The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is meeting in Baltimore this week. One of the discussions centers on the fact that in spite of their efforts to defeat him, a clear majority of Americans chose Barack Obama to lead them.
Last year, the bishops drafted a voting guide for Catholics, which urged followers to “pay attention to issues like poverty, war, the environment and human rights,” (Goodstein 2008) and claimed, “The direct and intentional destruction of innocent human life from the moment of conception until natural death is always wrong and is not just one issue among many. It must always be opposed” (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops 2007). Some of the bishops are displeased with the language of the document, because the faithful, encouraged by them, saw that war, poverty, and injustice destroys innocent life as much or more than abortion does, and voted overwhelmingly for a candidate who pledged to work on those evils, but bowed to reality on the points where they differ.
The Democratic Party has adopted the attitude that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. To that end, Democrats attempt to construct a social safety net that will enable any woman to raise a child, should she find herself pregnant in less-than-ideal circumstances. The Democrats similarly constructed their position on stem-cell research to prevent wanton destruction of life.
The Catholic church has adopted the attitude for centuries, that women who became pregnant in bad circumstances were suffering for their sins, and deserved whatever came their way, including, but not limited to being separated from their infants at birth, living in poverty, and enduring social stigma for either having children outside of marriage or being without them. The neoconservative movement, which tends to believe that poverty is a well-deserved punishment for sin, has agreed, and the two groups have supported “social conservative” candidates whose real agenda has been laissez-faire corporate rape of the country and its citizens.
The aforementioned citizens, having had enough, spoke with a clear voice, yet groups like the Catholic bishops seem to think it is their place to “confront” Obama about his position on abortion and stem cell research. They sow the seeds of division by doing so, and their efforts are likely to backfire.
For the last 50 years, the Catholic Church has waged an uphill battle with its own flock over the use of contraception. While women became more educated and less resigned to surrendering their personal aspirations to biology, the church campaigned relentlessly against family planning. It admitted one exception only, the family planning method that is most difficult to use and most subject to failure. Now the bishops plan to confront the president-elect of the United States over what even they admit is a peripheral issue.
American Catholics are not sliding morally. If anything, they are beginning to realize that regardless of what the clergy tells them, the life of an 18-year-old marine, a 14-year-old rape victim, or a person suffering from Parkinson's disease is as important as the life of an unborn child. While church leaders might prefer otherwise, the viewpoint is certainly valid. Church leaders have had their say. The electorate has spoken. The bishops are no longer framing the discussion.
Goodstein, Laurie. "U.S. Bishops Urged to Challenge Obama." New York Times, November 11, 2008: A19.
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. Washington, DC: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2007.