Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Vatican v. President Obama and the American People

When the Republican Party is trounced in November 2012 all Americans should send thank you notes to the Vatican. The American bishops are lending their tattered "moral authority" to the Republican Party.  With friends like these the Republicans need no enemies.

According to the New York Times:

Pope Benedict XVI waded into the American culture wars on Friday, urging visiting American bishops to beef up their teaching about the evils of premarital sex and cohabitation, and denouncing what he called the "powerful" gay marriage lobby in America. Benedict said there was an urgent need for American Catholics to discover the value of chastity, an essential element of Christian teaching that he said had been subject to unjust "ridicule." The pope also told the bishops not to back down in the face of "powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage."

With the "stand" that the Pope and the American bishops are taking in their thinly veiled anti-President Obama, pro-Republican Party campaign in full swing -- and being parroted by Santorum and Gingrich --  the Republicans are lurching even farther rightward.

And now a far right "religious liberty" group the Becket Fund led by a conservative William P. Mumma, a Wall Street banker who runs the New York trading desk for Mitsubishi UFJ Securities USA, is working closely with the Roman Catholic bishops to suethe government in order to force women to forgo contraception if they happen to work for Catholic run corporations.

Bluntly put, between this Becket Fund suit, the Pope weighing in and the American bishops anti-Obama activity ramping up to try and defeat him in 2012 the Roman Catholic hierarchic leaders seem anxious to declare holy war on the Democratic Party.

This will backfire, not least because the pope and bishops and a far right Wall Street champion of the 1% activist like Mumma (who hates the President because he wants to regulate Wall Street) don't even speak for most Roman Catholics let alone most Americans. So the Koch brothers can spend 100 million or a 100 billion for that matter to buy the election for big oil and Wall Street, but they might as well burn their Supreme Court-lubricated Super Pac cash.

Back in the 1970s and 80s when I was a Republican/Religious Right/"Pro-Life" activist working with people like Jack Kemp and the Bush family to make the Republican Party adopt our Protestant/evangelical/anti-abortion agenda the people I worked with - from Roman Catholics like Archbishop Fulton Sheen to Evangelical Protestants like Jerry Falwell - agreed that whatever else we did we had to keep the issue of abortion and contraception separate. Otherwise we feared the issue of abortion would be dismissed as merely a "Catholic issue."

In fact when I met with Fulton Sheen in his NYC apartment to talk strategy in the late 70s he even said that he was pleased that with "you evangelicals" in the fight and because we supported the use of contraception he felt that it would strengthen the case we were making against abortion.

We knew then what the Republican Party and the bishops seem to have forgotten today--  that while many American women and men shared our ambivalence about legal abortion they were near unanimous in their rejection of Roman Catholic teaching banning contraception. JFK wisely understood this long before abortion was an issue and had been emphasizing his rock solid American commitment to the separation of church and state.

For instance how many Americans voting for JFK would have agreed with this Roman Catholic leading "thinker's" statement about the "wickedness" of contraception if it had been published during JFK's presidency?

"If you are defending contraception, you will have rejected Christian tradition. It's this that makes the division between straightforward fornication or adultery and the wickedness of the sins against nature and of contraceptive intercourse. Hence contraceptive intercourse within marriage is a graver offence against chastity than is straightforward fornication or adultery." (G. E. M. Anscombe, "Contraception and Chastity," London: Catholic Truth Society, 1975).

Most Roman Catholics would not sign on to such weird extremism even in JFK's day let alone today. But "most Roman Catholics" are not in charge of their church today.

A number of far right bishops are in charge in America and they in turn are being manipulated by several slick insider far right Republican operatives. What motivates these insiders is hatred for President Obama of the kind that drives activists like William P. Mumma. They write for journals like ultra right cranky "First Things" and today's diminished "National Review."

One of the key far right Catholic intellectuals - Robert George of Princeton -- who was one of John McCain's advisers in 2008 never forgave President Obama for winning. George is also one of the key figures associated with the Becket Fund group suing the government for the Catholics. He was awarded this group's highest honer in 2010 The Canterbury Medal other recipients included far right anti-gay agitator Charles Colson and in 2008  Governor & Mrs. Mitt Romney as well as Carl A. Anderson, of the Knights of Columbus.

George was Glenn Beck's mentor and is a close confidant and ideological confidant of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia's. And Scalia will be point man for the Roman Catholic suit if it gets to the Supreme Court. George liked the anti-contraception statement quoted here so much that he wrote a glowing endorsement of it in the obituary he wrote to mark the passing of its author (Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe who died in 2001).

Here is how Robert George lauded her "argument" in his gushing Anscombe obituary:

"In 1968, when much of the rest of the Catholic intellectual world reacted with shock and anger to Pope Paul VI's reaffirmation of Catholic teaching regarding the immorality of contraception, the Anscombe family toasted the announcement with champagne. [Elizabeth Anscombe's] defense of the teaching in the essay 'Contraception and Chastity' is an all-too-rare example of rigorous philosophical argumentation on matters of sexual ethics. Catholics who demand the liberalization of their Church's teachings have yet to come to terms with Anscombe's arguments." (Robert George, "Elizabeth Anscombe, R.I.P.: One of the 20th Century's Most Remarkable Women," National Review, February 3-4, 2001.)

In case you've never heard of George, he's been a one-man "brain trust" for the Religious Right and the Far Right of the Republican Party as well as for the ultraconservative wing of the Roman Catholic Church. Here's how the New York Times introduced him to its readers:

"Robert George] has parlayed a 13th-century Catholic philosophy [the natural law theory] into real political influence. Glenn Beck, the Fox News talker and a big George fan, likes to introduce him as "one of the biggest brains in America," or, on one broadcast, "Superman of the Earth." Karl Rove told me he considers George a rising star on the right and a leading voice in persuading President George W. Bush to restrict embryonic stem-cell research.Newt Gingrich called him "an important and growing influence" on the conservative movement, especially on matters like abortion and marriage. "If there really is a vast right-wing conspiracy," the conservative Catholic journal Crisis concluded a few years ago, "its leaders probably meet in George's kitchen."

George's splenetic agenda is not just bent on stopping abortion but focused on defending the unfiltered Vatican "position" on the wickedness of family planning and insinuating it into American politics. George and his friends would like to also do whatever it takes to end the presidency of America's first black president.

George hates Obama to the extent that (like Gingrich) he has accused him of supporting infanticide. And George is one of William P. Mumma's "intellectual" resource people for the Catholic suit against our government and against women.

Before the election in 2008 George wrote: "Senator Obama [is] supporting what amounts to legalized infanticide... In light of the documentary evidence that is now before the public, it is clear that th[is] accusation against Senator Obama, however shocking, has the very considerable merit of being true." (Obama and Infanticide by Robert P. George and Yuval Levin October 16, 2008)

The bishops working with George have succeeded in linking outrage and outright lies about abortion politics to their longstanding fight against all contraception. God has blessed them in this fight beyond their wildest hopes with the candidacy of the not one but two Robert George clones: Santorum and Gingrich. In fact both men parrot his most extreme statements almost verbatim on the campaign trail.

And how could the bishops know that in Mitt Romney they would have a Mormon so pliable and afraid of alienating the bishops and their evangelical collaborators that Romney would not even dare to stand up to Rush Limbaugh when Limbaugh articulated the Vatican position (in slightly cruder language than most popes use in public) on women who use contraception?

Limbaugh expressed the essence of the Vatican view of contraception: Women who use contraception are sluts and whores according to Vatican favorite Anscombe who called women using birth control people indulging in "fornication or adultery and the wickedness of the sins against nature."


cascadia said...

Count on the Catholic Church to lead humanity back to the days of the Inquisition and the Dark Ages of ignorance and hatred.

Morrison said...

You sure hate Catholics, don't you Frank?

When the atheists are back in charge guys like you will be falling all over themselves to collaborate?

Frank Schaeffer said...

M: I actually like my many Roman Catholic friends (including my wife of 42 years) and the Church as She has been at times. That is why it is such a tragedy to see Her in the hands of a few right wing Republican ideologues using Her for horrible and short term purposes. The bishops coddling of child abusers almost did Her in, and the Republicans like Robert George, will finish the job. The Church should be above politics. Best, F

Steve D said...

Morality and ethics define policy, so asking to have the Church "above politics" is like wanting to leave generals unfettered to fight wars - asking for what never has been and never can be.

Did you really want the Church "above politics" when it came to civil rights?

Ever since John XXIII the hard right wing of the Catholic Church has been recoiling in horror at the rise of liberalism. Unfortunately, the center of gravity of Catholicism is no longer in the U.S., it is now in Africa and Latin America, fertile ground for raising authoritarian, misogynistic bishops.

Marcus said...

As a Catholic who abandoned the Church in recent years over the hard right turn in policy & politics, I believe that this turn is a response to years of growing irrelevancy. This irrelevancy was first made very clear when Americans wisely chose to ignore the edict from on high regarding contraception. But after the horrendous revelations of the child rape coverups, the plunge past irrelevancy and into obscurity caused a knee-jerk reaction among bishops to do whatever is necessary to once again bring an appearance of power and moral authority to the Church. Unfortunately for them, the American public isn't interested in moral pontificating anymore. And this ill-conceived plan will only continue the decline of the Catholic Church in the United States as it alienates yet more parishioners from the pews.

Frank Schaeffer said...

Marcus, thanks for the wise comment and I think you are right. The bishops are being goaded to action by social activists who seem to care little for the religion of their church but do care about fighting the social wars to the bitter end.