Catholic Church to Amp-Up the Culture Wars
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Nov 18, 2010 at 12:23:54 AM EST
The surprise election of Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York as the president of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops has been much in the news. Two main related points dominate the coverage. This year, the bishops deviated from a decades old tradition of elevating the sitting vice president choosing Dolan instead. Some argue that the vice president was too moderate and that Dolan is likely to use post during his three year term as a bully pulpit to further the culture wars. That interpretation seems likely. As if to underscore the intentions of the majority of bishops, they also elected as the new vice-president, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, who has led their campaign against marriage equality.

"I mean, we're in the middle of the biggest economic downturn since the Depression, and these bishops had nothing to say about that," Jesuit scholar Thomas Reese told The Los Angeles Times. "They did have a lot to say about the defense of marriage, and about their concerns about the healthcare bill funding abortion. ... I think the elections indicate that the bishops want to continue to be leaders in the culture wars."

In some respects, this is really no surprise, even though it has become fashionable not to mention the Religious Right's ongoing war of aggression against democratic pluralism. There have been plenty of signs.

Amidst the euphoria of the inauguration of president Obama, the dour prelates distinguished themselves at their 2009 annual meeting, according to the Associated Press:  

BALTIMORE - The nation's Roman Catholic bishops vowed Tuesday to forcefully confront the Obama administration over its support for abortion rights, saying the church and religious freedom could be under attack in the new presidential administration.

In an impassioned discussion on Catholics in public life, several bishops said they would accept no compromise on abortion policy. Many condemned Catholics who had argued it was morally acceptable to back President-elect Obama because he pledged to reduce abortion rates.

And several prelates promised to call out Catholic policy makers on their failures to follow church teaching. Bishop Joseph Martino of Scranton, Pa., singled out Vice President-elect Biden, a Catholic, Scranton native who supports abortion rights.

Unsurprisingly, the bishops fought the administration's health care plan because it was deemed insufficiently antiabortion, even though it was the most draconian antiabortion legislation since Roe vs. Wade (making permanent the Hyde Amendment, which banned any federal funds from being used for abortion.)  During the lengthy debate, a spokeswoman for the bishops took the administration and the Democratic Party's view on reducing the need for abortion to task. I wrote at the time:

Deirdre McQuade, assistant director of policy and communications at the "pro-life secretariat," of the Bishops' Conference told U.S. News and World Report: "The phrase `reducing the need for abortion' is not a common-ground phrase. We would say that there is no need for abortion, that abortions are signs that we have not met the needs of women. There is no authentic need for abortion."

There are, of course, many Catholics who oppose the hierarchy's approach to among other things, such matters as reproductive rights, marriage equality and separation of church and state. Because that is so, it seems likely (at least to me) that such groups as Catholics for Choice and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice will gain increasing prominence, will play ever more important roles as the hierarchy increases its militancy, and appeals to common ground become ancient history.

Our voices tend to get drowned out by the yes-people.

by khughes1963 on Thu Nov 18, 2010 at 09:13:30 PM EST
where the opposition is using bullhorns, rather than the microphone, to argue against you and your silly arguments supporting women's rights and the poor.

Funny how those bullhorns all have tiny insignias identifying the major corporations sponsoring the oppositions "voice amplifiers". Gee, if only you (and I ) had the same, overloud voices to use in our rebuttal, mebbe those outside our groups would hear us. But now, after the 'Citizen's United' decision, I expect to see even bigger bullhorns, powered by diesel generators.

Try to frame your arguments as clearly and succinctly as possible, as the corporate sponsors are holding an anti-abortion dinner after this, and the crowd is starving.

by trog69 on Fri Nov 19, 2010 at 08:12:13 AM EST

is not to slam the bishops or the church (even if they richly deserve it).

Rather, all this has political implications as Dolan and his ilk hijack our national discourse and as the bishops become more adversarial towards elected officials who don't do as they say.  

by Frederick Clarkson on Thu Nov 18, 2010 at 12:58:28 PM EST

This is so heavily ironic.  Painfully ironic.

While they're ramping up their attempts to force their beliefs on the rest of us, including those who aren't even Christian much less Roman Catholic, at the same time they're holding a convocation which has as a subject "Religious Freedom".

I wish someone would ask them in public and so they can't help but hear:  "What about our freedom to be free of their expression of religion???"

Oh, that's right:  Freedom of Religion means free to practice theirs only, and not the freedom to be free of their imposed strictures.  Just like the rhetoric we hear from the NAR and their dominionist kin.

For years, people have been afraid of the Roman Catholics, thinking that they all marched in lock-step with the Vatican (even though this is shown to be untrue because there are RC organizations that are in opposition).  This will only reinforce those fears, except in the groups that share their penchant for autocratic top-down authoritarianism and their goals.

I just wonder if this is considered a good thing or a bad thing in dominionist circles, because it does seem that the more dominionist/fundamentalist a group is, the more vocally hostile they are to the Roman Catholic church.

by ArchaeoBob on Fri Nov 19, 2010 at 09:45:38 AM EST

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