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Re: Catholics

The anti-abortion crowd is very concerned about the souls of Catholic lawmakers today. They’re swarming AOC, well, who wouldn’t, she’s smart as a whip and can take down a right wing talking point in a single tweet. Then there was this:

This is analogous to the Catholic question that John F. Kennedy was asked back in 1960. The implicit assumption was that he would place his fealty to his religion and the pope over defending the US constitution. That was the fear of a lot of white Anglo Saxon Protestants back then. But he assured a slim majority that he wasn’t going to take orders from the pope.

Joe Biden is hewing to that line. He’s not going to check his support of the constitution in order to comply with the Vatican. He didn’t take an oath to the Vatican when he was inaugurated. He took an oath to defend the constitution. As a faithful Catholic, I’m fairly sure that he’s not pro-abortion. There are very few people in this country, if any, who are pro-abortion. But the first amendment does protect freedom of religion and he has quite a few constituents who are not Catholic.

So even if the pope had a say over Joe’s opposition to abortion, Joe does not have the right to impose this view on others. In other words, we do not all have to become Catholic. Joe is leaving the choice up to the people who are affected by abortion the most and that is not the nebby busy bodies in the anti-abortion movement.

I sense that the tweeters are starting to change their tactics a bit today. More than one has said that their opposition is not religiously based. It’s based on ethics. Ok. I’ll bite. Let’s talk about ethics. The choice issue is very much like the Trolley dilemma ethics problem.

It turns out that how you solve that problem depends in part on your culture. The solution could be either outcome. It is a choice you have to live with and you weigh the rightness of the solution depending on many factors.

“Oh, but it’s MURDER!!”, they wail. Yes. In the above example, someone(s) is going to die. That’s the problem. Are you going to condemn only one person or 5? There’s a variation that requires the problem solver to decide whether to push a man off a bridge to stop the trolley from hitting the five people. This is actually much closer to the actual abortion problem. In the first problem, all the solver needs to do is throw a switch. Maybe the trolley kills someone, maybe it stops in time, maybe the people on the track get out of the way. But in the second instance, the problem solver has to actively kill someone to save other people.

This is what it’s like to have choice. It is a very difficult choice. I don’t think the religious, I mean, newly converted “ethicists” actually appreciate that.

But let’s get back to Catholicism. I’m so glad these anti-abortion activists are finally bringing up the topic of religion because, goddess knows, we heard enough of their yelling and screaming about how unfair and impolitic it would be to ask Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, Barret, Roberts or Thomas about their attitudes towards their catholic religious teachings. For the record, Gorsuch is now an Episcopalian but he graduated from a Jesuit prep school. I think he is a convert to episcopalianism so he might as well be Catholic. That right there is 6 Catholic Supreme Court justices. I believe Sotomayor is Catholic as well but she seems to be perturbed by the constitutionality of putting enforcement of state laws into the hands of private citizens. She seems to be ruling in the JFK manner.

What about the other 6 Catholic justices? We couldn’t ask them about whether they would put the constitution first. It should have been a legitimate question. Why is it that so many Conservative presidents nominated Catholics? They could have chosen Sikhs, or a Buddhist or a Quaker or an atheist. But they didn’t. Each and every time there was an opening they could appoint or steal, they chose a Catholic. Once or twice is reasonable. But SIX times? That is definitely a trend, nay, a correlation.

I think there is a lot of culture that a Catholic brings to the court. Their religion teaches them that abortion is wrong but as we have seen above, public servants at their level are expected to serve the US Constitution not Pope Francis. Also, they are taught from an early age to revere authority. But you know, it’s not a requirement. You can think for yourself as you uphold constitutional principles. It should be noted though that women have no authority in the Catholic Church. Maybe they did in elementary school but they don’t write papal bulls or vote on the next pontiff or get to be cardinals or bishops or priests.

Anyway, they can’t get around the party that brought them to power. The were nominated because they were more likely to adhere to the Republican Party platform, and all that it stands for, some of it unjust and not pretty. And for the most part, they have, even if that means they are opening up American jurisprudence to all kinds of outcomes that we will all regret later. They are smart enough to think things through and I have no doubt that they have.

17 Responses

  1. The number of Catholics on the Supreme Court is definitely significant, as it is well above the population percentages. I’m sure that you know more about this than I do, but I do know that there is a segment of liberal Catholicism, the kind that someone like Eugene McCarthy or Nancy Pelosi followed. But of course there is a more doctrinaire Catholicism, and apparently the five Republican judges who are Catholic, are of that group, although I imagine that premarital sex is a major sin there, so for people like Kavanaugh, it is apparently negotiable, or they can repent.

    I watched most of the Kavanaugh hearings, but I don’t remember any questions about his religion,nor were there any to the other Catholic nominees. It’s a one-way game, apparently. Of course, they would all dissemble. I do know that all of them were very carefully selected to be absolute sure votes to overturn Roe,,to severely limit voting rights, and to always favor corporations over workers. I won’t even give them the courtesy to think that they have thought these things through in depth. They are basically Republican political operative hacks, except perhaps for Barrett, who is a zealot.

    • Left-wing Catholic activism in the US was a pretty major force from Vatican II until John Paul II pretty much stamped it out (along with Liberation Theology in Latin America). One need only look at the Berrigan brothers and Father (and Congressman) Robert Drinan for examples of this. Drinan was forced to resign his Congressional seat – he was succeeded by one of his aides, Barney Frank.

      Yeah, Barrett’s basically a premodern fanatic.

      • Left-wing Catholic activism in the US was a pretty major force from Vatican II until John Paul II pretty much stamped it out

        EXACTLY, any progress made under John XXIII has been effectively stamped out by the right wing Catholics since his demise. I have 12 years of Catholic education, thru grade 8 ruled by nuns, but high school was run by Brothers of the Holy Cross and was quite liberal. I credit them with teaching me how to think logically and act morally, in some ways they told me it was OK to not be a Catholic, and I am no longer one.

        Sadly the RWNJs took over the Catholic church (pretty completely in the US) well before they took over control of our government.

        One last point about the 6 hypocrites on the Supreme Court: capital punishment is no different from abortion, it is STATE sanctioned murder, but it helps their masters so they are all for it.

        • Yeah, Dr. Dr. Mrs. Propertius was taught by the Sisters of Mercy for K-12. They didn’t do quite as good a job with science and math as they might have, but they were quite liberal for Newfoundland and very dedicated to the service of the poor and downtrodden.

          Officially, the Church is every bit as opposed to capital punishment as it is to abortion, Somehow that doesn’t seem to have fired up the American church the way abortion does.

      • My mother was very left-wing. She raised us to believe that Jesus was a socialist. She greatly admired the Berrigan brothers and corresponded with one of them when I was growing up. I may still have a couple of the letters she received.

  2. Off topic: Mamma Mia! Here they go again! :mrgreen:

  3. I note that Justice Barrett is from a particular sect, People of Praise, not officially approved of by the Catholic Church. That sect is much more radical than even the right wing of the Catholic Church.

    • My grandmother was a member of the Charismatic Catholic movement starting in the 1970’s. She spoke in tongues. The rest of my family thought she was absolutely crazy. I believe that movement later became the People of Praise.

      • I feel a need to say that my grandmother was an educated, highly intelligent, well-read person. She suffered a great deal of trauma in her life, beginning with the death of her mother from TB when my grandmother was just 6 or 7 years old. Her earliest memories of her mother were of her coughing up blood. That was the first of many serious losses in her life ( including the death of an infant child ). She was always searching for something. I think she wanted answers for why these horrific things had happened. The Charismatic Catholic movement seemed to be a haven for her. She was a difficult and troubled person but I loved her very much. Of all her grandchildren, I was the closest to her. I never followed her particular type of Catholicism but I understood it provided solace to her.

        • I don’t remember my grandmother ever mentioning abortion. She was most likely opposed to it but she never expressed an opinion about it.

      • There are many Charismatic Catholics in People of Praise but only a small percentage – most are outside of it and are still members of more conventional Catholic congregations. There are other charismatic non-Catholics in People of Praise. There are many Christian churches that include speaking in tongues and other charismatic beliefs, most of them Protestant. I have lots of lovely charismatic relatives.

        I do not intend my comment to cast any aspersions on members of any of these churches — people should worship (or not) as their hearts lead them.

        I am strongly against any political official using their personal religious beliefs, rather than the Constitution and the law, to inform their official acts. People of Praise scrubbed a lot of the internet activity when (now) Justice Barrett was nominated. Looking at what we know of that group and her own writings, I do not believe she can separate her religious beliefs from an analysis of the law. I would be happy if I am wrong.

  4. For the record, I am officially Catholic. Baptized, communioned but not confirmed. I did the mass thing, Catholic school and catechism when I lived off and on with my grandparents. I never had a negative experience with Catholicism. But I am aware that not everyone had my experience and some people were groomed by the church. I’ll leave it at that except I’m more of a sotomayor Catholic. Actually, I’m more like a Baruch Spinoza disciple but that is a different matter.

  5. Per Heather Cox Richardson, it was Pat Buchannan who originally ginned up the anti-abortion movement. As a Nixon deputy he correctly figured that if he could get Catholics riled about abortion he could split off a significant bunch of them from their former home in the Democratic base. Thereafter right wing activists like Phyllis Schlaffly picked up the baton and helped elect Reagan in 1980.

    NB, while as I understand it, Catholic teaching has traditionally disapproved of abortion, the issue was not such a BFD until the Nixonians made it so.

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