Friday, August 28, 2009

Was Kennedy “More Right Than Wrong”?

Read Darwin's excellent post at The American Catholic: Was Kennedy “More Right Than Wrong”?
... Honestly, what does it mean to say that Kennedy “got many more things right than he got wrong”? I cannot tell that it means anything other than, “Kennedy is one of my political tribe, and so I find it easy to forgive his faults.” What, surely Winters does not propose something so trivializing as a weighted check list: “Kennedy was in favor of expanding welfare, and we’ll weight that at an 8. He was in favor of increased immigration, and we’ll give that a 10. Unfortunately, he was in favor of abortion, we’ll weight that at a 4. So far a +14 total, what next?”

Political and moral issues are not trading cards with varying numbers of hit points which can be stacked, compared and rated. Some certainly are more grave than others (and indeed, I think that any reasonable analysis would find Kennedy to have generally been on the wrong side of the most important moral issues with the most far-reaching effects) but really I can see little point in counting and weighing issues. At best, which issues a Catholic politician seems to be in union with the Church’s thinking on, and on which he chooses to defy Church teaching, is doubtless indicative of his worldview.

From a Catholic perspective on the public square, the concerning thing about Winters’ assertion is that it is based on a highly tribal and dualistic approach to politics. According to this, Kennedy is lauded for his positions on topics ranging from education and minimum wage to immigration and health care, because the author believes that the progressive policies supported by Kennedy are likely to contribute positively to the common good — and because support for these policies marks Kennedy as belonging to the “good guys”. However, Kennedy’s often forceful opposition to Church teaching on topics such as abortion, cloning, embryonic stem cell research and gay marriage is considered “minor” or “incidental to his record”, primarily because opposition to Church teaching on these topics is considered an acceptable (and indeed, expected) failing within the tribe of progressive politics. Since actually following the Church on issues such as abortion, marriage and euthenasia is generally seen as an attribute of the “bad guys” by the progressive political tribe, even those members of the tribe who consider themselves in tune with the Church on these issues (which on abortion, I believe Winters does) are urged by the sense of political tribalism to see dissent from the Church on those issues as emminently forgivable...

[Read the whole thing]
(emphasis added)

UPDATE (2 September)
John Henry follows up on Darwin's post with "Which Comes First, the Church or the Party?":
... Notice, Mr. Winters, has already said he thinks Senator Kennedy was wrong about abortion. But he then finds it necessary to uncharitably caricature those he agrees with as ‘ranting’ in order to defend Senator Kennedy’s legacy. And again, he suggests that remedying their (alleged) ignorance would somehow help the pro-life movement, and mitigate the criticisms of Senator Kennedy’s record on abortion. This is all very puzzling. Mr. Winters has asserted that 1) Senator Kennedy was wrong; 2) That those who criticize Senator Kennedy for being wrong are wrong to do so; and 3) That they would not criticize Senator Kennedy if they were better informed about why Senator Kennedy was wrong, but that exculpatory reason (known to Mr. Winters) is not shared with the reader. It seems clear that something else is going on here, and I think Mr. Winters’ conclusion makes clear what it is:
Besides, Ted Kennedy got many more things right than he got wrong.
Translation: Ted Kennedy was a Democrat. And Democrats, in Mr. Winters judgment, are more right than wrong. Therefore, to criticize them when they are wrong, is to invite dismissive remarks about ignorance and ‘ranting’ pro-life leaders.

...I think this passage highlights one of the chief problems with the Catholic Church in the United States: in the political realm, we sometimes present the Gospel as partisans of a particular party first, and Catholics second. It begins innocently enough: we decide one party is more in line with the Church’s vision of the human person. Then we begin to defend the party on those grounds, and on some other issues where there is room for prudential judgment. And then, as we support the party for a longer period of time – and it captures more of our sympathies – occasionally we find ourselves defending our favorite politicians and parties against the Church’s position.
(emphasis in original)

Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
Fr. Z Defends Well-Known Catholic Apologist Patrick Madrid ... [UPDATED]

What Might Have Been ... [UPDATED]

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At 8/28/2009 2:24 PM, Blogger Rick said...

This is an endorsement of a cafeteria spirituality implying that if one does some good, then is it OK to do evil. That by definition would not be following Jesus. Consequently, it is not the Way, the Truth and the Light. It is wrong, false and dark. I fear that anyone who followed that track will be lost - sad to say.


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