Thursday, May 14, 2009

Is it Politics?

Catholics who object to pro-abortion President Barack Obama's being honored at Notre Dame are being accused of partisan politics.

This is nonsense.

Abortion is not a political issue. Politics is the argument we have about how we live together. It presupposes a respect for innocent life. Respect for the right to life is a pre-political issue: it makes politics possible. Arguing for legalized abortion is no more a politics than sweeping all the pieces off the chessboard is chess.

While a number of Catholic thinkers have responded to this accusation, the accusation itself is instructive, particularly when it comes from other Catholics.

I remember well back in 2007 when objections were made to the (Jesuit) University of San Fancisco because of their inviting pro-abortion Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi to be their Commencement Speaker. One of the responses to these objections, in the Catholic San Francisco newspaper, was from a local priest. Fr. Stephen Privett, the President of USF, thought so highly of this response that he cited it on the USF webpage:

"Fr. Kenneth Weare, a pastor in the San Francisco Archdiocese, made a pointed observation in Catholic San Francisco, noting that Pelosi 'is by far much more in line with the greater body of Catholic moral teaching than [President] Bush ever was.'”

I found Fr. Weare's response extraordinary then, and I find it extraordinary now. What possible relevance does the comparison have? Bush was not invited to USF, Pelosi was. Bush is not a Catholic, Pelosi maintains she is. Is there a quality that Bush and Pelosi share, that would allow for the comparison? Only one: they are both professional politicians. The comparison only has any relevance if one is motivated by partisan politics. The idea that there might be an overriding Catholic standard needing to be met (by whomever is speaking at a Catholic University) never occurs to Fathers Privett or Weare--or Fr. Jenkins.

So I think the question of political partisanship is valid and needs to be asked, but it should be asked of those who indeed do put politics ahead of Catholic teaching.

UPDATE: George Weigel writes on the same subject.

Posted by Gibbons J. Cooney

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Catholic teaching" is not a convenient refuge from difficult decisionmaking or "choices." Repeating "Catholic teaching" on abortion, the culture of death or the homosexual agenda over and over again does not guarantee conformity to the breadth and depth of living a Catholic life. Adoption of a single, or even multiple bishop's statements, letters or papal encyclicals is not sufficient to develop a "moral compass." If we are angels or God Himself we will always get it completely right (or in the case of some angels, completely wrong) the first time. The rest of us are bound to get it wrong sometimes, either by commission or omission. Maybe that is where the capacity to love, forgive and love again helps us along the road to Redemption. "Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly... Pray boldly - for you too are a mighty sinner."