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'Bad' Catholics
July 5, 2004 10:42 AM   Subscribe

'Bad' Catholics "...From President Bush seeking the Vatican's help on social issues to the decision by some Catholic bishops to deny communion to pro-choice (but not pro-war or pro-death penalty) politicians and their supporters, some on the right are actively trying to portray John Kerry and others on the left as "bad Catholics." But such attempts could well backfire, as it appears the majority of Catholic voters dislike the selective and political co-opting of their faith. .."
posted by Postroad (30 comments total)

 
why didn't you post it as a comment in this thread?
posted by matteo at 10:56 AM on July 5, 2004


Because it has no real connection with that thread perhaps?
posted by biffa at 11:00 AM on July 5, 2004


As has been said, why isn't Bush pushing the Vatican to deny communion to supporters of capital punishment? Hmm.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:04 AM on July 5, 2004


I think it's because Bush talks out of his ass. Your butt doesn't have to be reasonable.
posted by chunking express at 11:42 AM on July 5, 2004


Because it has no real connection with that thread perhaps?

well, "Bad Catholics" and "Jesus saved my vagina" sound like pretty similar topics to me
posted by matteo at 12:12 PM on July 5, 2004


Yes, like pizza and Italian national politics are pretty similar, too.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 12:17 PM on July 5, 2004


Yes, like pizza and Italian national politics are pretty similar, too.

That's a flawed analogy because a lot of people actually care about pizza.

Really, though, isn't it funny how Republicans have gone from catholic bashing (Al Smith through JFK) to actively courting catholics, without ever fielding a catholic candidate of their own? The GOP's pretty much saying "Yeah, we think you're scum, but we also think that you're stupid enough to turn on one of your own with a little coaching."
posted by Mayor Curley at 12:52 PM on July 5, 2004


Yeah. They likely won't field a Catholic presidential candidate for awhile yet, anyway, because anti-Catholic bigotry is still pretty strong among many of the conservative protestants that form the hard-Christian right of the GOP base. I think a lot of folks don't know about the history of anti-Catholic bigotry in the US, or think that it doesn't exist anymore. This was why I was unhappy with Sinead's tearing-up of the Pope's photo on SNL—not because I don't agree with her sentiments (I do agree with her), particularly in the Irish context within which they were made—but because, perhaps unknown to her, there's still a lot of anti-Catholic bigotry in the US. The recent sex abuse scandals have, rightly or wrongly, encouraged a recent increase in the acceptability of it.

Not that I'm a fan of either the Catholic Church (although I'd prefer it over many protestant churches these days) or of this regressive Pope. But the Catholic Church in the US, besides being traditionally despised by the anglo-protestant culture that dominates, is also the church associated with traditionally oppressed minorities like the Irish and the Italians, and today the Hispanics.

There's a lot of very conservative Catholics. But that doesn't mean that the GOP is the party for them. It's not. The GOP is still largely the Protestant Country Club it's long been. Catholics need not apply.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:13 PM on July 5, 2004


Read the Catechism folks. The Catholic Church doesn't expressly forbid the application of the death penalty.
posted by pjdoland at 2:27 PM on July 5, 2004


I read Philip Jenkins, The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice before knowing too much about the Catholic Church. Now I can safely say that I have no prejudice concerning them. My adverse opinion to Catholicism is rooted in sufficient knowledge. The book inspired me to seek out the source of their arguments, such as Humanae Vitae's condemnation of contraception. The tunnel vision, selective citation, and desperately twisted translation of texts justifying their viewpoint is as tedious as it is unconvincing. This is repeated in every document I read at the Vatican's site.

Sure, some people, like Bob Jones, go over the top, but the Church has only ever had to suffer from being offended in the USA. Churches never get burned nor do priests get molested or murdered. They are mostly laughed at for a backward set of beliefs balanced on a frail framework of passed down authority in the interpretation of selected scripture.

The comedian Bob Smith once said, "The Catholic Church says it's okay to be gay as long as you don't practice it. I think it's okay to be Catholic as long as you don't practice it."
posted by john at 2:33 PM on July 5, 2004


Churches may not have been burned (are you sure about that?), but Catholics themselves have been discriminated against in a variety of ways. Most of them the classic ways in which a minority is oppressed: jobs, housing, etc. I'd bet a bunch of money that there's still a good number of country clubs, most of them in the South, that blackball or explicitly exclude Catholics.

There is an abstract distinction between discriminating against a church (religion) and discriminating against its believers; but, in practice, the lines are badly blurred. This is easily seen with regard to Islam in the west. I'm not convinced that Islam is "really" a "religion of peace", and I'm not convinced it's no more malignant than, say, Christianity. Nevertheless, I don't think that there's any doubt that post-9/11 in the US Muslims have been badly discriminated against in a variety of ways, often with the sole justification of their affiliation with a "bad" religion. This was, and still is, too-often the case with the Catholic Church and Catholicism. (Not to mention Christianity and Christians in general in MeFiland.)
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:51 PM on July 5, 2004


pjdoland: not being a Catholic, or particularly scholarly with regard to it (excepting the scholastic theologians, the works of many of the bigshots I've read, but, frankly, did not enjoy and did not pay close attention to), I've always been confused by the various levels of doctrine regarding what's forbidden. I am aware that the distinctions exist and I thank you for your correction.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:55 PM on July 5, 2004


Sure, some people, like Bob Jones, go over the top, but the Church has only ever had to suffer from being offended in the USA.

Er, not up on recent burnings, but nineteenth-century American Catholics had plenty to worry about--e.g., the occasional torched convent or riot (contemporary account here).

I skimmed Jenkins' book, and was a bit puzzled by its secularism (for lack of a better word): as this useful site points out, secular anti-Catholicism is usually a subset of anti-Christian sentiment more generally, whereas some of the most dedicated anti-Catholics tend, in fact, to be Protestant fundamentalists or evangelicals. When buying books for my own work--I study nineteenth-century evangelicals--I regularly stumble across Christian dealers who offer Victorian anti-Catholic propaganda "straight," as it were.
posted by thomas j wise at 3:23 PM on July 5, 2004


As has been said, why isn't Bush pushing the Vatican to deny communion to supporters of capital punishment? Hmm.

Because W.'s courting of Catholics has always been a cynical political ploy. The extreme-right Evangelicals that Bush both draws support from and is a meber of, have never been too fond of Catholics*, yet when he needs a vote, he's perfectly willing to use them.

I was raised Catholic, and while I have significant difeerences with the Church on lots of matters, that dosen't mean I tolerate bigotry and demogaugery against it.

*As late as the late 1990's I watched a religious program on TV (not public access, believe it or not) where ministers were straight-facedly referring to Catholics as "apostates' and 'pagans.' Forgive me if I don't take this latest rapprochment at face value.
posted by jonmc at 3:42 PM on July 5, 2004


...whereas some of the most dedicated anti-Catholics tend, in fact, to be Protestant fundamentalists or evangelicals.

Probably because Protestantism was an attempt to reform the Catholic church.

Theological issues asside, the lasting effect of the reformation is that the Pope's political power has been sharply reduced. The European Union is now a secular political entity.
posted by Kwantsar at 3:49 PM on July 5, 2004


Do you really think that anyone participating in this thead doesn't know the basic history of protestantism? Sheesh.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:55 PM on July 5, 2004


Catholics vs. Protestants is as relevant to me as Thoth vs. Cthulhu. Or Santa vs. The Tooth Fairy.

It's just more fun to name drop heathen deities to grandma.
posted by dash_slot- at 5:08 PM on July 5, 2004


Theological issues asside, the lasting effect of the reformation is that the Pope's political power has been sharply reduced[1]. The European Union is now a secular political entity[2].
posted by Kwantsar at 3:49 PM PST on July 5


Eh? How are these two statements connected. The Pope's temporal power, and the Holy Roman Empire, have been a fiction for 2 - 3 centuries: the EU is about 10 years old (ok. it's forerunners, going back to the European Coal & Steel union, are maybe 50 years old. But still...)

Hey, don't let ignorance of history stop your pronouncements tho'...sheesh.
posted by dash_slot- at 5:17 PM on July 5, 2004


thomas,

I don't think Jenkins book lists any such event and it seemed like he tried to cover the history, which is why I said that.

After reading the first link, it seems more like a angry mod action, than pure anti-catholicism (though probably not devoid of it.)

The 2nd link is a bit more valid, though limited to Phil. How about I modify my statement to nothing in the last 150 years?
posted by john at 5:23 PM on July 5, 2004


You might want to look up "Holy Roman Empire". I think it's not what you think it is.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:28 PM on July 5, 2004


dash_slot: The last unifying power in Europe was the Catholic Church*. After centuries of papal decline, Europe is now unified under the EU, which is secular. All I'm saying is that protestantism contributed to the declien of Catholic Power and has introduced religious fragmentation into Europe (formerly "Christendom"). Europe is now unified under a secular organization. The US, which was once dedicated to religious freedom seems to be unifying under protestant extremeism.

*hitler and napoleon were unifying forces too, but their power didn't outlast them.
posted by Kwantsar at 5:29 PM on July 5, 2004


You're telling me my own fecking history? You want me to tell you yours?

Your phrasing "The European Union is now a secular political entity" is misleading: it has _always_ been a secular power - being as it is only a post WWII creation. Try to understand: Europeans do not place the same emphasis on the politics/faith nexus as yanks do.

It has never had any connection with the EU (the Papacy is not even in the EU, if I recall correctly). It is landlocked by Italy - but it is not a force within the EU. Do you get it?
posted by dash_slot- at 5:47 PM on July 5, 2004


Back to the original post, I believe that there are single issue voters for who abortion will be the deciding factor, no matter what the party of the candidate is.

I was up in the wee hours the other night and caught a speech to the national right to lifers on CSPAN by this fellow. The presentation seemed filled with plenty of fire and brimstone on the subject of abortion. I can't find the CSPAN link for this, but if my memory serves me he found no moral equivalence between abortion, the death penalty and war.

Careful to not actually endorse particular candidates, it appears that at least this priest is encouraging voter activism.
posted by SteveInMaine at 5:55 PM on July 5, 2004


Polls of US Catholics indicate that position on abortion isn't the only, nor largest, factor in their selection of a candidate.

Like (I hope) most people.
posted by Cerebus at 7:21 PM on July 5, 2004


I've always been confused by the various levels of doctrine regarding what's forbidden. I am aware that the distinctions exist and I thank you for your correction.

As a practicing Catholic, the line is blurry. The things a Catholic must believe are our dogmas and is pretty much the Nicene Creed that we profess every week in Church and when the Pope speaks from the Chair of Peter (which has only happened twice in the CC's history). Next step down from there, you have Encyclicals (I think that's how you spell it) that the Pope writes. They are pretty much documents of morality that a Catholic is very very strongly advised to follow, and as john refers to, if someone actually researches and reads Catholic documents, they are very consistent and make logical sense (though logic doesn't mean you have to agree with them).

Polls of US Catholics indicate that position on abortion isn't the only, nor largest, factor in their selection of a candidate.

While I don't think it should be the only factor, I see nothing wrong with it being the largest factor. Most pro-lifers view an abortion as an unethical killings in the millions which, in my own little world, makes sense would be a huge deciding factor to the pro-life faction.
posted by jmd82 at 7:52 PM on July 5, 2004


I see nothing wrong with it being the largest factor.

Neither do I, for all that my opinion matters; however the point remains that for the majority of Catholics abortion is not the largest factor. Thus the administration's attempt to drive a wedge between Catholics and Democrats by trying to get American bishops to play partisan politics is fundamentally misguided and likely to backfire.
posted by Cerebus at 9:31 PM on July 5, 2004


Living in Australia it always astounds me how big an issue abortion is in the USA. I think its generally hard to find even a handfull of Anti-Abortionists over here.. and they are all nutters anyway..

I always thought that most "catholics" in first world countries and under the age of say 50 generally ignored the pope anyway these days...? sex / condoms / abortion / geez?
posted by mary8nne at 10:36 PM on July 5, 2004


Living in Australia it always astounds me how big an issue abortion is in the USA

Two things going on.

One is the higher religiosity in the US.

The other is probably that abortion law in the US tends towards the most permissive edge, because it's strongly rights-based. This eliminates a lot of the fig-leafing that might make abortion more tolerable to people who otherwise might oppose it in other lands; there's none of the nominal necessity that you tend to see in a lot of places.

I'd wager that this makes anti-abortion types rather more upset than they would be if the law said that you could only get an abortion if a physician certified that it was necessary to preserve your health, or whatever, even if it posed no actual bar.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:28 PM on July 5, 2004


This article makes a number of very interesting points about the campaign to deny Communion to pro-choice Democrats. I was particularly struck by the following passage:

On January 6 2001, at the concluding mass of the Jubilee, John Paul II personally gave communion to Francesco Rutelli, a practising Catholic and a premier centre-left candidate for this year's planned elections in Italy.

Rutelli had been, as a member of the Radical Party, one of the most active supporters of Italy's abortion law, which is among the most permissive in the world. And he continued, as a Catholic, to maintain publicly "pro-choice" positions.

In Italy during the 1970s, other left-wing politicians even more closely connected than Rutelli with the Catholic sector, such as Piero Pratesi and Raniero La Valle, had given strong support to the introduction of the abortion law. But they were never denied communion. It was never even discussed.


Only in America ..
posted by verstegan at 4:23 AM on July 6, 2004


1) Why deny the eucharist to only the politicians and only to a particular issue? This question, answered truthfully, puts the lie to any answer but that of brazen GOP political pandering and hypocrisy.

2) The Catholic church (big c) is as diverse a group as protestantism in many regards. The orders of the bishops and the Vatrican are ignored by many except those who must obey in order to remain employed. They have as many factions as baptists! :-)

3) For those interested in some enjoyable reading with a bit of history of the Catholic church, allow me to recommend "The Name of The Rose" by Umberto Eco. The history of the "church" is bloody, factionalized and political as anyone can imagine.

Great thread folks!
Don't let politicos corrupt your faith and religion! Politics is dirty and will soil what it touches.
posted by nofundy at 5:55 AM on July 6, 2004


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