November 18, 2008

Last rant for a while, hopefully

I have said before, repeatedly, that I find the abortion issue to be entirely poisonous to the political discourse of this country—largely because it inspires single-issue voters on both sides to overlook huge faults in one candidate just to vote against someone who disagrees on this one point. I've also said that I wish people would just let the issue rest a while so we can get back to other issues and stop arguing over a stalemate.

And yet I keep finding myself drawn back into the argument.

I think this is, in part, because I have sympathies on both sides, and as someone comparatively neutral I get really irritated to see the sheer misrepresentation flying around. Most recently, I've been witnessing the Roman Catholic Church trying to self-destruct over the issue.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, many bishops and priests launched a full-court press to get McCain elected, using crass threats about the Eucharist and salvation to cudgel voters into voting against Obama. Having failed at that, the political wind continues, as quoted in a recent TIME article (hat tip to Whispers):

"There's more fear here than wrath," a senior Vatican official told TIME with regard to the Catholic hierarchy's attitude toward Obama. However, if Obama signs the Freedom of Choice Act in his first months in office "it would be the equivalent of a war," says the same official. "It would be like saying: 'We've heard the Catholic Church and we have no interest in their concerns."

The Vatican and the USCCB are now reaping what they have sown. When they say with one breath that Catholics should consider all issues when voting, and with the next that abortion is the most important issue and trumps all others, they set themselves up as politicians playing the game rather than voices of morality. By telling millions of Catholics that they, as Catholics, must not vote for Obama, they risked their position as spokesmen for all Catholics; and when a majority of Catholics voted for Obama anyway, they lost that position. Even if most Catholics are pro-life (and I think we are), the vote served to discredit the politician-bishops, showing that they do not speak for a majority of their members and that they do not control the votes of their members.

Of course, as soon as they lost, they tried to make nice, as politicians do. "Voting for Obama is a mortal sin" suddenly became "We need to seek a compromise position" when the bishops' political dicta were roundly ignored, but now it's too late. I at least haven't noticed large numbers of people hanging back from Communion, though admittedly I haven't been paying close attention and my sample size would be small in any case; but I'm pretty sure that the 54% of Catholics that voted for Obama did so with a clear conscience, contra anything the bishops claimed about their eternal salvation being in mortal peril. Had they stuck with their original stated position—that many issues are important and voters need to look at the whole candidate—they could make reasonably credible claims on this issue. But the quote about 'war' doesn't pass the laugh test, and the last piece of the quote, that the government has no interest in the concerns of "the Catholic Church", is a truth of their own making: having demonstrated that "the Catholic Church" really means "the hierarchy" and not "Catholics", they've made themselves politically a lot less relevant.

The real tragedy, religiously speaking, is that it makes them morally less relevant as well. When religions really do stay above politics, they retain a moral authority over their congregation and a moral influence on leaders, even leaders of other religions. When they descend into politics, they become politicians, and relinquish moral authority in the eyes of their congregation (at least those that disagree politically) and in the eyes of outside observers (who may or may not disagree)—it looks like they're saying it just to get votes for their guy.

"Chicago enjoys a myth about itself---tough, brawling, but also amiable---that's grounded in a certain amount of bad behavior. A lot of people here like the legend of corruption, if not the actual practice. Corruption makes good stories." --Mary Schmich

Posted by blahedo at 5:23pm on 18 Nov 2008
This is why I prefer to talk about it as the right to choice. What I believe the consequences are for abortion in the afterlife, I feel that I have no right to make that decision for another human being. Is it not the best for me to look after my own self instead of trying to judge others? I dont know. Posted by Leigh Ann at 8:46pm on 18 Nov 2008
Since Joseph Cardinal Bernadin died, I have not heard any member of the Catholic Hierarchy speaking with any credibility on moral issues. I miss him. Posted by lee at 12:13am on 19 Nov 2008
Hey you. Long time no peer. Drop me a snail mail address sometime wouldja? Posted by Shalom at 12:22pm on 2 Jan 2009
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