We Be, Big Pimpin’ Catholics Down in US of A: The Democrat and Republican Exploitation of Catholics

Certain anti-Catholic Protestants like to claim that the Catholic Church is the “Whore of Babylon,” from chapters 17 and 18 of the book of Revelation. Outrageous as it is to think this, there may be some substance to the claim if we substitute the Apocalypse of John with Jay-Z’s perverse and misogynistic song, Big Pimpin’. The American Catholic Church is certainly not the Whore of Babylon, but, on the American scene, many of her members have become whores to another Imperial pimp: the American Empire. Big Pimpin’.

US Catholics are getting pimped by both factions fueling the dualcombustion-engine of the American nation-state. This is not circumstantial; nor it is purely coincidental. Americans who take their Catholicism seriously and into the voting booth, who vote as Catholics, are getting pimped by the major party they choose on election day — and root for before and after.

To be clear: I am NOT saying that our Mother Church is a whore. I am saying that we, her children, like the children of Israel, have become enslaved by Big Pimpin.’ We are the whores, not the Church itself. There is a crucial, theological difference.

Some of the most ardent, active, and pious Catholics I know take real and regular orders from the Elephant and Donkey pimps dressed in flashy reds and blues, promising that, if you vote for them (or against the other) just one more time, they’ll end abortion or provide for the sick and the needy. Both parties depend on Catholic voters who believe in the exploitive, mirror-image fantasy: the Republicans are the party of “life,” the Democrats the party of “social justice.” Sure, there are marginal gains and future implications; and these tedious details are usually the first line of defense. But real, lasting, and deep structural change has never actualized. This total lack of serious results can only lead to one conclusion: Catholics are getting pimped, on both sides of the aisle.

Here’s how the argument should go:

MAJOR PREMISE — The American Catholic Church has a clearly stated position — promulgated by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops  — that clearly and explicitly guides American Catholics to vote based on principle, not party affiliation. The principles it outlines include traditional aspects from both party platforms, to different (and highly disputed) proportions and degrees.

MINOR PREMISE — Faithful Catholics follow the spirit of this directive, voting for principled reasons, not party affiliation. Based on their interpretation (and oftentimes guided by other ideological and philosophical commitments), they tend to vote for Republicans if they are “pro-life” or Democrats if they are champions of “social justice.” Hence, each party can regularly rely on a solid voting bloc of Catholics, guided by ecclesial principles, only varying according to their respective interpretations of the Church’s position. In this one respect — that they see themselves supporting a political party to fulfill the aspirations of their Catholic conscience — in this respect they surely both agree.

CONCLUSION? — Catholic voters go to the polls, lend their support to one side or the other, and the side that wins reciprocates by advancing their Catholic, principled interests. The Republicans end, or at least vastly reduce, abortions. The Democrats abolish material poverty and bring an end to all American wars. And more. One side is left wanting, but at least the other side accomplishes its goals, thereby showing good faith between the Nation and its Catholic constituency.

Put that in your syllogism pipe and smoke it. Cause that’s all it’s good for: blowing smoke. We all know that the USA has been in constant war and that poverty rises and falls but remains ubiquitous in the (supposedly) richest country on Earth. We all know that abortion and euthanasia and stem cell research and other interests of the Right have not decreased at any significant levels. There are no clear lines of change to be found anywhere, for either side.

We also know, especially recently, that Romney is not a friend to tried-and-true, praying-cold-rosary-beads-on-Saturday-morning, Catholic pro-lifers. And we also know that Obama is no buddy of anti-war, homeless-ministering, soup-kitchen-working, Catholic champions of social justice.

Sure, there are these little wonky things that get brought up, that can be massaged into a reason to support one side or the other, but the darker truth lingers and thickens: the Republican and Democratic parties don’t really care about the principle-based aspects of their respective platforms. It’s the economy, stupid. It’s all about the Benjamins. Make that money, honey. They’d gladly switch, overnight, if it meant more power and money. Many of them — both of them — have; more than once or twice!

See what I mean?

This point has been made before and will be made again and again. I know, it’s a tired, juvenile refrain. But I’m not concerned with what gets under Noam Chomsky’s old skin. This is about the exploitation of my Catholic sisters and brothers. This is about our complicity in a bipartisan program of systematic violence that each side understands well enough.

While American Catholics may not agree on the issue that ought to guide our conscience the most, and how to parse just one of them from the other ones, we surely must recognize that we’re not getting very far. In political institutions, “not getting very far” is tantamount to going nowhere.

We’re being pimped. Many of our ancestors exchanged their folkloric, Catholic identities to assimilate into the Protestant/Secular culture we find ourselves in. Since then, our consciences have been routinely exploited for much more than our votes: these parties and they’re media minions take our money, time, and eventually, our identity. Our very soul and sanity. They breed and feed on outrage, scandal, and death.

Cut me and I bleed gold: Catholic. That’s my politics. The Vatican gold and white are my first and most intimately felt colors. My Catholicism was steeped in the dark, pagan folklore of the Mexican people, flavored by a life spent on the charismatic margins of American Catholic Church. Educated by priests and friars and nuns and lunatics. I’m not a fanatic, at least not all the time, but I don’t like to be used. Especially when there are no reciprocal gains. Especially after so many promises forgotten. So many “bad checks,” to borrow Martin Luther King Jr.’s expression.

Sadly, many Catholics have become so addicted to 24-hour news cycles of secular politics, to either MSNBC or Fox News, that they think they bleed blue or red. These are the worst, most  exploited ones. The rest, the ones who feel weird right now, something like political vertigo, but who will pinch their nose and toe the partisan line in the end — at least these ones know that they don’t like being… well, you know what.

Wake up, US Catholics. Rub and feel the warmth of your own blood again. Don’t go nuts, don’t frighten the Protestants and the Secularists too bad, but don’t let this Imperial two-headed monster use you. And if you must be used, so be it. Don’t despair. But do it with some honor, knowing what is going on. Don’t deaden the pain. Don’t pretend that we’re not whores.

Cause somewhere in the frozen bowels of the DNC and GOP, they must be counting their money together and singing, “We be, big pimpin’ Catholics down in US of A!”

(Read the follow-up: Vote Local, Not Loco: Subsidiarity and Voting)

 

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  • Elizabeth Scalia

    A good piece although I will take some exception to your claim that nothing has changed on the stem cell front. Embryonic stem cell research is almost at a complete halt. That’s a good thing and it can be (arguably) directly tied to Bush’s brave and almost Solomonic decision of August 2001. But that said, I no sooner believe that the GOP will end abortion than I think the Democrats will defeat poverty. Both sides need those issues, for the very purposes you’ve outlined here.

    • srocha

      I do have sympathy for that point, Elizabeth. Myself, I think Bush’s stand down of the GOP on immigration was more courageous than Obama’s inaction on the matter. But, from where I’m sitting, these little things don’t quite add up to much in terms of lasting, structural change.

    • Mary

      The 2012 Nobel Peace prize in medicine went to Japan’s Shinya Yamanaka and Britain’s John Gurdon for their research in nuclear reprogramming, a process that instructs adult cells to form early stem cells which can then be used to form any tissue type. This should/could result in the elimination of any need for experimentation on fetal stem cells. If that is the case, Bush held “them” off long enough for science to come up with a more pro-life solution for both the unborn and those in need of medical/research to address cures for any number of medical problems. Wierdly enough, this received very little press coverage when it was announced last week.

  • Meyer

    Who is the intended audience for this article? Anyone who has taken an intro level poli sci class knows politics is about power and money. I expected something fun and radical at the end rocha, but all this seems to be a PSA nobody needed. Your conclusion is “go vote but know you’re being used,” or alternatively, be more catholic? Same goes for blacks and evangelicals and students and soldiers as far as getting screwed by politicians. BORING!

    • srocha

      I think the intended audience is fairly spelled out and distinguished from others (e.g. Chomsky) who might say similar sounding things. But you’re right, of course: it is boring, not groundbreaking, and applies even more generally. Sorry. But THAT is precisely what I find most confounding. Given the completely predictable and well-known nature of politics, why all the piety and enthusiasm? Where does all this triumphalism and defeatism come from? Furthermore, how could something so obvious and drab take over a person’s very sense of self? That fact that the phenomenon is unoriginal only makes the situation more astounding, I think.

      Thanks for the comment!

      SR

      • s e

        but it’s also a question of what is the place of a catholic in modern society, right? because at some level you seem to be suggesting that we should just leave the whole pimped out business of politics, accept the secular state of things, and revert to the paradigm of the christians in rome: witnesses of the godless and waiters for the end-times, ministers to the poor, solace of the enslaved. But certainly not politicians, which was left to the pagans because the pagans wouldn’t let the extremists in, for better or worse.

        at the very least, you raise this question, and then sidestep it at the end.

        • srocha

          I don’t know what level it is that seems to suggest that or where this side-stepped question is raised exactly. But I do find your thoughts very interesting and stimulating. My words here are mostly descriptive in nature, not normative or prescriptive.

      • Mary

        I didn’t find this article boring, but neither does it present a solution for those who “bleed white and gold” while standing in the ballot box. I would feel more comfortable voting for Romney if he let the tax cuts for the wealthy expire, not try to put new ones in their place AND if he would recognise the good that unions have and continue to do for Americans. I would feel more comfortable voting for Obama if he would sit down with Archbishop Dolan and hammer out something the Church could live with in regards to Obamacare AND restore government funding for Catholic social service programs dealing with crisis pregnancies and immigrants. PS While using “pimpin” in a title is certainly an attention grabber, I hesitate to share your post because it is not a word that flows easily from my lips. Sharing it would likely lead my Facebook friends and relatives to believe that I’ve been working a little too long in inner city Miami schools…

        • srocha

          I am very sympathetic to your thoughts, Mary; thanks for sharing them. The post that follows, I hope, is my modest proposal of “what to do”: build Catholic culture through a rich and rigorous engagement with liturgy. I have a book in the works on this, thanks again.

  • Andy

    This is my first visit to your place on the “net. I agree so much with what you have written – I never thought of it is terms of whoredom, but it does seem apt. I saw it in terms of politicians being more in the mold of the traveling salesman – say what is needed to make the sale – you know the type Harold Hill from the “Music Man” but without his ability to be reformed. But I think that it is beyond the Catholics being used – it is all Americans – we have sold ourselves to an oligarchy – the monied few on both sides of the spectrum – in hopes of not having to face what we have done. I have no answers but struggle to find a way to make my conscience count for something. Thanks I did enjoy the entry.

    • srocha

      Thanks, Andy. I think it does have wider implications, but the core of the argument assumes that voters vote on principle. I am not so sure that that guides the general electorate. But there are other connections, I think.

      Thanks for visiting my place on the net!

  • Bob

    A friend of mine was touring the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, and for some odd reason the tour guide said to him, “Now Catholics can only vote for Republicans because the only issue that counts is religious freedom right now. War. Torture. Economy. They don’t matter. Only religious freedom.”

    This woman spoke these words in front of an altar which contains the relics of St. Marcellinus the Centurion Pacifist and Martyr. Talk about conflicts in the Church!!

    • Ted Seeber

      A vote for Romney could well mean the National Labor Relations Board will be attacked by Drones in the next 4 years. But a vote for Obama could mean the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception would be the target.

      I’m voting third party for people who don’t sign kill lists.

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  • Frank

    I’ve always said that the Catholic Church was an international political party. Thanks for admitting it.

    • srocha

      We’re surely much more than that, Frank.

  • Frank

    Your pimps are your bishops. Ask any raped altar boy.

    • srocha

      As clever as it might seem to say that — and as tragic as it’s reality looms — your comment is completely beside the point in terms of relevance to this discussion. When I write about Church scandal, I’m sure you’ll have a field day. Wait for it… wait for it…


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