Ways past the culture wars
The choice of Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware as the Democratic vice presidential candidate brought an immediate and predictable reaction from those intent on using this election cycle to revive the Catholic culture wars.
Suddenly pundits knew “what kind of Catholic” Biden is and they were eager to frame his deepest motivations on the basis of a vote here and there on “life issues,” which in the world of the culture warrior translates as only one issue -- abortion. And they picked up immediate encouragement from on high when Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput issued the pastoral wisdom that Biden should refrain from receiving Communion.
To take that last matter first, Chaput’s pronouncement momentarily grabbed a portion of the national news cycle, but Catholics shouldn’t overreact. They would do better to read his book, Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life, a far more nuanced and challenging presentation of his view of Catholic responsibilities.
They’d do better, too, by reading the U.S. bishops’ valuable and thorough reflection on political responsibility, “Faithful Citizenship,” which, while placing the protection of innocent life as the central consideration in pursuing the common good, also acknowledges the complexities of political life and the ambiguities that can sometimes confound even the most purposeful legislator.
Mr. Biden is, we suspect, closer to the people most priests face in the pews every week than the culture warriors would have us believe: devout, faithful, prayerful and questioning. The problem for him, of course, is that he plays out his life in public. Most Catholics don’t have to contend with a chorus demanding absolutes where sometimes only compromise and negotiation can serve the common good.
According to a recent Associated Press story, Biden has said in the past that he is “prepared to accept” church teaching on when life begins, but at the same time he believes that Roe v. Wade “is as close as we’re going to be able to get as a society” to a consensus among differing religious and other views on the subject. We suspect that view is held by a lot of ordinary Catholics and more than a few bishops, albeit privately. So the dispute becomes more over political strategy than church teaching. How to attack the abortion problem from the political stump in the political arena -- where compromise is the coin of the realm -- is far different from pronouncing from the pulpit.
The reality, as shown in poll after poll, is that Catholics, like most others in the culture, are looking for a politics on the abortion issue that is far removed from either extreme, a politics that can begin to effectively reduce the number of abortions. Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good released a study Aug. 27 that shows a strikingly direct correlation between the availability of social services and a drop in the number of abortions. (See story on Page 7.)
There is more involved in creating a culture of life than simply seeking the elusive ban on abortion. The culture wars have cost the church dearly in terms of political capital and credibility, and in the election of legislators who promise lots on abortion, deliver little and frequently ignore most of the rest of the bishops’ social agenda. No political party holds the complete Catholic vision of society.
Seeking a significant reduction in abortion will require more from us than protest and vilifying politicians. It will require an approach to the common good that places high value on programs supporting women and children, on assuring access to jobs and education and on dealing with the causes and effects of poverty.
National Catholic Reporter September 5, 2008
Biden’s interview with Brokaw is all over the place now. Let me say I am a Catholic who finds Biden’s view defensible.
Following Chaput into the political fray is the headline of this brief interview. I am looking forward to reading his book Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life, if my local library decides to buy one on my recommendation.
He is easy on McCain. I sense a double standard here.
Good comments by Frank Church in the New York Times. Here is an excerpt:
“No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” Check out this two-part article in The Chronicle of Higher Education
As The New York Times reported last Tuesday, Palin was sloppily vetted, at best. McCain operatives and some of their press surrogates responded to this revelation by trying to discredit The Times article. After all, The Washington Post had cited McCain aides (including his campaign manager, Rick Davis) last weekend to assure us that Palin had a “full vetting process.” She had been subjected to “an F.B.I. background check,” we were told, and “the McCain camp had reviewed everything it could find on her.”
The Times had it right. The McCain campaign’s claims of a “full vetting process” for Palin were as much a lie as the biographical details they’ve invented for her. There was no F.B.I. background check. The Times found no evidence that a McCain representative spoke to anyone in the State Legislature or business community. Nor did anyone talk to the fired state public safety commissioner at the center of the Palin ethics investigation. No McCain researcher even bothered to consult the relevant back issues of the Wasilla paper. Apparently when McCain said in June that his vice presidential vetting process was basically “a Google,” he wasn’t joking.
This is a roll of the dice beyond even Bill Clinton’s imagination. “Often my haste is a mistake,” McCain conceded in his 2002 memoir, “but I live with the consequences without complaint.” Well, maybe it’s fine if he wants to live with the consequences, but what about his country?
Here is a funny Political cartoon from the Washington Post
One goggle and I chose this site simply because it was the first one to pop-up. Kids, all I am saying is, be smart.