« Dissension in the ranks | Main | Goodthink »

Cutting off your nose to spite your face

I have been skeptical of the claims of those such as Andrew Sullivan who want the Catholic Church to stay out of politics. While Sullivan is right to be concerned that the Church appears to be taking partisan sides, the source of that problem lies not in the Church, but in the partisan split on key issues, notably abortion.

I don't agree with the Church's stand on abortion, but it is a clear moral stand; to suggest that they should stay out of the debate merely because it's divisive is to misunderstand the role of a religious institution. Should 19th century churches have refused to condemn slavery-supporting politicians merely because such a condemnation would put the churches on the side of Republicans? I suspect Sullivan would be far less inclined to make such an argument; I suspect his problem here is that the Catholic hard-liners who want the Church to make a strong stand against abortion are the same ones who want to make a strong stand against homosexuality.

But you pays your money and you takes your chances; as I pointed out earlier with regard to New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, you can't simultaneously demand to be an accepted member of a religious community and demand to be allowed to espouse whatever religious views you choose without consequence. That is, unless you're a Unitarian.

That having been said, I think this bishop is going a little far.

The Roman Catholic bishop of Colorado Springs has issued a pastoral letter saying that American Catholics should not receive communion if they vote for politicians who defy church teaching by supporting abortion rights, same-sex marriage, euthanasia or stem-cell research.
To me, there seems to me to be a significant difference between ostracizing a candidate who advocates a particular policy as one of his main platform planks, and ostracizing someone who votes for a candidate who holds that view.

The Church can do whatever it wants, of course. But unless the Pope runs for office -- and I'm pretty sure he's not eligible for too many of them around these parts -- you're not going to find candidates who follow every Church teaching. What is the voter who lives in a district where both candidates are pro-choice to do? Or what if the voter decides that the pro-choice candidate is better on other Catholic teachings, and that this candidate won't have an opportunity to implement his abortion views anyway? (I'm always amused when candidates for mayor or the like emphasize their views on legal abortion, as if mayors had any authority over the matter.) The Church should take strong moral stands, certainly -- but if it drives away all its members, it won't be very effective at promoting those stances.

[Disclaimer: I'm not Catholic, so keep in mind that I'm making this up as I go along.]


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Comments (2)

Never mind, David - I'm not Catholic either but you convinced me!

Cheers - BB


I donít disagree with your point, but isnít it all academic? Unless you tell at confession, how would the Catholic Church know who you voted for?


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 17, 2004 4:29 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Dissension in the ranks.

The next post in this blog is Goodthink.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.31