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  1. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    March 13, 2012 10:58 am

    I agree with you that a very close analysis sometimes yields the fact that they are not playing utterly by a partisan playbook. But you also give examples, which makes them sound almost completely as if they were (EWTN, the most in your face). But that same close analysis also reveals quite likely what is motivating their seemingly uncoordinated diverse approaches. Ockham’s Razor reveals that they are pursuing paths in diverse areas simply based on the desire for influence. It is naked political ambition that drives them. Not necessarily wanting one side to win. It is to have seat at the table of the most powerful.

    It is a free country, and they can run their Church any way they want. But a Church that is keeping that political desideratum, after all they have been through historically with what even Weigel call’s their “Babylonian Captivity” to statist means, is not going to be taken seriously as a moral arbiter of even the smallest things by smart people.

    Lastly, a side benefit of that close analysis shows also that al the right wing prattle about “the state wants to take over religion and control it” is merely window dressing for a schema of how to get influence in the state. And that prattle has just been put in the mouths of puppets like Santorum by a gang of insecure, reactionaries who claim Catholicism as their Church. (Of course that argument is the funniest because it is like saying that a President who has to worry about violent mayhem erupting around the world has his heart’s desire set on controlling a particular Church’s mode of having sex, and what vestments they wear for Mass. Please!)

  2. Mark Gordon permalink
    March 13, 2012 11:28 am

    How about the Pregnant Women’s Support Act? The bishops fought hard against FOCA, and tried to stop the Affordable Care Act, but barely raised their voices in support of PWSA. Or the extra-judicial assassination of American citizens? Nary a peep from the bishops of the United States on the targeted killing of Americans overseas by the Obama Administration.

    This is largely the same hapless bench of bishops that presided over the sex abuse cover-up crisis. Time after time they have squandered the opportunity to act as true shepherds and not as company men or political hacks. Until they are gone very little will change.

    • johnmcg permalink
      March 13, 2012 12:23 pm

      I don’t think the bishops really “tried to stop the Affordable Care Act,” but rather withdrew their support when the Stupak Amendment protections were removed.

    • March 13, 2012 1:00 pm

      Good points!

    • March 13, 2012 1:31 pm

      This is largely the same hapless bench of bishops that presided over the sex abuse cover-up crisis.

      No it isn’t. Most of them have retired.

      The present class of bishops are a product of their generation. They are naive idealists. They are for the most part shallow thinkers, having a general disdain for details except in as much they wish to assert their ideals.

      The prior generation were institutionalists. The bad of that was the sex abuse crisis that festered longer than it should have. It was also reflected in a laissez faire attitude toward achieving orthodoxy today.

      Oddly enough, the present generation bishops have been slowly tearing down parachurch organizations that the prior generation built up. They have done this in the name of mission incompatibility. Now that it is convenient, all of the sudden these institutions have become the paragon of Catholicism.

  3. johnmcg permalink
    March 13, 2012 11:40 am

    Dad yells at my sister more than me! That Is So Not Fair!

    Maybe instead of whining about the refs, you should encourage your own party to stop committing fouls.

    • Kurt permalink
      March 13, 2012 2:40 pm

      Been there; done that. Found out when I do encourge my party in the right direction, I get no support from the bishops.

      Now its my turn to dump the bishops. They have become a drag on the GOP and I am pleased as punch about it. Please, please your excellencies, keep making contraception a major issue in the upcoming elections. Keep on keeping on.

      • johnmcg permalink
        March 13, 2012 3:32 pm

        So you have tried to move the Democrats in a pro-life direction, and have not been supported by the bishops in doing so?

        Also, the HMS mandate and contraception may not be the political loser you think it is.

      • Kurt permalink
        March 13, 2012 9:40 pm

        So you have tried to move the Democrats in a pro-life direction, and have not been supported by the bishops in doing so?


        Also, the HMS mandate and contraception may not be the political loser you think it is.

        I’ll take my chances. Bring it on. I’m ready for a battle royal and Boehner has backed off on his promise to schedule a vote. C’mon Mr. Speaker, watcha afraid of?

  4. March 13, 2012 12:06 pm

    “The Church teaches clearly that torture is an intrinsically evil act that can never be defended regardless of intent or circumstance”

    Torture is forbidden like murder.

    However, not all infliction of pain or discomfort (of which ALL punishment, from fines to imprisonment, is a form; the difference is in degree, not nature) can necessarily be designated torture, just like not all killing is murder, especially when carried out by the State.

    If State-killing in capital punishment is not necessarily Murder, I find it hard to argue that State-pain-infliction is necessarily Torture.

    Things are a little different for the State; “Murder” and “Torture” are sins committed by private individuals.

    Now, the Church has been leaning in the direction of the prudential opinion that capital and corporal punishment are not actually necessary for maintenance of public order or the common good (at least not anymore) and I tend to agree with this assessment. But it’s different than an absolute condemnation of the idea that the State has a right to inflict punishment (even up to the point of death) on the bodies of its members.

    • Paul DuBois permalink
      March 13, 2012 2:46 pm

      So your claim is that any torture up to and including death is acceptable if carried out by a stat?

      • March 13, 2012 6:49 pm

        My statement that the State’s right to punish bodies “even up to the point of death” referred to capital punishment. But if capital punishment is allowed, surely corporal punishment is too for proportionate reason.

        This whole question reminds me of something Arturo (who I’ve seen commenting here himself) wrote once about Foucault: “The main point of these observations was to deconstruct the modern perception of treating the body as a sacrosanct locus of individual rights. For Foucault, power did not cease inflicting pain on the body because of some abstract concept of being ‘civilized,’ but more because other forms of control were deemed more effective and less susceptible to causing sympathy towards the criminal.”

        The notion that the State can fine and imprison, but that the body itself is somehow sacrosanct, and that the State’s rights essentially stop where my skin begins…is just silly, and practically unworkable as any sort of coherent theory.

      • Paul DuBois permalink
        March 14, 2012 7:01 am

        Except when that coherent theory starts with “do no harm to those who would hurt you” and “love your neighbor as yourself” with the definition of neighbor to include those who hate you.
        Many of the people tortured include people rounded up on the battle field, not as much terrorist as individuals defending their country. Much of the torture was done even though no more useful information could be extracted, or with no plan to extract any information at all. This abuse was documented and at times justified by the administration and many others. The death penalty is another argument, but we expect it to be executed after an extensive investigation and trial. The torture was done with no trial and was the mode of “investigation,” even excepting the contortions Christians go through to explain how the death penalty fits into the teachings of Christ you can still see the difference.

      • March 15, 2012 5:48 am

        Saying the State has a right to shoot you (in a just war) or spray you with tear gas if youre rioting or beat you with billy clubs if you are resisting arrest…but can’t rough you up or influct pain to find out where a nuke is hidden in NYC…is just silly. Violence in self-defense requires no trial first, and for the State such a case would be just as much self-defense as if the guy was a physical threat who needed to be tasered by the police.

  5. rayontremblant permalink
    March 13, 2012 12:51 pm

    Reblogged this on A Catholic's Journey and commented:
    Very interesting.

  6. Brian Martin permalink
    March 13, 2012 12:59 pm

    This is what happens when we fail to heed Paul’s warning in Corinthians 6:14 “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?”

    When the church becomes too connected with the earthly secular power structure, or elements in it, it loses it’s ability to voice Truth.

    • Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
      March 13, 2012 1:57 pm


      Well, but, does the way of thinking you are proposing lead to an extremist view of the matter for Catholics?? Leave aside the exegetical matter, on which you seem to be comparing Pauline apples and oranges. For possible extremism, to wit, the reported existence of a document written by B16 himself on politics saying that anyone who opposes the Catholic Church in politics in actually guided only by Satan alone. This document was alluded to by biblical aromatherapist Scott Hahn on EWTN one day in his usual diffuse way of turning everything into incense. So I cannot confirm it. But it would explain a lot about the attitudes and seemingly self-destructive strategies being pursued by American Catholic Bishops. That is, they are self-destructive by ANY logic of a normal civil society, which has to assume non-paranoid motives to other actors in society to function. Further, Santorum’s comment about Satan taking over much of the rest of America (guided by mainstream Protestantism) might seem to be a page taken out of this unpublished B16 document; as well as sundry other Bishops who have said similar things. (Btw, whatever one might say about Cardinal Wuerl, it is clear that this is a vastly more clear-headed person that the rest of ’em. They were very savvy to put that guy in DC, or things would be even worse for them probably. Based solely on that, he has my vote for Pope!)

      It is a tragedy that this fallacy of thinking about things this way is actually on display every day now in the Middle East. In tragic irony it is often Catholics who are suffering the most in places like Iraq, from the heinous and disgusting mode of “the Other is Satanic” trope, and therefore must be destroyed. It is a vicious circle of ancient bad thinking of the worst pedigree, plain and simple.

      • Brian Martin permalink
        March 13, 2012 2:39 pm

        It certainly couldbe taken in that direction. My version would have us moving more closely toward trying to be like Jesus. In regard to Santorum, The day he defines what the Church teaches, I leave…Happily. I ran across an article about “Catholics Who You Might Think Are Evangelicals” or some such thing. The beliefs he touts seem to have more in common with individualistic modern Evangelicals (of the very conservative adherents of the gospel of monetary prosperity type) than of Catholicism…or at least my idealized version of Catholicism. Before the Catholic Church embraces the philosophy you describe, it should review history…it’s shining achievements have little to do with getting intertwined with politics and governments. Jesus said render unto Caesar whar is Caesar’s, he didn’t say become Caesar.

      • March 13, 2012 3:21 pm

        biblical aromatherapist Scott Hahn

        ROFLOL!!! Peter, you’ve made my whole week! :)

      • Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
        March 13, 2012 4:37 pm


        Thanks, I appreciate it . Actually I felt the Holy Spirit come upon when I came up with that. Or maybe it was the intercession of my favorite saint, Erasmus.

      • March 14, 2012 1:59 pm

        I second term – “biblical aromatherapist Scott Hahn” is the best line ever to occur on this website. Superb phrasing.

      • March 14, 2012 2:01 pm

        Sorry, I meant to write I second Turm, not term – I was subjected to the spellchecker.

      • Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
        March 14, 2012 10:45 pm

        Oh, fellas, to be credited with the “best line ever to occur on this website” bring tears to my eyes. I am deeply touched. But I must disagree. The best line ever occurred on a different post and included the words “contentedly heterosexual” from a seminarian without apparent irony.

  7. ctd permalink
    March 13, 2012 2:24 pm

    A few factors to consider:

    (1) The clergy abuse scandal settlements, combined with a recognition that the USCCB office had grown too large and costly, resulted in reductions in staff and a reorganization of priorities. So, the USCCB, by necessity focuses on fewer issues than it had in the past.

    (2) National and international issues are rarely handled by bishops individually. They are deferred to the USCCB, which, as note above, is smaller and cannot address as many issues.

    (3) The priorities – protection of human life, marriage, religious freedom, and immigration are pretty much the priorities as identified by Pope Benedict.

    (4) Despite this, the USCCB puts out an amazing amount of effort on budget issues, concern for the poor, the international financial crisis, and even agriculture. Go ahead and count the number of letters sent by bishops on behalf of USCCB dealing with the budget and international aid. I am sure they outnumber the number of letters on abortion issues.

    (5) When it comes to public policy matters, USCCB is mostly reactive. It’s agenda is to a large extent set by what Congress is doing and what Congress is capable of accomplishing.

    (6) Don’t let media characterization of what USCCB does shape what you think USCCB does. The media loves issues about marriage and abortion and blows them out of proportion. It ignores what the Church does for the poor.

    (7) I have no disagreement that what EWTN allowed on torture was a scandal. But a self-described expert on interrogation appearing on EWTN does not warrant the same attention as Pelosi’s explanations of Catholic teaching.

    • johnmcg permalink
      March 13, 2012 3:42 pm

      What? You’re not supposed to try and understand the bishops’ actions. Nor are you supposed to learn anything from what they have chosen to make a priority. Just complain when they say something that you don’t agree with, or that you agree with but is inconvenient for your political party, or if they don’t say something that would help your political party. The bishops aren’t here to teach; they’re here to make you feel good about your politcial party, or at least not make you feel bad about it.

      Regarding #7, Arroyo’s smug questioning of Thiessen was shameful, and I said so at the time .

      Still, Meet The Press is a more prominent Forum than Arroyo’s program (the name of which I don’t recall and can’t be bothered to look up), so it does make sense that the bishops would correct something said on MTP and not Arroyo’s program.

      But, for someone looking for a reason to criticize the bishops rather than your own political home, I guess that’ll work.

      • Kurt permalink
        March 13, 2012 9:47 pm

        I would note that Rep. Pelosi was factually correct that doctors of the church had various views as to when life began. There is a long and well-known response to this that refutes its relevance to the question of legal abortion (so I don’t need to repeat it here). However, the statement is accurate.

  8. Liam permalink
    March 13, 2012 2:52 pm

    This reminds me of the situation in Massachusetts during Gov Romney’s tenure. There were 3 significant social issues in play: same-sex marriage, embryonic stem cell research, and casino gambling. The last one never got fully teed up because the governor and the leader of one legislative chamber blocked it and thus the church didn’t have to do too much public argument. But the other two issues were a study in contrasts.

    1. Same-sex marriage: became the object of a concerted effort with the general public and the legislature. Much capital – personal and monetary – was spent.

    2. ESCR: was dutifully spoken against, but feebly. All that energy went into #1. Yet, ESCR is a doubly grave evil: it not only involves the murder of embryonic human life, but doing (in the long run) for profit. Kind of like vivisection for the purpose of harvesting organs, shall we say. And there is a progressive anti-industrial wing that has always viewed ESCR with suspicion, while there is also a strong element of pro-business pro-ESCR on the right, so there isn’t a clear left-right divide on this. There was an opportunity to contributing to molding public opinion that was lost. And it was a deliberate choice not to do so, in favor of focusing on #1.

  9. Julia Smucker permalink*
    March 13, 2012 2:57 pm

    On the other hand…

    I wonder if maybe the problem is less with what the bishops are speaking about than with what is receiving publicity.

  10. March 13, 2012 5:21 pm

    Don’t forget the Dream Act and immigration in general. There is a vocal minority, of course, but it hardly has the volume of other concerns…


  11. March 13, 2012 7:43 pm

    The choices of tone, or emphasis, of authorial “voice,” of dry or emphatic language and of timing of utterances–all of these are what we who teach students close analysis of texts describe as being, indeed, deliberate, and they matter in interpretation. Not only that, but because they are completely within the control of anyone who has mastered language and speech, they often reveal more about an author’s attitudes toward his/her topic and audience than the actual gist of the delivery does.

    Therefore, I have to disagree with my friend Peter Paul, above. I do indeed think that the Catholic Church in America is partisan and that it has chosen sides in the American “culture wars” to an extent that no other national Church in the world has. We certainly don’t get these kinds of utterances from the Catholic Church in the part of the world where I live, but also, here in India, there is not and never can be any possibility of a struggle for political power on the part of the Indian Catholic Church, so, employing contrast, I come to the conclusion that what Peter Paul says above about a raw struggle to sit at the ruler’s table is probably correct.

    The Roman Catholic Church in America has become what the Anglican Church once was in Britain: the Republican Party on its knees.

  12. Jordan permalink
    March 13, 2012 9:18 pm

    A Sinner (on March 13, 2012 at 12:06 pm) writes: “Things are a little different for the State; “Murder” and “Torture” are sins committed by private individuals.”

    In his or her article Morning’s Minion brought up the relationship between Gaudium et Spes (GS) and torture. GS is a good place to start with respect to human dignity, torture, and the responsibilities of states with respect to torture.

    Gaudium et Spes 79 para. 3 (Latin) (Vatican English translation): “Diverse international conventions exist which concern war conduct [rebus bellicis]. A sufficient number [sat multiae nationes] of nations subscribe so that less inhumanity is produced by military actions and and their aftereffects [sequelae]. Conventions such as these [suntquae] pertain to wounded soldiers, the fate of captives, and various stipulations of this type. These agreements must be safeguarded [servandae sunt]. Indeed all, particularly public authorities and experts in these matters, must be bound by them. As far as they are able to undertake, agreements are to be achieved. Consequently, agreements better and more effectively restrain the savagery of wars.” (my additions, trans.)

    GS 79 para 3 illustrates the Council Fathers’ committment to international convention on enemy combatants and prisoners of war. These agreements are a bulwark against what I have translated as “savagery” (immanitatem), a translation more consonant with the classical meaning of the word than the weak euphemism used in the official Vatican translation (“frightfulness”). GS 79 para 3 also clarifies that the agreements which concern just conduct in war are also especially binding on public officials and administrators as individuals (omnes) and politicians. The violation of international war convention through the refusal of due process and unrestrained immanitas (or what most people would call “torture”, such as simulated drowning) is certainly a crime of a state towards individuals captured in the time of war perpetuated by individuals in the name of that state. One might well argue that the actions of the US in Iraq, for example, violate the Second Vatican Council’s directive to refrain from undue and uncoventional means to extract intelligence.

    • March 14, 2012 6:39 am

      One may well and I might agree. As I said, I’m not in support of capital or corporal punishment (or war generally). But the prudential application is different than some abstract theoretical absolute; the Geneva Convention may be a good thing and I support it and so should the bishops…but it’s not a dogmatic statement, lol. “Torture” is a subjective term anyway, and it’s fallacious to jump from “pop” understandings of what constitutes it (even then there’s debate about the semantic threshold) to conclusions about a theological category. Torture is inflicting pain, it is generically grave matter but (like theft) admits of veniality if minor enough (a kid pinching a sibling has committed a genial instance of it, I’d think). However, the State’s coercive powers of policing, to self defense up to and including capital punishment, clearly do not exclude inflicting pain or discomfort on bodies assuming it’s done proportionately and justly. The question them becomes what is proportionate, what is legitimate in a given context historically and culturally, etc. But those are prudential questions, then, not absolutes.

  13. johnmcg permalink
    March 14, 2012 9:11 am

    Regarding SOPA…

    With the Alabama and Mississippi primaries being yesterday, there were some disturbing poll numbers released about the attitudes of Republicans in those states. ( In particular, a sizable minority of Republicans believe interracial marriage should be illegal.

    Let’s suppose that in a desperate attempt to win some of those votes, Newt Gingrich promised to bring bake anti-miscegenation laws if elected. Now, there are many reasons why a President Gingrich would be unable to do this — they are state laws, he wouldn’t get the votes, those laws probably wouldn’t pass Constitutional muster. Anyone with even a semblance of political savvy would know this, and would also know that Gingrich knew this, but was merely pandering to these voters.

    Nevertheless, I think Gingrich would be rightly criticized for this position, and were he nominated or elected, he would face significant pressure to abandon that position. If he did not, this position would be the subject of ads from the opposition. In general, people would make it very uncomfortable to maintain this anti-miscegenation position. And that is as it should be.

    For a more concrete example, we can look at Rand Paul’s comments on the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act, which many consider disqualifying, despite that a repeal of the Civil Rights Act is even less likely than the passage of SOPA.

    President Obama made a pledge to pass SOPA. The president was elected along with majorities for his party in both houses of Congress. I don’t think it’s unreaonable that those opposed to SOPA (which would include anyone claiming to be pro-life) would be concerned about its passing.

    But even if we all ought to know that it had no chance of passing, it would still be right for us to pressure President Obama to abandon his support for the bill. There is a cost to pandering to racists, and there should also be a cost to pandering to abortion fanatics at Planned Parenthood. As far as I know, President Obama still has not withdrawn support for the bill, only commented that it is not a current priority.

    Why should Catholics make it easy for politicians like President Obama to pander to Planned Parenthood?

    • Thales permalink
      March 14, 2012 10:21 am

      You mean FOCA, not SOPA, I think.

    • Mark Gordon permalink
      March 14, 2012 2:02 pm

      Uh, I think you mean FOCA. SOPA is the Stop Online Piracy Act.

      • johnmcg permalink
        March 14, 2012 3:05 pm

        Indeed. Time for a fast from online discussion for me.

  14. Kurt permalink
    March 14, 2012 1:47 pm

    Try this. Put the effort into promoting a Catholic viewpoint on the issues of abortion, SOPA, racial justice, etc.

    Avoid as hard as you can (tempting as it is, as I know I’ve fallen to the temptress myself) to trash talk about certain people in public life — the President, the Speaker, the former Governor of Massachusetts, etc). This need not be a total absence of criticism, but it should be limited.

    Finally, however intense your hateful feelings about the President are because of his views on abortion, it is not right to hate him and it is not right (particularly when speaking from a Catholic perspective) to claim the liberty to show manifestations of hate like questioning his birth certificate, love of country, Americaness, or his Christian faith just as it is equally wrong, no matter how intense your hateful feelings about the previous President are because of his views on war, to hate him and it is not right (particularly when speaking from a Catholic perspective) to question his devotion to his family, the legitimacy of his presidency, etc.

    • johnmcg permalink
      March 15, 2012 2:31 pm

      If this is addressed to me (as I suspect, since it repeats my “SOPA” error), I would challenge you to point to evidence of “hateful feelings about the President.”

      I do not hate President Obama. I disagree strongly with him on many issues. I do not like the way he has played politics with this issue and other issues, and I wish many of his supporters would stop what I see as letting him play them.

      If you look at the history of my writing, both here and elsewhere, I think you will find that I do make an effort to do that, though like others I fall short from time to time.

      • Kurt permalink
        March 15, 2012 8:26 pm

        It was meant as a general statement, of how we all should be particularly when speaking as Catholics. The personal hatefullness towards the President is out of control (that is why I pray daily for his and his family’s safety). It went beyond the line of decency towards Bush but has now fallen to much much worse level.

        It is so out of control, I think there is no value in ever mention the names of public figures in a Catholic forum. Vos-Nova is not bad, but other Catholics sites are seething with hatred towards the President.

  15. Peter Paul Fuchs permalink
    March 14, 2012 10:57 pm

    The ultimate maraschino cherry on this discussion occurred tonight while watching Fr. Mitch Pacwa’s show, while switching between the Rachel Maddow show, tonight hosted by cutie Ezra Klein. Good old Fr. Mtich had — wait for it– the actual biological brother of Cardinal Dolan of New York. Ostensibly he was there to discuss some book he had written. But wouldn’t ya’ know, they spent almost no time doing that, and got down to the real purpose asap. Namely, to subtly correct several misconception about the Cardinal without seeming to do so. The main one is that even though he is everywhere trying to embroil the Catholic Church in politics, he is actually very far from political-type ambition. The two of them, Pacwa and the bro, went so far as to say that in every other field of endeavor it is natural to seek further advancement, but somehow by magical spiritual alchemy this is not how this very ambitious looking guy Dolan operates. In fact he does not want to even talk about being Pope, even though the brother helpfully added that virtually everybody brings it up. He even added how can you imagine the guy you played wiffle ball with being Pope. Wiffle ball?? I thought at least he would say “touch football” as wiffle ball is the nambiest sport ever. But, these are small things. Apparently, his family is out trying to convince the world that this man who is the MOST ambitious cleric in the history of the American Catholic Church, bar none and by every evidentiary means, is somehow not what he appears to be. The coin of their realm is ambition, and they have precisely too much idealism to be able to identify it and watch out for it candidly. Very naive, institutionally. They clearly think others are stupid.

    • March 15, 2012 12:01 pm

      Even more ambitious than Spellman?!!?!?!

  16. The Pachyderminator permalink
    March 17, 2012 9:21 pm

    Re: the Iraq war, what about this?

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