Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Here it comes.

My former congresswoman:
I expect political hardball on any legislation as important as the health care bill.

I just didn’t expect it from the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).

Who elected them to Congress?

The role the bishops played in the pushing the Stupak amendment, which unfairly restricts access for low-income women to insurance coverage for abortions, was more than mere advocacy.

They seemed to dictate the finer points of the amendment, and managed to bully members of Congress to vote for added restrictions on a perfectly legal surgical procedure.

And this political effort was subsidized by taxpayers, since the Council enjoys tax-exempt status. When I visit churches in my district, we are very careful to keep everything “non-political” to protect their tax-exempt status.

The IRS is less restrictive about church involvement in efforts to influence legislation than it is about involvement in campaigns and elections.

Given the political behavior of USCCB in this case, maybe it shouldn’t be.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) is co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Here is comes.

In an extended reflection I am now preparing, I quote the passage in T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land where he parodies the culture's turn away from its Christian roots. In the passage Madam Sosostris ("famous clairvoyante ... with a wicked pack of cards") declares herself unable to find "the Hanged Man" -- the Crucified One.

Among the things I say about this passage is that "the world which turns its back on the Hanged Man will not long remain neutral toward the religion that turns its face toward him."

As I say, here it comes.


Athos said...

Compliments of Matthew Archbold at CMR:

Starting tomorrow morning we should give ol' Lynn a call and let her know what we think of her idea. Lynn Woolsey: 202-225-5161

Kevin said...

Alternately, the Bishops may have gone too far. Perhaps they did not. However their involvement is troubling and brings up the fears which were raised when JFK was running for president. If having a Catholic as a Senator or Representative means the Bishops can bully them into changing law... that would concern me.

Although I completely agree that no federal money should go towards abortion, I recall that these guys morally equate abortion, contraception, fornication, adultery and murder. i.e. all are mortal sins and get you a Go To Hell card. (please let me know if any of this has changed in the last decade)

Hence I don't want them to think they could do this same thing with something else they oppose. I'll let the law work this one out.

Take care Gil.
Ad Astra Per Aspera,

Mark Gordon said...

I recall that these guys morally equate abortion, contraception, fornication, adultery and murder. i.e. all are mortal sins and get you a Go To Hell card.

Kevin, how do you get along with that third grade grasp of theology? You reduce the consistent, 2,000 year moral teaching of the Catholic Church - a teaching based on scripture, reason, natural law, and observed experience - to "these guys" and a "Go To Hell card." As for letting "the law work this one out." This is how the law is worked out.

Kevin said...

Perhaps it was not clear. I do not see a moral equivalence between the actions I mentioned. I see a great many variations, some of which I do not see as sinful.

I was raised Roman Catholic in the diocese of Wichita, KS. Yes, Dr. Tiller was the bogey-man of choice. I attended Catholic school from kindergarten through high school. That moral equivalence I mentioned is exactly what the nuns, parish priests and Jesuits taught all of those years.

When I married my wife, this time in the arch-diocese of Houston-Galveston. Artificial contraception was still verbotten and yes a mortal sin. A thing if not repented of meant I was going to be condemned.

No Roman priest with whom I've spoken has ever contradicted these teachings. Even Gil gets excited that married folks use condoms and whatnot.

I became a member of the Episcopal Church because I simply could not reconcile my reason with those teachings. Ironically my relationship with God is much more active and meaningful than it ever was while I was a Catholic. The Roman Catholic God I was taught was a fearful, vengeful God to be appeased and followed or else. I did not encounter the Triune God as Love until I was out from under that doctrinal system.

The remainder of my family in Kansas is still very much Catholic. Yet my cousin has several times seriously considered coming over to the Episcopal Church because this same "stuff" is coming from the priests in that diocese.

She's mentioned a perception amongst her fellow parishioners that the diocese is quite happy with the influx of immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere because they don't buck the contraceptive teachings like the Anglos.

Whether or not that is true it points to the level of emphasis on contraception as sin coming from the pulpits.

I see no reason to believe that the Roman Catholic bishops, as well as other conservative denominations might use this as a precedent to push for more conscience clauses or legislation that would make contraceptives or contraception techniques illegal or virtually unobtainable.

Let me admit that this might be my own special paranoia and I would happily think otherwise. I've just not seen anything to contradict this fear.

If the Roman bishops are putting forth a different teaching on some or all of these matters, please let me know. Kansas could just be behind the curve. So could I for that matter.

I've probably said more than necessary or more than you wanted but the third-grade theology comment kinda tweaked my nose rhetorically. :)

I don't know that I addressed how the law works. I guess I don't see the Bishops as just another advocacy group. I see them as people with a great deal of power who if they are able to get their way on certain issues can cause a great deal of misery. Perhaps that is my blind spot and I need to simply treat them as any other advocacy group and either support or oppose them on particular issues.

Ad Astra Per Aspera,

Mark Gordon said...


Thanks for the explanation. I get it now. You just used the word "I" twenty-seven times in explaining why you left the Catholic Church. You used it four times in the two-sentence opening paragraph alone. That's appropriate, since it's clear that you went in search of a religion that conforms not to the truth, but to your own feelings and preferences. One centered not on Christ, crucified, but on Kevin, emoting. That you landed in the Episcopal Church is no surprise, either. It's a church with form but no content, like an auditorium that can be put to any use at all, from a prayer meeting to a wrestling match. It says, "You bring your own doctrine, your own morality. We'll provide the churchy stuff: the smells and bells, hats and sticks ... And none of us will take any of it too seriously."

This thoroughly modern and deeply adolescent faith has a name. It's called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. It's creed is 1. "A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth." 2. "God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions." 3. "The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself." 4. "God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem." 5. "Good people go to heaven when they die."

Someone once asked Lenny Bruce why he reserved all of his bile for the Catholic Church. He answered (in my paraphrase): Catholicism is the only truly serious religion because it's the one that actually insists that some things are true and as a consequence really demands something of believers.

Unknown said...

Hey Mark,

Some mornings it's jut not worth chewing through the leather straps, is it?

I know it pains you deeply to strip away the deep moral urgings of Christian charity so that you might share your apparently unambiguous contempt in such a naked manner, but I'm sure you and your condescendingly doctrinaire approach to all things heavenly will recover. At least until you find out there are no vacancies in the trinity. Why don't you just lop off Kevin's head with a scimitar since you're already a Taliban in spirit, anyway? You can always burn or blowup anything you can't salvage.

Instead of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, how about Preternaturally Redundant Strangled Theological Bias? or Liturgically Enhanced Mystical Morbidity? or maybe Pontifical Flagellant Moral Rectitude? or Crank Filled Misdirected Narcissism? Take your pick. They all fit you to a T.

You have far more to be worried about than he ever will.

Kevin said...

Thank you. That does help.
Ad Astra Per Aspera,

Kevin said...

This may not be prudent, it may be best to let your comments go yet if you speak at others like this it seems appropriate to point out some things.

The conversation was about Catholic doctrine as taught and that this doctrine may not be appropriate as law. You at no point offered any clarification or explanation of how the doctrines as taught have or have not changed or whether Wichita is just not in sync with the rest of the Catholic Church.

No, you made the response personal. A denigration of my faith simply to a pale shadow of anything worthwhile.

You have no idea the depths of self-loathing, anger and terror of the divine with which I lived as a Roman Catholic for 36 years. You may be able to be part of the RC and believe that God is Love. That was not possible for me. The Church canons stood between me and that God of Love.

My experience of the Roman God was of an angry, vengeful, manipulative being who by virtue of incomprehensible power could demand my obedience. I lived in terror of God. Not fear in the sense of awe and wonder but terror. That was the God presented to me. That is all I could and can see when I step inside a Roman Catholic Church.

Others can find a God of Love in the Roman Catholic church. My mother for instance, sees only the radiant light and love of Christ in all that goes on. I'm glad she can find that there. Presumably you can find it too. I however cannot.

I could not comprehend the Crucifixion in such a place either. It was Gil's book frankly that finally showed me how the Crucifixion could be anything other than a vengeful God having to take His anger out on someone or as a warning, "If I'm willing to do this to my Son, imagine what I would do to you."

Sacred scapegoating, mimesis; until I heard it from Gil, I'd never heard of it. His book and C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity gave me hope. Hope that being a part of a Christian faith could be something other than getting my card stamped and hoping I would stay out of God's way and avoid Hell.

Say what you like about my faith journey, I'm not sure it could have been any different given where I started and who I am.

I ask you though to speak with compassion when encountering someone like me who had to leave the Roman Catholic church in order to move beyond a pagan understanding of God. You may wish to consider that the other denominations to which ex-Catholics go may not be wrong paths but different paths. And that these other paths may be the only way they can ever come to a relationship with God.

I'll now head off with my family on our parish retreat. Have a blessed week-end.


Doughlas Remy said...

This is one of the most interesting and revealing discussions I’ve yet seen on Gil’s site. Mark’s diatribe against Kevin’s faith was indeed brutal, and it reminded me of something that a lapsed Catholic friend of mine here in Seattle hold me not long ago—that hard-line Catholics can be scathing in their denunciations of those who leave the faith and that, in doing so, they often foolishly and vainly resort to the same terror tactics that prompted the defections in the first place. Because Mark is still captive to the fear and guilt that Kevin left behind, he cannot imagine that Kevin would no longer be susceptible to them.

Kevin’s move was from Catholicism to a more progressive Christian faith. Although my own path was somewhat different (I moved from a fear-based religion to no religion at all), I can appreciate the sense of relief and liberation that Kevin must now feel, and I applaud him for his courage. Nothing is quite so exhilarating as confronting a bully.