Commentary by Judie Brown
A recent political analysis by Mark Rozell, "GOP resonance with Catholics could well be slip-sliding away," focused attention on what some describe as a fissure between American Catholic voters and the Republican Party. The claim is made that Catholics favor Catholic social teaching on the treatment of the oppressed, and thus find serious fault with the Republican proposition that immigrants who come into America illegally should not be permitted to remain. In fact, according to Rozell, the idea that someone could be punished for simply helping a poor illegal with food or clothing is anathema to Catholics.
The troubling aspect here is simply that on this particular question Catholics appear to know what the Church teaches, accept those teachings and thus oppose discrimination against illegal immigrants.
However, this cannot possibly be the case. For the very same political analysis makes it equally clear that regardless of what the Church teaches on abortion, polling suggests the vast majority of Catholics do not oppose abortion. Moreover, pollsters also say a large majority of Catholics find it reasonable that abortion should be permitted in cases of rape, incest, fetal deformity and health of the mother. Rozell reports "only 9 percent of Catholics favor eliminating abortion rights in all cases, and only 8 percent of Catholics favor eliminating abortion in all cases except to protect the health of the woman."
So, we might posit the argument that voting American Catholics accept Church teaching when it agrees with their view, and oppose Church teaching when they have a different opinion. If we take this to its logical conclusion, we would have to accept the notion that one can be Catholic and have divergent views that sometimes agree and sometimes contradict church teaching while continuing to practice the faith. This is, of course, inane. However, it is not surprising.
Had Rozell been around for the past 40 years and paid close attention to what Catholic "teachers" were teaching, he might not be so inclined to point out the disparities in the political issues and Catholics views. He might rather understand what is going on here.
There is a very good reason why Catholics perceive abortion as a political issue. They also perceive abortion bans as out of step with their view of faith, and think that Republicans have slipped over the edge if they support measures such as the recently approved South Dakota law that bans all surgical and medical abortions without exception. After all, ever since the Church reaffirmed its opposition to contraception in 1968, many of those responsible for sharing Church teaching have taken a left turn.
Now, don't misunderstand. Church teaching has been consistent for more than 2,000 years, but those who teach what the Church teaches have been vacationing on the planet of moral relativism.
These teachers, many of whom wear Roman collars, and not a few of whom are members of the hierarchy, have chosen to blur simple teaching, assuaging the concerns of those Catholics who disagree with the Church, and thus making it possible for Catholics to think that they can be pro-abortion and Catholic at the same time or to practice birth control and be in the clear.
The Catholic Church clearly teaches that contraception is sinful and that abortion is a fruit of the contraceptive mentality, but this is not clear at all to the vast majority of Catholics. Catholics have been running amuck as a result of such teaching for years. Those who have laid the groundwork for this confusion, including the Roman-collared ones, have knowingly sought to blur the unblurrable with language that is filled with nuance and quite short on fact.
Yes, it's true. Catholic people are left to fend for themselves. They are not taught, and have not been taught, the simple truth that abortion is a crime against God and could result in eternal suffering. Large numbers of Catholics do not understand that every abortion is an act of murder. Far too many Catholics don't give a second thought to the idea that those who fail to adhere to Church teaching deny their own immortal opportunity to spend eternity with the Lord. So is it any wonder that a mere nine percent of them favor eliminating abortion?
The Catholic vocabulary has gone soft in America. There is far too much "compassion," "tolerance" and "accommodation" spewing forth from pulpits these days while the actual teaching of basic Catholic tenets, as set forth in the Catechism of the Catholic Church is sorely lacking.
I have met Catholics who believe it is wrong and mean-spirited to say that couples cannot use birth control methods if their consciences are OK with the idea. These same Catholics tell me that Church teaching is out of step with the times, too old fashioned and far from being acceptable. And they say that is why they are so pleased to know their priests agree. Say what?
One would think such Catholics are talking about a newscast or a movie rather than a body of Catholic teachings that has formed strong men and women in the truths of the faith for the last two millennia.
It is disgusting to read the polls; it is disturbing to review the surveys; it is appalling to examine the facts. It is alarming to contemplate the reality of what such numbers really mean when it comes to a Catholic identity set apart in America by faith rather than by social and political agendas. When Rozell, a learned professor from George Mason University, opines that the GOP may lose its gains among Catholics by "policies that go much too far for large majorities of Catholics," something is amiss. It is terrible to realize that he is writing not about taxes or immigration policies, but about the murder of preborn children.
How could it possibly be that too many of those ordained by the Catholic Church have failed in their mission of evangelization among Catholics to such a dramatic degree? How can it be that the vast majority of Catholic people do not see abortion as a crime, but rather as a political question that is loaded with caveats?
It is high time that the priests who have failed took a serious look at what the people they are responsible for are doing with their lives - and their souls. Such men ordained to the priesthood are supposed to be shepherding souls through the light of truth, not drowning them in the drivel of politically correct catch-phrases. Politics and voting patterns aside, what is really at stake here, and what is really slip-sliding away are souls. For me, the response to the polling and survey numbers is quite simple: Ordained priests and bishops must reconnoiter and address the dos and don'ts of making saints, not sinners.
To heck with the GOP; just do it for GOD!