Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Some Sanity

First, from Businessweek:

The media has helped inflame the passions surrounding this new activism by the Vatican and some of its clergy by giving way too much attention to Kerry's observance of the sacraments and by being so selective in its coverage. How do I know Kerry took Communion on those two Sundays? Because it was so widely reported. Did Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge, who is pro-choice, take Communion on Mothers Day? How about Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, another pro-choice Republican? Or New York Governor George Pataki, a Catholic who supports both abortion rights and the death penalty?

PRIVATE MATTERS. I don't know about any of them, because I couldn't find news coverage about what they did on those Sundays. Their church habits, their pursuit of religious freedom, apparently didn't make the news. Nor should it.

Same goes for Kerry. He's just one of millions of Catholics who disagree with the Church on some matters but who still feel moved to practice their religion. Not everything that happens is newsworthy -- even if it's done by a Presidential candidate. I happen to think a Catholic practicing his religion and partaking of one of its Sacraments should be private.

If the media wants to take the tack that a politician's religious behavior is important because it could inform his decisions, then they should be reporting on all of the prominent Catholic politicians and their religious practices. And they don't, because really, it's largely irrelevant to public discourse. Nothing can be extrapolated from knowing that a Catholic politician, fearing Rome's wrath, declines to present himself or herself for Communion. Nor is anything to be gleaned by a Catholic's seeking the Sacrament.

Put the focus on where it belongs -- on an institution that's trying to exert influence in outmoded ways, not on those who seek to practice a religion they've made their peace with.

And, then, from voters:

New Jersey voters disapprove 68 -- 21 percent of comments by some Catholic clergy that they would deny Holy Communion to McGreevey because of his position on abortion. Catholic voters disapprove 64 -- 27 percent. Only 7 percent of voters say they are less likely to vote for McGreevey because of these comments, while 9 percent are more likely and 82 percent say it won't influence their vote.

By a 74 -- 21 percent margin, 69 -- 25 percent among Catholics, voters say it is wrong for Catholic church leaders to try to pressure politicians on issues such as abortion. Voters say 76 -- 22 percent that a public official's religious beliefs should be a private matter, not a matter for public discussion.

"New Jersey voters -- including Catholics -- want church leaders to stay out of politics and get off Gov. McGreevey's back. Voters say it is wrong for Catholic Church leaders to cross that line between church and state and try to pressure Catholic politicians on issues such as abortion. The church's attack on the Governor is clearly one of the reasons McGreevey's approval numbers are bouncing back," Richards added.