Catholic Culture Solidarity
Catholic Culture Solidarity

another uncertain trumpet

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Oct 14, 2003

The U.S. Bishops' Office of Social Development & World Peace has released another worthless pre-election year document to aid Catholics at the polls. Even the bishops' own news service, combing the text for a paragraph thematic enough to quote from, couldn't come up with anything better than this:

Faithful citizenship calls Catholics to see civic and political responsibilities through the eyes of faith and to bring our moral convictions to public life. People of good will and sound faith can disagree about specific applications of Catholic principles. However, Catholics in public life have a particular responsibility to bring together consistently their faith, moral principles, and public responsibilities.

Right. And Catholics should floss at least once a day. Substitute "Calvinist" or "Mennonite" for "Catholic" in the text (at least, the prescriptive parts) and see if you can find a glitch. You can't. You're not meant to. There are parents who send their teenagers out the door with the admonition "be good!" in a tone of voice that gives permission to do the opposite. This document, by urging Catholics to bring their faith to public life even though they may "disagree about specific applications," in effect gives them permission to ignore unpopular teachings (provided some pretense of hand-wringing takes place). Savor this fine specimen of fluff peeled out of the episcopal lint trap:

The Catholic community is large and diverse. We are Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. We are members of every race, come from every ethnic background, and live in urban, rural, and suburban communities in all fifty states. We are CEOs and migrant farm workers, senators and persons on public assistance, business owners and union members. But all Catholics are called to a common commitment to protect human life and stand with those who are poor and vulnerable. We are all called to provide a moral leaven for our democracy, to be the salt of the earth

What the right hand giveth, the left hand taketh away. "We need," the bishops say, "to support gun safety measures and reasonable restrictions on access to assault weapons and hand guns, and to oppose the use of the death penalty." I don't remember an instruction from the CDF on assault weapons, or a national debate on religious dogma and gun safety legislation, but let that pass. The issue of same-sex unions, by contrast, is a huge and hot topic, occupying talk shows wall-to-wall and focusing sharply on the role of religion in public life. Yet the document makes no explicit reference to same-sex unions, preferring to state, briefly and delicately, the positive case: "Marriage must be protected as a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman and our laws should reflect this principle."

What the right hand giveth, the left hand taketh away. A truly conscientious Catholic citizen, one sincerely looking for guidance, will find no more help than that which Bucky Badger provides at halftime of the Wisconsin-Iowa game, when he exhorts the spectators to "get out and vote."

Unfair? Think back to last summer, to the press photos accompanying pro-life Priscilla Owens's failed candidacy for a federal judgeship. There was Sen. Orrin Hatch, heatedly defending her; there was Sen. Patrick Leahy, not only gloating over her defeat but warning Bush not to send any more "ideological appointments" to the Judiciary Committee. Remember the white-hot telegram of remonstrance from the U.S. Bishops' Office of Social Development & World Peace? Neither do I. The sad fact of the matter is, if every Catholic elected official in the U.S. were to drop dead tomorrow and be replaced by a Mormon, we'd see more, not less, Catholic teaching become law.

We are the salt of the earth.

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