Monday, February 25, 2008

National Catholic Reporter's Joe Feuerherd to U.S. Catholic Bishops: "Go to Hell"

Please take the time to go over to Catholics in the Public Square and read Christopher Blosser's excellent post "Joe Feuerherd vs. The Catholic Bishops".

The post relates several Bishops' comments drawing on the text of the U.S. Bishops' 2007 document, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship: A Call to Political Responsibility, which notes that a "hierarchy of values" exist, meaning that not all political issues are of equal value. Obviously, according to the Bishops, abortion ranks high in this hierarchy, and they note the following:
There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position [on abortion] may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil. (emphasis added)
Now, I take that as the Bishops stating that one may, under certain limited circumstances involving "proportionate" and/or "morally grave" reasons, vote for a pro-abortion politician. As I blogged here, the Bishops have gone out of their way to avoid an outright prohibition against Catholics voting for such a candidate. Indeed, the very orthodox Archbishop Chaput has gone so far as to say:
"If you're a Democrat can you legitimately vote for someone who is pro-choice? I imagine so."
Of course, Archbishop Chaput goes on to qualify under what circumstances such a vote may take place, but the point is made that there is no categorical prohibition mandating a vote against a pro-abortion politician.

Nevertheless, National Catholic Reporter columnist Joe Feuerherd has apparently missed all this and seems eager to pick a fight with the Bishops, attacking the 2 most recent Popes and telling the U.S. Bishops, literally, to go to hell:
Also this week, National Catholic Reporter journalist Joe Feuerherd boasted of his vote for Obama, decrying the "right wing lurch" of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (Cardinal Sins: "I Voted for Obama. Will I Go Straight to. . . ?" Washington Post February 24, 2008):
Like most Maryland Democrats, I voted for Sen. Barack Obama in the recent Potomac Primary. By doing so, according to the leaders of my church, I put my soul at risk. That's right, says the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops -- tap the touch screen for a pro-abortion-rights candidate, and you're probably punching your ticket to Hell.

The bishops have raised the stakes: It's not only lawmakers and candidates who risk damnation, 98 percent of the U.S. bishops agreed last November, but the voters who put them in office. "It is important to be clear," the bishops said in a 44-page statement titled "Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship" [.pdf format] "that the political choices faced by citizens[emphasis added] not only have an impact on general peace and prosperity but also may affect the individual's salvation." Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, chairman of the committee that drafted the statement, put those high-minded sentiments into plain English earlier this month. Support for a candidate who "espouses policies that are gravely immoral" is possible "only under exceptional circumstances that are hard to imagine," he told the Cathedral Club of Brooklyn.

To Catholics like me who oppose liberal abortion laws but also think that other issues -- war or peace, health care, just wages, immigration, affordable housing, torture -- actually matter, the idea that abortion trumps everything, all the time, no matter what, is both bad religion and bad civics.
Feuerherd also took the opportunity to attack the oudated convictions of not only the USCCB but Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor, John Paul II:
This fire-and-brimstone approach to the ballot box is the long-term bequest of a conservative pope, John Paul II, enacted by a U.S. hierarchy appointed during his 27-year tenure and now by his successor, Pope Benedict XVI. John Paul's key criterion in choosing the men who lead the United States' 194 dioceses was their vocal support for church teachings that have been rejected in whole (birth control) or in part (women's ordination and abortion) by many Catholics in the pews and the broader American culture.
and closes by proclaiming his moral superiority:
So what's a pro-life, pro-family, antiwar, pro-immigrant, pro-economic-justice Catholic like me supposed to do in November? That's an easy one. True to my faith, I'll vote for the candidate who offers the best hope of ending an unjust war, who promotes human dignity through universal health care and immigration reform, and whose policies strengthen families and provide alternatives to those in desperate situations. Sounds like I'll be voting for the Democrat -- and the bishops be damned.
(emphasis added by Christopher)

[Definitely read the whole thing]

There are a couple of responses to Feuerherd's piece from InsideCatholic contributors. First, Deal Hudson in a blog entry titled "How the Catholic Left Will Tackle McCain":
... The column is important for several reasons:

1. It admits the Catholic bishops have moved to the right over the past 25 years because of JP II.
2. It admits their leadership on the abortion issue has hurt the Democrats, almost "demonized" them in some quarters.
3. It attacks the GOP and McCain in the name of the "social justice" issues the bishops emphasized in the 80s.
4. Most importantly, it argues that McCain may have a pro-life record, but he will not accomplish anything on this front as president because it is not really important to him; therefore, Catholic voters should feel no special attraction towards his candidacy.

The last argument, about McCain's pro-life record, has been popping up lately among many Catholics close to the Democratic Party. This angle should be taken very seriously by the McCain campaign. If it gains traction, the huge contrast between Obama and McCain on life issues will be obscured by the debate on 'how pro-life would a President McCain be?" Catholic voters looking for a reason to ignore the abortion question will have found it.
And also Margaret Cabaniss:
... Let's face it: Any vote a Catholic makes is going to involve some amount of compromise, and it can be a particular struggle for Catholic Democrats who want to remain true to their political ideology in the face of Democratic support for abortion on demand. But Feuerherd's "I'll be voting for the Democrat -- and the bishops be damned" closing line undercuts the seriousness of that decision and, frankly, doesn't make it sound like he's struggling much at all.

If only he reserved half as much ire for the political parties themselves when they put Catholics in the position of having to make those choices in the first place.

Be sure to read this excellent fisk of Feuerherd's piece by The Cranky Conservative.

Ramesh Ponnuru adroitly takes on the Feuerherd piece at National Review Online in "Conscientious Voting". (Hat tip: Paul Zummo)

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At 2/25/2008 11:53 AM, Anonymous paul zummo said...

Thanks, Jay. Ramesh Ponnuru has, as usual, an excellent takedown as well.

At 2/25/2008 7:49 PM, Blogger James H said...

Excellent post I just linked

At 8/25/2008 8:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

great analysis of the abortion issue. I am one of the catholics who left the democratic party because of their pro-abortion policies. My senator (Bob Casey) calls himself pro-life, but supports the dem nominee who is rabidly anti-life. These so-called pro-life dems should realize that their party only wants to use them to deceive voters to think that they are voting for life. When these dems get into office they simply put aside their beliefs for popularity. They choose to serve mammon and not the Lord. God bless


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