just wondering.

You'd think the paper might have mentioned Catholic Answers.

Michael Hovey, the Detroit archdiocese's director of Catholic Social Teaching, is getting calls from confused Catholics about the "Serious Catholics" guide. He's critical of Keating, saying "This guy sits around on the beach...and writes this stuff."

Warning! Hissy apparatchik defending his turf!


This is meant to be no disrespect to Mr. Keating, but he seems remarkably un-tanned in all of the photos of seen of him. And what, pray tell, does that have to do with the content of the heavily-footnoted, magisterial document-citing, Serious Catholics Guide? A substantive response would have been nice.

As I said in another forum today, well-poisoning is not an argument.

Plus, just why are the faithful confused, Mr. Hovey?

"The bishops conference has a perfectly good, authoritative guide," said Hovey, noting the bishops exhort voters to consider all issues.

Which, as noted above, is the problem.

Hovey has given dozens of seminars at parishes to explain the range of Catholic issues. When he spoke at St. Priscilla in Livonia last week, two people who came from outside the parish accused him of not giving enough weight to the church's position against abortion, while others passed out the "Serious Catholics" guides after the meeting.

So Mr. Hovey had a tough day at St. Priscilla's. But what was his response?

Hovey told St. Priscilla parishioners that he makes the sign of the cross when he enters the voting booth.
"Jesus isn't running for president," said Hovey. "We're not going to elect the perfect candidate."

No, but it would be nice if you could point out the moral difficulty of voting for one who does a marvelous job of contradicting Him at a basic level.

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