Friday, October 28, 2011

My Take on the News: Religion, Politics, and Freedom

Quite a few folks are scared silly of religious beliefs in politics: or act as if they are. I sympathize with them, a bit.

Conspicuous, Maybe: But Not Typical

Anyone who was educated in America's government schools, and reads mainstream publications, could easily have learned what religious people are like. Just look at them!!

(Reuters photo, via, used w/o permission)

(Oakland Blog, via SFGate, used w/o permission)

Fred Phelps' little band of protestors, and the Camping bunch, aren't typical Christians.

But then, I would say that: I have religious beliefs, and take them seriously. Put on one set of cultural blinders, and 'everybody knows' that people who take their religious beliefs seriously are like. We're not part of the "reality-based community."1

I think the establishment2 today has alternatively-accurate notions about what 'religious beliefs' are, and I'll get back to that.

Here's my pick from this week's news:
  1. Faith, Reason, and Politics
  2. Religious Liberty Threatened: 'It Can't Happen Here?'
  3. Another Bishop and Religious Freedom - Archbishop, Actually

1. Faith, Reason, and Politics

"For Santorum, faith and reason are benchmarks for politics"
Michelle Bauman, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (October 27, 2011)

"Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum says that reason does not conflict with his Catholic faith, but rather works with it to guide his political decisions.

" 'When the reason is right and the faith is true, they end up at the same place,' Santorum told CNA in an early October interview.

" 'Faith and reason. The conclusion must satisfy both.'

"Santorum, who served as a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania from 1995 to 2007, has expressed his support for the Church's teaching on key social issues.

"His Catholic beliefs have drawn attention in the media since he announced his bid for the Republican Party's presidential nomination.

" 'People say that they make their decisions based on their conscience. What forms their conscience?' asked Santorum.

" 'Clearly for me, as the Church teaches, your conscience is formed by faith and reason,' he said. 'And so I apply both.'..."
"Faith and reason?! Although loudly loony religious folks seem determined to make Christianity look like a psychiatric condition, "faith" and "reason" aren't mutually contradictory. As I said before, the fellow in this comic isn't all there is to religion:

(Non Sequitur, Wiley Miller, used w/o permission)

One of the reasons I became a Catholic is that the Church doesn't make us check our brains at the door. And that's another topic.

(The Pontifical Academy of Sciences, used w/o permission)

By the way, Rick Santorum showed how faith and reason apply to a situation where some people aren't, legally, considered fully human.3

Mainstream Santorum Coverage: It Could be Worse

Mainstream op-eds about Rick Santorum that I ran into were fairly reasonable:
"Santorum: The next flavor of the month?"
Christian Heinze, The Hill blog (October 26, 2011)

"As Herman Cain's star appears to be declining, there is already media speculation on who will be the next 'it flavor' of the 2012 race.

"Their conclusion: It might be former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) - the only major presidential candidate who hasn't experienced a polling boomlet.

"Their reasoning: ... Iowa's socially conservative electorate is fertile ground for the Catholic conservative ... he even got an endorsement of sorts from conservative talk show host Glenn Beck, who told Santorum earlier this year that he could 'kiss him in the mouth' for maintaining a principled stand....

"...His [Santorum's] most obvious departure from conservative orthodoxy came during 2003 - a time when many Republicans were departing from conservative orthodoxy. While serving as Pennsylvania's junior senator....

"...Beyond a philosophical problem, there was the little matter of the fact that the program was passed with no discernible means of paying for it - the height of heresy to Tea Partiers.

"So far, Santorum's explanations for his support of the plan have been somewhat vague and only half-convincing. He told The American Spectator earlier this year that he didn't fight the drug plan because no one agreed...."
I've heard politics described as 'the art of the possible.' There's something to that definition. I've known a few folks who were politicos: and the sensible ones knew the difference between a nifty idea that would never pass a vote, and an adequate proposal that would.

Two words there, Catholic and conservative, may both be accurate as descriptions of candidate Santorum. If a person is successful in America's national politics, the odds are very good that the politico is either conservative or liberal. Or at least can be put into one of those two intellectual pigeonholes.

I think that there's more to world than "conservative" and "liberal," and I've posted about that before. Including what's linked under "Politics" in "Related posts."

The Catholic Church is "obviously" conservative, since we're taught that
We're also forbidden to unjustly discriminate against folks who have disordered sexual urges, by the way. (Catechism, 2358)

What I haven't read about is how the Catholic Church is 'obviously' liberal because of what we're taught about
  • Capital punishment
    (Catechism, 2267)
  • Social Justice
    (Catechism, 1928-1942)
    • Including environmental issues
      (Catechism, 2415)
Actually, the Catholic Church isn't "conservative," or "liberal." For the two millennia since my Lord put Peter in charge, we've been passing along what we received: which boils down to "love God, love your neighbor."

It's simple, in a way:
Complications start when folks start looking for loopholes - and the Holy See explains that "everybody" means "everybody." No wonder our beliefs are called "simplistic," and that's another topic.

"Conservative Christian Activists," "Evangelicals," and Getting a Grip

"Santorum could siphon off religious conservative support from GOP field"
Dan Gilgoff, Religion Editor, Belief Blog (June 6, 2011)

"Rick Santorum appears to face long odds in the race for the White House, but he threatens to siphon off religious conservative support from better known GOP candidates like Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman and Tim Pawlenty during the primary season.

"Santorum, a former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, officially launched his presidential campaign on Monday.

"Influential conservative Christian activists mention Santorum, businessman Herman Cain and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann – who hasn't yet declared her candidacy - as Republican White House contenders who could attract major evangelical support, even if they're long shots for the GOP nomination, let alone the White House.

" 'I don't see a candidate that has Huckabee's skill in being able to communicate with evangelical language and style,' says Gary Marx, executive director of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, which focuses on issues important to religious conservatives.

"Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister who rode evangelical support to a win in Iowa and a handful of other states in the 2008 primaries, has announced he's not running for president this time around...."
I've said this before, and probably will again:
  • "Evangelicals" are Christians
  • Some conservatives are Christians
  • Not all Christians are "evangelical"
    • In the American sense of the word
  • Not all Christians are conservative
  • The Catholic Church is
    • Christian
    • "Liberal"
      • In some ways
    • "Conservative"
      • In some ways
    • Not obliged to fit into contemporary Western culture's philosophical niches

2. Religious Liberty Threatened: 'It Can't Happen Here?'

"Bishop Lori testifies on threats to religious liberty, urges action"
Michelle Bauman, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (October 26, 2011)

"The U.S. bishops' point man on religious liberty urged the U.S. Congress to protect the right to religious freedom in America because of several actions taken by the Obama administration....

"...'Not coincidentally, religious liberty is first on the list in the Bill of Rights, the charter of our Nation’s most cherished and fundamental freedoms,' he said....

"...Bishop Lori said that his brother bishops are greatly concerned by recent attacks on religious freedom. In his testimony, he outlined several recent 'threats to religious liberty' in the United States....

"...regulations issued in August by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to require coverage of sterilization and contraception, including abortifacients, in nearly all private health insurance plans....

" requirements for contractors who work with human trafficking victims. Due to these regulations, he said, the bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services, which previously worked with the government to aid victims of trafficking 'will be barred from participation in the program because they cannot in conscience provide the "full range" of reproductive services - namely, abortion and contraception.'

"Likewise, Bishop Lori noted, the State Department’s U.S. Agency for International Development is increasingly requiring contractors to provide contraception in relief and development programs across the world...."
I've been impressed at how fervently some Euro-Americans strive to keep Africans from having 'too many' babies: and see nothing wrong with doing so.

I've ranted about that before:
Back to that article.
"The bishop also criticized the federal Department of Justice for not only to defend the Defense of Marriage Act but also 'filing briefs actively attacking DOMA’s constitutionality, claiming that supporters of the law could only have been motivated by bias and prejudice.'

"He said the Department of Justice has further undermined religious liberty in the 'ministerial exception' case, Hosanna Tabor v. EEOC, which is currently before the Supreme Court. He said that the department 'needlessly attacked the very existence of the exception, in opposition to a vast coalition of religious groups urging its preservation through their amicus curiae briefs.'..."
As a practicing Catholic I have to value and support religious freedom. (Catechism, 2104-2109) For everybody. (Catechism, 2106) I've been over this before, and put links to a few posts under "Religious freedom" in "Related posts," below.

3. Another Bishop and Religious Freedom - Archbishop, Actually

"Religious liberty threatened in America, Archbishop Gomez warns"
Marianne Medlin, CNA (Catholic News Agency) (October 26, 2011)

"In an article for First Things, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles pointed to several recent examples of religious freedom being suppressed in the U.S. and warned that the basis of the country's democracy is at stake.

" 'There is much evidence to suggest that our society no longer values the public role of religion or recognizes the importance of religious freedom as a basic right,' Archbishop Gomez said on Oct. 25.

" 'America’s founders understood that our democracy depends on Americans' being moral and virtuous,' he wrote. 'They knew the best guarantee for this is a civil society in which individuals and religious institutions were free to live, act, and vote according to their values and principles.'..."
Once again: Tony Alamo, Pat Robertson and Fred Phelps are not all there is to religion. Or Christianity. I don't think any of them are even typical of American Protestants.

Harold Camping represents another sort of American wannabe prophet: but again, that lot isn't at the 50th percentile. Not even close.

And none of the above are Catholic.

The Catholic Point of View: From the Catholic Church

I can, in a way, understand why folks don't like it when the Catholic Church says that some self-destructive behavior they enjoy is wrong. Smokers reacted that way when 'no smoking' rules were expanded. And that's another topic. Topics.

But - and I realize that this may not happen in my lifetime - I'd appreciate it if critics of the Catholic Church took the trouble to learn a little bit about the Church. Before letting their assumptions and assumptions take hold.

It's not all that hard to find out about the Catholic Church: from the Church. American bishops make a pretty good effort at addressing concerns of folks in this country: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB / Headquarters has a pretty set of websites, too:
That's not a complete list, and there's a disproportionate number of links to English-language sites. That's the only language I'm really familiar with. It's also the language used in this blog, so it's the only one I can be confident that you understand, too.

The "Vatican Secret Archives" aren't "secret" in the "top secret" sense of the word, and that's another topic:
Related posts:
News and views:

1 An editor at The New York Times seems to think that people with religious beliefs:
  • Don't respect serious science
  • Don't believe verifiable history
  • Are not part of the "reality-based community"
I am not making this up:
""...But I do want to know if a candidate places fealty to the Bible, the Book of Mormon (the text, not the Broadway musical) or some other authority higher than the Constitution and laws of this country. It matters to me whether a president respects serious science and verifiable history - in short, belongs to what an official in a previous administration once scornfully described as 'the reality-based community.'..."
(Bill Keller, executive editor, The New York Times (August 25, 2011) - quoted on September 1, 2011 [emphasis mine])
I recognize that some folks have religious beliefs, take them seriously, and have strangely atavistic notions about creation. But I wish this editor, and many other of my 'betters,' would do a little research, and find out about Christians who don't believe the entire universe is a few thousand years old; and that the ground we stand on is floating on a vast ocean, under a bowl. As I've said before, not all Christians are dolts:
2 Back in "Happy Days" America, 'the establishment' was pretty much all Anglo, male, and conservative. That's changed. What hasn't changed so much is how 'the establishment' acts. I've been over this before:
3 Rick Santorum's take on a woman's right to kill her children get an abortion:
"...Santorum used the example of abortion to illustrate how faith and reason play complementary roles in guiding his political positions.

" 'The reasoned argument is simply this,' he explained. 'At the moment of conception, scientifically, biologically, that is a unique human being, with its own DNA. It is unique in the world, and it's alive, so it's a human life.'

" 'And I don't believe that the Constitution, as written, discriminates between some human life being people and other human life not being people.'

"He sees this principle of human dignity in the Fourteenth Amendment, a provision 'that was supposed to be cast as broadly as possible, to include people who were not seen as fully human.'

"Santorum explained that reason brought him to the conclusion that abortion is wrong, a conclusion that faith also showed him.

" 'The faith teaches very clearly that life is life at the moment of conception,' he said..."
That 14th Amendment and "people who were not seen as fully human" thing refers to slavery in the United States. It's a mess that we're still sorting out, 154 years after the infamous Dred Scott decision. I sincerely hope that the 'abortion and euthanasia' moral infarction can be corrected without a major war. And that's another topic.


Brigid said...

Missing a word and wrong word: "I think that there's more to world that "conservative" and "liberal,""

Missing a word: "I don't think any of them even typical of American"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian H. Gill said...


Fixed, and thanks!

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.