When two things collide

When two things collideThe timing couldn’t have been better — or worse, depending on your perspective.

Two major story lines collided Thursday. First there was the news that Republican presidential candidate Rudolph Giuliani would declare his support for abortion rights and try to leapfrog states in the GOP primary election that won’t look kindly on that stand. And then within the same news cycle Pope Benedict XVI said that execommunication of lawmakers who act to legalize abortion is appropriate.

The two stories somehow survived on separate tracks in the major newspapers — but not in the minds of commentators and in this Newsday article by Craig Gordon.

My big question is why at least two major news outlets — The New York Times and Time — failed to mention the Pope (or Giuliani’s Catholicism) in their articles on Giuliani’s decision to “offer a forthright affirmation of his support for abortion.”

Newsday asked the question, but we didn’t get much of an answer:

Giuliani himself declined to respond directly to the pope’s comments and wouldn’t answer questions about whether he believed his support for abortion rights could damage his standing in the church.

“I don’t get into debates with the pope,” Giuliani told reporters.

“Issues like that for me are between me and my confessor. … I’m a Catholic and that’s the way I resolve those issues, personally and privately,” he said. “That’s what religion is all about — it’s something that’s between you and your conscience and God and then whoever your spiritual advisers are.”

The article also has some very helpful background info on Giuliani’s approach when he criticized the Vatican for criticizing President Clinton’s veto of a late-term abortion ban in 1996. It’s always good when reporters take public figures to task for unexplained inconsistent positions.

Giuliani’s decision to speak “forthrightly” about his abortion stance changes the story line. His donations to Planned Parenthood are no longer an issue. But his chances of being elected deserve a much closer and analytical look.

Jonathan Chait of The New Republic says that Giuliani is a “dead man walking.” Here’s why:

Candidates have tried hopping primary states, and it usually fails. Sometimes you can hop one state. You can’t hop three.

Giuliani’s best appeal to conservatives will be to convince them that he’s the most electable candidate. But you can’t do that if you lose the first three primaries. By the time February 5 rolls around, he’s going to be buried. Indeed, his campaign might not even exist at that point.

The tricky thing about writing on how Giuliani’s trying skip certain primary states is that the order of primaries has yet to be established. But it’s worth taking a close look at determining exactly what states Giuliani plans to hop over in order and then start determining how the other candidates will perform. It’ll be some tricky calculus, but it could lead to some compelling stories.

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  • http://mithras.blogs.com Mithras

    It’ll be interesting to see if Guiliani takes communion after making his unambiguous announcement of his support for abortion rights. Or if any bishop denies it to him, and anyone who votes for him, as they did Kerry.

    I predict Church criticism of Guiliani’s followers will be muted, following the well-established rule IOKIYAR.

  • http://amywelborn.typepad.com Amy Welborn

    I think part of the issue with Giuliani is that his precise relationship to the Church and the extent to which he practices is pretty much a mystery. He never talks about it, never references his faith – whatever it is – in his biography or talks. Does he? Perhaps NY residents see more of this, but I can’t recall any photos/accounts of Giuliani attending Mass – unlike, say, Kerry, whose Mass attendance was a matter of constant coverage. Is he really a practicing Catholic? Was his second marriage annulled?

  • http://www.lutheranzephyr.com Chris (The Lutheran Zephyr)

    I agree with Amy (comment #2).

    I do not think it is relevant for the media to compare Giuliani’s policy statements to Catholic Church teaching. The former mayor of New York does not wear his faith on his sleeve, he does not actively promote himself as a religious leader. Who cares if his politics contradict the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church? Wouldn’t be the first time a Catholic (or a politician of any faith) went against the teachings of their religion!!!!

    And if we are to critique a politician’s policies against the teachings of one’s church, where are the comparisons of George Bush’s policies with the social teachings of the United Methodist Church?

    On the other hand, I’m sick of hearing politicians say, “My faith is one thing (or a private thing), and my politics are another thing altogether.” As if one’s faith has nothing to do with one’s politics! Such a statement is terribly unsophisticated and probably disingenuous.

    Rather, I’d like someone to describe how they see the different spheres of church and government working in the world. The Lutherans have a pretty good theology of Two Kingdoms, but I am a bit biased . . .

  • http://amywelborn.typepad.com Amy Welborn

    Just to be clear – I’m not saying Giuliani’s position (whatever it is today) is beyond criticism or not fair game, at all. Pshaw. I’m just trying to explain why the press might not be making that connection in its coverage. With Kerry it was an issue because he made it an issue and was constantly photographed leaving Mass. Is the difference with Giuliani due to the fact that Catholic leaders don’t care (always a possibility) or that Giuliani is a publicly indifferent Catholic anyway?

  • Dennis Colby

    If Giuliani has a confessor, as he says in the Newsday article, that seems to imply he’s a practicing Catholic.

  • Jerry

    > IOKIYAR

    What? Media bias in favor of one side or the other? How can that be? You mean to tell me that liberal bloggers are more sucessfull in promoting IOKIYAR than conservatives bloogers are in promoting IOKIYAD?

    All liberals know that the press is biased in favor of conservatives (and can site endless examples) and all conservatives know there is a liberal bias and have at least as many proofs of that assertion.

  • Larry Rasczak

    “Wouldn’t be the first time a Catholic (or a politician of any faith) went against the teachings of their religion!!!!”

    But a Catholic that ignores the Pope isn’t a Catholic. Technically he’d be an Anglican. I thought that point had been pretty much established around 1588.

    Obedience to Papal Teachings is pretty much THE hallmark of being a Catholic (as opposed to being a Protestant). One can be a great Christian and a fine human being without obeying the Pope, but those people are called “Non-Catholics”.

    A politician who claims to be a Catholic while taking pains to distance himself or herself from Catholic teaching and obedience to the Pope is dishonest, at the very least. It is akin to saying George Washington and John Adams are still good and loyal English Subjects, even though they personally hold republican political views… and occasionally support (or lead) men who shoot at Royal Troops, and helped write the Declaration of Independence, etc. etc. etc.

    I think stories like this tell us less about the faith of the politicians involved than they tell us their appitite for self-deception and their willingness to lie; both to themselves and to the voters.

  • Tom Stanton

    “I’m a Catholic and that’s the way I resolve those issues, personally and privately,” he said. “That’s what religion is all about — it’s something that’s between you and your conscience and God and then whoever your spiritual advisers are.”

    Here we go again. I’d, perhaps, someday, love to see a story about the definition of religion as purely personal even within the community. I wish the MSM could pick this up – but I highly doubt it. Obviously faith is personal relative to public matters in the civic sense. But within a faith community – who says that faith is all private and personal?

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    The strength of the papacy comes from the fact it is as loyal to the Catholic Faith as it expects those who consider themselves Catholic to be loyal. And it is not on every matter that the pope discusses, but only on those matters the Church (and the Bible) has taught authoritatively on over the centuries.
    What some of these American Catholic politicians are demanding is the right to determine their own morality because they are standing in the place of medieval kings and are entitled to a “pass” as far as acting morally in their life’s vocation is concerned. They are demanding a right that would put them above the ranks of mere other mortals who must obey God’s law. It is elitism of the grossest sort, but the MSM won’t blow the whistle because it is so fanatically liberal and pro-abortion.

  • Stephen A.

    Once again, we’re about to witness something interesting unfold on the world stage. And once again, the media will ignore or misunderstand it OR distort it, because it suits their agenda and personal biases (i.e. that the Catholic Church should really just ‘chill’ and be a democracy.)

    BTW, re: IOKIYAR, Jerry’s right. A neologism, with no proof of extensive use, is again allowed to remain on Wikipedia, and is in fact viciously protected from any deletion attempts. Wikipedia is Leftypedia, and frankly, not a valid source for much of anything of a controversial nature.

  • http://mithras.blogs.com Mithras

    Sooooo, when’s the Church coming to come down hard on the apostate Rudy? It’s a riddle. Here’s a hint: At the same time they come down hard on the Catholics who favor the death penalty.

    Yeah, right, IOKIYAR’s not valid.

  • Dennis Colby

    Mithras,

    The attacks on Kerry came in spring 2004, after he became the likely nominee of his party. There was not much outcry about his views on abortion in May 2003. If Giuliani becomes the likely nominee of the Republican Party a year from now, I guarantee you’ll see people like Archbishop Chaput condemning him in the same terms they used for Kerry.

  • Dennis Colby

    Also, if public discourse in this country gradually devolves into a useless exchange of ever more elaborate acronyms like “IOKIYAR,” I’m fleeing to Mexico.

  • http://mithras.blogs.com Mithras

    If Giuliani becomes the likely nominee of the Republican Party a year from now, I guarantee you’ll see people like Archbishop Chaput condemning him in the same terms they used for Kerry.

    Really, you guarantee it? Well, you’re safe, since I doubt there is much chance America’s Mayor will become the GOP nominee.

    In any event, the timing is interesting. Why not try to influence primary voters? I suppose it’s better PR to attack a nominee than a lowly candidate.

    Also, if public discourse in this country gradually devolves into a useless exchange of ever more elaborate acronyms like “IOKIYAR,” I’m fleeing to Mexico.

    Vaya con Dios!

  • Dennis Colby

    Seriously, though, this is actually an interesting journalism question: How does it improve your argument to write in text-message shorthand instead of just writing the words, “As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, it’s okay if you’re a Republican”? It just seems that writing “IOKIYAR” is an effort to communicate without the bother of having to put actual thought into a position. Orwell once wrote that the problem with political language is that it presents readymade slogans and cliches that can be deployed without thinking about their actual meaning. This is particularly strange on the Internet, where, theoretically, writers shouldn’t be motivated by concerns about limited space.

  • http://mithras.blogs.com Mithras

    It just seems that writing “IOKIYAR” is an effort to communicate without the bother of having to put actual thought into a position.

    That’s a bit harsh. I think a fairer criticism would be that it’s a shibboleth. By using internet-speak, I signal to others who I am and what I read. To put it in a slightly more positive way, “it’s okay if you’re a Republican” does not do the communicative work that the acronym does – namely, identify this situation as another example of a phenomenon that is frequently discussed on liberal blogs.

    This is particularly strange on the Internet, where, theoretically, writers shouldn’t be motivated by concerns about limited space.

    LOL. ROFLMAO. The internet is full of acronyms. It’s the vernacular.

  • Dennis Colby

    The Internet is full of acronyms, and TV is full of reality shows. But are those good things?

    If the acronym is used in the way you suggest, it seems the point is to signal that one is an insider to other insiders, rather than to advance a discussion with others who may disagree, or who may be unconvinced.

    This is interesting for journalism, because so much of journalism’s future is linked to the Internet, and the principle purpose of journalism, after all, is communication. My concern is that the Internet encourages a deceptively swift form of communication which in reality is the refusal to communicate; to reduce speech and thought to all-purpose symbols meant to separate allies from enemies.

    I’m guessing that in a face-to-face discussion with someone, you wouldn’t say “Eye oh kay eye why ay arr” to make a point. But, as you note, on the Internet, this sort of thing is commonplace. I wonder if that’s because the immediacy of Internet communication discourages the sort of nuance and deliberation more useful in other types of interaction.

    If so, what does that say for the future of religion journalism, which seems to require nuance and deliberation to be any goood?

  • Str1977

    There are a couple of misconceptions and wrong facts involved among those crying “IOKIYAR”.

    *There was no direct action against Kerry, only the general statement that politicians who … – So why should there now be a direct action against Giuliani.
    *Despite the stance of the Holy See strongly discouraging the death penalty nowadays, it is no part of Catholic ethics that the death penalty is wrong always and everywhere. The Church allows for the death penalty but cautions to avoid it wherever possible. – so the basis for the comparison falls apart.
    *”anyone who votes for him, as they did Kerry” – nonsense. No one ever was denied communion because they voted for Kerry. In fact, the Vatican’s announcement said quite the opposite: that one could vote for such a candidate for proportionate reasons (leaving the consideration of what that is to the voter) as long as one didn’t vote for him because of his abominable abortion stance.

    Also, the fact that Giuliani is not (yet) as outspoken about his religion as Kerry was, has not repeated ten times in five minutes that he was an altar boy (don’t know if he was) surely makes this issue less pressing. And of course he is not the nominee yet.


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