Saturday, April 24, 2004

The Media

Jeanne from Body and Soul writes in:

I agree with 90% of what you said. Christians in this country have no cause to whine about being persecuted. I'm sick to death of Catholics calling every disagreement with them "Catholic bashing." (I lived in the deep South for awhile as a kid. Believe me, I know Catholic bashing, having been seriously bashed by fundies.) I'm as offended by religious posturing by liberal politicians as you are.

But there's a small but significant error in your post that I think it's important to correct. You say, "It's time for moderate and liberal Catholics to take a stand against their Church's assault on Democratic (and only Democratic) politicians who deviate from doctrine." I know this is hard to understand, because the media is so clueless about this, but there really is no "Church" assault on Democratic politicians. People like Nedra Pickler and Katherine Seeleye are trying to frame it that way, but it really isn't happening. Rather, a couple of very ambitious bishops, and a small group of conservative Catholics like Deal Hudson, are trying to force the American Church into sanctioning pro-choice politicians -- something they have very deliberately avoided doing.

What liberal Catholics need to do -- and are doing -- is not bash, or even confront, the Church, which is trying very hard to keep from being used for political purposes, but point out that the people who are doing this are not the Church, and have their own religious and political reasons for what they're doing. Andrew Greeley has made the point that the St. Louis archbishop who got his name in all the papers by saying he wouldn't give Kerry communion is "campaigning for cardinal" (trying to score points with the Vatican, which is far more conservative than the American Church). I made a similar point recently about the Nigerian cardinal who suggested the same thing. He's considered one of the prime candidates for pope, and is obviously campaigning for the office. The American press generally missed that rather important detail.

The Catholic bishops are doing everything in their power to avoid this issue, and a small number of conservatives are trying to force them to take a stand. They're currently working on guidelines for how to deal with Catholic politicians who oppose Church teachings, but everyone expects it to cover a lot more ground than just abortion, and not be useful for bashing one party or another. It was supposed to come out soon, but they've postponed it, probably because it was too likely to be exploited. The conservatives are trying to force their hand early, and on one issue only.

It isn't helpful when the left buys into the Pickler-Seelye story of the Church vs. the liberals. It isn't the Church that's wrong, it's the press's way of framing the story. As usual, Pickler and Seelye -- the prime drivers of this story -- don't know what the hell they're talking about.

I think this is mostly correct - this is more a media issue than a Church issue, though it is of course the latter as well. A couple American Bishops and the Vatican have stated that pro-Choice politicians shouldn't be allowed to receive communion. American Cardinals have been quiet -- this is much more about how the media is presenting the story. The horrible Kelly Wallace on CNN kept saying things like "John Kerry angered some Catholics..." Well, I'm sure he did, but a lot of Catholics are angry at the actions of the Bishops too.

If the media wants to report this story, they should be obligated to note that "pro-Choice politicians" includes more Catholics than John Kerry, and that there are quite a few prominent pro-Choice Republicans. But, they're completely corrupt and would never dare let us in on that little secret.

Monday morning we'll have a little fun calling around to the offices of various Republican pro-choice politicians and asking their people a) if they went to Church on Sunday and b) if they took communion. Clearly, the day to day activities and policy positions of prominent Catholic politicians from all parties must be scrutinized for any deviation from doctrine. The world must know if they have taken the sacraments improperly or not at all. Their confessions should be public information.

We should then examine their reproductive histories and marvel at their miraculous success using the Rhythm Method. Some of these politicians don't have many children. It's possible, I suppose, that they've either been very celibate even in marriage or just very lucky, but one suspects some possible deviation from Church teachings on the subject of contraception.

And, as this is my own fair and balanced news outlet we will only focus on Republican Catholics. Democrats will get a pass, as they should, because God wants Democrats to win no matter what their sins are.