Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Campaign Notes

And with Labor Day come and gone, away we go....

Given the recent doings, though, it seems an especially healthy time to recall that "As Catholics, we are not single-issue voters."

Before anyone gets too hopped up, the people who had the unmitigated gall to declare such a thing were... the US bishops -- well, the 98% of 'em who voted to approve the bench's quadrennial statement on Faithful Citizenship at the Baltimore plenary last November.

Just as some among their number showed in an unprecedented way over the last week, the teaching authority of the church rests not with the pundits or partisans -- and, lest any doubt remained, surely not with the Speaker of the House -- but with the high-hats... period. So just in case anyone's looking for the take on the issues at stake in this election season without being even more confused (or, worse, spun), the prelates' FC portal is, podcasts and all, your best place to start... and while you're at it, it won't hurt to revisit the PopeTalks from B16's April visit, either.

On a related note, beginning tomorrow -- and continuing through the nine Tuesdays leading up to Election Day -- the USCCB has provided a novena "for life, justice and peace"; while the readings and reflections will change by the week, its closing prayer remains constant:
Immaculate Heart of Mary,
help us to conquer the menace of evil,
which so easily takes root in the hearts of the people of today,
and whose immeasurable effects
already weigh down upon our modern world
and seem to block the paths toward the future.

From famine and war, deliver us.
From nuclear war, from incalculable self-destruction, from every kind of war, deliver us.
From sins against human life from its very beginning, deliver us.
From hatred and from the demeaning of the dignity of the children of God, deliver us.
From every kind of injustice in the life of society, both national and international, deliver us.
From readiness to trample on the commandments of God, deliver us.
From attempts to stifle in human hearts the very truth of God, deliver us.
From the loss of awareness of good and evil, deliver us.
From sins against the Holy Spirit, deliver us.

Accept, O Mother of Christ,
this cry laden with the sufferings of all individual human beings,
laden with the sufferings of whole societies.
Help us with the power of the Holy Spirit conquer all sin:
individual sin and the “sin of the world,”
sin in all its manifestations.
Let there be revealed once more in the history of the world
the infinite saving power of the redemption:
the power of merciful love.
May it put a stop to evil.
May it transform consciences.
May your Immaculate Heart reveal for all the light of hope.

...and, well, as it's gonna take a boatload of prayers just to watch as the next few weeks unfold, it's never too early to start.

* * *
It's been near-impossible to miss already... but lest anyone has, the face-offs from within the pews have likewise begun in earnest.

Observing that "politics trump morals" for the Democratic ticket -- and a Catholic's presence on it "has compounded the problem" -- Supreme Knight of Columbus Carl Anderson penned a Saturday piece for Barack Obama's hometown paper, the Chicago Sun-Times:
The selection of Sen. Joseph Biden as Barack Obama's running mate underscores, once again, the challenges faced by these candidates among evangelical Christians and Catholics. In the case of Obama, the concern is that his faith is not the sort of Christianity that most evangelicals or Catholics would profess. Far from solving this problem, the selection of Biden brings to the ticket a man at odds with the highest levels of his own Catholic faith.

The result is that these candidates seem unlikely to be able to reassure the evangelical and Catholic voters -- whom they need to win the election -- that the Obama-Biden ticket shares their core values.

Obama's troubles with Catholics and evangelicals can be traced to his many years of attendance at the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ, a church that professes a belief in "liberation theology." According to "talking points" listed on Trinity Church's Web site, "The vision statement of Trinity United Church of Christ is based upon the systematized liberation theology that started in 1969 with the publication of Dr. James Cone's book, Black Power and Black Theology."

Saddleback Pastor Rick Warren summarized the distrust evangelicals have for liberation theology when he said on Fox News: "Black liberation theology is an even more extreme version of liberation theology, which started in Latin America and has been totally discredited. It was basically Marxism in Christianity."

Catholics too are wary of liberation theology, and none has been more outspoken on the issue than Pope Benedict XVI, who wrote several years before his election as pope that for liberation theology, "Nothing lies outside . . . political commitment. Everything has a political color. A theology that is not . . . essentially political, is regarded as 'idealistic' and thus as lacking in reality."...

Pope Benedict, during his April visit to Washington, D.C., spoke of the need to practice faith in public life: "Christians are easily tempted to conform themselves to the spirit of this age. . . . We have seen this emerge in an acute way in the scandal given by Catholics who promote an alleged right to abortion."

And just this month, Archbishop Raymond Burke -- the equivalent of chief justice of the Vatican's Supreme Court -- said communion should be refused to "a public official who knowingly and willingly supports actions which . . . publicly promote procured abortion, which is the taking of innocent, defenseless human life."

Biden, who claims a personal opposition to abortion that he is unwilling to follow in his public life, falls into this category. He now faces the possibility not only of alienating Catholics, but also of being refused communion on the campaign trail.

The problem -- for Catholics and evangelicals alike -- is that a ticket whose politics appear to trump moral reasoning is not a compelling ticket. Catholics and evangelicals are looking for candidates who share their core values, not just their pews or holy water.
Addressing the 1.7 million-member KofC's Supreme Convention last month in Quebec, the top knight -- once a staffer in the Reagan White House, now a member of several Vatican dicasteries -- laid out his case in even stronger terms:
It is time that we demand real change – and real change means the end of Roe v. Wade. Real change is possible, but it is difficult. First, we need to end the political manipulation of Catholic voters by abortion advocates. It is time to end the entanglement of Catholic people with abortion killing. It is time to stop creating excuses for voting for pro-abortion politicians. Catholics should no longer be asked to be partners in the abortion regime by voting for politicians who support abortion.

We will never succeed in building a culture of life if we continue to vote for politicians who support a culture of death.

It is time that Catholics shine a bright line of separation between themselves and all those politicians who defend the abortion regime of Roe v. Wade.

Imagine if this year millions of Catholic voters simply say “no” – no to every candidate of every political party who supports abortion.

It’s time we stop accommodating pro-abortion politicians, and it’s time we start demanding that they accommodate us. This is the only decision that offers a real chance for real change. What candidate or political party can withstand the loss of millions of Catholic voters in this election or the next?

Catholic voters have the power to transform our politics. Faithful citizens can build a new politics – a politics that is not satisfied with the status quo but one that is dedicated to building up a new culture of life. There are more than 150 million Catholics in North America, and if we stand together and demand better from our politicians, we could transform politics. And if we truly hope for a culture of life and a civilization of love, then we must first think, and then act, in new ways.
...meanwhile, also on Saturday, Obama's lead public advocate in church chattering-circles -- the former Reagan/Bush (41) staffer and Pepperdine Law Dean Doug Kmiec -- pushed his points in the pages of the New York Times:
Q. What is your position on the morality of abortion, and how is it related to your religious faith?

A. I fully accept the teaching of the church that participating in an abortion is an intrinsic evil. My acceptance of abortion as a grave, categorical wrong is one part respectful deference to authoritative Catholic teaching and one part reasoned deduction from our scientific knowledge of genetics and the beginning of an individual life.

Q. Would you like to see Roe v. Wade overturned?

A. Yes, but not on the terms usually suggested by Republicans. Roe is mistaken constitutional law not just because it invalidated state laws on the subject but because it is contrary to what is described as a self-evident truth in the Declaration of Independence, namely, that we have an unalienable right to life from our creator. It may surprise the general citizenry that not a single sitting justice utilizes the declaration as a source of interpretative guidance.

But even employing the jurisprudential methods applied by the modern court, there is no satisfactory showing that abortion as a matter of custom and tradition was properly found to be an implied aspect of the liberties protected by the 14th Amendment.

Q. Given those views, why do you support Barack Obama?

A. There is a widespread misconception that overturning Roe is the only way to be pro-life. In fact, overturning Roe simply returns the matter to the states, which in their individual legislative determinations could then be entirely pro-abortion. I doubt that many of our non-legally-trained pro-life friends fully grasp the limited effect of overturning Roe.

Secondly, pundits like to toss about the notion that the future of Roe depends on one vote, the mythical fifth vote to overturn the decision. There are serious problems with this assumption: first, Republicans have failed to achieve reversal in the five previous times they asked the court for it; and second, it is far from certain that only one additional vote is needed to reverse the decision in light of the principles of stare decisis by which a decided case ought not to be disturbed. Only Justices Thomas and Scalia have written and joined dissenting opinions suggesting the appropriateness of overturning Roe.

So given those views, the better question is how could a Catholic not support Barack Obama?

Senator Obama’s articulated concerns with the payment of a living wage, access to health care, stabilizing the market for shelter, special attention to the needs of the disadvantaged and the importance of community are all part of the church’s social justice mission.

Applying this to the issue of abortion, the senator has repeatedly indicated that he is not pro-abortion, that he understands the serious moral question it presents, and, most significantly, that he wants to move us beyond the 35 years of acrimony that have done next to nothing to reduce the unwanted pregnancies that give rise to abortions....

Consider the choices: A Catholic can either continue on the failed and uncertain path of seeking to overturn Roe, which would result in the individual states doing their own thing, not necessarily, or in most states even likely, protective of the unborn. Or Senator Obama’s approach could be followed, whereby prenatal and income support, paid maternity leave and greater access to adoption would be relied upon to reduce the incidence of abortion.

It is, of course, not enough for a Catholic legislator to declare himself or herself pro-choice and just leave it at that, but neither Senator Obama, who is not Catholic except by sensibility, nor Joe Biden, who is a lifelong Catholic, leaves matters in that unreflective way.

In my view, Obama and Biden seek to fulfill the call by Pope John Paul II, in the encyclical “Evangelium Vitae,” to “ensure proper support for families and motherhood.” It cannot possibly contravene Catholic doctrine to improve the respect for life by paying better attention to the social and economic conditions of women which correlate strongly with the number of abortions....

There are clearly partisan forces that want nothing more than to manufacture or stir up faith-based opposition to their political opponents. The church has been careful to underscore that Catholics have unfettered latitude to vote for any candidate so long as the intent of the Catholic voter is not to express approval of a grave evil.
Earlier in the year, Kmiec made headlines after announcing that his support for the Blue bloc got him turned away from Communion at a liturgy prior to an April speaking engagement in LA; to boot, the presider's homily, he said, "excoriated" him for "giving scandal for endorsing Senator Obama."

Calling it "the most humiliating experience in my faith life," the prof told the Times that "to be separated in that public manner from the receipt of the eucharist, and to be effectively shunned or separated from the body of Christ in the sense of that particular congregation, has left, I very much regret to say, a permanent spiritual scar."

Kmiec reported that the offending celebrant -- said to be a young religious -- later wrote him to apologize after being "called to order" by the city's archbishop, Cardinal Roger Mahony.