It’s a variation of the “I’m not racist, I’ve got black friends” line. You know: it’s supposed to be some sort of “amulet against potentially career-destroying accusations of prejudice,” or something. And it has been totally Derbyshired (or “Derbed” for short).
Anyhow, that’s essentially what the President has been saying lately. Seems he doesn’t have much to say other than, “OUCH! STOP THAT!” ever since his gambit to co-opt the Church and bring her to heel on a national scale began backfiring like a Model T.
See, ever since the HHS Mandate (which sounds like a Gilbert & Sullivan show) brought the U.S. bishops to their greatest unanimity since “John Carroll took a deep breath and decided something,” and then more recently Obama stumbled outta the closet on same-sex marriage after Joe Biden upstaged him on the issue, he has been losing Catholic support after winning (ugh) 54 percent of our votes in 2008.
That wouldn’t be so bad for him if states like Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, South Carolina, Georgia, West Virginia, and other states he’s going to lose were predominantly Catholic. They’re not. But states like Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and even Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico, have a significant Catholic population. And each of them is both “in play,” and fairly important for Obama’s reelection chances. Running some Electoral College numbers, if Romney wins all the states McCain won in 2008, plus takes Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, and Ohio (not unlikely), he only has to win one more state to win the White House. Michigan? Colorado? Iowa? New Mexico? Wisconsin? Arizona? Pennsylvania? Another state with lots of Catholics?
You might say Obama and his team are aware of and mildly alarmed by this trend.
Back to the opening of this post. Now at recent events he’s been touting his past ties to the Catholic Church, presumably as some sort of “amulet.” Only, he’s doing it wrong.
He said, “When I was a young community organizer, I was working with Catholic churches and they taught me that no government program can make as much of a difference as kindness and commitment on the part of neighbors and friends.“
In other words: … no, in a word: subsidiarity.
Apparently no one told the genius that that is exactly what Catholic organizations have been doing in this country since before it was a country. Our faith compels us to help those around us in kindness and commitment to their well-being. We don’t help only Catholics, we don’t employ only Catholics. To do either would violate the teachings of the faith that motivates us to set up hospitals and schools. And all we are asking for in the present fight for religious liberty is the right to keep doing it as we have been, for the reasons we have been.
Of course, it isn’t like he was working with the Chaput-Dolan-Lori variety of Catholic leaders back in Chicago. No, he was working with Catholic leaders in a Chicago very much under the sway of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin. Like Father Michael Pfleger.
Cardinal Bernardin (God rest his soul) was not, erm, “the solution,” if you know what I mean.* He rarely met a politically liberal strain in the Church that he didn’t like, and once famously credited Mikhail Gorbachev—not Pope John Paul II, not Ronald Reagan, not Margaret Thatcher—with bringing down the Soviet Union. Bernardin is famous as the father of the “seamless garment” notion, which he called a “consistent ethic of life.”
That’s the one that causes folks to think abortion and euthanasia are no more important than opposition to war, fair wages, and other social justice issues, so it’s okay to vote for politicians who want to give more assistance to the poor, regardless of their support of abortion.
But it’s a rather cutting-off-the-limb-you-stand-on sort of ideology. If a “consistent ethic of life” includes willingness to compromise on defense of life itself then you’ve got nothing to be consistent about. IOW, life is a yes or no proposition: there’s either life or there is not life. It’s not like poverty or liberty or access to health care or stewardship of the environment: one is either in possession of life, or one it not. If one compromises on life one has undercut the entire meaning of “consistent ethic of life.”
The point is made grammatically, too. The noun is “ethic.” “Ethic” is modified by both “consistent” and the prepositional phrase “of life.” If you are willing to compromise in such a way that “not-life” occurs rather than “life,” then either your ethic is “of life” but not “consistent” (i.e., you have an “ethic of life” at some times but not others); or it is not “of life” (i.e., you have a “consistent ethic,” but it is not “of life,” even if life is spared/saved by it on occasion). Either way,
In sum, Obama tried to make “government” everyone’s best friend in the local community and shut down those who have actually been doing that for a loooong time. Smart. And now he’s trying to play cleanup and make people whose Catholicism amounts to checking off that box on the form love him again by saying “but I’ve got Catholic friends!” Only those Catholic friends are the dying breed of yesteryear who are losing sway in the U.S. Church and whose notions are discredited. Not working thus far, let’s hope it never does.
The amazing “own-goal” aspect of this is, had Obama listened to Old Joe and not forced the HHS Mandate the bishops would never have unified as they have and he would have had a much greater chance to split the Catholic vote once again. The bishops were mostly with him on the rest of the healthcare bill—it wasn’t until the law directly interfered in religious liberty that the righteous opposition was raised.
*”If you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the…”