Michael Gerson's Soap Box Pulpit
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 07:17:19 PM EST
In a recent Washington Post column, former Bush White House speechwriter Michael Gerson lectured the Obama administration for daring to name independent-thinking Catholics such as Kathleen Sebelius to high-level cabinet positions. This non-Catholic, Religious Right Anglican further lectured American Catholics.... on how to be Catholic!
In his aforementioned piece, Gerson does not bother to explain why the president of the United States  should base his cabinet choices on any part of the Vatican heirarchy, whose views on the issues while dear to Gerson are not supported by the majorty of American rank and file Catholics.

But this is nothing new for this self-appointed spiritual thought cop. In fact, his soft core theocratic column is characteristic of the entire Religious Right - especially the neoconservative-backed variety of which we saw all too much during the last administration. Similarly Catholic neocons affiliated with the Institute on Religion and Democracy conversely love to tell mainline Protestant denominations how to practice their beliefs.  The Religious Right, no matter the particular affiliation all share one attribute: They regard anyone whose belief combine both head and heart as a threat to their ideal vision of orthodoxy, one in which an individual simply obeys and never questions.

And in Gerson's case, here is a sampling:

It is probably not a coincidence that Obama has chosen a Roman Catholic -- Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius -- to implement many of these policies as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. Obama has every right to a pro-choice Cabinet. But this appointment seems designed to provide religious cover. It also smacks of religious humiliation -- like asking a rabbi to serve the pork roast or an atheist to bless the meal.

Religious humiliation? In Gerson's Religious Right universe is any Catholic whose position differs from that of the Vatican's humiliating him or herself? Does that apply to Thomas Aquinas who was first excommunicated for his teachings on natural law by the Archbishop of Paris? (For the record, Aquinas was awarded sainthood, and is held in high esteem for his philosophical insight.) It is also outrageous that Gerson compares functioning as a cabinet sectretary with Rabbinical respect for the dietary laws of his or her faith. It is a bogus analogy becasue cabinet department is not a religious agency, and no cabinet secretary functions as a member of the clergy, let alone an enforcer of religious orthodoxy.

But Gerson isn't finished with those of us who dissent from our church on issues such as reproductive rights and stem cell research. With a snide flourish he concludes:

Sebelius and other pro-choice Catholic leaders are disagreeing with their church on a fundamental issue of justice -- which is their right. It is also the right of their church to point out their incoherence.

Horsefeathers and bull-roar!

Gerson simultaneously obfuscates and misses the obvious point. Perhaps it doesn't occur to him that many American Catholics - in good conscience value the life of a one-year child suffering from Juvenile Diabetes more that a Petri dish of blastocysts destined to be thrown away if not otherwise used for medical research. Or maybe Gerson refuses to understand that the majority of American Catholics can see that abortion may be the lesser of two evils when a fourteen year-old girl makes a mistake. I wonder if Gerson can see the injustice of a Brazilian Archbishop trying to force a nine-year-old incest rape victim to complete a pregnancy that would endanger her young life?

The simple fact is this: Independent-minded American Catholics such as Governor Sebelius better represent the political desires of the American flock than uber-orthobox clergy such as Archbishop Naumann of Kansas City.

Gerson stands on his soapbox pulpit as if he were an inquistitor on behalf of a Catholic Right notion of orthodoxy to which he himself does not even subscribe. He seems wistful for a theocractic order that we do not have, and if we keep our wits about us, never will.

Thank God.

Independent-thinking Catholics are not allowed to criticize the Vatican, but in his universe, he can!

by Frank Cocozzelli on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 07:18:35 PM EST

I think if the Catholic Right had its way, it would ban most forms of assisted reproductive technology except for GIFT (gamete intrafallopian transfer, which meets the hierarchy's approval as fertilization occurs in the womb.) From their perspective, this would also solve the problem of embryonic stem cell research as it wouldn't exist. Archbishop Joseph Naumann is already criticizing the administration for picking Kathleen Sebelius for HHS secretary as she isn't zealous enough for him or some other tendentious members of the hierarchy. Gerson would fit in well with the neoconservative Catholics.

by khughes1963 on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 07:36:26 PM EST

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