Whose dishonesty?

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Jun 03, 2004

You could write it off as just one more election-year gimmick, and maybe you'd be right to do so. But the tortured effort by Senator Dick Durbin to make Democrats look more "Catholic" than Republicans still deserves a comment.

To get the results he wants, Durbin ascribes equal importance to every political stand taken by the US bishops' conference: all 101 of them. So a lawmaker who votes against a bill on exposure to mercury, or a bill on ownership of media outlets, is marked down just as much as one who votes to protect abortionists who suction the brains out of babies.

A dishonest approach? Of course it is.

But who should be blamed for that dishonesty? Senator Durbin is acting like any partisan politician; he's seizing an opportunity that was made readily available to him. That opportunity was available because the US bishops' conference becomes involved in dozens of political controversies that do not involve clear-cut moral principles, thus distracting attention from those that do. If the bishops issued forthright statements in the first place, establishing a clear hierarchy of moral issues, Durbin could not have exploited them in this way.

So why don't they issue clear statements? Because they want to be exploited in this way.

If you have a better explanation, let me know....

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: - Jun. 09, 2004 9:30 PM ET USA

    Even at the parish level; priests say they "CANNOT" preach about abortion because "IT TURNS PEOPLE OFF!" With such "VALOR" in the trenches its not surprising the Bishops do not lead.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 03, 2004 8:28 PM ET USA

    Jashu, Phil's right on. Many of the documents issued by the Bishops Conference say all the right things (extensively on social justice issues), but remain vague on action: i.e., implementation and consequences -- and shrewdly featuring loopholes for their escape when pressed to prioritize. They have become masters of equivocation...

  • Posted by: - Jun. 03, 2004 8:04 PM ET USA

    You can never excuse a lie by saying he is acting like any other politician. Durbin has ben twisting Church teaching into a real mosaic of his own and he is responsilble for what he says period. There is plenty of blame to go around for the lack of leadership in the Church today but don't give an abortion pushing pol like Durbin a free pass.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 03, 2004 6:47 PM ET USA

    If the USCCB doesn't get it right and deny these "catholic politicians" the Eucharist, I think their has to be a monetary rebelion by the faithful!!!

  • Posted by: - Jun. 03, 2004 6:44 PM ET USA

    Jashu: I have to agree with Phil...And..I have read many of the documents out of the USCCB, and have found the majority of them to be so veiled, vague, and "legalistically" written that people can easily twist them to fit the agenda of their choice. This is a sad truth that needs to be corrected.

  • Posted by: Phil - Jun. 03, 2004 6:31 PM ET USA

    Jashu, I beg to differ. It was Cardinal Bernardin who introduced the "seamless garment" approach, which makes abortion just one of a long list of issues on which politicians should be judged. Yes, he conceded that abortion ranked first on the list. But then he proceeded to undermine the importance of any one issue. That's been the USCCB approach ever since.

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Jun. 03, 2004 6:08 PM ET USA

    ..."Hell"...I think you summed it up nicely Jack...It could just about be the beginning and end of the argument..."Heaven and earth will pass away...but My Word will never pass away..." HIS Word...that is, eternal things...Heaven..., Hell...,...and of course...human souls...

  • Posted by: - Jun. 03, 2004 6:04 PM ET USA

    More and more I am getting the impression that respondents to CWNews have not been reading the documents and statements of the USCCB. This is not intended to be a defense of every bishop in the country. But let's give credit where credit is due...that is part of honest and credibility. Even that hated liberal, Cardinal Bernadin made it very clear in his Chicago Catholic newspaper that there are differential levels of importance in his "seamless garment" and the top of the list, barring none is the right to life, since without it, the rest of the "rights" mean nothing! What is so complicated about that? Jashu

  • Posted by: - Jun. 03, 2004 2:25 PM ET USA

    Reasons for vague statements from bishops: 1.The bishops are very weak! They lack the courage needed to confront heretics & reporters. 2. Some bishops actually SUPPORT politicians who are against the Church because these very same bishops do not accept the TRUE teachings of the Church themselves. They rather be "It's all about love and tolerance" liberals than defenders of Roman Catholicism. 3.Some are hereditary Democrats (Despite the fact that Democrats now adopt anti-Catholic positions!).

  • Posted by: - Jun. 03, 2004 2:23 PM ET USA

    Maybe it's endemic to the very idea of a US Bishop's Conference? Every kid I've met who's been educated in a Catholic college is religiously passionate about the state of the environment but evinces little or no concern about abortion. Hell, everybody wants a clean environment. It's a lot more difficult to speak the truth on sexual matters. Stands against abortion or homosexual marriage have costs. We seem to be worshipping a quaternity: Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and "Social Justice."

  • Posted by: cjmichael - Jun. 03, 2004 2:00 PM ET USA

    I actually appreciated "Dick's" expose'. Since ALL reasonable Catholics know that abortion is a litmus test issue, "Dick" clearly shows us that the infamous Ted Kennedy votes against the Church and its teaching 96% of the time. John Kerry, another ANTI-Catholic candidate from our friends at the Democratic Party votes against Church teaching 89% of the time. Maybe it's just me, but that's pretty clear!

  • Posted by: - Jun. 03, 2004 1:03 PM ET USA

    Sentimental tree-huggers like to think that Jesus spent a lot of time instructing little children on how to take care of the environment. This idiotic view has even gone so far as to engender a new "theology of the environment." Bishops who are having such a hard time getting the basics straight should hardly waste any time dealing with such inanities.