Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Vox Nova Still Covering for Obama Even After Anti-Catholic HHS Mandate

Let's get one thing out of the way:

Since (a) I am not a Republican, and (b) the probability of my supporting the likely GOP nominee for President is somewhere between Hell freezing over and never, this post is not about advocating support for any political party over another.

But this post IS about taking a stand in support of your Church over your anti-Catholic political allies. However, that appears to be too much to ask from our friends over at Vox Nova. When your so-called political "allies" attack the religious freedom of the Catholic Church by mandating your Church's institutions pay for contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization as part of employee health plans, and your primary response is to worry that your so-called political "enemies" might use it to their political advantage, you'll pardon me for concluding that you have some seriously screwed-up priorities.

Here's how one Vox Nova contributor, my old friend from many past political jousts, greeted the news of the HHS mandate:
The Obama administration’s refusal to provide adequate conscience protections to Church-affiliated institutions that do not wish to pay for contraception is fundamentally wrong. [ED.: As is the case anytime this particular contributor offers tepid criticism of his beloved party, I sense a "BUT" coming.] Obama has lost the vote of Michael Sean Winters over this. Given the depraved condition of the modern Republican party, [ED.: And there it is. Democrats do something bad, BUT Republicans are always worse. I'm just shocked it took him 3 sentences to get to the "but". As far as the content of the "but" goes, I'm not sure you can get more "depraved" than supporting abortion on demand or forcing Catholic institutions to pay for the "right" to violate their consciences on fundamental tenets of their faith, but we're talking about some fairly hackish sycophancy when it comes to my old friend.] I’m not sure I would go that far [ED.: But of course not. Ever the party loyalist, let's not make those whose policies harm our Church pay politically for those decisions.], but I know where he is coming from. Not only is this decision wrong, but it represents a betrayal of those who fought hardest and took the most heat – even death threats – for supporting the Affordable Care Act. [ED.: Martyrs to the cause, to be sure. But let's get one thing straight - this decision by Obama's HHS DOES NOT come as a shock to anyone. This was predicted from the get-go by many, including the USCCB, but the ObamaCaths ignored the warnings and accused their interlocutors (again, including the USCCB) of being "ignorant" or "duped" or "GOP shills" or worse. Spare me the Claude Rains routine of these folks feigning to be "shocked, shocked" that the Obama Administration would go this route.]


But let’s be clear about something else too. [ED.: There's that word "but" again. Shocker.] From this same perspective of Catholic social teaching, positions like those of Robert George also don’t hold any water. [ED.: Of course not. George is one of those "evil conservatives", so whatever position he holds is automatically just as bad as, if not worse than, the Obama Administration's forcing Catholic institutions to pay for the "right" to violate their own consciences on fundamental tenets of their faith.] George is almost gloating over Obama’s betrayal of the Catholics who supported him. [ED.: He turned out to be right after being accused of political hackery, something you continue to accuse him of in this commentary. Can you blame him? As for "gloating", turnabout is fair frickin' play, my old friend. You people took gloating to new heights after Stupak caved and Obamacare passed. I even saw one of the more frequent commenters at your blog gloating over how the Bishops had their hats handed to them by a bunch of nuns, and how the chancery staffs were now scrambling behind the scenes hat-in-hand begging Democrat congressional staffers for pardon and forgiveness over their allegedly "misconceived" opposition to Obamacare. So, forgive me for believing the "gloating" and the rubbing your noses in it is well deserved. But, again, the fact that this reaction by your political "enemies" appears to be your primary concern, rather than the fact that your Church just got hosed by your political "allies" reflects a seriously disordered perspective.] But George and those like him tend to misapply the principle of subsidiarity themselves. Rather than too much help, they would have the government provide too little. Sticking to the health care arena, these people [ED.: You can almost feel the unconditional "love" my old friend harbors toward "these people".] opposed the Affordable Care Act based on what Pope Paul VI referred to an unbridled liberalism that “exalts individual freedom by withdrawing from it every limitation” and which is based on “an erroneous affirmation of the autonomy of the individual in his activity, his motivation and the exercise of his liberty”. [ED.: Actually, a whole lot of "these people" opposed the legislation for exactly the reasons they and the USCCB said that they opposed it: because it provided too little protection against federal funding of abortion and too few protections for conscience rights. And we turned out to be 100% correct. You turned out to be wrong on that count. Now YOU need to deal with it rather than deflecting and lashing out at political opponents.] This is the basic right-wing liberalism in the United States that is mis-named “conservatism”. Specifically, these anti-Obama Catholics on the right [ED.: In opposition to the ObamaCaths, I'll gladly accept the appellation, inaccurate though it is. But it's all about Obama with you people, isn't it? And the Democrat Party. That's where your loyalties TRULY lie, and you'll never be able to convince me otherwise until you can write the condemnatory piece that Obama's abominable HHS mandate deserves without having to resort to your time-honored "BUT" and dragging the evil "Catholics on the right" into it in order to deflect attention.] opposed attempts to provide near-universal healthcare by means of strict regulation of insurance companies, an individual mandate, and subsidies for the poor. The individual mandate, as an “attack on autonomy”, continues to draw the most ire. [ED.: There you go again. Identify a subset of your "enemies" who opposed the legislation for one reason, and then paint with a broad brush to make it seem as if ALL opponents of Obamacare opposed it for that reason. It's so easy to deflect blame away from yourself when you have such ready-made strawmen upon whom to heap the lion's share of culpability. Once the legislation passed both the House and the Senate, many of us said we could live with the legislation, even though we had opposed it, as long as it provided sufficient protections against abortion funding and sufficient conscience protections. That the Administration and its congressional allies were willing to let the legislation die rather than assent to the provisions of the Stupak Amendment, and that YOU supported their position throughout the standoff, speaks volumes. YOU are responsible for the HHS decision, because YOU provided Catholic cover for the Administration's efforts. Stop trying to pass the buck and FOR ONCE accept responsibility for this disgraceful anti-life, secularist agenda of YOUR party. Lord knows, many of us "Catholics on the right" have spent years lamenting our suppport for the other party, with our criticisms of the GOP notably foregoing the prominent "BUT" that is ubiquitous in your all-too-lacking criticisms of YOUR political allies.]
You can read the rest if you'd like, but I think I've pretty much covered the gist of it here. Now, on to my old friend's co-blogger, who, while calling for using the "right narrative" in discussing the HHS story - the "narrative of religious liberty" - nevertheless seems as concerned with blame deflecting as my old friend:
... Are we willing to stand for the whole of religious liberty? We must be. Anything else will allow a new narrative to be imposed on the Catholic Church, one which will make the Catholic Church look ridiculous to outsiders looking in. They don’t want to understand our objections to contraception; they just want a narrative to follow. Our narrative must be religious liberty, and one which does not stay tied to one violation of it. Yes, we can and should point out such violations, but only when connected to a grand narrative, that of the religious heart of humanity and the need for each person to follow through with their religious quest wherever it takes them. All major political parties have become infested with secularism and use it to denounce the religious narrative when religion desires something contrary to their political agenda. As long as we keep our own debates within the partisan narrative, we will end up defeating ourselves as our party ends up denying our religious liberty in one fashion or another. We must speak beyond the parties, beyond the politics. We must control the narrative and stop being used as a tool by partisan hacks as they take the narrative away from us. If we don’t do this now, everyone loses.
Let me state for the record that I find very little with which to disagree in this paragraph. I am 100% in agreement with the notion that overarching themes and narratives are what wins the day in the arena of public opinion, and I am equally in agreement with the assessment that the narrative we should use in talking about the HHS mandate is that of religious liberty.

Where I find fault with the analysis is with the "but the other side is just as bad" aspect of the commentary. And the example at which the blogger grasps to illustrate his point is just sad:
... The problem is that this religious liberty, this freedom to follow the conscience, has for a long time been repudiated by the United States. Catholics have freely given it up – indeed, many of the same Catholics now upset with what they see happening today had no problem giving it up in the past when it was their party in charge of the nation. After all, have we not had the US Bishops speaking out for a long time to allow soldiers to have a right to follow their conscience in regards to wars? And have we not seen many Catholic mock such a position and say it was unnecessary and indeed, that it would hurt the military if such was allowed?
Seriously? Is this the best recent example you can come up with? Did this even happen with much frequency? With much intensity? Was it a widespread problem? Did this even happen? I have to admit that I never saw anything of the sort.

And does it REALLY compare to what the HHS has mandated for Catholic institutions? That they pay for contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization as part of their emplyee health plans? That they, once again, pay for the "right" to violate their consciences on fundamental tenets of their faith? There are Republican equivalents to what the Obama Administration has done, but, as Michael Gerson writes, they're over a century old:
Both radicalism and maliciousness are at work in Obama’s decision — an edict delivered with a sneer. It is the most transparently anti-Catholic maneuver by the federal government since the Blaine Amendment was proposed in 1875 — a measure designed to diminish public tolerance of Romanism, then regarded as foreign, authoritarian and illiberal. Modern liberalism has progressed to the point of adopting the attitudes and methods of 19th-century Republican nativists.
One Vox Nova commenter, in particular, captures the essence of what's going on here:
One way to start that would be that when the party one tends to favor enacts a policy offending religious liberty, one speaks loudly and unambiguously against it.

Or one could use it as an occasion to point out the inconsistency and hypocrisy of some who favor the other political party. I don’t think that’s going to get us anywhere, though.


This leads to the other narrative I wish we would set aside — that any Catholic objection to government policies is politically motivated, and that those claiming a principle did not object when their own party violated that same principle. I think it is a stretch to claim that Republican-leaning Catholics tolerated violations of religious liberty when the GOP was in charge, but it fits the preferred narrative, so we’ll go with it.

Perhaps HK should set aside his preferred narratives before he lectures us on ours.
And again here:
This is my problem with your commentary; you start with your preferred narrative — those objecting to the Democrats’ violations of religious liberty didn’t object to Republicans — and then hunt for evidence.

I’m sure you can always play this game forever. If you prefer to comment on the hypocrisy of those objecting to a policy than in offering a straightforward witness against that policy, I am quite confident you will always be able to do find evidence to support that position.

But where does that get you? I guess it gets you out of an uncomfortable spot. It’s easier to launch criticism against those perceived to be on the other side as those who are on your side. But I don’t think this does much to improve the state of discourse.

If you want to change the narrative, change the narrative! Don’t lecture about how awful others are. Model it yourself.

And yes, this goes for both sides.
And once more:
... Indeed, this type of thinking would lead to the type of commentary I suspect the VN contributors find most tiresome — responding to every post about some social justice issue with “what about abortion?” Indeed, if acting from a coherent and consistent narrative is what’s crucial, what sense does it make to talk about, say, health care, when an entire class of people have no legal protection from arbitrary killing? Aren’t many of the people (some of them Catholics) who raise social justice issues either silent or supportive of the current abortion license?

But, as we’ve seen, all this does is lead us to talk in circles, and have the same tired back and forth about whose violation of principles is worse, and helps ensure that no progress is made on either social justice issues or abortion.

People are opposing the Administration’s action for all sorts of reasons, good and bad. Some are consistent defenders of religious liberty. Some will oppose anything from this president. Some people are only concerned because its their ox being gored. Some see a political opportunity.

I don’t really care. This is a bad policy, and it is worth opposing. And I think opposing it is a higher priority than checking whether everyone else opposing it is doing so for the right reasons, and if they have been consistent defenders of the principles they claim to be defending.
That about says it.

Now, it is not the purpose of this post to gloss over where the GOP falls short vis-a-vis Catholicism (you can read a myriad of posts on this very blog regarding such), but rather the purpose is to disallow those who have been apologists for the Obama Administration in general, and Obamacare in particular, to gloss over and shift the blame and attention away from what the Administration has done with regard to this HHS mandate. It needs to be confronted, and it needs to be confronted head on. That can't and won't happen as long as the President's Catholic supporters and apologists have their ready-made "BUT" handy to soften the blow.

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At 1/31/2012 5:27 PM, Blogger DP said...

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

Too many Catholics are wedded to the two party system, and in a wholly Manichean way. It isn't so much that their party is all that admirable, it's that the other party is of Satan. They've become a part of "the Big Sort," the increasing polarization and isolation of Americans from one another.

Instead of recognizing it, they swim in it like schools of fish, glomming on to an aspect of Catholic social teaching that they think their party embodies--Solidarity! Subsidiarity!--and brandish it against the unacceptable Other.

It clouds the minds of even smart guys like Tony, alas.

I don't know that there is a solution at this point.

At 1/31/2012 8:42 PM, Blogger Kyle R. Cupp said...

I'll leave it to my fellow contributors to defend their posts if they choose; however, I would like to note that I was the first of the Vox Nova contributors to post on the HHS mandate, and I did so with no cover for the president or any mention of his political opponents. As we're a mixed bunch, it may be more fair of you to name the specific authors with whom you disagree.

At 2/01/2012 12:56 PM, Blogger Tito Edwards said...

Birds of a feather flock together?


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