Thursday, August 26, 2010

A project for Commonweal Catholics

This week, Commonweal, published an editorial in support of the Cordoba House project, and criticizing Abp. Dolan for not being more supportive of it, and I'm sure they're quite proud of themselves for it.  Though I kind of see it, as Mark Shea would say, of "bravely facing the applause".

My distaste for the opposition for the House still stands; nevertheless, I had a few problems with the editorial.  It begins:

In the past nine years, the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, have been invoked, distorted, and exploited to serve a variety of political and ideological agendas. But no such effort has been quite as shameful as the current campaign against the so-called Ground Zero Mosque.
Emphasis mine.

:et's catalog some of the agendas that the 9/11 attacks have been invoked to support:

  • The war in Afghanistan, which continues without a clear path to victory, or even an idea of what "victory" might mean.
  • The war in Iraq, which we are just now getting out of, and required us to defy the United Nations and sully world opinion.
  • The adoption of torture, or "enhanced interrogation techniques."
  • Various civil liberties erosions
  • Rendition
How I wish the most shameful effort that 9/11 is used to prop up is an effort to move an Islamic Center a little further away from Ground Zero!  

It's possible that it represents the clearest departure from our country's founding principles, but I find torture and preemptive war more shameful than property decisions.

The editorial goes into familiar territory (with which I concur, absent the eagerness to brand opponents as bigots), and concludes with a desire for Archbishop Dolan to be more active in support of the project.

Now, this is the same publication that will issue editorials expressing grave concerns everytime a bishop so much as wrinkles an eyebrow at a pro-choice publication.  My understanding of Abp. Dolan's position is that he affirms the rights of the Center to be built, and would like to help mediate a resolution that is satisfactory to all parties.  Which seems quite similar to Commonweal's preferred disposition for bishops on abortion.  But that's just the legally licensed killing of innocent babies, not something as fundamental as the most prudent use of lower Manhattan real estate.  On the Cordoba House, unity!

Anyway, maybe I shouldn't begrudge them their home run trot slamming this fat pitch into the seats.  And there are those who have opposed the project who deserve to be called out for it.

But it seems that Jon Stewart is doing a decent job of that, so it may be time to move on to a more challenging mission.

Dana Goldstein wrote a piece linking the Tea Party movement to socially conservative positions.  She promoted it with the tweet, "The tea party movement is more and more embracing an extreme agenda on abortion, other social issues "  From the article, the "extreme" positions include:

  • Support of an Alaska ballot initiative requiring parental notification requiring parental consent for abortions procured by unmarried minors.
  • Pro-life activism
  • Support of the Mexico City Policy of not allowing foreign aid to be used to fund abortions.
  • A suggestion that rape victims should avoid abortion
I think that Catholics who are involved in the political left are uniquely positioned to help shape the culture such that the positions articulated above are not considered extreme.  Commentators like Goldstein are comfortable labeling them as such, in part because they probably don't know anybody who holds those positions.   Catholics on the political left can change that, and not let commentators get away with that.

This will require some sacrifice, because labeling the opposition as "extreme" is helpful for Democratic candidates, and raising the cost of using this tactic may result in more Republicans being elected.  But I submit that any victories won on the back of the social marginalization of the pro-life perspective are hollow indeed.

Doing this probably won't be as fun as calling those opposed to the Cordoba House bigots, but needs to be done.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thoughts on the "Ground Zero" Mosque..

First, a few things to get out of the way...
  1. It is clear the Park51 developers have the right to build the mosque.
  2. I am ashamed that some have tried to use various levers of government to prevent it.
  3. The manner in which politicians have ginned up outrage over this is shameful, and evidence of their general backruptcy of productive ideas.
  4. I have found the appeals to how welcoming countries like Saudi Arabia are to Christian churches particularly unfortunate.  The standard for the United States in embracing religious freedom is not Saudi Arabia, and I weep for the day when it is, and anyone who loves this country should seriously consider the implications of using Islamic theocracies as a measuring stick for our actions.
  5. My preferred option would for the mosque to be built with little more attention paid to it.  But I'm not sure that's possible.

The consensus of elite opinions seems to be that all arguments against the mosque ultimately come down to bigotry.  The challenge is put down for those opposed, or those with any sympathy to those opposed, to articulate and argument against it that is not dependent on bigotry or collective guilt.  If not, then they have exposed the whole enterprise as bigoted and unworthy of consideration.   Some may be offended, but root of that offense is bigotry, which need not be respected.

Bill McClellan (with whom I agree on his distaste for the Carnahan and Blunt dynasties here in Missouri) captured the gist of this thinking in Sunday's column:

Frankly, I have little sympathy for the politicians who say they understand that the Muslims have a constitutional right to build a center — or even a mosque — but don't think they should. Or the president, who acknowledges that Muslims have the right to build a center — or even a mosque — but won't say whether he supports the building of such.
If they have the right, they have the right. Period. Otherwise, what good is a right?
It's as if you were to tell gun owners that you acknowledge their right to own guns, but you think they should voluntarily disarm. 
First, I think this neatly captures the attitude most gun control types have toward gun owners, though I'm not sure I'd vouch for the part where they acknowledge their right to own guns.  They most certainly do not approve of gun ownership, do not welcome guns in a variety of settings, don't wast to see non gun owners acquire guns, and wish those who do own guns would get rid of them.  There are places where bearing arms is not just socially proscribed, but also legally banned.  And I don't think there's anything wrong with that.  

Last year, a pro-life person murdered Dr. George Tiller, who was notorious for performing late term abortions, outside his church in Wichita.  This was the act of a single actor, and the first example of lethal pro-life violence in a number of years, though some claim that the rhetoric of the mainstream pro-life movement equating abortion with murder inspires such violence.

In my opinion, and I suspect in the opinion of most, it would be wise for the pro-life movement to tone down its activities in the Wichita area.  It would not be a good idea to, for example, construct a monument to the victims of violence, both born and unborn, right across from his gravesite or outside the church where he was murdered.  Were the pro-life movement to publicly contemplate such a project, I would expect it to be subject to withering criticism, both from within and from the outside.

I can't articulate a reason for this that doesn't rest on heaping the guilt for this act of a single person on an entire movement that is by and large peaceful.  But, as before, I'm OK with that.  There should be some incentive for large movements to police its more extreme elements.  I don't want a pro-life movement that goes around unnecessarily provoking people.  Heck, we weren't sure if we should allow a pro-life ad to air during the Super Bowl.

It is here where some will quibble with whether my analogy presents a precise analogy with the Cordoba Project controversy.  The mosque is two blocks away, in an old Burlington Coat Factory, almost ten years after 9/11.  And so on.  That misses the point.  The assertion is that if one cannot articulate a non-bigoted argument against an exercise of religious freedom, then that indicates that the opposition is based on bigotry.  It is my opinion that opposition to a monument to the unborn next to Dr. Tiller's gravesite would be proper, and I suspect most would agree.  Given that, we have accepted that in some cases, a group faces some social restrictions on its behavior as a result of the actions of a violent faction.  Now we're just haggling over the price.

It may be the case that the "price" in this case is one we should be willing to pay for the Cordoba Project, and not one we should be willing to pay for the pro-life memorial.  But making such and argument would involve actually engaging those opposed, and it's a lot more fun to just dismiss them as bigots.

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.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Concern trolling on Proposition 8...

Several years ago a Florida judge ruled that Micheal Schiavo could removed the feeding tube that was keeping his (ex?) wife Terri alive, over the objections of her family of origin.

President Bush and the Republican Congress moved to prevent this and managed to delay the removal by a couple days.  Ultimately the tube was removed, government agents were posted to prevent Terri's family from feeding her, and she died.

The Republicans controlled all aspects of both the federal and Florida government, and were only successful in postponing the removal of a couple days.  Nevertheless, this was seen as a massive overreach by the federal government, and was blamed for the Republicans' losses in the 2006 midterm elections.  How dare they overrule the decision of the duly appointed judge?

In said midterm election, Amendment 2 passed in Missouri after a massive celebrity-filled advertising campaign funded mostly by a single family.  This declared that there could not be any restrictions on embryo-denying research.  I don't recall if there was a lawsuit challenging it,  but I had no expectation that we could sue to undo a constitutional amendment that was approved via a public referendum.

Fast forward to 2010.

Arizona passes an immigration law approved by its populace.  The Administration sues and succeeds in blocking it from being implemented.

California's Supreme Court establishes same sex marriage.  The voters approve Proposition 8, restoring marriage to its previous definition.  The federal court overturns it.

Now.  I'm not a fan of Arizona's immigration bill.  And I'm growing inclined to believe that given the trajectory of heterosexual marriage, that it may not be just to excluded homosexual couples.  Dahlia Lithwick, whom I cited above thinking Bush's actions in the Schiavo case violated every constitutional principle, seems to think this is just great.

Still.  If you are a somewhat conservative voter in Arizona or California or anywhere else, wouldn't you get the feeling that if the eggheads in Washington don't like something you did, no matter how duly you followed the correct process to do it, they will find a way to undo it.

This provides ample ammunition to anti-intellectual movements and appeals like the Tea Party and Sarah Palin.  These elites think they're better than you and smarter than you.  They think you're a bunch of bigots who have "no rational basis" for your policy preferences, and they can just decide to overrule it.  I don't think that would be a good thing.

I hate to rain on the parade of same sex marriage advocates, but I see little to celebrate in the further division in our society.  Might makes right.  You don't need to persuade those who disagree with you; you just have to grab the reins of power, determine that your opponents have "no rational basis" for their policies, and impose your will.

Guess I should start working on my lawsuit to overturn Amendment 2.  Who cares if Missouri voters approved it?  I think it declares a class of persons to be outside the protection of the law.  That's got to be unconstitutional, right?  I've just got to find the right judge.