When the Catholic University of America's Tower reported that during a recent address at the university, His Eminence James Francis Cardinal Stafford criticized President-elect Barack Obama as "aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic" and said he campaigned on an "extremist anti-life platform," I can only imagine the cheers that must have risen from the hall. The Tower continued,
"Because man is a sacred element of secular life," Stafford remarked, "man should not be held to a supreme power of state, and a person's life cannot ultimately be controlled by government."
"For the next few years, Gethsemane will not be marginal. We will know that garden," Stafford said, comparing America's future with Obama as president to Jesus' agony in the garden. "On November 4, 2008, America suffered a cultural earthquake."
Cardinal Stafford said Catholics must deal with the "hot, angry tears of betrayal' by beginning a new sentiment where one is 'with Jesus, sick because of love.'"
These inspired sentiments from such a beloved prelate should have been received with echoes of agreement, not only by the USCCB but the entire Church and pro-life movement. After all, this American cardinal is currently the major penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary for the Tribunal of the Holy See and has staunchly defended Catholic teaching for years.
Well, I haven't heard much from my fellow pro-lifers, but I have seen the vitriol that has spewed forth from CNN.
On Tuesday's Situation Room, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer referred to a Catholic cardinal's criticism of Barack Obama's abortion position as a "scathing rant" and a "diatribe." A CNN graphic also used the "scathing rant" term, and Blitzer later referred to the cardinal's words as a "blistering rant."
As the Media Resource Center's Matthew Balan reported,
At the end of the segment, Blitzer misrepresented the Catholic Church's stances on various issues. He stated that the Church and Obama "do agree on some hot button issues, including opposition to the war in Iraq, greater access to health care, and more equitable tax codes," as a CNN graphic referred to the health care issues as "universal health care." On the last two issues, this is an oversimplification. Paragraph 2211 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to the "political community's" duty to "honor the family, to assist it, and to ensure," among other things, "the right to private property, to free enterprise, to obtain work and housing, and the right to emigrate" and "in keeping with the country's institutions, the right to medical care, assistance for the aged, and family benefits." The same Catechism, which lists the official teachings of the Catholic Church, says nothing of "more equitable tax codes." It only states how it is "morally obligatory to pay taxes" (paragraph 2240) and that tax evasion is "morally illicit" (paragraph 2409).
On the other hand, Blitzer did correctly state that Obama and the Church "strongly disagree on embryonic stem cell research; abortion rights...and civil unions for gay couples, all of which Obama supports -- the Catholic Church opposes."
One can surmise from the above that there is more to this bashing of Cardinal Stafford than meets the eye. After all, the cardinal was not screaming, and he did make every effort to make sure his comments were understood in the proper context. But as we might have guessed, CNN is not going to attempt, even for the sake of appearances, to be objective about the president-elect.
Further, they can rely on many Catholic dissidents and alleged pro-lifers to shore up their inference that saying anything negative about Obama is always a very bad thing indeed. As the Catholic News Agency reports,
The pro-lifers reaching out to abortion rights supporters argue that legal challenges to permissive abortion laws will not be successful, especially following Barack Obama's election to the presidency, the Washington Post reports…
The coalition of pro-lifers seeking policy change rather than legal change includes Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals; Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good; Catholics United, described as a progressive Catholic lay group; Sojourners, a progressive evangelical organization; and RealAbortionSolutions.org, a coalition of Catholics and evangelical leaders.
Rev. Thomas Reese, S.J., from Georgetown University's Woodstock Theological Center, has also allied himself with the effort, even though he has resigned himself to only commenting on politics in the past.
So too has Nicholas Cafardi, a former dean of the Duquesne University School of Law and a Catholic canon lawyer. He resigned from the board of Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio after writing a column supporting Obama and declaring the abortion battle lost, the Washington Post says.
My, what a tragic web is being woven – a labyrinth of half-truths designed to further entangle the American public into believing the media myth that when a Catholic prelate speaks out in defense of truth, it is always a bad thing for America. I can actually see a time when the hierarchy might, by law perhaps, be silenced similarly to the way the administrator of the Charleston, South Carolina diocese has silenced Father Jay Scott Newman.
The fullness of truth could even come to be regarded as the enemy of the common good. Who is to say where all this might lead, with the media in charge of preaching and teaching Catholic dogma to the not so faithful?
Now is the time for courageous leadership, unapologetic declarations of truth and much more honesty, such as that courageously displayed by Cardinal Stafford at the Catholic University of America.
We need to hear from the bishops, now more than ever. We should expect them to provide us with clarifications on anti-life measures such as the Freedom of Choice Act and the Prevention First Act.
These bills would lead to more social chaos than anyone can imagine. It is tragic enough that abortion is ever committed, but to become a signed, sealed and delivered government program would be anathema to the future of this once-great nation.
Father Frank Pavone has written, "It is the role of bishops to herald the Gospel of Life by their preaching, teaching, and stirring into flame the gifts of God in the hearts of the laity."
Let us hope that the flame ignited by Cardinal Stafford, with his stirring comments, will be carried forth and burn intensely from every pulpit in the United States, Catholic and otherwise. The time is now!