Friday, November 14, 2008

The Bishops and Obama (Part 2)

Over at the excellent Nihil Obstat blogsite, Censor Librorum has posted a wise and timely reflection on why, “in spite of 50 dioceses issuing ‘pro-life’ voting statements, every anti-abortion initiative was voted down, and the presidential election went to Barak Obama.”

Censor Librorum believes that the primary reason that Catholic voters voted for Barack Obama was the economy. Other reasons include President Bush’s unpopularity; doubts about Sarah Palin, coupled with concerns about John McCain’s age; and unhappiness with the overall direction of the country.

Yes, this is all very interesting, but the part of Censor Librorum’s commentary that I found most insightful and compelling is as follows:

Catholic voters voted for change. What can the bishops learn from this?

Focusing solely on abortion and to some degree, same-sex marriage, is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic when the passengers are heading for the lifeboats. They are not the primary concerns of most Catholic voters. The economy is.

The bishops have not regained, and may not for decades, the prestige and respect they lost in the clerical sex abuse scandal. Making pronouncements from on high is not an effective strategy. Meeting people where they are is.

Many liberal Catholics, myself included, are not pro-abortion. But because conservative politicians are unattractive on many other levels, I can’t vote for them on single issue platforms. Instead, I prefer to vote for candidates that promote alternatives to unwanted pregnancies. This is another way of addressing the same problem: abortion.

“Unwed mother” no longer carries the social stigma it did decades ago. When teenagers get pregnant, they don’t automatically give up their baby for adoption or end up in an unwanted marriage. Or get an abortion. Many of them want to have and keep their baby. The problem is - they have no money or resources to do so. Abortion becomes necessary.

Catholic bishops and Catholic conservatives can stop a lot of abortions by pushing elected representatives to fund programs for single mothers (and fathers) to get financial support for housing, food, pre-natal care, health care, education/job training, and child care.

Quo Vadis, bishops? Are you serious about making an impact on abortions, or do you just want to hear your own voice?

Quo Vadis, bishops? Be realistic. People aren’t going to give up sex. Kids and adults take chances and use nothing or don’t use birth control and get pregnant. Then what? If the woman doesn’t have the resources to give birth and raise the child, what does she do?

Abortion is a moral issue. But it is also an issue of resources.

Will U.S. bishops continue to focus on sex, and make thundering statements about “intrinsic moral evils” and huff and puff and threaten liberal Catholic politicians, and leave it go at that?

Will they also come after conservative Catholic politicians and their allies – threaten them with the loss of communion, status and photo-ops – if they do not do everything in their power to help pregnant girls and women who want to keep their babies and not be consigned to a life in poverty?

Or, will they stop the threats, roll up their sleeves, and live Pro-Life by example.

I suggest every bishop, starting with the 50 who made Pro-Life statements in this election, dedicate a portion of their endowments to support all unwed women who want to keep their child. Bishops can use this money to fund diocesan social service programs, and act as a “safety net” for when the government falls short.

A focus of the annual diocesan parish tithe should be directed to funding programs for these women and their children.

When serious money is on the table, I’ll know they’re serious.

- Censor Librorum
Nihil Obstat
November 7, 2008



See also the previous Wild Reed post:
The Bishops and Obama (Part 1)


Recommended Off-site Link:
Postmortem of the Bishops’ Meeting - John Allen, Jr. (
National Catholic Reporter, November 14, 2008).

6 comments:

Mark Andrews said...

This: "fund[ing] programs for single mothers (and fathers) to get financial support for housing, food, pre-natal care, health care, education/job training, and child care" is no substitute for a more personal involvement in a couple things.

One of those things is a more personal involvement in lives of other people, at least to the point where we know, personally, the problems they are facing. The other thing is a personal commitment to meeting others needs.

Jesus didn't command his followers to have their government feed the poor. He command them to do it personally. Until a real interest in both the actual needs of others and in meeting their needs becomes almost somatic, the necessary basis for a less personal involvement like government won't exist.

To often "care for others" is reduced to "I voted for so & so, let them do it. What do I pay taxes for?" When I'm judged by the Beatitudes, I can't use a vote for Obama (or whoever the politician is) as a defense.

Clayton said...

Abortion is a moral issue. But it is also an issue of resources.

Agreed. But the lack of material resources is nothing compared to the lack of resources in the human heart. There's poverty in its most dire form.

Will U.S. bishops continue to focus on sex, and make thundering statements about “intrinsic moral evils” and huff and puff and threaten liberal Catholic politicians, and leave it go at that?

This is a typical caricature of the bishops. They are consistently talking about immigration, health care reform, and many other areas, but the press doesn't pay attention, because these issues do not interfere with the lifestyles of those who report the news. No outrage = no coverage.

I suggest every bishop, starting with the 50 who made Pro-Life statements in this election, dedicate a portion of their endowments to support all unwed women who want to keep their child. Bishops can use this money to fund diocesan social service programs, and act as a “safety net” for when the government falls short.

Isn't it really a form of clericalism to ask the bishops to do the work given to laypeople? And what about the principle of subsidiarity? Laypeople are supposed to be out in the world, working at the grassroots/local level being leaven like this.

Michael J. Bayly said...

Of course, from the perspective of many folks - Catholics included - the "poverty within the human heart" argument could be directed against those who oppose same-gender marriage!

Peace,

Michael

Clayton said...

Of course, if same-sex marriage were good for society, it would be a poverty to deny it to those who wanted to contract it. Everything stands or falls on that assumption.

If it's not a good, then it is actually a sign of generosity to correct the mistaken idea.

The insistence that Prop 8 is a violation of human rights doesn't ring true with the majority of voters in California. Even Elton John sees through the anti-Prop 8 rhetoric.

Michael J. Bayly said...

Okay, here's my take on the issue: When people flourish as individuals, society benefits. From my observations, people - gay or straight - flourish in loving, committed relationships. We should be doing all we can - as a society and as a Church - to encourage, protect, and celebrate such relationships.

As for Elton John's comments. He seems more concerned with simply the use of the word marriage. From what he said, civil unions in Britain grant gay couples all of the same rights and responsibilities as does marriage for straights. This isn't the case in the U.S. Hence the struggle for equal civil marriage rights.

Peace,

Michael

Karen said...

Here's what I DO as a citizen, a Catholic, and as a mother, to help support people who opt to keep their baby vs. abort: I vote for Democratic candidates for their more liberal attitudes towards funding poverty programs vs. tax cuts. I pay my taxes fully. I understand at least some of this money reaches unwed mothers and fathers, their babies and other children. My parish has a food pantry and soup kitchen. I put my weekly envelopes in the collection basket. Part of that money supports parish programs for people of different needs. I bring several hundred dollars of food monthly to the pantry, half of it baby food and diapers. I contribute to the Bishop's Appeal (our parish tithe) every year, again, understanding at least some of that money will reach the poor via Catholic Charities and other programs. Finally, and just as importantly, here is what I said to my son when he became a teenager: "If you are man enough to get someone pregnant, then you are man enough to be a good father to that child. You will support that child financially and emotionally right through college. If you and the girl want an abortion, then you will be with the girl while the abortion is performed--there's no reason she should go through it alone. Finally, if you want the child and the girl does not, I promise we will go to court to try to stop the abortion." I had that talk, and I also let him have condoms at home. So, I would say I do my part as a Catholic, as a mom, as a citizen, as a neighbor, with the emphasis on concern and care for living beings and less on the moralizing. Finally, it may be scylla and charybdis issue for the bishops,but birth control needs to figure in the discussion. Many women I know who ended up pregnant and opted for abortion did so because the man didn't want to use protection and didn't want them to use it either! Of course they eventually wound up pregnant, and got an abortion. These men, BTW, had no interest in supporting or being a father to the child they conceived..it was left to the woman to deal with alone. How should our bishops tackle that kind of situation? How would you?
Michael and everyone, thank you for this opportunity to participate. Karen