Doing the Pelosi-Pope pavane

Boehner-Bush-Pelosi.jpgWhere they in parallel universes? And why did they bother?

Readers who scanned the American press reports about the brief meeting this past week between Pope Benedict XVI and American Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi could have had either reaction.

Perhaps both are legitimate–the reports made it sound like theater of the absurd. But I think there’s also an ongoing report with the coverage-that reporters make assumptions that they think their readers are making too.

Here’s the lede from the report about the visit from the New York Times

Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday told Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Roman Catholic who supports abortion rights, that Catholic politicians must protect “human life at all stages of its development.”

Ms. Pelosi is the highest-ranking Democrat to meet with the pope since the election of President Obama, whose administration’s support of abortion rights worries many in the Vatican.

In a statement, the Vatican said Benedict “briefly greeted” Ms. Pelosi and her entourage after his weekly public audience and “took the opportunity to speak of the requirements of the natural moral law and the church’s consistent teaching on the dignity of human life from conception to natural death.”

Where is the reporter getting her information? From a Vatican statement. So it’s impossible to figure out whether the Pope engaged in a conversation, read from a text, or started with some chit-chat about her family. It sure sounds like a reprimand, and one I have a feeling that she’s heard before.

Does the Pope even consider Pelosi a Roman Catholic in good standing? Why did he consent to see her at all? What exactly occured?

I’d assume that he spent (what seems to be as short an amount as possible) time with Pelosi because she has a leadership position in the United States government. In that regard, the
Associated Press story does a better job of connecting the dots, detailing the political climate and how its changed since Barack Obama took office.

The U.S. House speaker, a Catholic, was the first top Democrat to meet with Benedict since the election of Barack Obama, who won a majority of the U.S. Catholic vote despite differences with the Vatican on abortion.

On his fourth day in office last month, Obama ended a ban on funds for international groups that perform abortions or provide information on the option , a sharp policy change from former President George W. Bush’s Republican administration.

The Vatican’s attempts to keep the Pelosi visit low-profile displayed its obvious unease with the new U.S. administration.

Ah, but which Catholic votes did Obama receive? To say that he received a majority, without analyzing the way the numbers broke, is to say almost nothing.

Clearly, one can’t go into pages of analysis in relatively brief stories. And there’s some good stuff in both of these. While the AP story does better on analyzing the nuances of such meetings and their precedents, the Times reporter does a decent job of recounting some of the more recent controversies around American Catholic politicians who support abortion rights.

But looking at Pelosi’s statement (this taken from the New York Times), you know this had to be a weird gathering.

In a statement issued by her office on Wednesday, Ms. Pelosi said it was “with great joy” that she and her husband, Paul, had met Benedict.

She said she had praised “the church’s leadership in fighting poverty, hunger, and global warming, as well as the Holy Father’s dedication to religious freedom and his upcoming trip and message to Israel.” Ms. Pelosi’s statement did not mention the pope’s comments on abortion.

Doesn’t sound like they were on the same planet, does it.

What did the Speaker get out of this meeting, if anything? What was the Pope’s purpose? That kind of discussion is what we are missing when we read these stories. That’s where quotes from an ideologically diverse group of analysts would help the reader take an educated guess as to the purpose and implications of such a meeting. We can guess-but we’re given precious little to go on.

Picture of Pelosi with former President Bush and Congressman Boehner from Wikimedia Commons

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  • Dave

    Ah, but which Catholic votes did Obama receive? To say that he received a majority, without analyzing the way the numbers broke, is to say almost nothing.

    It says that a majority of American voters who acknowledge allegiance to the Pope voted in a manner that gave political support to Ms Pelosi. Since those were the two people who were meeting, the bite gives real, if limited, information.

  • Joe

    To follow up on what Dave said, the data point speaks for itself. What you appear to want is some “spin” on the numbers which focuses on attendance data, buy that requires an inferpretion and agenda that seems far afield from an AP report.

  • bruised

    Did the foreign press even pay attention? I’m surprised one of them didn’t have more detail of what the Pope said if only to slam the US for it’s hypocrisy in this meeting.

    A typical American Catholic gets to meet the Pope.

    The underlying impression is a child’s visit to the mall Santa or better the Easter Bunny. I’m imagining little Nancy on his lap asking for an abortion indulgence in her Easter basket. Smile for the camera!

    It’s kind of disgusting…

  • Jay Steele

    I think it is fair to say that both the Pope and Pelosi got to make their points coming out of the meeting. Pelosi, in Italy for official business does the right thing as a prominent Catholic politician and asks for a meeting; the Pope does the right thing and greets her. It isn’t a high level visit; no pomp and circumstance needed, and besides she has already had that with this Pope. They both get to say afterwards what was most on their minds.

  • Susan

    No RC that I know thinks of owing “allegience to the Pope.”

    How strange!

    The fact is that the pattern of voting for President Obama was very different depending on whether or not the voter attended Mass regularly. Generally, regular attendance at Mass is the main indicator of whether a person is a “religious” Catholic or a “cultural” Catholic.

    Polls show that the more regularly a voter attended Mass, the less likely that voter was to have voted for Obama.

    I think that is the point of the question, “…but which Catholic votes did Obama receive?”

  • http://www.getreligion.org/?p=3978 E.E. Evans

    Thank you, Susan-that’s what I meant. To raise that point at all is to open Pandora’s box. However, I do think reporters constantly make judgement calls about what they have room to say in the space alloted. That can lead to some overly broad generalities.

  • Dave

    Susan, my use of “allegiance” is probably a ghost of the Protestant half of my upbringing. I’m sorry if I gave offence.

    Susan and Elizabeth, my point is that this wasn’t a story about the election. It was about a politician meeting a pope. The reference to the election was a one-off comment and imho did not merit further analysis. Lack of that analysis is not only not a failure to get religion, it’s not even a marker of bias.

  • Brian Walden

    Where is the reporter getting her information? From a Vatican statement. So it’s impossible to figure out whether the Pope engaged in a conversation, read from a text, or started with some chit-chat about her family. It sure sounds like a reprimand, and one I have a feeling that she’s heard before.

    The meeting was private, no reporters or cameras allowed. So the only reports of what was actually said are ones from the Vatican or Pelosi’s camp.

    Does the Pope even consider Pelosi a Roman Catholic in good standing? Why did he consent to see her at all? What exactly occured?

    I guess that depends on your definition of Catholic in good standing. Does that mean a Catholic who’s not excommunicated (she’s not). Does that mean a Catholic who’s not in a state of mortal sin (no one but God and Pelosi knows this). Does this mean a Catholic who is eligible to receive communion (I’d say she’s not eligible seeing as how she publicly misrepresented the teachings of the church, met with her bishop about it this month, yet hasn’t corrected her statements). But if not being able to receive communion is the standard, then a Catholic who eats a snickers bar in the parking lot just before Mass also isn’t a Catholic in good standing. If we’re going to use lay terms to describe her state, I’d says she’s a Catholic in good standing but not a good Catholic.

    The Vatican’s attempts to keep the Pelosi visit low-profile displayed its obvious unease with the new U.S. administration.

    I’m not so sure this unease with the new administration was the primary reason for keeping everything low profile. I think it was about Pelosi specifically for the grave scandal she’s caused, rather than the administration in general. The chatter leading up to this trip was all about how Pelosi would get her photo-op with the pope (which would retain it’s value long after anything Benedict said in the meeting had been forgotten) – Benedict wisely didn’t let that happen.

    On a personal note, I find Pelosi’s comments repulsive. Imagine you had the opportunity to be instructed by the leader of your religion – I’d be beside myself if the Pope wanted to personally correct my spiritual flaws. Would you react in such a condescending way, not even acknowledging that the head of your religion had corrected your understanding of your religion’s beliefs?

  • Brian Walden

    Dave, I agree with you that this wasn’t a story about the election, but it was also about more than a politician meeting a pope. Pelosi is a Catholic and the Pope is responsible for her soul (especially since her bishop seems reluctant to help her). He’s also responsible for the souls of all those affected by the scandal (confusion about the Church’s teachings) she’s caused. The tension between the those two sides of the story are what make this different from the Pope receiving your typical diplomat or your typical Catholic.

  • Dave

    Brian (#9), stipulating all the points you raise, they still don’t call for a breakdown of the Catholic vote in the last election by (here’s that word again, Susan ;-) ) allegiance to the church in this story. As you acknowledge, it isn’t about the election.

  • Brian Walden

    Dave, I agree. Sometimes I get too caught up in the trees and miss the forest.

  • Susan

    Actually, I believe it is linked to the election.

    There was an effort to remove any concern about abortion before election day from anyone who considered himself (herself) linked to the RCC. Pelosi and Biden lead by out-right lying about the RC’s teaching regarding abortion.

    This was not a private issue; there was a public and political purpose. Further, it was Pelosi who went to the Pope … not the other way around … fully informed that she consistently misrepresents the teaching of the RC.

    Kennedy thumbed his nose (with help from other RCs including priests) at RC teachings all the while he claimed to be a RC. It set the stage for more RC American politicians (which both my Senators and my Governor claim to be) while doing all that they can to undermine the teachings. That is what I find truly offensive.

    No one is forced to be RC and no one is forced to be a politician. If a person cannot honestly and rigorously reconcile the beliefs of his or her claimed religion and the demands of his or her political office, that person needs to choose one or the other. A citizen who supports these RC politicians already has a lot of information about their personal integrity and/or intellectual ability and has no grounds to complain if they show a lack of integrity and/or intelligence on other matters.

    (No, Dave, I did not find your comment offensive. Thank you for caring, however.)

  • Dave

    Susan (#12), pretty much the same thing I said to Brian. Even if I agreed with all your points, they do not argue that it would have been germane to the article to have provided a breakdown of how much of Obama’s vote was sweat-the-details Catholics, how much was two-Masses-a-year Catholics, etc.

    That breakdown has become a familar artifact on GetReligion, but that doesn’t create a fact that not breaking the vote down this way is a journalistic failure to get religion. (For one thing, it’s far from easy to see how such details could be developed after the fact, if exit polls didn’t ask a) if the voter were Catholic and b) if so, which cohort.) Just because we’re familiar with it — note that Elizabeth saw no need to spell it out once again — doesn’t create a reasonable expectation for the MSM to refer to it.

    And, to return to the point, it was Obama’s vote. There was no national election of Pelosi, and she’s the one who visited the Pope.

  • FW Ken

    The pope met with Pelosi because that’s what he does, as a head of state and as a pastor. However he regards her, he will show her the same face he has shown others with whom he has profound theological and moral disagreements.

    As to the basis for the dueling takes on the meeting, this Fox story seems to have the full texts as released.

    But this struck me from the AP story:

    Benedict has cautiously welcomed Obama’s new administration.

    What was the basis for this statement? Did I miss something in the rest of the story?

  • http://www.catholicradiointernational.com/ Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

    The reason for the two completely different perspectives in the press releases is obvious — Pelosi had nothing to say. When you meet with someone who is on an obviously higher level than you and the most substantive thing you can say is that you showed this person some pictures of your family, then you know something is seriously amiss.

    Oh, wait a minute, you think this was something more substantive? Like, “I had the opportunity to praise the church’s leadership in fighting poverty, hunger and global warming, as well as the Holy Father’s dedication to religious freedom and his upcoming trip and message to Israel.” No, that was fluff, meant to distract from the reality.

    In reality, her family was more substantive because she talked about her children and her grandchildren with the Holy Father. And yet she is unwilling to help pass laws — and in fact vigorously opposes such laws — that would let other children yet unborn see the light of day. Hence, the Vatican’s press release was the most substantive, even if it was something Pelosi had already heard.

  • Susan

    Dave, you can try to narrow down this story all you want. But there is only one reason why this is even a news story, and you know it. Politicians want the so-called Catholic vote, and Pelosi’s role in the last election was all about that effort. Therefore, it is valid to bring it up.

    The fact is that Pelosi hot-footed it over to Rome for a photo op which the Holy Father did not give her. If she did not anticipate the treatment given to her by the Vatican, she is more delusional than even her most severe critic could imagine. And maybe that should have been the real news item.

  • http://www.followingthelede.blogspot.com Sabrina

    Brian (#9)–
    From a Catholic blog: It’s worth noting that Our Sunday Visitor’s “Daily Take” has confirmed that a session between [Pelosi] and Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco took place on 8 February.

    The meeting was “so private,” the paper’s blog notes, “that the archbishop’s own press spokesman… seemed unaware of it”… and subsequently cited a “mixup in internal communications.”

    Same blogger also notes, re the Pelosi/Pope no-photo op meeting: The treatment of Pelosi echoed the Vatican’s earlier treatment of Geraldine Ferraro, a Catholic who was the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 1984. The Vatican did not disguise its irritation at Ferraro’s position that she opposed abortion but also opposed outlawing it.

    Pope John Paul II’s meeting with Ferraro in 1985 was never officially announced and — like the Pelosi audience — no photo was released.

  • Jay

    Small point:

    Picture of Pelosi with former President Bush and Congressman Boehner from Wikimedia Commons

    I think a more accurate phrase would be “with then-President Bush”. He was not a former president at the time the picture was taken.

  • Dave

    there is only one reason why this is even a news story, and you know it.

    I “know” no such thing. I’m neither Catholic or a member of the House of Representatives, so as far as I’m concerned this was a private meeting between other people’s leaders. I don’t even know that this is a news story.

  • dalea

    What interests me here is that this is a clash of expertisess. The Pope is an expert on theology: he can authoritatively state what an ideal condition is. Pelosi is an expert on public policy: she can authoritively state what is feasible, possible and do-able. This is a clash between real and ideal.

    Pelosi could have responded:

    What you suggest is a fine and noble ideal. However, as a public policy it is unworkable. And has serious bad effects. Outlawing abortions would be as ineffective as prohibition was. Abortion is a simple medical program that can either be performed safely in a clinic or be performed unsafely in back alleys. Given a choice between a religious ideal and the lives of actual women, public policy must be to protect the women. We have no consensus on banning abortion, and no way of doing so. Religious ideals are not public policy. Laws can no more stop abortions than they can convince astronomers that the Sun revolves around the Earth.

    Anyway, that’s my take on the story.

  • FW Ken

    dalea -

    I see you are channeling Margaret Sanger these days. :-)

    To the Pelosi response you imagine, I can imagine the pope’s reply: To what other form of murder would you apply those arguments?

    Actually, it’s not Sanger who made those arguments. As I remember, she admitted abortion was the taking of a human life, but justified.

  • http://www.catholicradiointernational.com/ Thomas A. Szyszkiewicz

    Dalea, you mistook the Vatican’s statement as a religious one, but it was not. The Pope spoke of the “requirements of the natural moral law.” In other words, he did not speak solely in religious terms, but in human ones, terms everyone can understand. The law should reflect human standards and human standards tell us it wrong to kill the unborn, no matter how “simple” the medical procedure is. If our public policy doesn’t reflect human ideals, then the policy will fail the society it’s supposed to protect. And if Nancy Pelosi doesn’t get that, then she’s no expert on public policy.

  • Dave

    Thomas, “natural law” is as inadequate as a basis for public policy as religious ideals. It stands aloof from the facts unearthed by real science. I’m not trying to get between dalea and Ken in their imaginary conversation, but “natural law” is more religious inside baseball.

  • dalea

    Actually Ken, I’m channeling Z Budapest today. :-)

    Murder can be justified by self defense (especially in the case of abortion), public safety, just war and several other lifeboat examples. But this assumes that one regards a fetus as a person. My religious tradition does not. Life begins with the first breath and ends with the last: life inspires us until we expire. Spiro, spiras, spirat, spiramus, spiratus, spirant. And all we ask is to be allowed to live by our own religious teachings.

    Thomas, ‘the natural moral law’ approach has never made any sense to me. Plus there are so many versions of it floating around, it is difficult to figure out which one is correct. Thomastic natural lawers today argue for adoption not abortion. Up until about 1870 they would have argued that adoption was ‘unnatural’ as a family could only be formed by generative power.

    A friend who described herself as a ‘Recovering Catholic’ told me she rejected NL when she realized a conclusion it lead to. A man who wishes to leave his wife and marry another has two choices. If he divorces and remarries, he will be excommunicated. If he arranges to murder his wife and gets away with it, he can remain a penitent member. This is a defective line of reasoning, IMHO.

    NL also has a tendency to term things that occur all over the place as ‘unnatural’, like homosexuality. Using a bit of lamb intestine to prevent conception is ‘unnatural’. Using a computer system that tracks body temperatures etc to predict fertile periods is ‘natural’.

    I find NL reasoning to be a form of Dogmatic reasoning. For me, it has no credibility.

  • FW Ken

    I didn’t say anything about “natural law”, Dave. But here’s someone who does: have fun . This, by the way, was from Rocco, always worth a read.

  • FW Ken

    Murder can be justified by self defense (especially in the case of abortion),

    Only in the rarest of circumstances, if you are referring to a serious threat to the mother’s life. Otherwise, to speak of self defense in the case of a normal pregnancy is more or less equivalent to claiming a right to shoot someone who cuts you off in traffic. You know, some people argue for the death penalty as a means of keeping society safe. Let’s skip the dueling statistics on deterrence. The issue is separating predators from the community, and except in the rarest of cases, that can be done through the prison system. Which is to say, in the United States, the death penalty is not justifiable; in the same way, neither is abortion, on the “life of the mother” exception.

    this assumes that one regards a fetus as a person … My religious tradition does not … And all we ask is to be allowed to live by our own religious teachings.

    No, what you are asking is to impose your religious beliefs on the whole of society. I don’t have a huge problem with that (what is the political process other than resolving conflicts of belief?) as long as you don’t disqualify Catholics from engaging in the process because we are (drum roll) imposing our religion on society.

    You could, of course, be right that the fetus is not a person, but if you are wrong, you are complicit in murder times one million or so per year.

    Of course, dalea, since we don’t share a religion, I expect we will not agree on many things. The issue here is that Rep. Pelosi claims to be a Catholic. It’s a scandal that her bishop, and the bishops of all pro-choice Catholics, side-step and enable the politicians in their public policy dysfunctions.

  • dalea

    The issue here is that Rep. Pelosi claims to be a Catholic. It’s a scandal that her bishop, and the bishops of all pro-choice Catholics, side-step and enable the politicians in their public policy dysfunctions.

    The press here seems to take the position that for Catholics there is a range of possible options on abortion. Which does appear to be empirically true. A rational person can conclude that outlawing abortion has costs and issues that preclude doing so as a viable path. The prochoice side seems better at getting the nuts and bolts in the press. While the press covers the reasons for the RC position, it never delves into just how banning abortions would actually work. When abortions were illegal, women still aborted. I have never seen in the popular press a presentation on how banning abortions would work in practice. The press does not cover how forcing women to continue pregnancies means actual coercive restrictions on the liberty and life of women.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    A big deal is being made by some comments here that anti-abortion laws do not prevent unborn children from being butchered. Then how come there were so many children available for adoption before Roe v. Wade??? But now, today, people have to travel to foreign countries to find babies to adopt.
    As for Catholic politicians making like theologians and promoting their pro-death moral values as somehow good Catholic values gives new meaning to the words “corrupt political hacks.” But try to find any MSM stories that will look cynically at the antics of hypocritical power hungry Catholic politicians.

  • dalea

    Then how come there were so many children available for adoption before Roe v. Wade???

    There were? Proof? Suspect the reason for the alleged child surplus was that very few women were single mothers. The press has covered this issue heavily. And birth mothers now have an option to remain in the lives of the children they give up for adoption. This has been extensively covered in the press.

    I have seen extensive coverage of the process RC politicians go thru in reconciling their religious believes with the requirements of holding public office. These have been in liberal media venues, which count as part of the media.

  • http://www.getreligion.org/?p=3978 E.E. Evans

    I’ve been away for the day, but a number of the posts seem to reinforce my original point–that the meeting is subject to widely varying interpretations. And not only from those who were at it! It would be helpful when covering such a meeting, to get some opinions on what it meant–or didn’t mean.

  • FW Ken

    The press here seems to take the position that for Catholics there is a range of possible options on abortion.

    Which speaks to the integrity of the press, since their position is a fantasy presentation of the Catholic Faith.

    Which does appear to be empirically true.

    More fantasy: what’s true is that members of the Catholic Church publicly dissent from the Church’s teaching on abortion. That’s called “hypocrisy”. There are matters on which Catholics can and do disagree. The sanctity of life from conception to a natural death is not one of them.

    A rational person can conclude that outlawing abortion has costs and issues that preclude doing so as a viable path.

    That would depend on one’s presuppositions and smacks of arguments raised against slavery 200 years ago in the writing of the Constitution.

    The press does not cover how forcing women to continue pregnancies means actual coercive restrictions on the liberty and life of women.

    No, they wore that story out a few years ago. However, I’m sure that should the pro-life side make any serious gains, they will roll it out again.

    Every act protecting one group of people from another can be viewed as “coercive restrictions”. I understand that you don’t believe one of the groups in question to be “people”, dalea, but then, some folks a couple of hundred years ago didn’t consider black people to be “people”, either, except when they wanted more representation in Congress, at which point a compromise was reached in which black people got to be 3/5th human. That’s better than the unborn get.

  • dalea

    Which speaks to the integrity of the press, since their position is a fantasy presentation of the Catholic Faith.

    Ken, I think the press is working with an understanding of the RC faith that dates back almost half a century. There used to be virulent anti-Catholicism in our country. RC elected officials were frequently acussed of being ‘agents of a foreign power’, disloyal to the US, tools to be used by the Pope; in short unAmerican. Being Catholic outside the large ethnic urban enclaves was a very difficult, and sometimes dangerous, way of living. This began to wane when JFK was elected.

    Kennedy brought in a system whereby the public understood that RC politicians would not be dictated to by the Hierarchy. That RCC members were free and independent members of society who would frequently dissent from the Church. The detente opened many doors for Catholics. One press change I noticed back then was crime stories quit giving the religion of the arrested or accussed. It used to be that major papers ran stories that went: The accused murderer, a Catholic, was convicted….’

    What the press is doing has been settled practice for a long time: accepts as a given that RC elected officials will dissent from the RCC at times.

  • Dave

    Ken (#25), I never said you did. I was replying to Thomas, not you. As I said, I’m not getting into your imaginary conversation with dalea.

  • FW Ken

    dalea,

    That’s a fair point about Kennedy, and I’ll mitigate my complaint against journalistic integrity – but only slightly.

    In fact, I’m just old enough to remember the 1960 election and my Baptist family expressing reservations about Kennedy such as you describe. It was quite a problem, since these were yellow-dog Democrats (a Texas phrase based on the premise that the person would vote for a yellow dog if it ran as a Democrat). Now, I can tell you that the rumors about FDR getting serious mention in the family bible weren’t true, but they were plausible. :-)

    At any rate, Catholic social doctrine takes account of this problem. When John Paul II spoke out against the Irag War at the time of the invasion, many conservative Catholics noted, correctly, that the pope spoke of a matter properly belonging to the civil authorities. In other words, his statement was his personal opinion, not binding on a Catholic’s conscience. I will indulge an arguably cheap shot and note that I don’t remember liberal voices complaining about papal interference in politics, as I don’t remember complaints of theocracy over Cardinal Mahoney’s involvement in the immigration issue last year; but that’s neither here nor there. The point is that Catholics can (and do) disagree, even with the pope, on any number of things.

    The real problem comes when the right (and duty) to disagree on some matters transforms into an over-weaning individualism that dissents on all matters. Substituting the Autonomous and Omnipotent “I”, dissenting Catholics abandon their duty to the community of the Church, which is to form their conscience as part of that community, so that they “think with the Church”. As noted, that can mean disagreement, when the leadership loses sight of the whole tradition – all 2000 years of it. I am certainly ready to join those who call the American Catholic bishop a “hapless bench” and largely over their failure to address pro-choice politicians parading their rosaries in public. About abortion, Catholics cannot dissent with integrity. They can disagree about political tactics, but not about the basics: life is sacred from conception until a natural death. Failure of the press to get that is a failure to understand the Catholic religion.

    Sorry to be so wordy, but it’s not a simple matter. And sorry, Elizabeth, if I’ve gone too far afield.

  • FW Ken

    Dave -

    What you wrote:

    I’m not trying to get between dalea and Ken in their imaginary conversation, but “natural law” is more religious inside baseball.

    I’ll accept that you simply misplaced the final clause. :-)

    Actually, I am rather enjoying dalea. He’s a good sparring partner.

  • dalea

    President Kennedy’s statement on the relationship between Catholics and the US:

    I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute–where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote–where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference–and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

    I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish–where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source–where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials–and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

    Later in the speech:

    But let me stress again that these are my views–for contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters–and the church does not speak for me.
    Whatever issue may come before me as President–on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject–I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.

    From BeliefNet:

    http://www.beliefnet.com/News/Politics/2000/09/I-Believe-In-An-America-Where-The-Separation-Of-Church-And-State-Is-Absolute.aspx?p=3

    This is long, so I will comment in my next posting.

  • dalea

    This has been the general policy used by RC politicians since 1960. And it is the standard used by the press in covering the same. This jumped out at me:

    I do not speak for my church on public matters—and the church does not speak for me.

    This is exactly the standard the press is using in covering Pelosi. It is one that the press and the RCC endorsed 49 years ago. And it has worked well for Catholics, most of the old prejudice and emnity is gone. When Kennedy was elected, my grandmother told me to be prepared for the Inquisition in America.

    German theologian Utta Ranke Heinemann takes strong exception to the RC teaching on abortion and Papal authority. She is also a media star, AIUI. She receives communion because she has paid her church tax, and in Germany the RCC can not excommunicate anyone who pays the tax. So, this seems to be a problem in other places also. The RCC gave away the power to discipline by excommunication in its Concordat with Germany. So, what you advocate fails the test semper et ubiqui. In Germany, the RCC permits people to dissent on all sorts of issues. In addition, it appears that the politicians you bemoan do not dissent on allissues. They dissent on how to best reduce abortions. Saying the Prohibition is not a good way to go is a simple policy preference based on experience.

  • dalea

    I was mistaken. Utta Ranke Heinemann left the RCC in 2001. I had read her Putting Away Childish Things in 1995 and was familiar with her condition at that time. An interview with her is here:

    http://thewildreed.blogspot.com/2008/01/uta-ranke-heinemann-on-future-of.html

  • Julia

    Catholic who eats a snickers bar in the parking lot just before Mass also isn’t a Catholic in good standing

    That’s rediculous. The one hour fast before Communion is a procedural rule – has nothing to do with being Catholic or not. You just don’t go to Communion that day.

    The Mass on Sunday thing is a marker because it is a Church Law that requires Mass every Sunday (or the vigil Mass on Saturday evening) and certain Holy Days of Obligation. I don’t know how other churches deal with attendance at Sunday services, but with the Catholic church it is a really big deal – missing weekly Mass requires a trip to the confessional.

    It is one that the press and the RCC endorsed 49 years ago.

    The Catholic Church did not endorse Kennedy’s take on how politicians should act. I’m not saying the church is agin it, but it never made any endorsement. Read some of Benedict’s statements on the subject – check out some of his predecessors, too.

  • Joe K

    A lot of comments, so I’ll keep it short.

    Dalea, not sure if you understood FW Ken’s main point..

    About abortion, Catholics cannot dissent with integrity. They can disagree about political tactics, but not about the basics: life is sacred from conception until a natural death. Failure of the press to get that is a failure to understand the Catholic religion.

    Also, be careful when attributing statements made by the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). The RCC is worldwide and centered at the Vatican, and as such, does not make statements concerning local matters. The RRC has, for the most part, already defined Church Teaching (e.g. life is sacred, or direct and intentional killing innocent human life is evil). It’s responsibility of local bishops to teach and implement while getting into local prudential matters. Regarding your example of German taxes, this would be matter of the local bishop(s) to handle. Perhaps journalists should write, “Bishop X, of the Diocese of Y, endorsed…”

    Dalea, you’re half-way correct. Not only in Germany, but worldwide the RCC permits everybody to dissent. That’s called freewill, but the RCC also teaches that there are consequences, namely separation from God and His Church. When dissenters define their own new ‘Church teaching’ then journalists should at least call them on it.

  • FW Ken

    dalea -

    What Joe K said.

    But I am curious about this:

    The RCC gave away the power to discipline by excommunication in its Concordat with Germany.

    To what are you referring?

  • Bern

    Pavane indeed. Pope Benedict, a recognized head of state, refused a “photo op” with a powerful American politician who identifies herself as Catholic. For her part, requesting an audience had its own risks: he could have refused to meet with her at all. Heck, he could have chosen to excommunicate her on the spot. He chose to do neither (although some would have been delighted and others outraged if he had). The why or why not is all speculation, as is what they actually discussed because press releases are just that: for the press, and for what each of them wished to convey about their meeting. Both stories went as far as they could go regardng the meeting without getting into being about religion specifically.

  • FW Ken

    dalea -

    This occurred to me during Mass: what does “the test semper et ubiqui”? In what way does it apply to Catholic truth, even if the “truth” is false?

  • FW Ken

    Should have been: how does “the test semper et ubiqui” apply?

  • Jettboy

    “The accused murderer, a Catholic, was convicted….’ ”

    The press still does that with Mormons and they don’t have to be notorious to get the mention.

  • dalea

    Background on the Concordat is here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reichskonkordat

    It is still in effect.

  • dalea

    Ken, semper et ubique aka always and everywhere is a test of Catholic doctrine in the sense that if one can show a formal instance where the church chooses to give up something, the thing being given up is not a very important part of the RC faith. With the Concordot, the RCC hierarchy traded excommunication of disenters for a steady income flow. Which may be a very rational decision. Steady income flows are hard to come by while there is rarely a shortage of dissent. But there was a decision.

    So, my point is that given a choice between disciplining polititicians about abortion is not always and everywhere a priority of the RCC. In Germany, the RCC traded away that option for a steady income flow. In the US, there is the restraining effect of JFK’s statement which was widely endorsed by the Hierarchy at that time.

  • FW Ken

    dalea,

    Neither the article you link, nor the text of the Concordat, here in English support your claims. There is nothing about excommunication. In fact, Article 4 protects the Church’s pastoral ministry:

    The Holy See enjoys full freedom in its relations and correspondence with the bishops, clergy and other members of the Catholic Church in Germany. The same applies to the bishops and other diocesan officials in their dealings with the faithful in all matters belonging to their pastoral office.

    Instructions, ordinances, pastoral letters, official diocesan gazettes, and other decrees concerning the spiritual direction of the faithful issued by the Church authorities within the framework of their competence (Art. 1, Sect. 2) may be published without hindrance and brought to the notice of the faithful in the customary form.

    Article 1, Sect 2 states:

    It [the state] acknowledges the right of the Catholic Church, within the framework of the laws valid for all, to manage and regulate its own affairs independently, and, within the framework of its own competence, to issue binding laws and ordinances for its members.

    The only business about money exempts clergy from having their salaries attached for payment of debt, in the same manner as government employees.

    BTW, thank you for pushing me to read the Corcordat; after hearing about it for so many years, actually reading the text was most interesting.

    As to JFK, as Julia notes, there was no official endorsement of his position. Nor was abortion an issue at the time. I will say one thing about that, and agree this rather supports your point: Ted Kennedy once observed that since his bishop hadn’t called him on abortion, it was the bishop’s problem, not his. However, the bishop(s) were, from the viewpoint of the larger Church, very remiss to do so and that no wise constitutes a formal renunciation of the right to excommunicate. In fact, the Archbishop of New Orleans excommunicated some racist Catholics in the late 50s, when most of his peers did not. This is called a “prophetic action”.

  • Julia

    In re: concordats:

    The German Concordat translation at “Concordatwatch” is probably a fair translation, but the commentary stating that a provision affecting the status of Catholic priests in the event of a military draft “proved” that the Catholic Church “knew” Hitler was going to re-arm and probably was even happy about it, makes me really wonder.

    Actually, these concordats are somewhat like a “Status of Forces” agreement that the US has with all countries in which it has resident military forces. It defines which entity has say-so over which activities of the military members. The Catholic Church also has agreements all over the world as to its members and clergy in countries outside Vatican City. [There is a provision in the German one that the government was planning to have similar agreements with other religious entities.]

    An example of what is covered: provisions as to marriages – when and where the civil and religious aspects of marriage are to take place and how the necessary documents are to be handled.

    Some years ago, I was surpised to learn from a Jesuit cousin of mine that Catholic priests in the US cannot preside over a purely-religious marriage ceremony and not report it to the state. He said it’s part of the agreement the church has with the government. In the US, a religious marriage ceremony has the additional effect of civil consequences and a priest cannot preside over a religious marriage without requiring proof of a valid marriage license and turning in paperwork on the marriage, etc. IOW, the priest is acting as an agent of the state in presiding over the marriage ceremony. In the UK, the civil ceremony comes first, folowed by the religious one. Apparently, according to the German Concordat, in Germany the religious ceremony comes first and the civil one follows it.

    I don’t know if that agreement about marriages in the US constitutes a Concordat, but it is surely similar to the German concordat. The other provisions in the German Concordat are not necessary in our country. In the US, we have freedom of religion that affects all religions similarly, but many countries do not. In some countries, certain religious groups are recognized by the state and others are not; the rules may be different for each religious group. Witness what is going on today in Germany regarding Scientology, and the hassles in China about the underground Catholic Church in communion with Rome and the official Chinese Catholic Church. Catholics in England could not vote or attned university until some time in the early 1800s. The US is unusual in not needing negotiated concordats/treaties with religious groups.

    Beware of reading too much into the German Concordat. Remember that Germany had not that long ago supressed Catholic autonomy during its Kulturkampf and the church was trying to get its situation clarified.

    Here’s some sources on the Kulturkampf:
    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08703b.htm
    http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/324668/Kulturkampf

    Money quote in Wikipedia: “In the newly founded German Empire, Bismarck sought to bolster the power of the secular state and reduce the political and social influence of the Roman Catholic Church by instituting political control over Church activities.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kulturkampf


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