Related to several posts of the last weeks: Dennis O'Brien sent me a copy of a letter he wrote to Cardinal Francis George. I hope the Cardinal (as well as other bishops) takes it essence to heart.Dear Cardinal George:Prior to World War II, the Polish government urged Poles not to shop at Jewish stores. The action reflected an intense Polish nationalism in which the Jews were regarded as "outsiders" people without a national state and hence citizens of nowhere. Cardinal Hlond, the primate, endorsed the boycott while warning Poles against antisemitism. Whatever one may think of the government decision and the Cardinals careful distinction between a nationalist boycott and racial hatred, it seems clear that his statement could be used and was used as part of a deeper and darker anti-Jewish scenario which, as we know, was to be carried forward in horrifying reality on the Polish soil of Auschwitz. Since the election of President Obama, we have seen a burgeoning of hate groups in the United States. The sale of guns has escalated remarkably. Talk radio shows foster a "hate Obama" rhetoric which has recently escalated beyond "socialist" to "fascist." This distressing situation was discussed in the most recent Economist . Among the causes fostering this rancid and destructive environment is anti-abortion.I believe that the Catholic Church in America is positioning itself like Cardinal Hlond. In the severe anti-abortion rhetoric used by many bishops, in the protest against giving the first African-American president an honorary degree at Notre Dame, Church leaders yourself included are giving a patina of legitimacy to some of the most destructive voices in America. Continual denunciation of the Obama administration for fostering a "culture of death" suggests that extreme opposition is legitimate. Hitler fostered a culture of death and bombing Gestapo headquarters would have been an act of justifiable revolution. One may be opposed in general to abortion I am, I believe that President Obama is also and yet have compassion in specific cases. Something that Abp. Sobrinho of Brazil evidently did not have in the recent case of the nine year old raped by her stepfather. One may disagree about stem cell research but at least credit the motive of the research to cure intractable suffering. As President of the USCCB, I believe you should publically and unequivocally denounce anything that even hints at a "hate Obama" movement. As Christians we never endorse hatred but in the statements and stance of many bishops, legitimacy is being lent to hatred.Dennis OBrien
Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages.