“The church is called to be an equal opportunity critic”

Fr. Frank Pavone looks at the Church’s role in politics in this morning’s Washington Post:

The church is called to be an equal opportunity critic. She must have the freedom to challenge all, across political lines, with the Gospel call to repentance. The institutional church in the United States has at times been called “the Democrats at prayer,” because of so many alliances and loyalties forged through the provision of social programs. At the same time, I have heard – and myself received – criticism of the church being too Republican, as we advance aspects of the Gospel message that in fact help Republican candidates.

But the fact is that the platform of the church’s teaching and mission cannot be and must not be that of any political party. It is, rather, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not a matter of whether the church endorses a political party or movement. It is, rather, whether the party or movement endorses the church’s message and mission. A candidate or party that embraces some aspect of the church’s message or mission will benefit – at least in the eyes of Catholics who are committed to their faith – when the church, as she must, advances that aspect of her message or mission.

The way to evaluate whether, for her part, the church is being faithful to the balance and independence she is called to have, is rather simple, and it’s a litmus test I use as I preach the anti-abortion message and help other priests do the same, including during election years. I ask this simple question: If today, opposing candidates or parties swapped their positions on abortion, would any aspect of our message change? Indeed, our message will not change if it is rooted in fidelity to the Gospel. Whether that message helps or hurts a candidate, party, or political movement won’t be the church’s fault; it will be theirs.

Read it all.

  • Mark Greta

    I have heard Father indeed ask this question – If today, opposing candidates or parties swapped their positions on abortion, would any aspect of our message change? – and I in fact ask myself that same question – and my answer is an emphatic yes, if reveresed, I would be supporting pro life democrats. In fact, I had this discussion with Deacon Greg on another post where he had quoted the letter from then Cardinal Ratzinger and came to the conclusion that Catholics based on the information that the republican, although pro abortion, was less pro abortion than the democrat and so Catholics would have to support her. My only point to that is that her position was in fact no different than the democrat because the only area she ruled out was partial birth abortion which the supreme court ruled was beyond any possible defense of being cruel and unusal and therefore illegal in the US.

    One major issue remains however and that is what to do about another key issue addressed by Pope Benedict XVI most recently and that is the second issue of marriage between one man and one woman. It would become harder if one party were pro life but also pro gay marriage and the other reversed. For me, life would be the biggest concern in the midst of the holocaust we are living in today. Fortunately for Catholic voters, one party is on the wrong side of both of these issues and so it makes voting much easier which is why I find it impossible to be a Catholic and a Democrat. But if reveresed positions were made by party and or candidate, I would be a Democrat tomorrow even if I disagreed on their big government high taxes solutions to everything. Life and family are essential building blocks to a healthy society.

  • Patrick

    Father Pavone looks at one issue, in a very simplistic fashion….does a candidate support or oppose a woman’s “right” to have a legal abortion. Since the Republicans are the “Pro-Life” party, he supports them absolutely. Since the Democrats are the “Pro-Choice” party, he opposes them absolutely. I’ve never seen any nuance in any of his statements. I recently heard him refer to “Obamacare”, which is, of course, a Republican term that denigrates the health plan of this President.

    Father Pavone does not care if a candidate or politician’s positions are in line with the Catholic position on immigration, access to health care, environment, worker’s rights, etc. He does not care if a politician may be “Pro-Life”, but then consistently supports legislation that makes it far more likely a woman will want an abortion (as she lacks access to health care, a fair minimum wage, and all sort of social programs being cut by Republicans around the country.) He does not care if a “Pro-Life” politician supports executing prisoners, or denying health care to people with pre-existing conditions, or breaks up families of immigrants, or want to go to war to solve our foriegn problems.

    In his mind, Republicans are good and Democrats are bad. You only need listen to him for a few minutes.

    He reduces the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which he refers to in his article, to the issue of abortion and Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice. He should just say that.

  • Klaire

    But Patrick, the Gospel of Jesus Christ IS life, from which all other good things come. If we get life in the womb wrong, nothing else matters, as there would be no life for it to matter.

    All social justice starts in the womb, period. I repeat (have stated it many times on this blog), how or if one respects life in the womb is the bellwether to everything else, and all that one has to know about a person. It never fails, anyone who doesn’t support life in the womb, has another agenda, often under the guise of “social justice.”

    Think about this question: would Democrats remain pro Latino or pro black if those two necessary voting blocks started voting Republican? As Boehner would say, “hell no”, just as most of the “wrongfully entitled” would no longer vote for Dems if they shut the “Obama money” off (both sides, see Nancy Pelosi’s daughter’s recent video if you have any doubts).

    All the more reason why the only thing we need to know, is who respects life in the womb. Everything else is an agenda, or ego driven charade, at the expense of human lives.

  • Richard Johnson

    “Think about this question: would Democrats remain pro Latino or pro black if those two necessary voting blocks started voting Republican? As Boehner would say, “hell no”, just as most of the “wrongfully entitled” would no longer vote for Dems if they shut the “Obama money” off (both sides, see Nancy Pelosi’s daughter’s recent video if you have any doubts).”

    Do you honestly think that the GOP would maintain its staunch verbal support for a pro-life position if pro-life voters started supporting pro-life Democrats? I’m sorry, but history shows all too well that when the GOP had the means to move the Human Life Amendment forward in the 90s, they chose not to and instead put fiscal matters ahead of life, only to trot out the Human Life Amendment plank of their platform again and again to keep the faithful in line.

    Yes, the sop of the PBA ban was passed, but it is a drop in the bucket. Yet how often has it been cited as evidence that the party is sincere in its pro-life statements?

    I’m sorry, Klaire, but to believe that the clearly pro-death positions of the current GOP can be ignored simply because they claim to be pro-life when it comes to abortion is to believe a beautiful charade.

  • Mark Greta

    Patrick, it is that simple. One party is the party of death and the other is pro life. One party is pro family and the other supports gay marriage.

    Pope Benedict XVI had this to say on the role in public life listing those not negotiable. I do not see any of those issues you mentioned as being non negoatiable below because as anyone open to Catholic teaching knows that there are many ways to look at immigration, health care reform that might actually be constitutional, and other issues.

    “As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable. Among these the following emerge clearly today:

    - protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death;

    - recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family – as a union between a man and a woman based on marriage – and its defence from attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different forms of union which in reality harm it and contribute to its destabilization, obscuring its particular character and its irreplaceable social role.”

    Sounds fairly simple to me.

    On war, Democrats are the masters of leading the country into war as I have shown multiple times far more than republicans. On the death penalty, name a democrat president who was for ending the death penalty who pushed it in office.

    As to Obamacare, try to keep up to date with your talking points. Obama said he was happy to have it called Obamacare this week, so your rant that it is “a Republican term that denigrates the health plan of this President” is not up to date. Try logging on to your standard dem talking points update. Also challenge you to show me your talking points issues on war and death penalty are in fact not democrat points at all except for those who have not knowledge of history or fact.

    So I will stand with the Pope on this one. Besides that, you must have missed Deacon Greg’s point on the issue of life in his quote from the Cardinal Ratzinger:

    In 2004, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI, and at that time the Vatican’s top doctrinal official — wrote a memo to U.S. bishops on the issue of politicians and Communion. In it, he briefly addressed the question of voting for candidates who support legal abortion.
    The memo said a Catholic who deliberately voted for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s pro-abortion (or pro-euthanasia) stand would be guilty of “formal cooperation in evil” and should exclude himself from receiving Communion.
    It said that when a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor of abortion but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered “remote material cooperation,” which is “permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.”
    Vatican officials later said that defining what constitutes “proportionate reasons” for a Catholic in such cases might be extremely difficult. One possible example, they said, was when Catholic voters face a choice between two candidates who support legalized abortion but to widely differing degrees, and do not want to renounce their responsibility to vote.”

    So unless you have some magical proportionate reasons for supporting the Partner of the abortion mills Obama that comes close to 54 million babies with 4,000 more a day added to the murder roles, I know that no republican running is ever going to come close to being called a Partner by the abortion mills on their own website like Obama.

  • Klaire

    Richard no where did I say the all Republicans are pro life; quite the contrary. The only reason the R party claims to be pro life is because they can’t win without us. I never became a R and don’t ever plan to be one. Most of them aren’t pro life, but like the majority of phony democrats, they have a self serving agenda.

    That said, aside from Casey, I don’t any dems who are pro life (there might be a few more). On the other hand, people like Santorum, Bachman, even Ron Paul, are truly pro lifers, as well a good handful at least of R’s.

    For the most part, all of congress is a bunch of self serving phonies.

    Despite that, because the R’s at least pretend to be pro life, the safer bet is at least right now with them.

  • Mark Greta

    [Post deleted for excessive length. -- Ed.]

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  • Andy

    I am not sure that Santorum, Bachman, and Paul among many are really pro-life. They are anti-abortion, but it stops there. To be pro-life means supporting the life of the child after birth until a natural death. This, to me, means recognizing the evils of the death penalty, torture, the need for health care, the need for work and the need to recognize the human dignity from birth through death. I cannot find a single candidate that espouses that version of pro-life, nor do I find many Christians who do that either.

  • Katie Angel

    And that is the part of the love affair between the “pro-life” movement and the Republican party that I will never understand. I agree that there isn’t a single candidate out there that truly follows our Catholic belief – not even the oh-so-lauded Rick Santorum, who waves his Catholicism around as a flag and makes a big deal about how faithful he is to the Church’s teachings – at least until the child in born. Then, all bets are off – you are on your own.

  • Klaire

    In defense of Santorum Katie, if having 8 kids (one severely disabled) is “ok, you’re born, now you are on your own” is “all bets are off”, I shudder to see what standards would fit your ideal of pro life. I suspect it’s more to do with his hawkish take on our military, so let’s at least be fair, same with Bachman, who has 5 natural kids and helped raise 2 foster kids.

    Say what you will about their war politics, but these aren’t people who take human life lightly.
    On the other hand, if we take the Ron Paul Pacifist apporach, and DO get hit with something that makes 911 look like a playdate, the first question will be, “How did you guys in power let this happen?”

    The number one purpose of government is to protect us, and Santorum and Bachman have insider info that we don’t. At some point, you have trust that they have our best interest in mind.

    I hate war too, but imagine ifwe had never fought WW II?

  • Patrick

    I’m pro-life and against abortion. But I think the Pro-Life movement is ridiculously narrow in its application and has become a pawn of the Republican party. I have no problem calling out pro-choice democrats…I’ve just never understood why pro-life republicans get a pass on every other issue.

    It’s pretty easy to be pro-life if you’re a male or past your child bearing years as a woman. Where is the call for these people to do anything other than tell OTHERS they can’t have an abortion? Same with heterosexuals railing against gay marriage. Yet ask these “pro-life” people to support government programs that might require a sacrifice on their part, might cost them some $$ (such as government sponsored health care, day care, etc.) but might help prevent abortion or take care of people already born, and they start spouting right wing rhetoric about keeping the government out of THEIR lives and giving THEM a choice. Very selfish and self-centered.

  • Andy

    Klaire
    In defense of Santorum Katie, if having 8 kids (one severely disabled) is “ok, you’re born, now you are on your own” is “all bets are off”, I shudder to see what standards would fit your ideal of pro life

    I believe that Santorum (and Bachman) believe they are pro-life, but when you listen to their beliefs as they espoused them while campaigning their vision of pro-life is limited — limited to their immediate family and limited in how we should respond to children and their families who are living in states of despair due to the way our economic system is rigged.
    Having a child with a disability is a measure of acceptance of the sanctity of life (we have one as well, though not as involved as Santorum’s child), but it is not enough to claim pro-life. To be born means that we are accorded dignity — health care, a job that supports our living, an education and freedom from intimidation among many from the popes – Santorum, Bachman et al. seem to forget that in their rush to stop abortion. I believe coupling this with Santorum’s statements about war, torture, death penalty and you have a politician who is a cafeteria catholic.

  • Drake

    A post above included the film about “religious freedom”. I think that Catholics need to understand that the USA is a religiously diverse country, and diverse in a great many other ways. There are numerous churches that take different positions from the Catholic Church on issues. What is a President supposed to do, say that the Catholic position is the only position? And, like it or not, under our constitution one may even be an atheist. It is one thing to advocate a Catholic position, and quite another to demonize through ad hominem attacks an official every time a decision is made that varies from what a bishop would do if running the country. I have not notice that the Catholic Church is exactly a model of internal justice or efficiency for Catholics to always insist that it’s “our way or the highway” each and every time.

  • Mark Greta

    The excessive length was true and I noted it upfront to counteract the idiotic argument that the Republicans talk about life, but they really don’t do anything to save babies once in office. This long, long list included many of the things that the Republicans have done to protect life going back to Reagan over the last 30 years. The source for this long list was Planned Parenthood abortion mill website where they ranted against the Republican Party and presidents who have done a long list of horrible things to them and how the awful courts led by Republican appointed judges have hurt them with rulings for life.

    And what did this same site on the same page have to say about Democrats? You might have guessed they gushed over all the help the party has provided to help them slaughter babies. But their greatest praise was for Obama who they list as their PARTNER in the White House and the democrats in Congress as their ALLIES.
    Since it is too long for posing here, I will simply add the link once again as I did with the post. Glad to see Deacon Greg agreed that the list of Republican actions to protect life was too long for the site.

    http://www.plannedparenthood.org/about-us/who-we-are/history-and-successes.htm

    Boy, the abortion mills hatred for the Republican Party and their love of the Democrats really shows on this one page. Hard to see how anyone could be a Catholic and a Democrat after reading this rant and love fest.

    What they leave out was the battles the Catholic Church fought with them when they tried to spread abortion killings overseas and how Pope JP II whipped their butt.

  • Mark Greta

    So from what people are saying here, that the Democratic Party solution to 54 million babies is death so that we do not have to worry about their needs.

    It is a flat out lie that there have been no Republican proposals to help the poor. They do not include tying them to big government programs that have been horrible for the poor as any measure of almost any catagory shows from 1960 to today. Poverty rates, school excellence with the poor, single moms, abortion, etc. So despite growing government by multiples from 1960 to today, despite the fact that we are broke and our grandkids will still be paying off debt, we are tied to these failed socialist programs. The poor must stay in horrible schools as a payoff to the teachers unions. Obama budget eliminated those in DC who managed to escape over the last few years sending them back into the worst school system in the country to please the teachers unions. The answer is to get government size much smaller and eating up all the money which could be used to create jobs. The stimulus was a gigantic failure. Doing the same thing over and over and over and expecting different results is insanity and the Democrats have been singing the same tune of socialism for generations. It has not worked anywhere in the world.

    Pro life is not condemning 54 million to die with some lame excuse that unless you are for socialist programs that have failed all over the world, that you are somehow not pro life. Clinton said the era of big government was over, but Pelosi and Reid and Obama still dream of the socialist state of America.

  • Mark Greta

    Katie, 54 million dead with the ongoing support of the Democratic Party with 4,000 more added each and every day. When you come up with anything closely like a proportionate reason to support this evil, then one might consider voting for that evil. I can’t think of one. It is like saying Hitler death camps were bad, but he made the trains run on time and build freeways and brought full employment to Germany. Not sure how anyone looks past one simple fact. No votes for Democrats by anyone who is offended by 54 million murdered infants and legal abortion ends in this country in a very short time frame. That makes every vote for that party of death a direct support for that industry.

    Deacon listed this letter from the Vatican on supporting a pro abortion candidate. Focus on the last paragraph and knowing Obama is the most pro abortion candidate as rated by the abortion mills in the last 40 years, try to show me how one justifies voting for him or his party.

    “In 2004, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — now Pope Benedict XVI, and at that time the Vatican’s top doctrinal official — wrote a memo to U.S. bishops on the issue of politicians and Communion. In it, he briefly addressed the question of voting for candidates who support legal abortion.
    The memo said a Catholic who deliberately voted for a candidate precisely because of the candidate’s pro-abortion (or pro-euthanasia) stand would be guilty of “formal cooperation in evil” and should exclude himself from receiving Communion.
    It said that when a Catholic does not share a candidate’s stand in favor of abortion but votes for that candidate for other reasons, it is considered “remote material cooperation,” which is “permitted in the presence of proportionate reasons.”
    Vatican officials later said that defining what constitutes “proportionate reasons” for a Catholic in such cases might be extremely difficult. One possible example, they said, was when Catholic voters face a choice between two candidates who support legalized abortion but to widely differing degrees, and do not want to renounce their responsibility to vote.”

  • Katie Angel

    Andy,
    Thank you for so eloquently stating what I was not nearly as clear about.

    I frequently find myself caught while standing in the voting booth between a candidate who says he/she is pro-life but really only means it until birth and a candidate who supports a woman’s right to kill her unborn child but acts to preserve the dignity of children and adults once they are born. There is rarely a single candidate that truly embodies even half of my Catholic beliefs and that is why I don’t understand the blind love affair that so many Catholics have with the Republicans.


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