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The politicization of the U.S. church

In August, Bishop Thomas G. Doran of Rockford, Illinois, wrote a column in which he announced that the "seven 'sacraments' of [the Democrats'] secular culture are" -- in alphabetical order -- "abortion, buggery, contraception, divorce, euthanasia, feminism of the radical type, and genetic experimentation and mutilation." Carolyn, a Commonweal reader from Rockford, writes:

The politicization of the American Catholic church does seem to be picking up steam; I am concerned about it.

In the Midwest, it's everywhere. Hastert's campaign staff stands in the vestibule of my church with campaign literature. Catholics seem to be a big battleground for the political parties--and priests and others who should be more level-headed seem to be getting caught up. In other parishes Republican nominating petitions were circulated at the beginning and end of catechism classes. In Nov. 2004, one priest flat out told us we couldn't vote for Kerry, and issued a "my guy won" sermon after the election. And yes, Hastert's picture appears regularly in my friend's church bulletin. My friend is a lifelong Catholic, a senior Knights of Columbus member, a pillar of his community; his daughter was the first altar girl in his parish. And he and his family are being told by their own bishop they represent buggery and are a clear and present danger to society because they vote Democrat.

I had another friend come to me in tears after Doran's pronouncement. This stuff isn't benign, it tears apart people who make up the fabric of our parishes. This woman is a member of Pax Christi and has worked tirelessly for many years in the cause of peace and social justice. She makes prayer shawls, helps at the homeless shelter, and wants desperately to belong to a church that takes its mission seriously. What can I say to her?

Maybe I'm reading too much Bonhoeffer, but in my view the politicization of our church and its members is a danger, and something I wish our bishops and those who write about church affairs would take more seriously. Political oaths have no place in church.

Of course we all fall short. But the weak cries for unity and civility I hear are just not working. We need some real leadership from our Conference, or the Vatican, somewhere. We need some level-headed Catholicism. The days of Cardinal Bernardin seem like a million years ago.


Commenting Guidelines

Politics has no place in church? Tell that to the peace and justice committees. Even more - tell the Sisters of Mercy and Sister Agnes Mansour.I can't believe that you think politicization is picking up steam in the Church...compared to what post conciliar period? At least we don't have clerics or religious running for public office these days. Did Commonweal oppose Rev. Robert Drinan, SJ's political activity and his election to Congress? How did Commonweal react to Elizabeth Morancy back in 1984? Catholic concerns can be met by either party and the Democratic party seems less concerned with representing Catholics than it once was. Are there any well positioned Democratic Catholic pro-life politicians today? Without the right to life other civil liberties seem only theoretical.

I agree with much that was stated above. But I can't help but wonder if the same worries were plaguing Commonweal and its readers when Catholics voted unanimously for Democrats for generations. Something tells me the magazine's editorials had few words on the topic and that its readers were relatively untroubled by prevailing political assumptions.

Is that something that tells you research or just a hunch?

Politics and the American Catholic Church have been linked for some time, swaying like a pendulum in great arcs across the political spectrum, with each arc sometimes decades in length. The pendulum has been over on the right before, during the McCarthy era, for example, and the hysteria regarding communism. I also vividly recall the day in third or fourth grade when the parish priest at my parochial school interrupted our class to hand out "Impeach Earl Warren" lapel pins, which he asked us to clip to our ties. We all dutifully did so even though we were oblivious to who Earl Warren was and what he had to do with peaches. Then the priest gave each of us a bumper sticker with the same political message on it, and he urged us, on behalf of the bishop, to ask our parents to put it on the family car.I agree with Carolyn that there is a political shrillness in the Church these days, but if anyone is tempted to gloat, he or she should remember that the pendulum will inevitably swing in the opposite direction.

My first reaction is that any religious leader seeking to separate sheep from goats based on support for a specific candidate or political party is in dangerous waters.But is that what Bishop Doran is doing?If he has not excommunicated all Democrats, he has a right to express his opinions about the Democratic Party as he wishes. And he will reap the consequences of his choice of word as well.What Carolyn should say to her tearful friend is that her prayer shawls and volunteer hours will be more important than ever. Our faith in Christ and the church that helps the poor and sick doesn't hang on the words of one vituperative bishop, does it?

The writer didn't say "politics have no place in the Church," but rather "political OATHS have no place in Church." Being Church, as Hauerwas notes, IS a politics. But our only oath is our allegiance to Christ, through out baptism, and not to any political party or to any nation-state. The "politicization" that was criticized, I think, is the tendency among Catholics to let secular politics determine the rules, so to speak. Catholics get caught up in the state's little games of left vs right and this undermines our unity and our ability to be Christ's Body. Catholic concerns can NOT be met by "either party." Can be met by NEITHER party. Catholics should fast from the useless labels of Republican and Democrat until we can get ourselves together as a Church.

Fr. Andrew Greeley used to relate an old joke that went something like this: Mrs. O'Leary runs into Mrs. McGuire at the market and says to her: "Grace, did you hear that Patrick O'Sullivan has gone and become a Republican." "Now Mary, that can't be true. I just saw him at mass last Sunday."It's hard to to deny that--at one time--"politicization" in the Catholic Church ran almost entirely in the direction of the Democrats. However, even in 1960 it was suggested to John Kennedy that most of the bishops were not supportive of his candidacy. "But the priests are," he reportedly replied.In the past, though, I think most bishops possessed sufficient prudence to avoid suggesting that large numbers of otherwise faithful Catholics were allied with the party of Satan. Bishop Doran comes across less like a prophet and more like a radio talk show host. Saint John Chrysostom he is not.

What is your point Maid of Kent? Is it that because your Peace and Justice Committee has acted badly in the past, that Commonweal editors have no right to express concerns about the politicizaton of the Church? And MLJ, is your point that because many Catholics were New Dealers no one should be concerned about Bishops too tight with the GOP? And Bill Collier, surely you don't recall the McCarthy era with warmth. Why is it that we can't learn something from the past? We are Christians, not Republicans or Democrats. We are servants of one another and not people seeking to get even now or in the future for possible slights of the past or present, whatever our political affiliation. Let me apologize for sounding so pretentious.

So Bishop Doran went on a tear in his diocesan newspaper.Part of me is tempted to yawn and say, "Big deal; what else is new?" Let the intemperate and imprudent among us bluster all they want. In the end, they will, as the good bishop himself has said, reap what they sow. In the mean time, let believers of good will continue to do the work they feel God has called them to--whether that means making prayer shawls, praying outside of abortion clinics, leading Bible studies, or working in homeless shelters. In the end, those are the things that will change people's hearts and minds, not grandstanding or demonizing those with whom one disagrees. So let them blow their hot air until they are finally and utterly spent. And let us not flatter them with too much attention.But then part of me is saddened and frustrated that this is how a successor to James and John and Peter and Andrew should go about representing the church. Because Bishop Doran occupies so public a seat, his words are far more weighty. In a sense, he is telling the people of Rockford (and the world, for that matter) that *this* is what it means to be a Catholic. And that makes it so much harder for everyday Catholics to witness credibly to their faith. And so the church's mission is hindered far more than it is helped.Finally, I wonder whether any of his brother bishops has had the courage or presence of mind to rebuke this fellow--even privately. Does anyone know if this has happened?

I think the Maid's point is that outrage over politics in Church seems to depend on whose ox is being gored, and one need not search in the past to see it.I invite you to look at the web sites of a few liberal parishes - I just did - and they are anything but politically neutral as we head into the election season. They, like the bishop, have been careful not to name political parties - but the message is clear. The Archdiocese of Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have good examples.

Sean H - I understand the sentiment and can even sympathize with it but my point is that it's a impulse we are called to resist rather than savor.

I suppose no one here is old enough to remember Father Coughlin.Antonio

Grant,I actually did look in your archives for any comment or criticism on one issue, namely Cardinal McCarricks blatant misrepresentation of the guidance he received from then Cardinal Ratzinger regarding the Communion for pro-abortion politicians issue before the 2004 election. This may not have been as blunt or inartful as Bishop Dorans column but it was just as politically motivated. Commonweal was silent on this.This, again, is what makes this politicization complaint ring so hollow. For now, at least, there are two Cardinal Mahoneys or Bishop Browns for every Doran. Its not politics that the critics are complaining about, but politics they disagree with.

The reason Church authorities should resist politicization, if for no other, is that by entwining itself with a political party, the Church simply takes off its claim to otherworldly status. It is evident to anyone with open eyes that no political party has a lock on morality -- a Church that allies itself with a party instead of doctrinal morality is just down here in the dirt like the rest of us, fighting on the temporal plane that is the world and making the same kinds of earthly compromises that we (and political parties) do to get by. Such infighting belies the claims of unique authority to discern morality and evil that the institutional church makes -- Like the wizard of oz, its influence over its adherents can only diminish, because in the end, it is based on their assent, which will not be given if those claims are simply not credible by objective evidence. The shorter version: The Church should avoid churning out priests who emphasize politics because we don't worship politicians. Also, I was really struck by the comment that the doctrinal views of contemporary priests are unalloyed by the pastoral needs of their parishioners. Do you think that parishioners, whether through confession or just direct appeal, are likely to turn to priests whose public judgments are so harsh?

As I've said before, it's when I'm told that my politics are directly tied to my standing as a Catholic and the state of my soul is to be determined by my voting record that I object to politics in church.I don't care which side is doing it. It's wrong. If a priest wants to get up and give a homily on abortion and talk about how the current laws affect abortion and talk even further about which political candidates have presented themselves as being more in line with the church's stance on abortion, that's absolutely fine with me. I think they should. I think that's important.If a priest wants to give a homily about homelessness and poverty and talks about how current economics are affecting the poor and goes even further to talk about which political candidate seems to be more in tune with the Church's teachings on caring for the poor, that would be terrific. It's an important topic and worthy of some mention.However, when a priest gets up and says that I'll be refused Communion because I didn't vote for the candidate he endorsed as being more pro-life, then that's when the line has been crossed. When a priest gets up and says that I'm not a "true" Catholic because I didn't support the latest bill for the homeless even though he couldn't have made it more clear that this was the moral thing to do, that's when the line has been crossed.Either side - either way, it's wrong.

I don't think Jesus would have been either a Republican or a Democrat, just as He wasn't very pro Roman or pre Jewish establishment. I think this is brought out well in Gary Wills's "What Jesus Meant." I think Jesus would have been pretty independent. He might not even have been too happy with the way his established churc is going. I think everyone has to take a look at Jesus and then figure where and how he can vote.

>>Either side - either way, it's wrong.<

Long-time Commonweal readers will be aware of the following excellent resources on the involvement of American Catholics in the public square, but I thought I'd mention them anyway.Several years ago Commonweal's Peggy Steinfels co-directed the "American Catholics in the Public Square Project" that was sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trusts. The Project issued a lengthy report that is available online: the report states that it is "oriented not to the internal life of the Catholic Church but to the presence of American Catholics in the public square and civic life, and to our future there," it is almost impossible, IMO, to separate this focus from the secular political aspects of the Church itself.Peggy Steinfels also edited two volumes of essays and commentary that were collected as part of the Project. Catholics of all political stripes are represented within the books' pages. The two volumes, available at reasonable prices in paperback, are "American Catholics & Civic Engagement: A Distinctive Voice" and "American Catholics, American Culture: Tradition & Resistance."I commend both the report and the two volumes to those interested in the intersection of the Church, American Catholics, and the public square.

"The Church, as well all know, was under siege in Germany in the nineteenth century, and was subjected to repeated, and often successful, attempts to strip it of political influence. The same Church was then held up for ridicule (or worse) by the *same* people when it "failed" to act energetically in face of the Nazis."There is political influence, and then there's spiritual blackmail for political gain.It's right and important to encourage activism and "energetically" act against wrongs in the world, but it is not right to extort the desired activism by threatening excommunication to those who don't toe the prevailing political line.

Antonio, I don't remember Fr. Coughlin, but my sweet little Irish aunties Agnes and Grace in Detroit used to talk about him fondly and sent him money because "he was right about the Jews." The bishop has a right to his opinions about the Democratic party, and he has the right to express those within the parameters of the First Amendment. Parishioners also have the right to dislike his opinions and be offended by them, and the extent of their displeasure may be borne out next time Bishop Doran launches a diocesan appeal. My contribution would be going elsewhere, and the bishop's office would get a little note explaining why.

To Bill Collier: Although it is tangential to this post, I would like to state that I was and am a staunch admirerer of the late Senator McCarthy. I have recently been reading several books, including The Verona Tapes and The Secret World of American Communism, all published by Yale University Press, and it turns out (as I always knew it would) that McCarthy was right about 90% of the time.So please don't include me in your "hysteria regarding Communism" club; I belive that the people who involuntarily lived under Communism might have a different take on that "hysteria".

Bob--I respect your opinion, and though I at first thought you were referring to Senator Eugene McCarthy (whom I admire), I hope you can agree that there is a huge difference between "the people who involuntarily lived under Communism" and the often unsupported accusations of treason and conspiracy levelled against Americans who were in no way communist, or who may have been infatuated (or even enamored) with the ultimately false ideals of racial and gender equality, alleviation of poverty, etc. that Russian communism/socialism promised. There was never any realistic danger that the U.S. would become a gulag like the Soviet Union, and, therefore, was McCarthy's (Joseph, that is) incitement to hysteria (sorry, that's what I think it was) worth the ruined lives that his witch hunt caused? We saw the deleterious effects of such thinking with the Japanese internment during WWII, and IMO, we see the ghosts of McCarthy's legacy in the presumptions some people make that Muslims in the U.S. must be connected to terrorism or fanaticism. The true measure of a civilized society is how it protects the rights of the minorities within it. I understand the importance of vigilance and national security, but I don't think we sacrifice these by providing people their civil rights. I like to believe, rightly or wrongly, that I'm open-minded, Bob, so I'll make an effort to look at the books you cited.

-I thought we;d put to rest the outcries about Cardinal McCarrick -still much in favor I think with our new pontiff.-Lots of garbled history lessons here too - I'm really uncertain about the German Nazi lesson; and was Joe McCarthy a "witchhunter", who used bullying tactics outside the pale of government decency or not?The Church will always be involved in politics but should be along the lines set out by BXVI in his latest encyclical. Here we want the Church to side with our ideology and that is our problem.Bishops like Doran and Sheridan are, in my opinion, kooks who represent the worst of the JPII bishops roundly criticized elsewhere.They do tear away at beleivers who gave and give much to the Church and are less than shepherds and try to be(the worst kind of) autocrats.I suspect this thread wil go on and on along the usual partisan lines we've been over many times' i reiterate the problem is most freqently that our politics is driving our faith and not vice versa!

Robert, I believe that your last sentence is exactly correct. Moreover, I think that the forces that result in the domination of political/legal discourse over theology are extremely subtle, and are due to what I consider to be an American devotion to the rule of law that is probably unparalleled elsewhere in the world. The rule of law is a good thing, but obsession with legality puts the Church (and really, any other extralegal source of morality) in a difficult position because of the risk that those things that are not illegal will not be considered immoral. So there is a temptation, even when one is sincere about one's moral premise, to emphasize law as the recourse for addressing immorality. And once one succumbs to this temptation, it is all too easy to essentially cede (by action if not outright admission) that law is at least as important as religion in shaping morality. And so the fight is joined over the legal code, and the conduct of individual adherents is no longer a sufficient indication of their morality.The obsession with legality and poltical solutions, however you want to frame it, is at least a symptom of the weakness of religious influence.

Robert Nunz:" ... was Joe McCarthy a "witchhunter", who used bullying tactics outside the pale of government decency or not? "Did the Holocaust REALLY happen?I lived through the Joe McCarthy days (I was a resident of Wisconsin at the time) and the subsequent John Birch Society days. Having done so, hearing your question makes me sadly laugh.

Quite frankly, I am appalled by the majority of comments which show no empathy for the plight of Carolyn and her fellow parishioners. Some appear so lost in their defence of the indefensible Doran comments that any sense of charity and propriety towards ones fellow Catholics just disappears into the ether.Grant should be commended for sharing Carolyn's story. It puts a very human face on the consequences of the uncivil political debate occurring within America.

Have the Defenders of the Faith (DOF) on this post considered whether Bishop Doran's use of the word "sacrament" might be unseemly coming from one ordained to lead and teach the local church? Of course, if John Stewart said the same thing, it would be blasphemous.

When a bishop makes himself look foolish by making intemperate and ill considered statements about a political party, he invites those even who support the opposite party to wonder if his judgment can be trusted in any matter whatsoever, if he has episcopal temper, or rather has some sort of distemper. If his brother bishops are silent, one wonders about them too. It also makes one wonder what process and what sort of criteria led to his/their appointment. I wonder whether Doran has actually done us a favor. I am not prepared to say he has, but I am also not prepared to say he has not.

Bishop Doran's remarks and the comments here make me mindful of the paragraphs on the distinctive role in the Church's life that one finds in Vatican II's dogmatic constitution on the Church (paragraphs 31-38, if I remember correctly). As I read these paragraphs, Bishop Doran is clearly over the line in effectively calling one political party sin-ridden. But it is also true that the institutional Church has not figured out how to encourage lay people to deal in a religiously responsible way with the always messy field of politics and public policy. I wish I had something more positive to say about how the Church should give this encouragement, but I don't. I hope that someone does have some useful ideas or some proposals that deserve serious consideration. Obviously, there are good things happening in this respect in some places. Commonweal not infrequently reports them. But there is , so far as I can tell, no concerted effort on the part of the hierarchy either to instruct the laity about their baptismal-given mission or to provide the spiritual support that the laity would need to engage in the often thankless work that their mission would require.

"The bishop has a right to his opinions about the Democratic party, and he has the right to express those within the parameters of the First Amendment." It's one thing when a Bishop expresses his views as an ordinary citizen, it's another when, for example, he selectively refuses to administer the sacraments.While the first amendment protects his right of free speech and free exercise, I'm assuming that the issue we're discussing relates to a bishop's use of ecclesiastical authority as a form of coercion.Antonio

Hey, Carolyn.Has Bishop Doran offered any follow-up statements? Has he reiterated the statement?I'll give him this much: diocesan newspapers are normally fluff-filled rather than flabbergast-filled. It got people reading the paper for a reason other than seeing if their grade school kid got in a photo.Oh, offer prayers for all the parents who had to respond to Junior's questions about buggery. Their blood pressure is still high.

When I saw the article, there were two things that came to mind. First, whatever merits the Republican Party might have, it is by no means a Catholic Party and this bishop, by condemning the other party in a two party system was either actively or tacitly supporting the whole Republican platform. When he does this as a citizen, who cares? When he does it as a bishop, he is tying the one organization (the Catholic Church in his diocese) to the other. This is rather stupid for a lot of reasons.The second thing that I thought is that he is making causal assumptions about the relationship between, say, abortion and other things he identifies as social evils and claiming that these things are the cause of all our social ills. I thought that his reasoning for tying these things together in the way that he did was very, very weak. Secularization and the issues associated with it could just as well be a symptom of something else that is underlying them all. But he seems to imply that if the Democrats went away, the problems of secularism would go away too. He also seems to imply that the moral problems of secularism could be solved with some new laws and a lot of cops to enforce them. What he does not address is the question of where secularism itself comes from and whether social and moral issues (I won't necessarily call the issues "problems") arise from the same source.I live in Bishop Doran's diocese and in the 14th Congressional District and have gotten the distinct impression that Doran has not selected the Republican Party as the lesser of two evils in our corrupt age, but that he is also aboard with the whole Republican social program. We have certainly not seen him come out in support of anything the National Catholic Bishops have said that would tend in any way to embarrass the Republicans. So it appears to me that he has bought in to their peculiar take on the moral order; that rapacious capitalism and radical individualism have no moral effect on anyone and that all is wanted is some backbone and a different attitude.So he strikes me as the sort of Catholic that thinks that Catholic social teaching is a frill, like some people consider art class in grammar school. And the main question for me, and the main impediment that I feel we Catholics have in forging a coherent political strategy as Catholics is just that; is Catholic social teaching a frill that can be jettisoned if necessary or is it in absolutely integral part of who we are and what we need to do?

Lisa Fullam's article in the lastest issue of this blog's sponsor reminds us the Bp. Doran lead the Vatican visitation & love in at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley.Now, THAT must have been an experience to be remembered. I particularly latched on the remark made by John Endres, SJ , to the effect that the visit was about process and little about substantial as opposed to peripheral content.From ecclesiastical gollies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties, and things that go bump in the night, O Lord deliver us!

Is Bishop Doran refusing to administer the sacraments to Democrats?Or just saying mean things about the Democratic Party?If the latter, I say let him blow, and make sure it gets reported as widely as possible.People who make sweeping generalities and tar decent individuals with implications by association generally choke on their own stupidity.

To: Margaret SteinfelsI think we have a similar evaluation of the statement. Has its like ever been issued by any other bishop? I should like to think not.

1) I agree that Bp. Doran's comments were poorly worded and argued. While I emphatically agree with the substance of his remarks (as should all Catholics), they do not seem to have the tone of a shepard of souls.2) This whole thread has an air of unreality about it: Doran is an wild exception to three generations of Bishops and priests plumping for liberals. Your protests ring hollow.

It is always irresponsible for the church to align itself with a political party. The pressure to do so is enormous and politicians know how to exploit this with favors galore.The murder and imprisonment of priests , after the French Revolution,and religious came as an awful consequence of religion being wedded to government.Robert Schwartz. Even conservatives hardly defend McCarthy. You might be interested to know that the way McCarthy got into this 'heartfelt' issue happened when he was searching for his theme for his senate campaign. A few professors at Georgetown suggested that he attack communism.And Spellman, of course, supported the bombing of North Vietnam and that war to the end.

It's a pretty sad state of affairs when the political comments of some US bishops resemble the garbage spewed by Anne Coulter, who also described abortion as the "sacrament of liberals."

I agree with mlj - these protests ring hollow. Where was the outrage with Bishops Hunthausen, Weakland, and Gumbleton, not to mention all of the priests and religious when they were taking overt position on American political policies? Father Drinan actually served as a Democrat Congressman and consistently voted that party's line - even regarding abortion. How about Cardinal Mahoney today - he is in so tight with the Democrat leadership in his city he may as well have an office in City Hall? One could take the claim that it is wrong for either side to do this seriously if those saying it actually objected when the other side was doing it. I never heard it.As for alienation, I empathize having been on the opposite side of things - sitting through a tirade from a priest in a homily claiming the Gospel demands pacifism while serving in the military. My reaction, however, was not that he had no right to be "political." I have no problem with a priest saying what he thinks Catholic doctrine demands - even in politics. My reaction to him was that he was wrong.We may not like what Bishop Doran says, but is he mistaken? Is he wrong? Isn't the protection of abortion "choice," the use of embryos for research, and recognition of homosexual unions part of one of the party's platforms? Again, it is not that this statement is "political" that raises such ire, but that you think he is wrong. If you think he is wrong, and think these policies sound, and think they are not inconsistent with Catholic doctrine - fine - say so.Do we really want our Bishops to be truly apolitical?As for the use of the word sacrament - he calls them "secular sacraments," or "unholy sacarments." I hardly think that is blasphemous.

Sean H,Did the priest ranting about pacifism while you were in the military ever tell you that you weren't Catholic because you were in the military?Did he say soldiers made him sick?Did he publish in the church bulletin that he would no longer offer Communion to anyone in the military?Was the priest wrong? Do the Gospels demand war?Is Duran wrong?'he announced that the "seven 'sacraments' of [the Democrats'] secular culture are"--in alphabetical order--"abortion, buggery, contraception, divorce, euthanasia, feminism of the radical type, and genetic experimentation and mutilation."Yes, he's wrong. These issues are not sacramental to Democrats - either secular or otherwise.

Leaving the hyperbole behind - is it or is it not true that one party supports consistently and explicitly, abortion on demand, recognized homosexual unions, and embryonic research? These things are clearly contrary to Catholic moral doctrine. Not arguably contrary, but clearly contrary. Is this statement incorrect?

Had Bishop Doran spoken about moral issues in the Republican Party, perhaps in the form of its own seven sacraments of greed, torture, war, hypocrisy, hubris, injustice, and radical nationalism, then his argument might be balanced and he could be seen as taken the detached (from Party politics) position that would be appropriate for a Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church.But he didnt do this. His characterization of the Democratic Party is not only partisan, it is a specifically Republican Party characterization of the Democratic Party, which (and lets take buggery as an example) does not promote homosexual intercourse as a Democratic value, but promotes the civil freedom to be a homosexual including engaging in homosexual sexual acts. Bishop Doran is claiming that the Democratic Party is something that in fact it is not. In doing this, he not only moves the discussion away from where it should be (which is, what are the moral requirements of civil liberty), but he also then implicitly accepts the Republicans own spin about themselves. So not only is he guilty of linking the Church to an organization that does not really support its (entire range of) values, he is also guilty of mischaracterizing the issues.I suspect that Bishop Doran is an old school Baltimore Catechism sort of person. He sees secularism as a problem of not following the moral rules and the solution is obedience to those rules. That could be fine and well, unless the problems of secularism are really come from the unbridled amoral capitalism that the Republican Party supports with its entire heart and soul. If that is the case (and I believe that that is the case), then Bishop Doran is bridling himself to the true generator of the problem.

No, the statement is not correct.I'm assuming you don't want to discuss this at length, so I'll try to sum it up as best I can.There is no across the board Democratic statement that explicity says all Democrats should or do support abortion on demand. I know I don't support abortion on demand and no one's revoked my Democratic party card yet.Neither are there across the board Democratic statements explicitly saying that all Democrats should or do support embryonic research and homosexual unions.What bothers conservatives though is that there is also not a Democratic statement explicitly stating that all abortions should be declared illegal and prosecuted as criminal acts. And because I can't and won't support that statement either, I get to keep my Democratic party card, but others would want to yank my baptism as a Catholic.

>>What bothers conservatives though is that there is also not a Democratic statement explicitly stating that all abortions should be declared illegal ....I can't and won't support that statement either."I really do think this is ground zero. This is the point where the heads of people like me come close to entering full melt-down, since it reveals (for the upteenth time) that we are not talking about the same thing.I distinctly remember one poster on this blog remarking that he/she was much more bothered by pro-life activists than abortion itself. It was a gestalt moment for me.

Quote: "Leaving the hyperbole behind - is it or is it not true that one party supports consistently and explicitly, abortion on demand, recognized homosexual unions, and embryonic research? These things are clearly contrary to Catholic moral doctrine. Not arguably contrary, but clearly contrary. Is this statement incorrect?"Leaving aside the Republican Party's vagueness on these questions (your own "abortion on demand" statement itself seems a modification of other statements you have made, since Catholic moral doctrine see abortion as such, not just abortion on demand as the problem) are there not other explicit platforms of the Republican Party that also violate Catholic moral doctrine? So where does that leave you? I don't see the Republican Party becoming the default positions for Catholics who can't support the Democratic Party. But that is precisely what Bishop Doran proposes.

ungidon,Color me confused - abortion on demand vs. abortion as such? Certainly, an accidental abortion isn't sinful, and a no one advocates forced abortions in the US. What's your point?I never said Republicans or the Republican party were a default position. In fact, I never said anything about them. I live in Massachusetts, and I may not vote for governor this year - or will write in - because no one supports what I consider a sound position on life issues. Even though I don't always agree with Republicans, I can't think of any policies they support as a party that are directly contrary to Church doctrine. Please provide examples if you have any - I'd like to know what they are.

I just checked out the Web site for The Observer, which is the newspaper for the Diocese of Rockford. It appears that the good Bishop Doran is indeed an "old school Baltimore Catechism kind of person," as unagidon suspects. It also appears that he has no qualms whatsoever of savaging the whole "American press" in its coverage of Pope Benedict's Regensburg lecture. Here's the link for his most recent column (dated 9/22/06): suspect that this article will be replaced on Friday with his next column, as the Observer's Web site does not appear to hold archives. So if you want to read it, do it today. Below, however, are a few excerpts:"On the occasion of his recent visit to his native Germany, [the pope] discovered what it is to be rabbit punched by our beloved American press. Any who write will know the feeling. Some weeks ago I wrote a column in this space which was promptly and wrongly interpreted by a regional secular newspaper. . . . Anyone who uses the American media with any frequency will understand that increasingly its function is not to report the news but to make it."Then there's this:"Now, anyone as young as I am will remember the Catechism question: What is Man? Answer: Man is a creature composed of body and soul and made in the image and likeness of God. This likeness is found principally in the soul with its faculties of intellect and will, knowing and loving."What are we to make of these quotes?First, one wonders whether Bishop Doran considers Fox News to be part of the "American press." Or The Observer, for that matter.Second, that Bishop Doran seems prone to make sweeping and inadequate generalizations about people or organizations with whom he disagrees.Third, that Bishop Doran may have a fond recollection of a bygone era in which every question had its own prepackaged answer, and that the complexities of life are "best handled by academics" (his words).In the course of his column--which focuses on Benedict's lecture and the press's mishandling of the thing--he quotes the Holy Father's lecture thus:"Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats.Am I the only one who picks up a whiff of cognitive dissonance here?Oh, before I sign off, one more chestnut from his August 11, column, which started this whole thread:"The Invisible Head of the Church will one day come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire, particularly those who have either by acts of omission or commission, destroyed innocent human life. It is the duty of every Catholic to support the work of the parish Pro-Life directors and commissions and to work for the extirpation from our society of all those who in any way foster or promote these things."Extirpation from our society? Not conversion? Not repentance? Not even respectful dialogue? And whose society is it--only right-thinking Catholics'? The lack of pastoral sensibility here is stunning.

Quote: "Color me confused - abortion on demand vs. abortion as such? Certainly, an accidental abortion isn't sinful, and a no one advocates forced abortions in the US. What's your point?"Abortion on demand implies unrestricted abortion rights. I suppose that if we went to restricted abortion rights (say, anything from first trimester to everyone's favorite "rape, incest, health of the mother") one could still talk about abortion on demand within these limits. But I make the distinction between abortion on demand and abortion as such because the majority position in the US is probably abortion with strict limits (as I understand it is in Europe). The Republican Party talks like it's against abortion, but in fact Republicans like almost everyone else probably want some kinds of abortion to be available. Our real political problem as Catholics is that we have to oppose abortion as such and we therefore cannot lend our weight easily to supporting mere restrictions of abortion. Our quandary is that restrictions on abortion would at least cut down on their number, which may be the best we can do at this time and may not necessarily be a bad thing in the short run.Quote: "I never said Republicans or the Republican party were a default position. In fact, I never said anything about them."You didn't, but Doran does and he was of whom I was speaking. However, when you castigate the Democrats as such on the same basis that Doran does, I think you are begging the same question.Quote: "Even though I don't always agree with Republicans, I can't think of any policies they support as a party that are directly contrary to Church doctrine. Please provide examples if you have any - I'd like to know what they are."Name a single Catholic social doctrine that the Republicans explicitly support? The reason that I mentioned that I believe that Bishop Doran is an old fashioned Baltimore Catechism sort of guy, is that I'm an old fashioned Thomist sort of guy like Pope John Paul was. I think that obedience to God's law is part of but subordinated to the development of Christian virtue. The virtues are unified and we do not rank doctrines. I think that whole problem of secularism is that we don't think about virtue and the interrelatedness of our social obligations with our personal obligations to God, all of which are equally integral to our covenant with God. I think the Republican Party's adherence to unbridled capitalism, which brackets out a significant portion of life into an imaginary realm of market amorality, is actually the heart of the problem itself. The imposition of "Church doctrine" proposed as it is in this country (by the Right) as the imposition of discrete doctrines presented as moral rules removed from their contexts, is a band-aid that cannot stop the bleeding and that also hides its source.Bishop Doran's problem, in my opinion, is that he is too American. He has (probably unwittingly) embraced the Protestant individualism that runs through our culture and now permeates the Catholic Church in America. The distinction isn't between a secular Democratic Party and a religious Republican Party. It's between two parties that have different ideas about the role of religion in a secular society neither one wants to change.

"Republican Party's adherence to unbridled capitalism,"Again, it's fascinating that some people think of Republicans in such near-mythological terms. I can't think of a single Republican who is pushing for "unbridled" capitalism. (Indeed, given George Stigler's economic theory of regulation, I'd be very surprised if any politician did so -- big business often *likes* federal regulation that will fall harder on its competitors.) The only people in the entire country who believe in "unbridled" capitalism are hard-core libertarians, and even they would limit capitalism by traditional common law doctrines of tort and fraud. Take a look at the Code of Federal Regulations sometime: There are literally a million or so pages of federal regulations, most of which affect how some or all businesses operate. If you have a publicly-owned company, for example, Sarbanes-Oxley resulted in extensive and onerous accounting regulations. (It was passed overwhelmingly by Congress and signed by Bush, by the way.). The SEC has many, many regulations that require public disclosure from companies, that penalize any false statements, etc. And that's just one aspect of federal law. There's also environmental law; discrimination law (including requirements as to disabled access); regulations from the Food and Drug Administration; the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; the Federal Communications Commission; the Occupational Safety and Health Administration; the Federal Labor Relations Authority; the Federal Trade Commission; and many more agencies -- all of which have the primary purpose of regulating capitalism. For all of the overheated rhetoric that sometimes emits from certain politicians, the Democrats and Republicans are usually just squabbling about whether there should be 600,000 pages of federal business regulation or only 599,950. "Unbridled" capitalism isn't even remotely on the table.

As predicted, the partisan beat goes on here!A brief forenote: of course, the holocasut happened in a society under one rule of government where many capitulated; the analogy to our pluralistic structure limps badly and offends many and is probably not helpful except to preach to the choir( some of whom, I'M sure, would also capitulate in fear unde a totalitarian regime.)Making Joe McCarthy a hero strikes me as laughable revisionism.I return again to Fr. Kavangh in America, whose pro life bona fides are unshakeable; nevertheles, he says a plague on the Republican house for this continuing awful Iraq war with no respect for life.That made me think of Fr. John Dear trying to present a peace petition at Senator Domenici"s office this week and being arrested with his fellow Pax Christi folk. Here in the Atomic City of Los Alamos that would never fly: the local pastor asked (and got for a while) the Bishop to tell Father Dear never to set foot in the County.I think Andy Savarese is right on the money: think about what Jesus would do, not whose political ox is gored.But I have little hope that the partisan beat wil not stop; and, Bishop Doran and his ilk sure ain't helping!