Somehow, not mysteriously, the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) chose the days preceding the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday” [today] to renew their anti-choice attack on health care reform.
The SBC officially celebrates Sanctity of Human Life Sunday every year at Roe v. Wade anniversary time, and again this year, those promoting it mirror the USCCB arguments, saying, for example, that health reform would set off a “surge in taxpayer funded abortions in this country.”
In some regards, this celebration tends to make over the issue a delusion.
Among Southern Baptists, however, it is most visibly Richard Land, the SBC ethics chief, who raises the rhetorical stakes beyond the possibility of reasoning together to argue that the entire nation is “offering up its unborn children in a kind of pagan sacrifice.”
I can still remember as a young boy having a Sunday School lesson about how the children of God had become so paganized that they sacrificed their little children to the pagan god Molech. I could never have imagined then that I would live to see my country offering up its unborn children as a type of pagan sacrifice.
Given the embedded arguments, certainly well-summarized by Land, the SBC might well also call this the “impossibility of further civil debate” Sunday.
InsideCatholic.com director Deal Hudson’s denigration of two progressive Catholic groups as “fake Catholic” provoked push-back from Bryan Cones, managing editor of U.S. Catholic magazine. Cones
Well, I disagree with him, and if he wants to have a debate about whether I’m a Catholic, I say: Bring it, Deal. It’s time for Catholics with actual knowledge of the breadth of the Catholic tradition to start speaking up for themselves before we all get read out the church.
This is no mere parochial quarrel. It is part of a conflict over how much the Catholic right will use church discipline to bend national policy to its will.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recent interview with Eleanor Clift of Newsweek, and reaction to it, indicates what the right has in mind.
In the interview, Pelosi expressed concerns about the Catholic Church’s position on abortion and gay rights and touched on the difference between pastoral care by her bishop and lobbying by bishops.
Patrick Archbold at the Catholic blog Creative Minority Report called this “text-book definition of scandal (a grave offense which incites others to sin). He argued that “it should, at this point, be dealt with in a direct and public way lest no one else think that you can hold these positions and consider yourself a ‘practicing’ Catholic.”
“Direct and public” appears to imply something more than the 2007 letter Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., received from Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, R.I., requesting that he not receive communion because of his stand on abortion. The letter was revealed in the wake of a conflict between Tobin and Kennedy after Kennedy criticized the U.S. bishops for threatening to oppose health reform unless the legislation banned the use of federal funds to cover abortion. Kennedy said their stance was “fanning the flames of dissent and discord.” And Tobin demanded an apology.
Archbold’s shaping and interpretation of Pelosi’s studied answers into an assault on the Catholic Church is less important here than the coherence of his conclusions with Tobin’s application of force and perhaps even Randall Terry’s theatrical attempt to pressure bishops into denying communion to Catholic public officials who take positions like Pelosi’s.
The emergent pattern is one of using the hammer of church discipline to direct the behavior of Catholic public officials and through them to shape public policies to a narrow view of Catholic theology.
Defining some as “fake Catholic” follows the pattern of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) fundamentalist takeover which among its effects made the SBC a mainstay of the right wing of the Republican Party. Those bidding for power tarred opponents as “liberal” (rather than “fake”) in order to drive them out. That process of narrowing continues as the SBC shrinks.
The resulting SBC is more politically right-wing than the Catholic Church is currently.
Most recently, the Roman Catholic Church found ways to oppose Uganda’s anti-gay legislation. Yet the SBC through its political arm — the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission — remains scandalously silent on that matter. One which has otherwise attracted sweeping opposition from religious leaders and human rights groups.
A part of what has been ironically dubbed Batholicism, there lies the future of a Roman Catholic Church whose members permit some to be defamed and either silenced or driven out because they dissent from ideological narrowness.
His goal is to persuade as many as possible to withhold communion from Catholic officeholders who insufficiently anti-abortion.
This time, the group dubbed Insurrecta Nex and founded by Terry will travel to 13 Cathedrals in 9 states to hold demonstrations asking Catholic Bishops:
Your Excellency, if any Catholic US Senator from your state, or member of the United States House of Representatives from your diocese votes to fund the murder of children by abortion in any ‘health care reform’ bill, will they be denied Communion?
He is making his usual aggressive case. He says:
Will Catholic Bishops truly defend babies — not with mere lip service, but with true valor — and hold pro-death Catholic Congressmen accountable? Or will they turn a deaf ear to the cries of innocent blood, the pleas of the faithful, and the canons of the Catholic Church that obligate them to withhold communion from Catholic politicians who promote the murder of babies by abortion?
Demonstrating against bishops in an attmpt to use the parishioners they serve to pressure them into actions they have either already taken (communion denial is typically private) or decided not to take.
Maybe not the best idea Terry has ever had. Bishops, who don’t necessarily take well to theatrically delivered pressure, whether from one another, the public or the press. Are you sure about this, Randall?