Category Archives: Featured Articles
By: Deal W. Hudson
Karen Diebel is a pro-life, pro-family Catholic hoping to win the GOP nomination to run for Congress in Orlando, Florida’s 24th District. Diebel represents a very different kind of Catholic politician from Speaker Nancy Pelosi who led the charge for pro-abortion funding as part of the health care reform.
Topping the list of Diebel’s political priorities are the defense of life and family:
“It is critically important to have a strong pro-life, pro-family voice in this district. There is such danger right now, with both the incumbent and the administration. All the decision-making on economic and social issues is in opposition to the values that reinforce and support strong families.”
Seven years ago a run for Congress would have seemed impossible, when her husband, an obstetrician, was killed while helping a stranger on the side of a highway. “My life crumbled in an instant, into a million pieces.”
That was June 2002. Now Karen Diebel is 43 years old, her three boys are ages 10, 12, and 13, and she is feeling “older and wiser . . . suffering gives you a clearer perspective.” She thanks a priest in her parish, Rev. Richard Walsh, who baptized all her boys, for helping her survive the loss of her husband. When she once complained to him of being left alone, Father Walsh told her:
“The Lord has given you many gifts. Think of that as you are sad – how you have been blessed with many things. You have to use them.”
“Then I thought to myself, ‘I will not be tired anymore.’”
She was already working full-time for Verizon, as director of Global Solutions, to provide for herself and her children. As director, Diebel became an expert at solving business and technological problems for Fortune 100 companies.
“Thank God I had a job at the time, and I could pay the bills. Because I kept waking up thinking I am the only parent left, I’ve got to figure it out — I was 35.”
But, after the comment from Father Walsh, Diebel got more involved in her community, co-founding a health care clinic in memoriam of her late husband, providing health care to East Orlando’s uninsured. “The best way I knew how to give back was to help others.” She also entered local politics and became Vice Mayor and a City Commissioner of Winter Park, a suburb of Orlando.
Her experience in municipal government coupled with the direction of the country led her to run for Congress. “In government, both here and in D.C., there are too many competing agendas, rather than a clear focus on solving problems.”
Diebel also observed that those involved in local politics often had great intentions but lacked the needed skills. “I had the advantage of having leadership skills, not just the ability to redistribute money and collect more taxes. We need to get more efficient, ensure personal freedoms, and not waver on first principles.”
A graduate of the University of Notre Dame (Class of ‘89), Karen Diebel is well versed in the teachings of the Church and applies them to her views on public policy.
Diebel is the granddaughter of Irish immigrants: Her father, a McGuigan from Belfast, met her mother, a Reilly from County Mayo, in Chicago where most of her family still lives. Her brother, Michael McGuigan, just returned from his second tour in Iraq.
When asked how she would raise three boys while being a member of Congress Diebel said, “I am already doing it — we are a very, very tight knit family. My boys are fun and they are strong because they’ve had to be along the way. Even today, professionally, I have to travel, but we often go as a family. They can understand and learn along the way.”
If elected to Congress, Karen Diebel will not leave her faith at home, as so many seem to have done. “My faith gives me strength, a faith that is very clear on the values I need to carry forward in my personal life. We have to make time to do the things we believe in.”
By Anne Hendershott
Despite the fact that under current Connecticut law, sexual abuse victims have 30 years past their 18th birthday to file a lawsuit, a new bill introduced in Connecticut’s legislature will completely remove the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse cases. Connecticut bishops have responded by warning parishioners that the proposed change to the law will put “all Church institutions, including your parish at risk.”
And, although there is precedence for removing the statute of limitations in cases of allegations of priestly abuse (when California lawmakers removed their state’s statute of limitations, more than 800 lawsuits were filed against the Church in a single year), this latest legislative initiative follows an attempted Catholic Church takeover last March when State Senator Andrew J. McDonald and State Representative Michael Lawlor, both Democrats, introduced Bill 1098. If it had passed, this CT bill would have allowed the state of Connecticut to control individual parishes’ governance and financial affairs—relegating the pastors and bishops to an advisory role in their own parishes.
And, although Bridgeport Diocese Bishop Lori was successful in mobilizing parishioners to lobby the lawmakers to withdraw the controversial bill just a week after they proposed it, it is likely that the attempt to pass this type of legislation will continue in Connecticut and elsewhere—not because of a perceived need by most Catholics for state oversight, but rather because there are so many within the Church who can gain so much by keeping this issue alive.
Indeed, it is clear that in the attempted state takeover of the Catholic Church, the real force behind this bill was a small but well-organized group of Catholics—unhappy with Church teachings on moral and governance issues—attempting to enlist the state as a partner in radically transforming the Church from within.
To understand the real story behind the proposed legislation, one only has to look closely at some of those promoting the state takeover. Fairfield University Catholic Studies Professor Paul Lakeland, a former Jesuit priest, has been on the front lines in leading the charge for the legislation. As a spokesman for the bill, Lakeland has long lobbied for an end to what he calls the “structural oppression of the laity” by the clergy. Lakeland is a frequent presenter at conferences sponsored by organizations like Voice of the Faithful and CORPUS, which dissent from magisterial teachings.
Lakeland has been a longtime critic of the Catholic Church. At a recent Annual Meeting for CORPUS, an organization of former priests—mostly married—who are still angry over the Church’s priestly celibacy requirement, Lakeland promised to “help our sisters and brothers exercise their baptismal priesthood.” Claiming that his newest book identifies the task of the laity as working “to build a non-clerical church,” Lakeland’s hour long speech (available as an audio file on the CORPUS website) is replete with his oft-used phrases including his stated desire to “overcome the lay-clerical division” and address the “structural oppression of the laity” within the Catholic Church.
Criticism of the privileged status of priests and bishops in leading the faithful is at the basis of the Connecticut legislation. Marginalizing the bishops’ teaching authority in favor of dissenting theologians and removing the distinction between the ordained and the followers are the real goals of organizations like CORPUS and Voice of the Faithful. Even the role of the deacon in the Catholic Church has come in for criticism by Lakeland. In his CORPUS speech he scathingly referred to the “monster species” of the deacon.
To grasp the origins of the Connecticut legislative attacks on the Church, it is important to understand the genesis of Voice of the Faithful and some of its angriest members. Capitalizing on a “crisis” in the state when Fr. Jude Fay, a now deceased Darien priest, was convicted of stealing more than 1.4 million in parishioner donations to lead a luxurious lifestyle with his gay partner, Voice of the Faithful’s Bridgeport, CT chapter created a proposal which advanced the idea of open elections of bishops, priests, and finance councils, and the ownership of church property by the people of the parish. The VOTF document supported its proposals with historical notations and argued that this was the model of the early Church.
While we cannot claim that the Connecticut VOTF members had a hand in writing the actual legislation that was promoted in the state, it must be acknowledged that many of the tenets in the now-withdrawn Connecticut bill mirror those promoted by VOTF’s Bridgeport affiliate on their website.
And, there was a willing partner from the state—eager to diminish the authority of the Catholic Church. Democratic State Senator McDonald and Democratic State Representative Lawler, sponsors of the Church takeover bill, are both openly gay men and outspoken same-sex marriage advocates. Both have been tireless in their efforts to usher in gay marriage, and both have been critical of the Catholic Church’s opposition to laws dismantling the current definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Bishop Lori told a reporter for a local newspaper that he believed that the proposed Church governance bill was “an effort to silence the Church on important issues of the day—especially with regard to marriage.” This is most likely true as the governance bill was proposed the day before the same-sex marriage bill was to be heard.
The attacks on the Church will continue. But, courageous bishops like Bishop Lori are rising to the challenge. Unfortunately, there is little help from the Catholic colleges and universities. While parishioners have mobilized to fight the state takeover, Catholic college professors like Paul Lakeland are fighting for the other side. And, for organizations like Voice of the Faithful, which desire that the Church become a democratic institution, there will continue to be an attempt to enlist the state as a partner in trying to create an egalitarian Church that reflects the will of the people rather than that of the Magisterium.
By Deal W. Hudson
On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court will consider a case being called “The Battle of Hastings,” involving the right of a college or university to deny recognition to a student group that bans gays and lesbians. Christian Legal Society v. Martinez stems from 2004 when the University of California Hastings’ chapter of the Virginia-based Christian Legal Society changed its policy to exclude anyone who engaged in “unrepentant homosexual conduct.”
Applying its non-discrimination policy, the university decided not to recognize the group — called the Hastings Christian Fellowship — meaning the organization could not receive university funding, meet in university rooms, post on designated bulletin boards, or participate in the Student Organizations Fair.
The Christian Legal Society brought suit against UC Hastings represented by the Alliance Defense Fund. The Hastings’ case arrived in the Supreme Court after the 2006 decision by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White ruling in Hastings’ favor, saying its policy regulated conduct, not speech. White argued the policy did not regulate what the group could say about homosexuality, but it did bar them from discrimination.A 3-judge panel of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Judge White’s ruling In March 2009.
To argue on behalf of the Christian Legal Society, CLS and the Alliance Defense Fund have recruited Michael W. McConnell, a former federal appellate court judge, who currently runs the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School. McConnell is arguing the case pro bono.
The justices will consider whether a law school at a public university with a non-discrimination policy can refuse funding to a religious student group because the group requires its officers and voting members to agree with its core religious beliefs.
The Supreme Court received 22 friend-of-the-court briefs in support of the Christian Legal Society. And among the almost 100 parties filing briefs in support of CLS and ADF there are 14 state attorneys general, including those from Michigan, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Alabama, Nebraska, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Louisiana, West Virginia, and South Dakota.
“Just as all student groups have the right to associate with people who share common beliefs and interests, Christian student groups have the right to be Christian student groups,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Gregory S. Baylor. “Requiring leaders of a Christian club to live by a Christian code of conduct is no different than an environmentalist club requiring its leaders not to be lumberjacks.”
For Alan Sears, president of the Alliance Defense Fund, the Hastings’ decision will have historic ramifications for religious freedom in our nation. As Sears wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Examiner:
“As Christian beliefs stand in ever starker contrast to the campus culture, it has become academic de rigueur to punish the free association of Christian students and the free expression of their ideas on campus.”
The decision of the justices regarding Hastings, according to Sears, will determine whether “the Constitution protects the rights of private student groups to select their message and their officers.” The outcome of Hastings will also send a message to universities and colleges. Should they be training their students “to believe that it’s appropriate for government officials to coerce and ostracize private organizations in order to conform to the prevailing orthodoxy that rules most college campuses today.”
Year after year has gone by with pro-life activists being accused by pro-abortion groups of being one-sided partisans. Speculative conversations often occurred among activists – if only we had some bi-partisan pro-life support, we could build on the progress made from the successes of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act, and the Partial Birth Abortion Ban.
For months, Catholic Advocate and numerous other pro-life organizations around the country, praised Congressman Bart Stupak (D, MI-01) for his stalwart defense of life during the health care debate and thought we finally had a pro-life Democrat willing to fight the culture of death. Congressman Stupak roared like a lion in the savage jungle of Capitol Hill. He handled tremendous pressure from his own caucus and countless rumors and speculation about compromises and deals.
Then, on that fateful weekend in March, pro-life Americans shook their heads with disappointment and disbelief upon hearing the news Congressman Stupak had compromised. He cut a deal worse than the Senator Ben Nelson (D, NE) Cornhusker kickback. By endorsing a meaningless Executive Order, Stupak cleared the way for pro-life Democrats to vote for the Obama-Pelosi pro-abortion health care bill.
After attending the Executive Order signing in the Oval Office, Congressman Stupak’s press release stated:
“Throughout history, Executive Orders have been an important means of implementing public policy. In 2007, George W. Bush signed Executive Order 13435 restricting embryonic stem cell research – a pro-life policy that was applauded and welcomed by the pro-life community. These same groups have been opposed to President Obama’s pro-life Executive Order.”
President Bush’s Executive Order’s being cited by Congressman Stupak was narrowly focused to actions by the Executive Branch. As the courts have ruled over time, when Executive Order goes beyond, into the actions of the Legislative Branch, the law dominates.
In a weird twist of irony, the very same week President Obama was signing Congressman Stupak’s Executive Order, a Massachusetts judge sided with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) striking down an Executive Order relating to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and money granted to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops by the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
The most important casualties from the fights on Capitol Hill over abortion funding in the health care bill were the unborn.
Now, the source of one of the worst compromises against life in the history of the pro-life cause is calling it quits. Rather than be held accountable by the voters in his district, Congressman Bart Stupak announced retirement on Friday, April 9, 2010.
On the Washington Post website, Congressman Stupak’s sources “describe him as burned out from the long fight over health care in which he emerged as the leading voice of pro-life Democrats wary about the possibility that the legislation would allow federal funds to be spent on abortions.” There are also sources saying he was disappointed at the harsh reaction he received from both sides of the aisle following the health care debate.
Most people, when they come out victorious after a long hard personal fight, usually catch their breath and return invigorated by their victory. It is only when you have truly lost a challenge that you have trouble finding your motivation, and worse yet, if you are the one responsible for the loss.
Congressman Stupak has served the people of Northern Michigan for nearly twenty years. He has endured the tragedy of losing a son to suicide and worked tirelessly to focus on the role prescriptions might have played in his son’s decision, so other parents would not suffer the same pain. He consistently stood for the cause of life, but when it came to the biggest battle in years, could not go the distance.
Congressman Stupak unsuccessfully tried to have it both ways on health care. He made a drastic error in judgment that will ultimately further abortion in the United States.
We wish him and Laurie well as they begin the next chapter in their lives. Even after a long career in Congress, in Washington, you are, unfortunately, most remembered for how you depart. Many pro-life activists feel Congressman Stupak quit on them, so it is only fitting he retire from the arena if he has lost his heart for the battles.
By Matt Smith, Catholic Advocate Vice President
By Anne Hendershott
While the polls have shown dramatic declines in approval for President Obama from most demographic groups, the President continues to enjoy strong support from many women—especially pro-choice women. Most recently, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards praised the President’s successful shepherding of health care reform—replete with its expansion of reproductive services to women.
Richards was especially effusive in her praise for Obama’s ability to attract the support of the Catholic nuns of NETWORK who defied the authority of their bishops in promoting health care reform. In an article at huffingtonpost.com, Richards writes that she was grateful for the nuns’ “brave and important move, demonstrating that they cared as much about the health care of families in America as they did about Church hierarchy.”
Most prominent on the long list of pro-choice women (like Richards) who are grateful that Obama continues to demonstrate that he is the most radically pro-abortion politician we have ever experienced, are the women from the Kennedy family. From Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg who wrote in a New York Times op-ed that Obama is a “man like my father,” and Kerry Kennedy Cuomo who claims that Catholics “are responding to the vision of hope that Barack Obama articulates,” to Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who believes that Obama represents Catholics better than the Pope, the Kennedy women remain steadfast in their support for the President.
Indeed, the sub-title of last summer’s Newsweek column by Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former Lt. Governor of Maryland, asks readers to consider: “Why Barack Obama represents American Catholics Better than the Pope Does.” In the article, Kennedy Townsend complains that “while the pope preaches love, listening to the other has been a particular stumbling block for the Catholic hierarchy as it is for many in power.” Townsend maintains that “Obama could teach the pope a lot about politics—and what a Catholic approach to politics could entail.”
Kennedy Townsend claims that although it is clear that Obama and the Pope disagree on reproductive freedoms and homosexuality, “Politics requires the ability to listen to different points of view, and to step into others’ shoes. Obama might call it empathy.” Townsend praises “Obama’s pragmatic approach to divisive policy (his notion that we should acknowledge the good faith underlying opposing viewpoints).” And, in contrast with Pope Benedict, Townsend maintains that Obama’s “social justice agenda reflects the views of the American Catholic laity much more closely than those vocal bishops and pro-life activists.”
Likewise, Kerry Kennedy Cuomo has been steadfast in support of the President. When her uncle Ted Kennedy’s Senate Seat was won by Republican, Scott Brown, Kennedy Cuomo made it a point to claim that Brown’s win had nothing to do with Obama’s healthcare or the Obama administration. On WOR News Talk Radio, Kennedy Cuomo lashed out at Democratic candidate, Martha Coakley, claiming that Coakley exhibited a “lack of effort in the last few months to gain votes or speak on jobs that really brought about the loss of the seat.”
Kennedy Cuomo has been especially close to Van Jones, Obama’s failed “green czar” nominee. Jones served briefly in the Obama administration until he resigned after it was exposed he founded a communist revolutionary organization and signed a statement that accused the Bush administration of involvement in the 9/11 attacks. World Net Daily reports that Jones called for “resistance” against the United States.
Still, the communist ties and revolutionary rhetoric did not stop Kennedy Cuomo from featuring Jones as a commentator on “RFK: Our Children, Our Future,” a documentary on the legacy of Robert F. Kennedy. In fact, Kennedy Cuomo found Jones so worthy of praise for his work on behalf of social justice that she awarded him with the “Kerry Kennedy Cuomo Human Rights Defender award.”
And, although Kennedy Cuomo and Kennedy Townsend had been early Clinton supporters in the Democratic primaries (in an op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times, they wrote that “the loftiest poetry will not solve these issues”) before they switched their allegiance to Obama, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg was an Obama supporter from the start. Yet, despite Mrs. Kennedy Schlossberg’s description of Obama as a “man like my father,” there is no evidence that JFK was pro-choice like Obama. Abortion rights issues were in the fledgling stage at the state level in New York and California in the early 1960s. They were not a national concern.
A strong abortion rights advocate, Kennedy Schlossberg was so concerned to assure pro-abortion leaders in New York that on the same day she telephoned New York Governor David Patterson to declare interest in filling the U S Senate seat being vacated by Hilary Clinton, one of her first calls was to an abortion rights group indicating she would be strongly pro-choice.
All of the Kennedy women have learned that anyone desiring higher office in the Democratic Party must now carry the torch of abortion rights throughout any race. They continue to support Obama because he continues to carry that torch.
By Deal Hudson
In a severe setback to the Obama administration’s push for “net neutrality,” a federal appeals court ruled the Federal Communications Commission did not have the authority to issue a 2008 citation against Comcast Corporation for inhibiting some Internet traffic from high-bandwidth file-sharing services.
In a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned the citation. The court ruled that the FCC had not been legally empowered by the Congress to regulate the network-management practices of an Internet service provider.
The appeals court decision will also be good news to Americans who, in the wake of the health care bill, are fearful of more government take-over of private enterprise. As I wrote at InsideCatholic.com last February:
“Net neutrality, in addition to adding to government power and control, would mean that every decision to block pornography, or any kind of security threat, would have to be approved by the government.”
The White House and its allies in Congress will be considering their options to counter the court’s opinion that undermines the FCC’s authority to impose rules on the use of the Internet. The Hill reported the ruling as a “significant blow” against the FCC, a “setback” for the backers of net neutrality in the Congress, as well as a “major defeat” for President Obama. Others viewing this decision as bad news, according to The Hill, include, “Google, Skype, Amazon.com and other Internet firms that have been huge proponents of rules that would mandate open Internet.”
The major providers of broadband services – AT&T and Verizon – have opposed net neutrality and will continue litigation if the FCC continues to impose net neutrality standards without a legal mandate.
The FCC’s reaction to the decision appeared to promise continued activism on behalf of net neutrality. As reported on Wired blog, FCC spokesperson, Jen Howard, issued a statement saying, “The court in no way disagreed with the importance of preserving a free and open Internet. Nor did it close the door to other methods for achieving this important end.”
Now led by Obama appointee Julius Genachowski, the FCC is clearly not giving up the fight. One option the FCC might pursue, as reported in the New York Times, “would be to reclassify broadband service as a sort of basic utility subject to strict regulation, like telephone service. Telephone companies and broadband providers have already indicated that they would vigorously oppose such a move.”
Congress will also assist the FCC. For example, Edward Markey (D-MA), in response to the court’s decision, called upon Congress to “provide the commission any additional authority it may need to ensure the openness of the Internet.”
Let’s hope that the Internet stays in the hands of the privately-owned market forces that led to its creation and its flourishing.
By Deal Hudson
“The President is not pro-abortion, the President is pro-choice. I think they are two very different things.” This is a mantra we often hear from Catholics who support pro-abortion politicians, but this time they were uttered in support of President Obama.
The words came from Sr. Anita Baird, the founding director of the Office of Racial Justice at the Archdiocese of Chicago. She was being interviewed by Kathleen Gilbert of LifeSiteNews.com on the upcoming event honoring Chicago priest, Fr. Michael Pfleger, who publicly announced Obama was “the best thing to come across the political scene since Bobby Kennedy.” He was serving, at the time, as a volunteer adviser to the Obama campaign and a member of the Catholics for Obama Committee.
Cardinal George, Pfleger’s ordinary in Chicago, suspended him from his parish for two weeks after his outburst praising Obama. Sr. Baird told LifeSiteNews.com Fr. Pfleger’s public support for Obama was “not an issue here,” since he had served a two-week suspension from his parish, St. Sabina’s.
One wonders whether Fr. Pfleger’s fondness for Obama “is not an issue” in the Archdiocese of Chicago simply because he accepted his punishment for endorsing a candidate publicly in violation of the Church’s non-profit status.
Kathleen Gilbert asked Sr. Baird to explain the difference between being pro-abortion and being pro-choice:
“To be pro-abortion is that you believe in abortion and you support it. And, I don’t think you’ll find that the President has ever said that.”
So you have to say you support abortion to be judged pro-abortion? What about Obama’s advocacy of infanticide as a state senator in Illinois, his termination of the Mexico City Policy on the first day of his presidency, his signing of a health care bill providing billions of federal dollars for abortion funding, and on and on?
Sr. Baird didn’t bring up anything Obama has done, only what he has said, for example, in his Notre Dame speech where he claimed, “his challenge was that we find ways to ensure that women – that would be their last choice, and that they would choose life.”
But then Sr. Baird says the most startling thing of all to Gilbert:
“I just think we need to be clear with our language.”
I’m sure, I am not the only one who will hear this and immediately think of Matthew 23:24, where Jesus says to the Pharisees, “You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” In other words, Sr. Baird wants to make sure we are “clear with our language” describing Obama’s stated view of abortion, but she ignores, completely, his actions as a politician. (This is not completely accurate since Sr. Baird is apparently not familiar with Obama’s speech in the Illinois state legislature justifying his support for partial-birth abortion.)
Speaking of Obama’s own utterances on the topic of abortion. Why do people like Sr. Baird think his words can be trusted? What about the public lie Obama told the Congress and the American people that there would be no federal funding for abortion in the health care bill?
Even if you judge Obama by his words, if you pay close attention to his promises, you will come to the conclusion his words cannot be trusted. Thus, attempting to be “clear with our language” about the President’s position on abortion is a waste of time.
What do we make of Sr. Baird’s defense of Obama as “pro-choice” rather than “pro-abortion?”
First of all, we should remind ourselves that this distinction has been common among the media and Catholic “progressives” for years, so it is nothing new.
Second, it calls out for some sort of authoritative comment by Cardinal George showing that it is a distinction without a practical difference — both points of view, if they can be really distinguished, result in law and public policy of abortion on demand.
Finally, Sr. Baird’s defense of Fr. Pfleger’s support of Obama is a snapshot of how the Obama advocacy goes on inside the Catholic Church, through chanceries and parishes into the grassroots. Catholics who support Obama and work to convince other Catholics to vote for him, as Fr. Pfleger has done, ignore the myriad of evidence that Obama is pro-abortion. They parrot a handful of Obama speeches filled with promises his never intends to keep.
Whenever Congress is on recess, I always wonder what will catch the media’s eye in Washington, D.C. When there is no drama to cover, sometimes either something lands in their laps or they take something, create the drama, and help blow it out of proportion. The Washington, D.C. media and bobble-head chattering class on the cable shows received two such gifts in the past week allowing them to inflict further pain on two institutions some in the media take joy in beating like a piñata.
The first story was the total lack of judgment used by a Republican National Committee (RNC) staffer to organize (informally or not) a field trip to a Hollywood sex club. This was followed by a second lack of judgment by the RNC for approving the expense report. It must have been a rough week at the RNC because the story would just not go away. Donors are upset. Values Voters who traditionally align themselves with Republicans are upset. Voters are now questioning the values they thought the RNC stood for with another example of Washington, D.C. hypocrisy in a year with a vulnerable Democratic party.
The initial response from the RNC focused on the staffer being fired and promises of better stewardship of money. I am sure the leadership of the RNC is embarrassed by this episode. However, they missed the point that it highlights a larger, more serious cultural problem facing ascending generations – the “if it feels good do it, and if there are consequences blame someone else” philosophy.
The second “story of the week” was another round of sexual abuse news giving the media another opportunity to attack the Church. I was troubled to see the extensive coverage given to the members of SNAP on the local Washington, D.C. affiliate in the news. If your eyes were closed, the lead-in by the local reporter describing a protest held outside St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C. made it sound like hundreds gathered. But, the visual of four angry and hurt individuals told a different story. It was even more troubling to hear the “man on the street” interviews after Easter Vigil Masses where faithful were stating their faith had been shaken. (I am guessing those were the comments chosen to be aired versus those who stood in solidarity with our priests.)
The over-attention the media is paying to the latest chapter in the sex abuse scandal is affecting their already biased credibility, but like sharks in chummed water they smell the blood of the wounded, and the responses have not helped the situation. Leaders in Rome protecting the institution of the Church, instead of recognizing the effect this is having on the faithful, miscommunicate that the Church is not taking these situations seriously.
Families are suffering in their wallets and also from having their values attacked each day. They are looking to institutions to help change these situations, not worsen them. Some are hoping to turn to elected officials; some are hoping to turn to ecclesiastical guidance by appealing to a higher power.
Both of these stories would not have been able to gain so much traction if there were not already credibility issues present. Institutions people have traditionally been able to rally behind have become contributors to a culture lacking self-accountability.
How can these two institutions rebuild credibility?
People are tired of excuses and deflection. They are sophisticated and see through it. People want an acknowledgment of the problem and an attempt at some form of contrition, even if the leadership of an institution is not responsible for the grievance.
RNC chairman Michael Steele, a Catholic, needs to stand up and point out that these activities were inappropriate, highlight them as an indication of greater problems in our society, and say so with contrition to begin rebuilding credibility with supporters.
Likewise, the Church needs to stop focusing its attention on a biased media that will never back off their attacks on the Holy Father. The Church needs to hear the advice from public relations professionals, and take back control of the story. They have an opportunity to make the distinction that things have changed by acknowledging there is still work to be done cleaning up the past, denouncing the unforgivable, and articulating all the Church is doing around the globe to prevent future abuse from occurring.
What can you do?
In regards to the Church…I remember being in an airport during the height of the Boston sexual abuse cases. A young gentleman sat down next to me at the gate, and I noticed his reading material. I asked him if he was a seminarian because he was in street clothing. He answered that he was a recently ordained priest returning to his parish from visiting his family. On his way to see his family, wearing his collar, he was attacked in the airport and thus made the move to street clothes. I was saddened to hear his account of the attack. We spent the next hour discussing his feelings of isolation. There are priests out there who have engaged in reprehensible behavior. On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of our priests work hard every day ministering to those in need. During this Year for the Priest and these latest revelations, we need to do more to let faithful priests know their vocation is appreciated and they are supported. We need to speak in their defense and not let those who want to attack what the Church truly stands for be the only public voice.
In regards to political parties…some Democrats are disenfranchised because of their party’s stance on abortion and same-sex marriage. Republicans are upset with their party’s spending and values hypocrisy. The modern day political parties are supposed to be an organizing entity to turn out the vote. To those that are disenfranchised, I encourage you to find your own voice or some organizations who you agree with to speak for you in Washington. There is no substitute for you being able to join in the debate and let your voice be heard.
When people begin to realize that their own efficacy is the true genesis to change, our Church, our country, and our culture will begin to reflect our values.
By Matt Smith, Catholic Advocate Vice President
By Deal Hudson
Regular readers may be taken aback by my headline. But I didn’t raise the question in jest – I am repeating a question put to Cardinal George by a reporter for the Catholic News Service.
A March 23 story from CNS, written by Nancy Frazier O’Brien, featured an interview with Cardinal George, president of the USCCB, in the aftermath of the health care bill being passed by the House. Cardinal George registered his concern about the abortion funding in the bill and the inadequacy of an Executive Order to remove that funding.
O’Brien proposed a question to the cardinal about the USCCB’s motives with regards to the health care debate:
“Cardinal George also rejected claims by some that the USCCB had allied itself in the health reform debate with groups that were primarily interested in advancing the Republican agenda.”
Before we continue, it should be noted there was no parallel suggestion regarding the possibility the USCCB was trying to advance a Democratic Party agenda, given the visibility of support for universal coverage.
Indeed, given the visibility of the bishops’ overall support for the bill, I can only come to the conclusion that those who accuse the USCCB of advancing a “Republican agenda” must have abortion in mind. Why? The only parts of the bill they objected to were abortion funding and the lack of conscience protection for medical workers.
It’s ironic when it’s implied that the pro-life cause is being lead by the Republican Party rather than the Catholic bishops. Isn’t someone putting the cart before the horse?
Other than stifling a laugh when I read that question in the CNS story, my only other reaction was to recall the many times I warned people not to trust the GOP to make the life issue a priority – any political party should know it has “to earn your vote.”
I shouldn’t have been surprised by the question to Cardinal George. During the 2008 election a number of bishops who questioned the pro-life claims made by Obama and his Catholic surrogates were accused of being “partisan” or Republican.
This points to one aspect of the tragedy of Bart Stupak. Stupak could have carved out a proud place in the history of American politics as the man who broke the strangle hold of abortion advocates on the Democratic Party.
America would have once again had a two-party system, from a pro-life point of view.
But to return to how Cardinal George answered the question of purported support for the GOP’s agenda.
“I really don’t think that’s true,” he said. “The principles are twofold — everybody’s taken care of, nobody killed. And I think that moral voice, while it doesn’t correspond politically to either party, has been consistent.”
True, the principles don’t correspond to either political party, but the two principles are not equal in moral weight. The aim of universal health care does carry with it a non-negotiable obligation for Catholics — the protection of innocent life – both Cardinal George and the USCCB have been pointing to this throughout the health care debate.
As implied by the question posed by the reporter, the pro-life principle has become so identified with the Republican Party that some regard the bishops’ own pro-life effort as partisan rather than, simply, Christian.
The sad state of affairs seems to be this: When Catholics object to abortion funding in health care they are accused of being Republican shills. But, when Catholics ignore the presence of abortion funding in health care they are applauded for their commitment to universal coverage.
Nicholas Dunn, a student at The King’s College in Manhattan, will be coming into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil Saturday night. Nick has written a thoughtful piece on what the Church really stands for, and why, he, during this time of scandal, has not been deterred from continuing his journey to Rome. We at Catholic Advocate thought it a most appropriate reflection during this Holy Week.
By Nick Dunn
Asked “why are you a Catholic?” Walker Percy answered, “The reason I am a Catholic is that I believe that what the Catholic Church proposes is true.” Likewise, at this Saturday’s Easter Vigil, where I will be received into the Catholic Church, I will say that “I believe and profess all that the Holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.”
But joining the Catholic Church is much more than just affirming its doctrine—it’s accepting the invitation to fulfill one’s baptismal vows in a community of both saints and sinners. After my priest asks the Holy Spirit to strengthen and anoint me “to be more like Christ, the Son of God,” I will celebrate the Eucharist with my brothers and sisters together for the first time. This sacrament of unity is a reminder that we cannot go it alone; we need help, as a fellowship of sinners striving to become saints.
Among my evangelical family and friends, my decision to join the Catholic Church has caused confusion and provoked criticism. While most of the objection is theological in nature, the current sex abuse crisis seems to be just one more reason to reconsider. For the Catholic Church is perceived by many as corrupt—deliberately covering up the sexual abuse of priests, choosing not to protect children, and caring more about shielding themselves from bad publicity than caring for people’s souls.
The reality of sin reminds us that, while the Church is holy, it is made up of human and sinful people. On earth, the Church will never be what Christ intended it to be. In his Palm Sunday homily, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that “being a Christian is a journey. It is a pilgrimage, it is a going with Jesus Christ.” We are pilgrims on the road to holiness, but we often veer off course.
Lumen Gentium affirms this profound paradox: “The Church, embracing sinners to her bosom, is at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, and incessantly pursues the path of penance and renewal.” As Christ’s Body, the Church has the Holy Spirit as a helper, to live in each member and accomplish God’s will in the world. Sacred Scripture is given as a guide, and the sacraments for our nourishment.
In preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, Pope John Paul II declared that: “The joy of every Jubilee is above all a joy based upon the forgiveness of sins.” Thus, he said, “it is appropriate…that the Church should become more fully conscious of the sinfulness of her children, recalling those times in history when they departed from the spirit of Christ and his Gospel.”
Right now, as the Church faces the crisis of sexual abuse and scandal, it must repent for its misdeeds. Abusive priests and negligent bishops must show contrition to the victims, their families, and all the faithful for the trust they have betrayed and the hurt that they have caused. For only after having been purified by penance can the Church be a witness to the truth and goodness of God.
We do not belong to the Church because we are good or holy, but rather because we are sinners. We are needy, weak and imperfect. Jesus reminds us that it isn’t healthy people who need a doctor, but sick people (Matthew 9:12-13). As Morton Kelsey wrote, “The Church is not a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners.”
At the Great Vigil of Easter, we celebrate Christ’s resurrection—victory over sin and death. As it is proclaimed in the Exsultet: “This is night, when Christians everywhere, washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement, are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.”