Good grief, they’re either ungrateful, blind, or both.
A quick survey of political issues of the day and the political party which tends to holds the position the U.S. bishops tend to lean toward:
- Immigration: Democratic. Open borders.
- Social welfare programs: Democratic. Spend more money.
- Obamacare (pre-HHS mandate): Democratic. Increase access to healthcare.
- Labor laws: Democratic. Protect the workers’ rights.
- Taxation/Economy: Democratic. Everyone should pay a “fairer” share.
- Foreign policy/warfare: Democratic. Give peace a chance. (Except that, you know, Obama has actually been *more* hawkish than Bush when it comes to summary execution by drone strike and hasn’t come through on most of his foreign policy promises)
- Religious liberty (HHS mandate-induced): Republican. Oh no you di’n’t.
- Life: Republican. From conception to natural death.
That’s four out of six for the Dems, and one of the ones they lose has only become an issue recently because of the Dems’ own actions.
To be sure, there are plenty of individual data points that don’t fit this list (pro-abort Republicans and hawkish Democrats), but that’s why I said “tend” so many times in the paragraph before the list.
But it’s hardly a list that shows the bishops as hardcore conservative card-carrying Romneybots!
But to hear some of the left-leaning talking heads these days, the U.S. bishops are colluding with the Romney campaign, the GOP National Committee, the Republican Study Committee, and probably the ultra-evil Koch brothers (who, it’s rumored, desecrate churches and knife pensioners in their leisure time), all just to take down President Obama.
Seems if the bishops just stick to the game plan (dissent from Democrat orthodoxy on sanctity of life, but NOTHING ELSE) then they’re fine. But introduce another dissension—one that could harm Obama’s reelection chances, especially—and tolerance is done.
The latest breathless denunciation of the bishops’ supposed “conservative-nay, ultraconservative” politicking comes from Jacques Berlinerbau, writing at The Chronicle of Higher Education. (h/t to The Cardinal Newman Society. Again.). He refers to the defense of religious liberty as a “hard right turn,” and says that, “Church leaders in America have identified the Obama administration as the enemy and are devoting their considerable resources to making that known,” citing the “Fortnight for Freedom” as evidence
The Fortnight for Freedom is a last-ditch effort to take the issue to the people since all reasonable, typical avenues have been tried, to no avail. The bishops oppose the HHS mandate because it represents the most dramatic attack on the Church’s liberty to be fully herself in the United States. The bishops repeatedly tried to work with the Obama administration only to be surprised, lectured-to, and ultimately told where to go. On non-essential matters they might even have let it go. But not religious liberty.
If we lose this one we the faithful will be punished by the government for attempting to live out fully our Catholic faith. This is not a politically conservative or liberal issue—it is a human rights, a God-given rights issue.
But Berlinerbau says the bishops are being hyper partisan here, just like, he reminds us, they were back in 2004 during the John Kerry “communion crisis.” You remember that one: it’s when the U.S. bishops all got together and delivered a Beckett-style excommunication of Senator Kerry and barred the church doors lest he attempt to receive communion…
…except they didn’t. In fact, while a few bishops, like +Olmsted, +Chaput, and +Burke, did make plain that they would withhold communion from the likes of John Kerry, the vast majority, either remained silent on the issue or, like +Donald Wuerl, then of Pittsburgh and now cardinal archbishop of Washington, D.C., explicitly opposed that position, saying communion should not be used “as a weapon.” In fact, the brouhaha during that episode came from the Catholic right, not from the left, because the right felt that the bishops were being too quiet and permissive on such a public scandal. So Berlinerbau gets that one wrong, too.
His article attempts to draw out some mythical cooperation among the GOP, Catholic leaders, and Protestant Evangelicals in support of Mitt Romney, paving the way for Romney to just waltz into the White House.
Or, as he puts it,
The walking-on-eggshells Romney camp can just sit back and have the bishops do the fulminating for them! The aforementioned evangelicals, incidentally, are right there with the bishops on religious-freedom issues, so this is a triangulated heaven for Mitt.
Romney, who has rhetorically and topically responded to every personality attack thus far (Obama eats dog; Obama’s grandfather lived on a polygamist commune, too; etc.), and who surprised everyone with a rather pointed press conference outside the shuttered headquarters of bankrupt Solyndra while Obama’s number one guy David Axelrod was being heckled into confusion in Boston, is hardly sitting back and letting the bishops do all the “fulminating.” I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised by the fight Romney has shown so far. I was expecting more of McCain 2008, who didn’t even bring his knife to the gunfight and denounced anyone who tried to use theirs.
And “incidentally”?! Nice touch. He speaks as though the bishops and evangelicals just randomly began “fulminating” for no apparent reason and just fabricated the whole “religious freedom” problem.
The religious liberty fight is very real, and the Church is very serious about it. The involvement of Protestant Evangelicals is welcome, and largely Obama’s doing. See: Protestant Evangelicals, by and large, have no problem with contraception, so while some would undoubtedly have sensed the urgency of the attack on religious liberty anyhow, they would not have been “with us” as much as they are had the HHS mandate merely required contraceptive coverage.
But the mandate requires abortifacient coverage also. Protestant Evangelicals oppose abortion, so that one made the religious liberty fight personal, not just theoretical, for them as well. Own-goal for the Obama camp.
The “triangulation” Berlinerbau cites was courtesy of the ham-handedness of the Obama administration and the HHS mandate, not coordination between the U.S. bishops and Evangelical leaders.
Then he finishes:
The Obama folks, for their part, would be insane to inflame the Church leaders any more than they already have. Their best hope is to sit tight and hope (and pray) that lay Catholics aren’t listening to their leaders’ views on contraception, gay marriage, etc.
Well he’s right on this one: the only way Obama wins the Catholic vote this time is if the majority of Catholics ignore the settled and clear teachings of the Church on matters like contraception, abortion, the sanctity of life and the unalterable, true definition of marriage.
Or if a majority decide that the determinations they have prudentially arrived at on matters like taxation, social services, and immigration sufficiently outweigh the unquestionable duty to defend life, and the alternative positions prudentially arrived at on those issues by the likes of Romney and Paul Ryan are unquestionably immoral, then they’ll vote for Obama there also.
But that’s just silly. No one would be that narrow, would they?
At any rate, I expect we’ll see more of this as the campaign season wears on: liberal Catholics who think the Church should allow contraceptives anyhow will pile on the bishops religious liberty stand since it is hurting the President electorally, conveniently forgetting that on so many other issues the bishops mostly agree with the positions the President and his party take.