Looking at the “Catholic vote”

Posted September 27, 2008 by rwp
Categories: Catholicism

The “Catholic vote” must refer specifically to the “Observant Catholic vote,” or it’s a meaningless demographic.

First, Catholics differ from Protestants in their fear of apostasy. Protestants often covert or change churches; Catholics rarely do. This is why you hear about lapsed Catholics, but never lapsed Methodists. The point here is that lapsed Catholics, those who never go to Mass, identify themselves as Catholics and always will, but pay no attention to the precepts of the Church. They will always be a part of the “Catholic vote” on any survey or poll, unless the poll differentiates. Most don’t.

Second, you have the cafeteria Catholic segment. Some go to Mass only on Easter and Christmas, while others go to Mass more or less regularly. Because like Protestants, they feel they can pick and choose among matters of faith, they are very hard to pin down. Many are strongly pro-life, but the question is how they balance life against other issues. Note that in response to Pelosi and Biden, over a hundred American bishops have now stated that life is more important than all other issues, although none has endorsed a ticket. These statements may swing many cafeteria Catholics to McCain and Palin.

Remove these two groups from the Catholic demographic, and you are left with the observant Catholics. Note that observant doesn’t merely mean they go to Mass regularly. Observant means that they take their faith seriously, and follow the precepts of the Church. This is perhaps the strongest pro-life group in the United States, and tends to be socially conservative in general.

Two things are going to swing the votes more than we would see in most elections: The bishops’ statements in response to Pelosi and Biden, and the Born Alive Infant Protection Act that Obama refused to vote for. McCain’s support of federal monies for stem-cell research hurt his standing among pro-life Cathoics to some extent, but putting Palin on the ticket seems to have outweighed that, and McCain’s stance on federal money for stem-cell research pales next to Obama’s refusal to support the Born Alive Infant Protection Act as a pro-life issue.

Note, however, that even if only the observant Catholics vote Republican, that’s a significant demographic. There are 67 million Catholics in the United States. If observant Catholics only account for 25% of the entire Catholic population, that’s 16.25 million votes.

(There are other problems with treating the self-identification “Catholic” on polls and surveys as a voting block. First, there is the intersection between Hispanic voters and Catholic voters. Hispanics have a whole set of issues that aren’t necessarily Catholic issues, and these will affect how they vote. Second, you have the historical effect in play with ethnic Catholics that aren’t really ethnic at all anymore, but tend to vote the same way their parents and grandparents, etc., did. These groups tend to be geographically as well as ethnically defined, such as Irish Catholics in MA, Italian Catholics in Philly or NYC, etc., and nearly all are urban.)

Keeping all these problems in mind, there are these poll results. Zogby reports that 54% of Catholics in general are intending to vote McCain. Another Pew poll that differentiates between lapsed and attending (non-lapsed, since this would include cafeteria Catholics who attend Mass and observant Catholics) Catholics reports an even split for McCain and Obama among lapsed Catholics, and a 52-36 McCain advantage among Catholics who attend Mass (non-lapsed).

Oddly enough, Gary Bauer of all people wrote an article about Obama’s “Catholic problem” in Human Events. He does, however, hit the nail on the head: “Obama is hemorrhaging Catholic support for the same reason John Kerry lost the Catholic vote in 2004: because most Catholics believe that some issues are non-negotiable.”

Well, he almost hits it. I’m not sure “most” is correct, but he’s referring to non-lapsed Catholics.


How is this possible?

Posted September 2, 2008 by rwp
Categories: Catholicism

Over on my main blog, I pointed out that leftists are doing nothing but driving votes to McCain with their smears of Palin. What I don’t understand is how so many people can be so clueless about Christians and Christianity that they believe otherwise.

This isn’t Catholic. It’s Christian. Pan-Christian. Man is fallen, and none of us are perfect. We will never be perfect. We will always sin.

Romans 3:23

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God

Romans 5:8

God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us

The Word of God is clear. Sin is not hypocrisy. Sin is reality, because we can never be perfect. Hypocrisy is when we continue to sin, knowingly, and pretend that we do not.

What mystifies me is how so many people can not understand this, even if today, they are slobbering athetists. If they were raised Catholic, did they not learn their catechism or go to confirmation classes? If they were raised Protestant, did they not go to Sunday School? Did their parents give them no religious foundation?

How can so many people raised in yes, a Christian nation and a Christian culture, misunderstand what is perhaps the most basic and fundamental tenet of Christianity?

What is particularly depressing, however, is this. Bristol Palin is going to have and keep her baby. She’s going to marry the father (she has an engagement ring on in the photos from the Dayton announcement). She is doing the right, indeed, the moral thing. Yet many seem to think this is something she and her family should be ashamed of. Have we sunk so low?

I have been getting spammed by trolls spouting such nonsense as, “If this had happened to Obama’s daughter, you’d be screaming your head off!”

Well, no, provided that like Bristol, she were doing the moral thing, having the baby and marrying the father. I’d feel sorry for the poor girl, that she had to go through this in this way. But given that Obama has revealed that he thinks children are a punishment, and not a blessing, and that he believes that children born alive should be left to die, it would be far more likely that he’d bundle his daughter off to abort her baby.

Busy, busy

Posted August 26, 2008 by rwp
Categories: Catholicism

Yes, I know, I haven’t posted for a while. Sorry, I’ve been busy. I’ll catch up.

An ardent, practicing Catholic?

Posted August 26, 2008 by rwp
Categories: Catholicism

Archbishop Charles Chaput leads the Denver Archdiocese, and mysteriously, was not invited to the Democrats’ convention. I suspect it’s because he’s an orthodox Catholic, not a cafeteria Catholic, and has said many things like this:

But [Catholics who support pro-choice candidates] also need a compelling proportionate reason to justify it. What is a “proportionate” reason when it comes to the abortion issue? It’s the kind of reason we will be able to explain, with a clean heart, to the victims of abortion when we meet them face to face in the next life—which we most certainly will. If we’re confident that these victims will accept our motives as something more than an alibi, then we can proceed.

Nancy Pelosi seems to think herself a theologian these days, to judge from her idiotic statements on Meet the Press.

REP. PELOSI: And what I know is, over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition. And Senator–St. Augustine said at three months. We don’t know. The point is, is that it shouldn’t have an impact on the woman’s right to choose. . . . As I say, the Catholic Church for centuries has been discussing this, and there are those who’ve decided…

MR. BROKAW: The Catholic Church at the moment feels very strongly that it…

REP. PELOSI: I understand that.

MR. BROKAW: …begins at the point of conception.

REP. PELOSI: I understand. And this is like maybe 50 years or something like that. So again, over the history of the church, this is an issue of controversy.

Note that this was after she described herself — and I quote — as an “ardent, practicing Catholic.”

Astounding. Carol Liebau, a Protestant, knows more about the teachings of the Church than Pelosi:

Remarkable. After all, I’m not even a Catholic — much less an “ardent” one — and yet I’m crystal clear that abortion rights and the sanctity of life haven’t really been too “controversial” in any segment of the Catholic Church. Ever.

Ms. Liebau, unlike the Speaker of the House, can even find the official statement from the U. S. Council of Catholic Bishops.

Since its beginnings, Christianity has maintained a firm and clear teaching on the sacredness of human life. Jesus Christ emphasized this in his teaching and ministry. Abortion was rejected in the earliest known Christian manual of discipline, the Didache.

Early Church fathers likewise condemned abortion as the killing of innocent human life. A third century Father of the Church, Tertullian, called it “accelerated homicide.” Early Church councils considered it one of the most serious crimes. Even during periods when Aristotle’s theory of “delayed ensoulment” led Church law to assign different penalties to earlier and later abortions, abortion at any stage was still considered a grave evil.

Indeed, the Didache, the first written catechism, dating from 70 AD (that’s just a bit more than 50 years ago) unambiguously condemns abortion.

The second commandment of the teaching: You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not seduce boys. You shall not commit fornication. You shall not steal. You shall not practice magic. You shall not use potions. You shall not procure [an] abortion, nor destroy a newborn child.

I could go on and on, because the Church has repeatedly over the last two thousand years condemned abortion. Unconditionally. Unambiguously. But Pelosi has gotten herself into serious trouble with her ignorant statements. The first to respond was Archbishop Chaput (the original is a pdf file, so I’ll reproduce it all here).

Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. Addresses Archbishop of Denver


Denver, CO Monday, August 25, 2008

To Catholics of the Archdiocese of Denver:

Catholic public leaders inconvenienced by the abortion debate tend to take a hard line in talking about the “separation of Church and state.” But their idea of separation often seems to work one way. In fact, some officials also seem comfortable in the role of theologian. And that warrants some interest, not as a “political” issue, but as a matter of accuracy and justice.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is a gifted public servant of strong convictions and many professional skills. Regrettably, knowledge of Catholic history and teaching does not seem to be one of them. Interviewed on Meet the Press August 24, Speaker Pelosi was asked when human life begins. She said the following:

“I would say that as an ardent, practicing Catholic, this is an issue that I have studied for a long time. And what I know is over the centuries, the doctors of the church have not been able to make that definition . . . St. Augustine said at three months. We don’t know. The point is, is that it shouldn’t have an impact on the woman’s right to choose.”

Since Speaker Pelosi has, in her words, studied the issue “for a long time,” she must know very well one of the premier works on the subject, Jesuit John Connery’s Abortion: The Development of the Roman Catholic Perspective (Loyola, 1977). Here’s how Connery concludes his study:

“The Christian tradition from the earliest days reveals a firm antiabortion attitude . . . The condemnation of abortion did not depend on and was not limited in any way by theories regarding the time of fetal animation. Even during the many centuries when Church penal and penitential practice was based on the theory of delayed animation, the condemnation of abortion was never affected by it. Whatever one would want to hold about the time of animation, or when the fetus became a human being in the strict sense of the term, abortion from the time of conception was considered wrong, and the time of animation was never looked on as a moral dividing line between permissible and impermissible abortion.”

Or to put it in the blunter words of the great Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

“Destruction of the embryo in the mother’s womb is a violation of the right to live which God has bestowed on this nascent life. To raise the question whether we are here concerned already with a human being or not is merely to confuse the issue. The simple fact is that God certainly intended to create a human being and that this nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life. And that is nothing but murder.”

Ardent, practicing Catholics will quickly learn from the historical record that from apostolic times, the Christian tradition overwhelmingly held that abortion was grievously evil. In the absence of modern medical knowledge, some of the Early Fathers held that abortion was homicide; others that it was tantamount to homicide; and various scholars theorized about when and how the unborn child might be animated or “ensouled.” But none diminished the unique evil of abortion as an attack on life itself, and the early Church closely associated abortion with infanticide. In short, from the beginning, the believing Christian community held that abortion was always, gravely wrong.

Of course, we now know with biological certainty exactly when human life begins. Thus, today’s religious alibis for abortion and a so-called “right to choose” are nothing more than that alibis that break radically with historic Christian and Catholic belief.

Abortion kills an unborn, developing human life. It is always gravely evil, and so are the evasions employed to justify it. Catholics who make excuses for it whether they’re famous or not fool only themselves and abuse the fidelity of those Catholics who do sincerely seek to follow the Gospel and live their Catholic faith.

The duty of the Church and other religious communities is moral witness. The duty of the state and its officials is to serve the common good, which is always rooted in moral truth. A proper understanding of the “separation of Church and state” does not imply a separation of faith from political life. But of course, it’s always important to know what our faith actually teaches.

+Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. Archbishop of Denver

+James D. Conley Auxiliary Bishop of Denver

The U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has also responed (sorry, no link; it came from a mailing list).

WASHINGTON–Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William E. Lori, chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine, have issued the following statement:

In the course of a “Meet the Press” interview on abortion and other public issues on August 24, 2008, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi misrepresented the history and nature of the authentic teaching of the Catholic Church against abortion.

In fact, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.” (No. 2271)

In the Middle Ages, uninformed and inadequate theories about embryology led some theologians to speculate that specifically human life capable of receiving an immortal soul may not exist until a few weeks into pregnancy. While in canon law these theories led to a distinction in penalties between very early and later abortions, the Church’s moral teaching never justified or permitted abortion at any stage of development.

These mistaken biological theories became obsolete over 150 years ago when scientists discovered that a new human individual comes into being from the union of sperm and egg at fertilization. In keeping with this modern understanding, the Church teaches that from the time of conception (fertilization), each member of the human species must be given the full respect due to a human person, beginning with respect for the fundamental right to life.

Archbishop Wuerl has issued a stinging response:

He said, “We respect the right of elected officials such as Speaker Pelosi to address matters of public policy that are before them, but the interpretation of Catholic faith has rightfully been entrusted to the Catholic bishops. Given this responsibility to teach, it is important to make this correction for the record.”

Wuerl pointed out that the Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear, and has been clear for 2,000 years. He cited Catechism language that reads, “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception … Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.”

[ . . . ]

The Speaker recently said she, unlike other Catholic politicians who support abortion rights, has not clashed with her church about receiving communion.

I suspect that may change.

Hugh Hewitt has more. And Father John has chimed in.

Pelosi is by no means alone, here, and that’s what’s sad. One continually hears otherwise well-meaning Catholics claim that they can vote for pro-abortion candidates because of the “other Church issues.” This betrays a regrettable lack of understanding of fundamental Church positions.

The Church does not, in any way, state or imply that we should take care of the less unfortunate by creating welfare programs instead of, say, charity. No, the Church does not teach that we should be a welfare state.

The Church only condemns unjust wars, and has a list of criteria for determining whether a war is just. One may use that list and determine that any given war, say, Iraq, is unjust, but the Church has never claimed that the war is unjust.

The Church condemns the unjust application of capital punishment, not capital punishment.

The Church does condemn abortion, without condition, qualification, or exception.

With the exception of birth control, none of these issues is of the same importance as abortion, nor can a conscientious, practicing Catholic vote for a pro-abortion candidate, no matter what that candidate’s stances are on other issues. Period. The end. That’s all, folks.

Some of these people are cafeteria Catholics, certainly, but not all. Many misunderstand the position of the Church. It is best to gently inform them, not rail at them.

I suspect Pelosi might consider going to catechism classes.

450 years later: Updated

Posted July 11, 2008 by rwp
Categories: Catholicism

Since The Better Half is Episcopalian (born and bred, not a convert), I have a fair knowledge of the Anglicans, and all I can say about the fracture is that it’s amazing it took as long as it did.

Back in the early 80s, I got a comprehensive course in Anglicanism, so to speak. The latitudinarianism, the Anglican policy of incorporating a wide liturgical and theological variety, was already beginning to crumble. But unlike, say, the exodus of Archbishop Lefebvre after the Second Vatican Council, disaffected groups did not fall into one, but four different categories. The first two form the “theologically serious” part of the Anglican spectrum in the US:

  • Anglo-Catholics
    This significantly large faction falls at the extreme “right” of the Anglican spectrum, both theologically and liturgically.
  • Protestant Anglicans
    This is my term for theologically and liturgically Protestant (Methodists without being Methodists, more or less) Anglicans. These Anglicans, also called low church, lie at the other end of the spectrum from the first group.

Then there are the other two groups, which form the “theologically apathetic” part of the church. The larger of the two is the “mainstream” Anglicans, who may have either liturgical preference, and whose idea of Christianity is dressed-up Marxism. The smaller is the “smells and bells” group, which prefers extremely Catholic liturgy and is therefore exclusively found in Anglo-Catholic parishes, but is either unconcerned about theology, or theologically falls with the Jesus-wore-birkenstocks crowd.

I am only concerned with the first two groups. The second two are, as far as I’m concerned, Christians in name only, along with the bulk of mainstream Protestants. These first two groups are the ones who are disaffected.

Anglicans were splintering over two issues: Theology and liturgy. What was odd was that most didn’t seem to perceive the relationship between the two, that liturgy reflects theology. I suspect this is due to that same latitudinarian policy which had for so long allowed (essentially) Methodists and Roman Catholics to co-exist in the same ecclesial body, and use the same liturgical text.

Anglicans in the US had been using the 1928 Book of Common Prayer until 1979, when the church issued a revision, containing two rites. Other than some updated English, Rite I was more or less the same as the 1928 text. More at issue was Rite II.

To my Catholic eyes and ears, the 1928 rite (and the 1979 Rite I) were undeniably Protestant in theology. Not radically so, certainly, but Protestant nonetheless. Rite II was very different from Rite I (and the 1928 liturgy), and crucially, was nearly indistinguishable from the Novus Ordo, so much so that I could nearly go through the whole service without glancing at the prayer book.

I’ll leave criticism of the Novus Ordo for another time, because it’s tangential. Whatever its failings, the theology underlying it is strictly and wholly Roman Catholic. So was the Rite II liturgy. Yet, Anglo-Catholics violently rejected the 1979 prayer book.

This made little sense to me. Yes, the English was lame, as it is in the Novus Ordo, but liturgy reflects theology, and it seemed to me that Anglo-Catholics should have embraced the 1979 Rite II. But no, they wanted to retain what was a far more Protestant prayer book.

Initially, at least, it made sense that the theologically low church (Protestant) faction also wanted to retain the 1928 liturgy. It seemed to, anyway, until after talking to these people, it became obvious that like their equally theologically conservative Anglo-Catholic brethren at the other end of the latitudinarian spectrum, theology had nothing to do with their disaffection. And the Episcopalians in Louisville who happily embraced Rite II were the theologically nihilist, Jesus-was-a-Marxist faction that today is in charge of the church.

I suspect that this disconnection between theology and liturgy is the result of 450 years of a wide theological spectrum using the same prayer book. Still, I found it bizarre.

I’m not suggesting that either of the groups is disaffected primarily because of the liturgy. Far from it. The fracture is widening in response to a national church that has purged its theology of all Christianity. But the theology and liturgy do not go hand in hand.

At the time, there were a few very tiny splinter groups. Those disaffected Anglicans who did leave, however, for the most part either became Orthodox (the Antiochians received so many Episcopalian converts that they established an English Rite) or Roman Catholic (today, there is an English Rite, corresponding to the one mentioned). And while the Episcopal Church in the US was bleeding members, it didn’t seem to be in danger of splitting up.

That was then. It’s different now.

In the early 80s, Grace Church on Goldsmith Lane in Louisville was a disaffected parish. They obstinately refused to adopt the 1979 prayer book, and exclusively used the 1928. They were theologically conservative, but fell into the low church end of the spectrum. Today, they have left the Anglican Communion and are listed as a parish in the Anglican Catholic Church, which falls on the opposite end of the theological spectrum. I suppose some theology is better than none.

It looks like the Protestant Anglicans are going to split. I don’t take pleasure in seeing the Body of Christ asunder, but it makes more sense for theologically serious Anglicans to separate into one of two bodies that reflect their theology. Certainly, they agree on far more than they disagree, but to recreate the same latitudinarinism would only invite another fracture later.

I’m surprised the Anglican Communion has lasted these last 450 years. The latitudinarian unity traditionally rested on the Thirty-Nine Articles, which did provide a solid basis of faith. The articles began to fall out as Anglo-Catholics all but rejected the more Protestant articles, and the church in the US then declared that their unity rested on the Lambeth Quadrilateral, moving from 39 relatively specific points of faith to four broad points. Over the intervening years, the national church has become more and more mushy, ejecting more orthodox Christian doctrine, and doing so with less and less concern for traditional Christian members across the spectrum. The ordination of women and gay marriage are not the issues; they are the tipping point for much a much deeper, more fundamental issue.

Update: And it begins.

Apology for the mess

Posted April 20, 2008 by rwp
Categories: Catholicism

I’m publishing relevant articles here from my main blog, and some of the articles are fairly old. I also did it backwards, meaning that the oldest articles are appearing at the top here. Oh well. I’ll get around to publishing new material shortly.

St. Josef Stalin

Posted April 20, 2008 by rwp
Categories: Catholicism

Catholicism has a long history of left-wing politics among the laity. In the 70s and 80s, “liberation theologists” tried to institutionalize Marxism, but Pope John Paul II effectively nixed that plan. And North and South American bishops have historically been at the forefront of this left-wing push.

As a result, every community large enough to support two Roman Catholic churches has one left-wing parish, and one conservative parish. I live right across from the left-wing parish here (which I call St. Josef Stalin), but I drive across town to attend the conservative parish.

Louisville (Kentucky) surely has more Catholic parishes per capita than any other community in the nation. One of these is St. James on Bardstown Road.

St. James is a Byzantine (architecture) church, which looks conservative from the outside. Ah, but go inside, into the dome and look up. The Lidless Eye of Sauron gazes back down at you from the center. We attended Mass there in the early 80s, and the during the Intercessions, the nun prayed that we would give our private property to the State, and for the victory of the Sandanistas. She also strummed the guitar and led the congregation in a rousing chorus of We Shall Overcome (but then, Marxist politics and excessive Vatican II guitar masses go together).

Usually, Marxism isn’t quite so unsubtly expressed. It is much more common to hear “For world peace and social justice, we pray to the Lord,” which of course means the same thing. But John Paul II knew all about Marxism, and was quite firm about purging it from the Church.

Contrast this with St. Louis Bertrand, a south Louisville parish (not far from Churchill Downs) run by Dominicans, or St. Martin of Tours. Instead of leftie politics, both parishes offer daily Novenas for Life (that would refer to abortion, by the way). St. Louis Bertrand is home to the Louisville Blue Army; St Martin of Tours offers Mass in Latin.

The conservative parish here sponsors a weekly Novena across the street from the local Planned Parenthood (to those of you who are protestants, a Novena is not a protest; a Novena is a prayer cycle). St. Josef Stalin across the street from our house does not participate (as a parish, though I’m sure there are parishoners who do — even many left-wing Catholics are pro-life).

At one point in my life, Church history and theology were two of my major interests. I read the Church fathers, and more recent theologians. Though I no longer do, the Church still fascinates me. How can such polarization exist in such a monolithic ecclesiastical organization — or more to the point, how can this polarization exist when the Vatican unambiguously favors one side over the other?

For one thing, the Church avoids entanglements in national politics, unless those politics involve questions of morality (I’m thinking here of the movement to excommunicate Catholic politicians who advocate abortion). For another, the Vatican tends to handle American bishops with kid gloves, partially because they understand that the anti-Catholic fervor in the United States exhibited as late as the 60s (during Kennedy’s campaign) could easily rear its head again. With matters of faith and theology, the Church wields a heavy hand; other matters the Church avoids. Even when the Church issues statements about foreign policy, it does not do so in a way that obligates Catholics to fall in line.

Most of all, however, is apostasy. For the most part, Catholics lapse rather than convert. I believe in One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church resonates within the soul of every Catholic. St. Josef Stalin will waver up to a point — but clergy will not defy the Vatican. To do so is to separate oneself from the Church.

However much I may enjoy sneering at the leftie Kumbayah Mass parishes, I think that ultimately, the fact that they can exist is good for the Church in America. Although they may differ on non-essentials, they provide a home for Catholics who hold leftist beliefs — and since the business of the Church is saving souls, not the violent overthrow of capitalist governments, they should have a home in the Church. Only when the Vatican says, “We stand here,” and the parishoners say, “No, we stand here,” has the line been crossed.