Saturday, June 23, 2012

Fortnight for Romney

I was amused and surprised the other evening when a friend of mine referred to the “Fortnight for Freedom” as the “Fortnight for Romney.”  Amused because he said what any number of us have been thinking; surprised because he is a committed and pretty main-line Catholic.  But then I think a lot of main line Catholics are wondering in what direction our leadership is going. 
     Another friend, a convert and very devout, called me today and brought up the subject of the Fortnight for Freedom and then the LCWR.  He too was uncomfortable with the message as it is coming from the pulpit in his parish and sensed that the “party line” is somehow out of step with the values of the Gospel.
       And I have been uncomfortable all along with what has been going on under the current “leadership” of our bishops.  To begin with, I never understood the opposition to Health Care.  Ok, Ok, I get the part about abortion and concern about health care covering abortions, but ever since the 2008 campaign the bishops were opposed to the idea of health care itself.  They weren’t just saying that we need to make sure that the package doesn’t promote abortion or euthanasia; they were going after the very idea that our society should provide health coverage for every individual.  You know, I went through eight years of Catholic Grade School, four years of Catholic (ok, Jesuit) High School, a BA from a Catholic (ok, Jesuit) university, and a Master’s degree in Theology—I always thought that it was one of the goals of our Catholic faith to make sure that everyone had access to good health care—as well as education, shelter, and food.  I mean, I read Mater et Magistra, Gaudium et Spes, Popolorum Progressio and a bunch of other magisterial documents about the kind of world that is consistent with our Catholic Faith.  Duh, what was the problem with health care?  I never got that back in 2008.  The goals, if not all the particulars, of Obamacare seemed consistent with our Catholic values—at least more consistent than leaving people without access to health care.  I am still confused on this.  Somewhere the “Church” took a turn in the road that I must have missed.  I mean the Obama project was flawed—but not essentially.  It seemed to me that it was a goal we could have worked with. 
         And I understand that regardless of the provisions of Affordable Care Act, the Church cannot in conscience provide contraception and sterilization to its employees.  And it doesn’t have to.  I am not happy, as I have written elsewhere, that President Obama got into this morass with the Church, but I think his solution solves the problem.  The Church does not have to provide objectionable services.  Period. And while I agree the Church should not have to provide the services, if the bishops don’t want people to have access to these services no-how, no-way, well, that is not reasonable.  Yes we Catholics believe that these procedures contradict the moral law—but there is no moral consensus in our society about contraception and we have no right to impose our view on others, especially when we are a minority.  (Though I do not believe that, other than in egregious circumstances, even a majority has a right to impose a doctrine or moral precept on society until the society comes to a consensus on the matter.  For example, I do not want to the Christian minority in Egypt or Iraq subject to sharia law even though the majority of citizenry in those societies hold to sharia law.)  So when we Catholics scream that our “freedoms” are threatened because we cannot block access to health-care covered contraceptives for employees in our institutions, I say: “get over it.”     
        Let’s be honest, for once, your Excellencies—the bottom line of this “Fortnight for Freedom” is nothing less than a rally against the Black Guy in the White House.  It is the leadership of the Church in the United States allying itself with the worst right-wing elements of our society in a Tea Party Frenzy to make the face of America look more…more…more…well, like “us.”  I know that sounds harsh, but our bishops went merrily down Karl Rove’s road of manipulating conservative religious groups to defeat John Kerry in 2004.  In the hopes of making headway against abortion, many of the bishops discarded any other moral concern.  And it was no better four years ago.  And this is just another reason why the leadership has lost its ability to genuinely lead.  There was a day when the Catholic Bishops were heard on moral issues.  Reagan s*** in his drawers when the Bishops published their 1983 pastoral letter condemning the Arms Race and the 1986 letter on economic justice required a change of under-clothing as well.  People listened to the bishops then but their moral voice has since been squandered due to the sex abuse and financial scandals as well as their pandering to the political right.  Maybe it is just as well that the Bishops are speaking up against social justice; it might actually help the cause.  But meanwhile, the voice of the Church today, at least the voice we are listening to, are the “nuns on the bus.”    Here I am fifty-some years later and once again I am say: “Yes, Sister.”

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