Election Time Again

By Diogenes (articles ) | Feb 14, 2004

Every four years the USCCB puts out a voting guide which, in nervous and indirect language, invites U.S. Catholics to wring their hands for ten minutes outside the polling booth before voting Democratic. Not surprisingly the guides tend to be light on theology and big on the importance of daily flossing, say, or responsible lawn care. Check out the following focus question from the latest specimen:

How will we address the tragic fact that more than 30,000 children die every day as a result of hunger, international debt, and lack of development around the world, as well as the fact that the younger you are, the more likely you are to be poor here in the richest nation on Earth?

Can a child really die as a result of international debt the way his brother dies as a result of hunger? Has any child ever died as a result of lack of development? Why is it a tragic fact that "the younger you are, the more likely you are to be poor here in the richest nation on Earth"? How is this a worse scenario than "the older you are, the more likely you are to be poor"?

To raise such objections to Responsible Citizenship is in deplorable taste, obviously, but also beside the point. The document is by design morally frivilous: its purpose is anaesthetic, not educative. If a high school girl offers a prayer at a youth retreat that we forgive Zambia's debt, it's unsporting to ask her to explain the consequences for foreign investment and for the rural economy. The USCCB, like this globally aware sophomore, is out to teach us neither moral theology nor economics but to help numb the conscience as we yank the lever for Ted Kennedy or Barney Frank. If famine were truly a moral concern to a bishop, instead of an onion hidden in his political hanky, he couldn't write this kind of blather.

Well then, what might he write?

"When I ponder the thousands of children who will die of famine before this day is out, and when I consider the millions of dollars my diocese has spent simply to keep its priests out of the prison that their crimes deserve, and when I realize that this same money might not only feed many of these children but help them make a down payment on a Buick, I confess I tremble for the salvation of my soul. Accordingly I have decided, by way of penance and reparation, to halve my annual salary, sell my beach house, fast two days a week, and donate the difference to the Missionaries of Charity. May God in His infinite mercy spare me at the Last Assize."

Hint: don't look for many changes in the 2008 edition.

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  • Posted by: - Feb. 14, 2004 11:40 PM ET USA

    Most of the members of the USCCB can be excused for "lack of capacity" to understand their real mission in life. Unfortunately, most of them can't remember their First Holy Communion catechism well enough to know why God made them: "God made me to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him in this life and to be happy with Him forever in the next." Live life according to that and you have no need for all this social justice drivel that they work and strain over, year after year.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Feb. 14, 2004 9:29 PM ET USA

    The 2008 edition? And just where, pray tell, Diogenes, do you think the Lord will have placed the present members of the USCCB by that time if they change not, may God have mercy on us all???

  • Posted by: - Feb. 14, 2004 12:16 PM ET USA

    The U.S. has spiritually been on a starvation diet. The sheer volume of paper, TV coverage and sound newsbytes used by clerical administrators to disseminate this stale, consciousness-raising stuff over the last thirty years is impressively poor fare, and has been offered in the interests of mutual validation and job security -- and in lieu of clear, Catholic catechesis -- especially sound formation of youth. It's American kids who are hungry!

  • Posted by: - Feb. 14, 2004 11:10 AM ET USA

    They certainly don't study economics or political philosophy in seminary, so, to me, they should do the same thing as a layman that knows nothing of theology or philosophy but pops off about it. They should just be quiet.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 14, 2004 10:02 AM ET USA

    Things are not going to change until the {old} Guard is removed or dies off and are replaced by Burkes,Chaputs and Bruskiwitz's {sp.}

  • Posted by: - Feb. 14, 2004 9:40 AM ET USA

    I once asked a theologian priest who worked for the USCCB, "where do the US Bishops get their ideas about economics, development, finances, business, management, government health care and their "social-economic theology." He said, "Don't blame me." Even with more conservative bishops, there seems to be no change in these economic documents. The Church in the US will not change if there is not a change in our understanding of economics. There is still a need of change in the USCCB staff.