Thursday, April 26, 2007

Woe to you when the world speaks well of you.

Two names have figured rather prominently in the blog posts I have been reading today. Archbishop Burke, and Mitt Romney. Now, I have posted on Mitt Romney before, regarding things he has said in response to impertinent questions he has been asked regarding his faith, and the kind of answer I wish he had given.

His evasions have not stopped people from questioning his potential ability to govern, based on his faith. Hugh Hewitt and Dean Barnett both took Garry South to task today for such questioning, which Mr. Hewitt labels "rank religious bigotry". It is at the very least, rank religious stupidity. While it is true that ignorance is the root of bigotry, the level of ignorance in South's article is such that anyone who knows anything about his content has to laugh at the criteria he claims should give us second thoughts about Mitt's eligibility to be president.

South tries to ground his argument in history by alluding to JFK's election and the issue of Catholics in office, remembering his own Pentecostal roots and some of the anti-Catholic sentiments he saw there.

But in a political sense, the key rub back then was fundamentally governance: Would the pope, the monarchical and —- to the faithful —- infallible head of the foreign-based Roman Catholic Church (who some in my church actually saw as the Antichrist himself), give marching orders to a President Kennedy, thereby violating the sacred American principle of separation of church and state?

Fine. But then South goes on to cite an element of Romney's faith that, taken by itself, is unlikely to disqualify him on these grounds. Specifically, that Mormons believe theirs is the one true faith, to the exclusion of all others. Unless he is planning to seriously violate the constitution and try to establish LDS as the official state religion, this is unlikely to affect his presidency, should he be elected. But South isn't interested in a logical argument. Rather, his point is that this kind of "intolerance" should shock the American people enough to make them think, Ohh, I'm scared! We can't have such an intolerant person in the white house!".

Here's the thing: as a Catholic, I'm mostly interested in the Truth (note the capital T). I'm interested in justice. As long as these things are upheld by my government, I'm pretty happy with it, regardless of the affiliation of the people in office. I want to know the candidate's positions on the role of government. On abortion, on the environment, on crime, on immigration, taxes, gay marriage, the death penalty, and so on. What he calls himself is not as important is what he does, which is why I could never vote for the likes of John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi, whose political positions directly oppose the moral values of the Catholic faith, however much they may call themselves members of it. JFK was no picnic either, when you think of the womanizer he was. I prefer a president who has the courage of his convictions. If part of that means that he is dedicated to his own faith, I'm willing to respect that, even if his faith isn't mine. That way, when he does become Catholic, he's more likely to be a good one! :)

That brings me to another topic Garry brings up, though he does not know it. Catholics who call themselves Catholic but do not actually live as such. Garry attributes this to "tolerance". Here is an excerpt from his article, with my comments inserted in various places:

Even the Roman Catholic Church [which as every journalist knows is just soooooo intolerant in most areas...]acknowledges the validity of baptisms carried out by other faiths if they are performed using water and the Trinitarian formula ("in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit"). The overwhelming majority of Christian traditions also believe that emergency baptisms are valid even when administered by a layperson, say at a moment of great peril or impending death, when no ordained clergy are available. This is quite true, but not because we are "tolerant", but because we are all in agreement about the same thing--because we have to good sense to see that this is a place of theological common ground that already exists, not one that we created just so we could get along.

But Mormons believe that no baptism performed between the extinction of the original 12 apostles and the founding of Mormonism in the 19th century was valid, and that even today, only holders of the Mormon priesthood can perform an efficacious baptism. This may surprise Mr. South, but we don't recognize their baptisms, either. They don't believe in the Trinity the same way we do. In fact, their theology differs so much from mainstream Christianity, that most Christians, including Catholics, do not officially recognize Mormonism as a Christian Denominiation. This isn't intolerance. It is each church sticking to its own beliefs.


This "our way or no way" approach is pretty much unique to Mormons in this day and age. Really? I thought the Catechism says something about the Catholic Church being the only one that has the fullness of Truth... We believe other faiths may have bits of it, but the bottom line is, we believe Catholicism is the best way to go. No doubt there remain some hard-liners in the Vatican who still believe Roman Catholicism to be the only "one true church." I hate to bust anyone's bubble here, but the Vatican does not have the monopoly on enthusiasm for the Catholic Faith. But that attitude is most certainly not shared by rank-and-file Catholics in this country, millions of whom have abandoned the church of their upbringing and many of whom have defected to evangelical brands of Christianity. This is not from tolerance, this if from ignorance of their own faith, and the belief that the grass is greener somewhere else. Why be Catholic (or anything else?) if you don't believe it is the best thing to be? While there are still no doubt some anti-Semitic Christians who believe God doesn't hear the prayers of Jews, most American Christians today believe that Jews are God's chosen people and that they will be in heaven. That's because of the Truth of our scriptures, and the fact that the Jewish faith provides the very foundations of our own. Anti-semitism is simply un-Christian.

The bottom line here is that South takes a mixture of misinterpretations of Catholic teaching, and the ignorance of many "rank and file Catholics" who don't know enough about their faith to distinguish it from any others anyway, to say "even" we are more tolerant. While this exposes a rather dismal, albeit predictable, lack of understanding on South's part, it is also a conviction of the "rank and file" within the Church itself. If we, as a body, had more of a backbone, he wouldn't be able to speak so well of us.

And the issue of spinal fortitude brings me back to Raymond Burke, whose vertebrae appear to be quite solid, and he needed it to be the only one to stand up for defending the entirety of Catholic morality, instead of the parts that are convenient at the time. The thing that bothers me most about the Burke situation is that he was the only one in a roomful of "Catholics" who seemed to grasp this. Hopefully his example will be instructive to them, and to the rest of us. While it is good for us to stand up for religious freedom, we must remember that it was Christ himself who warned us that we cannot expect to be praised by the secular world for standing for what is right, because what is right is not as appealing as what is easy--and that scares people.

Related posts at:
Rush Babies 'R Us
Curt Jester... Twice.

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