The metaphor in the title came to me while reading the words of the typical self-loathing quisling-Catholic viewpoint presented by Anthony Stevens-Arroyo in his latest blurt in the Washington Post. I thought his piece was unintentionally instructive; though he seeks to make another point I found that he accidentally hit on several nuggets of truth. I am going to try my hand at parsing this article, so here it is, with my comments and emphases:
The disappearing abortion issue
by Anthony Stevens-Arroyo
The command by Cardinal-elect and Archbishop Burke that Catholics vote Tea-publican in 2010 was remarkable only in that it was the last gasp for a lost cause. (This guy has a flair for hyperbole, but who am I to complain?) The political capital of the Vatican and invasive prelates has been wasted and no longer determines most Catholic voting. (Wasted is certainly the wrong term here. Wasted means it was ever used. The correct term here is atrophied. If the Bishops had ever tried to exercise their moral leadership and responsibility in a unified front it would be different. It may have made a huge difference back in the day. As it is now, the very idea of their moral authority is unfathomable to most self-identified Catholics.) The current U.S. political scene is unlike previous elections where pro-life issues like abortion and stem-cell research were 800-pound gorillas. (That is true, and sad.) These matters have been virtually invisible in 2010 and most people-in-the-pews of Catholic America I have interviewed think this is a good turn of events. Birds of a feather, methinks…
Such does not constitute a rejection of the faith or a weakening of commitments to the Gospel (in his own mind, which is the only place a modernist can conceive of anything like a God; Pascendi is absolutely nails on that matter). It is rather the effect of a maturation for the Catholic conscience. (And here comes the Spirit of Vatican II [tm] mantra…) We have moved beyond a stage where lay Catholics rely on the hierarchy (which hierarchy? Christ the King? His chosen shepherds?) to tell them how to vote. Consider the vision of the II Vatican Council in the document, Gaudium et Spes (76) that states: “The Church and the political community in their own fields are autonomous and independent from each other.” (I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.) The recent statement by Pope Benedict XVI in his address to the Brazilian bishops upholds this conciliar teaching of the Magisterium. (I just love it when modernists cite to anything called Magisterium; translated differently, Magisterium, when not intended as an insult, means “my own understanding of what I can get away with yet I found this quote which sure does seem to give me cover.”) Only after reiterating that political decisions are the responsibility of the laity, does the pontiff tell the bishops to categorize “decriminalizing abortion” as a moral issue. Apparently, this is a possible legislative matter for a new Brazilian government. In sum, the pope takes his overriding message from the Council but makes particular mention of possible forthcoming legislation. His recent pronouncement constitutes a footnote to the general premise. (zzzzzzz., huh? what?)
Moreover, what plays in Brazil does not necessarily “play in Peoria,” (which is what is important to the immanentist) because the United States has a different political structure. In the United States, abortion is a constitutional issue, (ha!) not to be determined by legislative or executive action. We (the royal we?) are not to take statements made in Brazil as new dogma overriding the Council. (I would like to know just where in the Council it states that if someone does not believe that Catholics in the political sphere are free to disobey the Divine or natural moral law, let him be anathema. Of course, it doesn’t say this in any document. The ambiguity and soft-soapy language in the many documents of the Second Vatican Council invites the type of spirit-parsing included in this piece.)
It is sad that Cardinal (to be) Burke works against conciliar teaching. (A. Of course Msgr. Burke does not work against conciliar teaching. B. Of course it doesn’t make the writer sad.) Burke has appeared on Fox News (that proves it!) making statements with direct political application, as for instance on the UnAffordable Health Care and child-murder law. But appearances can be deceiving. Note that his recent missive contains “weasel” (the nerve of this guy) words such as “voting for unrestricted abortion.” You will not find a vote for “unrestricted abortion” in the Congressional record in this century or the last. (Do you find it in Gaudium et Spes?) Neither do papal documents or Canon Law consider enforcement of the U.S. Constitution on Roe v. Wade to constitute “direct cooperation” in abortion. (What?! Is he even serious? Actually, enforcement of the U.S. Constitution on Roe would strike it down. And what if the U.S. Constitution said that every person over 49 had to be killed, would that also trump the Divine and natural moral law?) While clerics like Burke (i.e., the good ones) clearly want to take away the freedom of Catholic America to vote according to conscience (which he does not; instead, he wishes to uphold authentic freedom of conscience, which of necessity is informed by the natural moral law), the Magisterium of my disordered desires, but which for convenience I will call the Church stands in their way.
After all, Gaudium et Spes was approved by an Ecumenical Council, in concert with the papacy and as such is covered by the doctrine of infallibility (and how does that apply here, your misrepresentations aside?). Canon Law is not so protected, and neither is Pope Benedict XVI’s speech on Brazilian politics or Cardinal Burke’s communiqué to the right-wing media. As a matter of fact, since Burke has long-since departed the Archdiocese of St. Louis, it could be argued that he has no jurisdiction in the United States. (This isn’t about jurisdiction, and the writer has no idea what that term means anyway.) His Vatican post is not a pastoral one (ah, pastoral, the only thing that really matters), as witnessed by his effort to undermine the episcopal statement of 2007 Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship that forced him into a skimpy, but embarrassing retraction.
The present loss of hierarchical clout in U.S. politics would seem irreversible. But, if they let people do whatever they want, everyone will listen to them! In a complicated world in which modern societies separate church and state, Catholic laity properly regard voting their conscience as outside the dictates of bishops. In the Diocese of Scranton, a bishop who thought otherwise is now retired. I would argue that such events move the church away from European medievalism and toward American democracy. And I agree with him, but have a very different feeling about the wisdom of such.
Without trying to predict the future, I remember Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s thoughtful (meaning I can safely ignore it) call a few years ago for a new era in the U.S. Catholic Church social and political role. He suggested a return to the less intrusive model of John Carroll and John England, bishops of the 19th century. I agree with his premise without agreeing with his predilection for which model might result. But change is underway and abortion has a vanishing political future.
His mis-citations to Vatican II merely highlight the mischief caused by so many in the years since. Alas, the public largely ignores the Bisops’ admonitions on abortion and many other issues. But to call this the result of, and not the flouting of, the Magisterium is repugnant.
We reap the whirlwind.