Saturday, August 07, 2010

The Plight of the Liberal Catholic

The rant by Anne Rice announcing she is leaving Catholicism has inspired a couple commentaries on the difficulties political liberals face in reconciling their commitments with being Catholic.

Rick Garnett has an interesting response.

I suppose I would  be more moved by these expressions of anguish (which are no doubt real) if they were coupled with an equal number of expressions of anguish about how inhospitable their political home is for Catholic values.

At least all of these folks claim to be pro-life.  They also fully support the Democratic Party.  The same party whose 2008 party platform expressed unequivocal support for Roe vs. Wade.  The same party that almost lost the opportunity to pass health care reform because it couldn't countenance including explicit bans on funding abortion.

But you will search in vain for anguished posts discerning whether a liberal pro-life Catholic should or should not remain in the Democratic Party.  You will not see someone begging Nancy Pelosi to excommunicate her from the Democratic Party.   Instead, if you look at Vox Nova, dotCommonweal, or In All Things, you will generally find the following posts:

  • Boy, those Republicans are awful, aren't they.  Do you believe this?
  • Quote from a saint
  • I mean really, they sure are terrible.
  • The pro-life objection to this Democratic initiative is a bunch of hot air.
  • Plus, they had no objection to the same thing when Republicans did it.
  • Yes, they really are awful.

If you do find anything challenging the Democratic Party's support for abortion, you will have to dig past ten posts about the evilness and hypocrisy of Republicans to get there.  This with the Democrats in control of the White House and both houses of Congress.

These people seem convinced that, in spite of advocating for the continued legalization of the killing of innocents, the Democratic Party is a great vehicle for pursuing justice and worthy of their support.

But if the Catholic Church doesn't ordain women, or doesn't support same sex marriage? Then maybe they're not so sure about it.


What I think we're seeing here is that the Catholic Church, and religion in general, no longer has a the first claim on people's loyalties.  (and if you think this is exclusively a "liberal" problem, talk to a "conservative "Catholics about waterboarding, health care, or immigration).  If the values of my political allegiance conflict with the values of my Church, then it's the Church's, or my allegiance to the Church's, that needs to change.  Yes, I might look for some loophole so I'm within the letter of the law (it's not an "intrinsic" evil; it's a "prudential judgement", etc.) but our hearts are with our political alliance.

Some might say it's because of the sexual abuse scandals, but I think the scandals are a reaction to this new environment rather than a cause.  We're not willing to look the other way when Church leaders misbehave anymore.  As such, this may not be an altogether bad thing.
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