Catholics and Politics
Is Not Our Policy To Deny Communion"
Archbishop Sean O'Malley
made the following statement on July 29, 2003, from his Archdiocese's
Public Release Office, "a Catholic politician who holds a public,
pro-choice position should not be receiving Communion...."
However, he added (incredibly!): "The Church presumes that each
person is receiving in good faith. It is not our policy to deny Communion.
It is up to the individual." (The presumption is obviously
GOP: Gays wooed/Santorum booed, AWB stays, Prolife plank might go, & Social Conservatives wondering
by Brian J. Kopp, DPM
It is undeniable: Social conservatives, especially Christian conservatives, have been the base, bread and butter contributors, and footsoldiers of the GOP for decades.
Yet there are troubling signs on the horizon of the GOP party which must be analyzed and addressed by those same social conservatives.
The Santorum flap was instrumental in exposing the fact that the GOP has no desire to stand behind those who embrace and express the traditional viewpoint on homosexuality. The unabashed courting of the Log Cabin Republicans has been seen as going hand in hand with the failure of the national GOP leadership to rally around Santorum, and defend his rights and ideals, which are indeed representative of the base of the GOP.
The Bush administration has announced that it will support the continuation of the Clinton era gun grab known as the Assault Weapons Ban (AWB), despite earlier promising moves from the Ashcroft Attorney General's office that indicated this Administration at least understood the intent of the Second Amendment.
Finally, some conservative observers and pundits are privately worrying, with good reason, that the GOP will jettison the Pro-Life plank from the GOP party platform before the 2008 elections, if not before. Former PA Governor and current Secretary of Homeland Defense Tom Ridge, considered second in line if Cheney is unable to continue as VP, was one of a handful of GOP governors who demanded the pro-life plank be pulled from the GOP party platform in 1997.
Obviously, such moves carry no negative repercussions for ambitious GOP movers and shakers, even with the "pro-life" Bush administration. While the Democrats mercilessly apply a pro-abort litmus test to judicial candidates, the GOP is too timid to stand by its own pro-life plank and do likewise.
It has often been said that the three issues central to social conservatives are abortion, homosexuality, and the Second Amendment. Not all social conservatives agree to the respective ranking of these issues in the top three list, but most agree these three issues are the core social conservative issues.
Yet the GOP appears to be waffling on all three issues, and all portents indicate this waffling is and will continue to grow into a battle for the soul of the GOP in the next 4-8 years.
Frankly, I doubt social conservatives are going to come out on top on all three of these core issues. Further, its quite possible that, given current trajectories, the GOP will cave on all three.
Unfortunately, there are those within the GOP who despise the presence of the social conservative influence among its ranks, and desire nothing less than to move the GOP farther to the left (they will call it being "moderate") to, in effect, leave social conservatives with no party to call "home."
Many argue that its no use going too far down this path of thought. Bush himself has some true "conservative" bona fides, and does not appear willing to allow this "moderating" (read, "Liberalizing") force within the GOP to 100% hold sway. At least we hope this is the case.
But the battle is upon us, and the conservative movement must decide how to address it. In fact, first and foremost, social conservatives must wake up and realize how far this battle has already advanced, and how much ground the liberalizing forces in the GOP have claimed.
Then we must, reluctantly, think about the unthinkable:
What will social conservatives do IF the GOP 1) removes the pro-life plank before 2008, 2) continues its waffling on the homosexual issue, and 3) continues the attack on the Second Amendment which advanced so very far under the previous administration.
Its time for social conservatives to be pro-active instead of reactive, and to make our voice heard even louder than ever within the GOP.
of the GOP is at stake, and I for one do not desire to be left politically
homeless by 2008.
George Weigel on Authentic Catholic Citizenship, and the Duty of Catholic Politicians to Behave as Catholics
Chicago, September 16, 2003 - George Weigel, one of America’s leading commentators on religion and public policy, was given the 2003 Catholic Citizens of Illinois St. Thomas More Award for outstanding Catholic citizenship. Previous recipients of this award include Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly and the author of Goodbye Good Men, Michael S. Rose. Mr. Weigel attended the group’s awards banquet on September 12, joining Congressman Henry Hyde and Catholic leaders from Illinois and across the country.
Catholic Citizens of Illinois
Prior to Mr. Weigel’s address, Catholic Citizens of Illinois president, Mary Anne Hackett, recapped the highlights of the past year:
• Speakers at the monthly luncheon forums in the past year included Rev. Joseph Fessio of Ave Maria University; Dr. Judith Reisman, author of Kinsey: Crimes and Consequences; Rev. James Gould, Diocese of Arlington, VA, who discussed vocations; Dr. James Hitchcock speaking about Voice of the Faithful; Dale Ahlquist from the Chesterton Society; Mother Assumpta Long; and the author Leading Catholic Indexes author Kenneth Jones. Articles based on their presentations appeared in national Catholic periodicals and have been widely distributed on the Internet.
• New Advisory Board members were announced: Helen Hull Hitchcock, founder-director of Women, Faith and Family; Michael S. Rose, author; Phyllis Schlafly, founder of Eagle Forum; and Dale Vree, publisher of the New Oxford Review.
• Catholic Citizens of Illinois Directors appeared frequently in print, on the radio and on local network programming defending the faith in news stories and on public affairs programs like Chicago Tonight, aired on the local public television channel, WTTW
• Membership had grown substantially every year since 1996. There are currently over eleven hundred dues paying members
• According to WEBSTATS, the number of “hits” at www.catholiccitizens.org had grown from 5,000 in August of 2002 to over 200,000 in the month of August, 2003, a forty-fold increase, making it one of the most popular Catholic Internet destinations in the country, with a growing number of visitors from overseas.
• The quarterly newsletters to members and weekly e-newsletters are widely read not just in Illinois, but nationally
In his stimulating address, Mr. Weigel focused on two themes: firstly, that democracy ungrounded in moral truth is deficient and doomed, and secondly, that the moral arguments of Catholics are not sectarian, political opinions, but articulate the very foundations of human liberty and freedom, thus forming the basis of a morally and intellectually coherent public worldview that defends life from conception to natural death.
Mr. Weigel began by referencing a passage from a letter written by a second century Christian, probably a bishop, to a pagan, in which was captured the essence of Christianity.
“Christians are not distinguished from the rest of humanity by country, language or custom, for nowhere do they live in cities simply among their own, nor do they speak some unusual dialect nor do they practice an eccentric lifestyle. But while they live in both Greek and barbarian cities as each one’s lot was cast, and follow the local customs in dress and food and other aspects of life, at the same time, they demonstrate a remarkable and admittedly unusual character of their own citizenship. They live in their own countries, but only as aliens. They participate in everything as citizens, and endure everything as foreigners. Every foreign country is their fatherland, and every fatherland is foreign. They marry like everyone else and have children, but they do not expose their offspring. They share their food, but not their wives. They are in the flesh, but they do not live according to the flesh. They live on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, and in their private lives they transcend the laws.”
“The image of the Christian citizen as someone who is always a resident alien,” noted Weigel, “has had a powerful influence on Christian thinking about politics, political responsibility, and our obligations in this world for the last eighteen hundred years.”
Mr. Weigel perceives that this double life is driven by the fact that Christians “live in time and live ahead of time.” Living “in time,” in the real world, managing jobs, families, sickness and health, are challenges obvious to all of us. The process of “living ahead of time” occurs because “we are a people who know how the story is going to turn out, that God will be vindicated,” said Mr. Weigel. For practicing Catholics, this future reality is lived out in the form of our major holidays, like Easter, our Sunday Mass, where Easter is replayed, and the devotions to prayer and charity during our daily lives.
Jesus is Lord, God is God and Caesar is not God
The faith and hope that allows us as Catholics to “live ahead of time” has a profound impact on the way Catholics look at politics and the demands of citizenship. “If Jesus is Lord, God is God and Caesar is not God, than no one else is God but God,” Weigel noted. “There is an anti-totalitarian dimension built into the Creed from the beginning… This is an important part of Christian convictions when confronting the modern state because the modern state is very good at setting up false gods for us to worship.”
So if God is God, and Caesar isn’t, politics can never be more important than religion and morality. Since the so-called Enlightenment, there have been many examples of the brutal consequences for ignoring this fact, from the French Revolution, to the bloody wars of the 20th Century, and in communist dictatorships that tyrannize millions today. For Catholics, politics must always be more than just a brutal quest for power. Christ ‘the King’ would have it no other way.
“The Christian conviction that Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not Lord is,” noted Weigel, “in the long view of history, one of the deepest roots of what we call ‘democracy.’ It does not begin with John Locke or the European Enlightenment, democracy as we experience it in the West today has its deepest roots in the Christian civilization.” If Jesus is Lord and Caesar isn’t, that leaves the Church as what Weigel called “a sign and safeguard of the transcendence and dignity of the human person, because the Church sees in every human being someone for whom Christ died.”
The fallacy of the 20th Century is the notion that somehow, democracy can be run like a machine independent of moral underpinnings. “In the Catholic view of these things,” observed Weigel, “democracy is never a finished product, but an ongoing experiment in a people’s moral capacity and ability to be self governing. By moral capacity we mean our ability to know what is good, to act on that knowledge, and to defend the good. It takes a certain kind of people possessed of convictions and virtues to make democracy work.”
Mr. Weigel pointed out the failures of the meticulously designed Weimar Republic, which collapsed into Nazi tyranny, as a cautionary tale for those secular elites who believe moral and cultural foundations are unimportant to democracy. Catholics, said Weigel, are uniquely qualified to demonstrate how morality and faith in God are necessary to avoid the tyranny that comes when modern derivations of Caesar declare themselves to be supreme gods and rulers of all, whether they come dressed as generals, lawmakers, or Supreme Court Justices.
The Duties and Responsibilities of a Catholic Politician
Given our inclination as Catholics to see politics as our founding fathers did, in moral and political terms, it is especially difficult in the post Roe vs. Wade era to sort out how to respond to the onslaught of secular mandates coming from all corners of government. Fortunately, the Holy See and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued the Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the participation of Catholics in Public Life. This is an extraordinarily document and is vital to Catholic participation in political life. Mr. Weigel pointed our four reasons why this is so.
1. Not all issues in public life are equal
The Roman Catholic defense of traditional moral principles are simply not on the same plane as fiscal or public works issues: Abortion, euthanasia and biotech issues like human cloning and post-aborted fetal stem cell research are not the same as highways, bridges, fiscal policy and foreign aid. The CDF document makes it clear that these fundamental moral issues of life and death cut to the very foundations of justice in a society and must be given priority.
2. Not all issues can be dismissed as purely partisan political opinions
“The Catholic defense of the right to life is not a question of a sectarian imposition of views,” said Mr. Weigel. “Church teaching on the right to life is grounded and articulated in principles that are available to anyone willing to work through the moral argument.” In other words, one does not have to be a devout Catholic to understand the argument that life begins at conception and extends to natural death. Rather than being sectarian or partisan, it is an argument that impacts every American, regardless of race, creed or gender.
They are arguments “validated by science, confirmed by logic,” noted Mr. Weigel. “Nothing that is a human being was ever anything but a human being; nothing that is going to become a human being was ever anything but a human being… It’s not a question of church and state, but of morality and public policy.” In spite of this common sense approach, religious tests for public office are flourishing, their most recent victim being Bill Pryor. Prior was told smugly by liberal Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) that his “deeply held (Catholic) beliefs” disqualified him for service on the federal appellate bench, “as if only Senator Schumer’s deeply held beliefs qualify anyone for judgeship!” exclaimed Weigel. “This is unacceptable! This is constitutionally and philosophically appalling!”
The Catholic defense of life, said Weigel, “is not a question of sectarian imposition, but a genuinely public argument made in a public vocabulary everyone can understand and engage in.” In that context, Catholic politicians who adopt the “I’m personally opposed but won’t impose my values on a pluralistic society” are not really behaving as intelligent Catholics, or demonstrating any intelligence at all. “They are suggesting that being pro-life is an exercise in sectarian particularism, when in fact, what is going on is genuinely public debate.”
3. Catholics have a “duty to be morally coherent”
Being loyal and obedient to the traditions, doctrines, and teachings of the Roman Catholic Church is not just a religious duty, but a public duty. For Catholics to remain in communion with their faith, the choices are clear. “One’s coherence and integrity as a public official requires that one connect the dots between conviction and policy,” said Weigel. “Would “I’m personally opposed, but” have been an intellectually coherent stance on apartheid, or on slavery? What I conclude is that ‘pro-choice’ Catholicism is morally incoherent and publicly incoherent.”
Is it the bishop’s role to counsel such politicians about their errors? Sure, says Weigel, but it is also the duty of lay Catholics to challenge the integrity of the ‘I’m personally opposed, but’ Catholic politicians. “Illinois Senator Dick Durbin is morally and publicly incoherent,” said Mr. Weigel, drawing an extended applause. “When he says, ‘there are many views on this,’ he has to be told… he is inaccurate and incoherent… over and over again… challenge their coherence, challenge their own integrity.”
Weigel’s advice to Catholics across the country dealing with pro-choice or ‘I’m personally opposed, but’ Catholic politicians is to inform them in no uncertain terms that they are in “defective positions of communion with the Roman Catholic Church.” Weigel suggested approaching Catholics with the proposal that their “own integrity requires that (they should) refrain from expressing a bond which has been broken… If you think that this is a constitutional matter of a free people, then as a matter of your own integrity as a Catholic public official, you should not present yourself as being in full communion with the Catholic community when in fact you are not.”
4. Catholics must lead the way to a richer and more honest understanding of tolerance
One of the frequent criticisms Roman Catholics endure is that by holding pro-life views, we are all intolerant. This isn’t fair, and it isn’t true. In fact, there is hardly anything more intolerant that the fallout from the Lawrence vs. Texas decision, which imposes state secularism (i.e. the worship of the imperial, autonomous “me”) as the state sanctioned and mandated national ideology of the United States. The CDF points out that real tolerance does not mean avoiding differences, or suggesting that profound moral differences don’t make a difference. It means being intelligently honest enough to engage in debating differences in a free market of ideas and opinions
“Genuine tolerance means engaging differences, arguing about them, debating them within a bond civility, human respect and serious arguments,” observed Weigel. “When we insist that certain questions are not settled, regardless of what the Supreme Court says, we are not being intolerant, we are being intelligently committed to reminding Americans that “equal justice for all” must be more than eighteen words carved above the entrance to the Supreme Court.”
“To suggest that Catholics are somehow suspect when we bring these religiously formed, intelligent arguments into public life is a form of intolerant secularism,” said Weigel. And the storm clouds are darkening, especially in the short time since the Lawrence vs. Texas decision, which Weigel noted mandates “an understanding of ‘liberty’ that simply evacuates moral meaning from the word. If that’s all that liberty means, we have a very serious problem - the court has established a new god - with a small ‘g’ - and that god is ‘self.’ Those who do not burn incense to the god of ‘self’ are now, according to Lawrence, to be under strict scrutiny to prove that we are not bigots because of it.” In what could turn out to be the understatement of the decade, Weigel observed, “This is all really bad news.”
Time to get to work, and get back to our roots
The answer says Weigel, is that Catholics have to be willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work. “We have to propose to the country a richer idea of freedom, like the one the founders pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor for… We have to remind our country of what our founders knew in 1776, namely that freedom and moral truth are intimately connected.”
And Catholics are not alone in that fight. For centuries, the Catholic commitment to representative democracy has been articulated by great saints who defended individual rights. Weigel noted that Pope John Paul II has consistently supported these teachings, and the notion that “freedom untied from moral truth is freedom’s worst enemy.”
In cultures where there is no ultimate appeal to God and the natural law, “one of two things is going to happen,” noted Weigel. “I’m going to impose my power on you, or you are going to impose your power on me. That is the end of democracy and a self governing people. That is the tyranny of the strong, and it is freedom’s worst enemy.”
Mr. Weigel closed his remarks by commending the hundreds of organizations rising up across the United States who were “contending for a place for moral truth in society.” He noted that imbedded in the Catholic message were the distinctly American values “that our country rests not on the same foundation of our own personal willfulness, but on the richer nobler foundation of certain self evident truths, about the human person, the human condition, the human community, and human destiny. To contend for that - to fight that good fight - is a noble task from which we should never shrink and we should never tire.”
Karl Maurer is a CPA and the web
editor of catholiccitizens.org. He writes from Chicago, and may be
contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Martydom of Catholic Judicial Nominees Continues at the Hands of "Catholic" Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)
If nothing else, the Senate Democrats are consistent. Yesterday they successfully stonewalled President Bush's nomination of Alabama Atty. Gen. William Pryor to the federal appeals court as the Senate Republicans and pro-family groups across the country alleged anti-Catholic bias against Pryor due to his Roman Catholic views on abortion. Pryor expressed these views unapologetically during his confirmation hearings earlier this year.
While the old tradition of the filibuster -- i.e. dominating Senate proceedings with elongated oratory that cannot be stopped without a three fifths majority -- has been used as a last resort by both parties for centuries, it's recent use by Democrats to block so many federal judicial appointments is unprecedented.
William Pryor has a powerful history as a legal expert, and his qualifications are unquestionable, which is why Bush nominated him for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta. His nomination is the third the Democrats have blocked by filibuster. Because it takes 60 votes to break filibusters, and the Senate Republicans could only muster 54 voters yesterday, Pryor's nomination and his political future is on hold. At worst, his nomination is effectively killed.
So far this year, the Senate Democrats have blocked the nominations of Miguel Estrada for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and Priscilla Owen for the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court. Several nominees in the wings who are equally unapologetic about their Catholic and pro-life views can expect similar treatment.
Recently, a conservative action group ran a series of ads bringing attention to the fact that the actions by the Democrats, couched in liberal terms of "social justice", amounted to nothing more than religous bigotry. The theme of these ads recounted the Eighteenth Century signs frequently found in the shop windows of east coast urban centers, 'Catholics need not apply.'
While bigotry and prejudice along racial and gender lines have been effectively combated in this country, repeated attacks on Catholic views and values by the secular media and by Senate Democrats demonstrate that in spite of the tens of millions of Catholics in the US (estimated to be as much as one third of the population) anti-Catholic bigotry is alive and well.
Several leading Catholic groups have voiced their concerns that Catholics were being excluded for consideration in federal judgeships simply because of their religious views, a litmus test that is on its face unconstitutional.
Whether there are any legal remedies for resolving the alleged constitutional issues are unclear at this time. One recourse could be for Pryor himself to file a motion with the Supreme Court asking for their 'opinion' based on the evidence, including statements by Sen. Durbin.
Throughout the Pryor nomination, Durbin has claimed to be a "practicing Catholic" with little to show backing up that claim. His scandalous comments regarding his so-called social values trumping Vatican directives and Catholic theology have yet to be refuted by his Bishop in the Springfield, Illinois Diocese, John Lucas, in spite of requests for clarifications by Catholic groups such as Catholic Citizens of Illinois. Sen. Durbin has been an unwavering supporter of homosexual rights and abortion on demand, including partial birth abortion (sadly, Durbin used to be pro-life.)
To date, Denver's Bishop Chaput is the only US Bishop to have spoken out against Durbin's action. Chaput's comments are posted at the Diocese of Denver website in the Bishop's column dated July 30, 2003.
(CCI Editors Note 8/5/03: Bishop Lucas responded to our letter asking what was going to be done about Durbin. The Illinois Bishops sent letters to all state and federal office holders. 'See Bishop George Lucas Fires Back: Illinois Bishops Send Letters to Elected State and Federal Officials in Illinois at http://www.catholiccitizens.org/press/contentview.asp?c=7494)
Unless and until there are consequences
for self proclaimed Catholic politicians who support the culture of
death and routinely ignore the teachings of the Church, Catholic and
pro-life candidates for political offices will continue to by martyred
at the hands of 'Catholic' Democrats like Sen. Durbin. And as long
as the Church remains silent while this martyrdom occurs, it will
be increasingly difficult for them to be credible defenders of moral
behavior for the country as a whole.
Most Ridiculous Item of the Week: Pro-Abortion, Gay-Rights Advocate Senator Durbin Claims To Be A "Practicing Catholic"
His parish pastor in Illinois hasn't seen him at Mass in years, but that doesn't stop abortion rights, gay rights Senator Durbin (D-IL) from claiming to be a practicing Catholic. And what does his Bishop have to say about this? Nothing at all! As long as heretics like Durbin continue to mislead the Catholic voters and the bishops say nothing in response, the fortunes of the Catholic Church will continue to fade from bad to worse.
In a Chicago Tribune story by Jan Crawford Greenburg published July 24, 2003, the Chi Trib noted, "A sharply divided Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination Wednesday of Alabama Atty. Gen. William Pryor to a federal appeals court, but not before senators engaged in a bitter exchange over whether Democrats were opposing him because of his religious views.
"The 10-9 vote along party lines sends Pryor's nomination to the full Senate, where Democrats have vowed to block his confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta. If they cannot persuade moderate Republicans to oppose the nomination, they are expected to filibuster to prevent a vote.
"Pryor is a conservative lawyer who opposes abortion and has criticized the Supreme Court for excluding religion from public life. Opponents also have criticized his record on the environment and raised questions about his fundraising activities for Republican candidates.
"While his nomination was approved, Pryor did not receive enthusiastic support from all of the committee's Republicans. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said he voted for Pryor to move his nomination out of the committee, but would not commit to supporting him when the Senate votes on the nomination."
The Tribune goes on to report that, "the contentious hearing revealed deep tensions among Republicans and Democrats, with senators exchanging harsh words over tactics. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) was particularly critical of efforts by GOP groups and some senators to suggest that Democrats were opposing Pryor because of his Catholicism.
"Said Durbin, "As a person raised Catholic and who is a practicing Catholic, I deeply resent this new line of attack from the right wing that anyone who opposes him is anti-Catholic," Durbin said. "Today's committee hearing is a historic low for this fine committee."
"The controversy emerged after a Republican group--headed by a former White House lawyer for President Bush's father--printed a series of ads in newspapers in Rhode Island and Maine suggesting that Democrats were blocking Catholics from the federal bench.
The ads pictured an imposing courthouse door closed, with a sign attached that "Catholics Need Not Apply."
(CINO's) like Durbin are allowed to continue their war against the
faith without a peep out of their bishops, what are the Catholics
in the pews supposed to think? Durbin can brazenly disregard church
teachings, and they can't? Of course, a public figure like Durbin
only confirms Democrat Catholics in their sinfull lifestyles, and
the silence of the bishops may as well be a public endorsement.