Apologies to any readers who come here for the scintillating verbiage, the art, the music, the humor, or the (new and perhaps fortunately as yet rare) quasi-mommy-blogger posts. But I cannot resist politics plus religion, and especially not politics plus my religion.
I wrote a long post about Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables” comment, and about why it worried me as a conservative religious person; I wrote a short post yesterday about the Wikileaks revelation that Clinton advisor John Podesta really doesn’t care for conservative Catholics.
Actually, since I only linked to that before and didn’t quote it here, behold the text itself.
From:email@example.com To: JPalmieri@americanprogress.org, firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: 2011-04-11 21:10
Subject: Re: Conservative Catholicism
Excellent point. They can throw around “Thomistic” thought and “subsidiarity” and sound sophisticated because no one knows what the hell they’re talking about.
Jennifer Palmieri <JPalmieri@americanprogress.org> wrote:
I imagine they think it is the most socially acceptable politically conservative religion. Their rich friends wouldn’t understand if they became evangelicals.
——- Original Message ——-
From: John Halpin
To: John Podesta <email@example.com>; Jennifer Palmieri
Sent: Mon Apr 11 18:55:59 2011
Subject: Conservative Catholicism
Ken Auletta’s latest piece on Murdoch in the New Yorker starts off with the aside that both Murdoch and Robert Thompson, managing editor of the WSJ, are raising their kids Catholic. Friggin’ Murdoch baptized his kids in Jordan where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. Many of the most powerful elements of the conservative movement are all Catholic (many converts) from the SC and think tanks to the media and social groups. It’s an amazing bastardization of the faith. They must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely backwards gender relations and must be totally unaware of Christian democracy.
Alas, alas, it is true: no one knows what the heck we’re talking about. (Maybe this blog would have more readers if I simplified the language? A grade level somewhere between a Donald Trump speech and a John Kasich soothe should do the trick.) Yes, having the ability to actually reason and make important moral and ethical distinctions is tough. I’m not even joking, though there are thick layers of irony coating my (mental) voice. But my irony is as Pollyanna’s in comparison to the tone used here: “Friggin’ Murdoch.” Pardonne-moi, mon frère? And then there’s this: “It’s an amazing bastardization of the faith. They must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely backwards gender relations and must be totally unaware of Christian democracy.”
Er, um, well, actually no, yes, not in the way you think, and definitely not, in that order. More clearly:
(1) To be conservative and Catholic is no more a “bastardization” of the Faith than to be liberal and Catholic. At the very least, the email’s claim is an ad hominem that requires serious argument to prove.
(2) Conservative Catholic are attracted to systematic thought. So are neurologists and NASA researchers. This is a problem, John?
(3) Our “severely backwards gender relations,” as far as I can make out, have to do with (a) the notion that children should be cared for by a parent and not a stranger; (b) the idea that contraceptives aren’t hot (while we’re on this topic, check out the secular world’s new embrace of something less distant from NFP); and (c) the notion that male-female romantic relationships are somehow normative (with LOTS of debate—and I do mean that LOTS; I would use bigger caps if I had them—about HOW they are normative). In other words, our “severely backwards gender relations” have been the norm for human society for the past ... um, well, for most of history. And we share them with Muslims, which you would think might be a selling point (especially since we also let our women work and wear pantsuits, like me), except that it’s somehow not.
I said I was allowed to wear pantsuits, not that I did wear them.
I do have some native good taste, despite my background in philosophy.
And anyway, the only comfortable pants at month eight-and-one-half
are running shorts, not a suit of armor. But I digress.
(4) I’m sorry, but we are aware of Christian democracy. We like to think we live in one, or at any rate that we lived in one, or might be able to live in one in the future. I know there Catholics interested in a Christian Socialist State (whispered: Tradinistas) and people who would love to see some sort of confessional monarchy; but please believe me when I say that Ross Douthat, Robbie George, Hadley Arkes, and the late great Antonin Scalia definitely had neither of those extremes in mind. A Christian democracy sounds swell to me, though perhaps the word “Republic” would be more apropos, given our Founding Fathers’ intentions, and all that rot.
Thus much for the first installment of Clinton Campagin vs. Conservative Catholicism.
For anyone too busy to follow the link, here’s the gold from this pair of emails:
“This whole controversy with the bishops opposing contraceptive coverage even though 98% of Catholic women (and their conjugal partners) have used contraception has me thinking . . . There needs to be a Catholic Spring, in which Catholics themselves demand the end of a middle ages dictatorship and the beginning of a little democracy and respect for gender equality in the Catholic church. Is contraceptive coverage an issue around which that could happen. The Bishops will undoubtedly continue the fight. Does the Catholic Hospital Association support of the Administration's new policy, together with ‘the 98%’ create an opportunity? Of course, this idea may just reveal my total lack of understanding of the Catholic church, the economic power it can bring to bear against nuns and priests who count on it for their maintenance, etc. Even if the idea isn't crazy, I don't qualify to be involved and I have not thought at all about how one would ‘plant the seeds of the revolution,’ or who would plant them. Just wondering . . .”
Oh, just go read the reply too. It’s not long.
So, what we have here is an expressed interest in engineering dissent within the Catholic Church—which is rich, because we’re pretty good at doing that on our lonesome, without help from rogue political operators. In any case, this would be sort of like the Arab Spring, with Chicago organizers behind it, except different, because Catholic women will be FREE AT LAST …
… to do whatever they want, anytime they want, anyway they want it.
I would say two things to this. First and most simply, there has already been a revolution in the Church. We called it the 1960s. Large parts of it did not go well. I have no time in this already overlong post to review the history of American Catholicism from the past sixty years; suffice it to say that (a) the “conservatism” in the Church which we are seeing today is largely a reaction to a failed revolution, and (b) the vast majority of Catholics actually DO do whatever they want in these regards (as the email notes). So really, this isn’t about freeing Catholic women—who rarely even have to hear a homily on the topic, much less receive personal censure. No, this is about trying to change the Church’s teaching and stance in opposition to the HHS mandate. Ironically, this notion of fomenting dissent within the Church is actually based upon a desire to silence the Church’s inconvenient dissent from the government. If you doubt me, go read the emails again. Chew on that for a while. If these operatives sound Stalinesque, or Putinesque, that’s because they are.
The second point I would make about their idea of freeing Catholic women is a more psychological one, and addresses concerns of those who are genuinely and understandably concerned that, sans contraception, women cannot enjoy life as fully and freely as men. For discussions from women who actually don’t feel imprisoned by the Church’s stance on this issue, I would point towards the tremendous zone of the Catholic Mommy Blogosphere (Mama Needs Coffee and Catholic All Year Round are two personal favorites, that will link you up to lots more). If you want a grittier take from women who’ve had a REALLY hard time of it, but still believe in living by the Church’s teachings, try Simcha Fischer or Callah Alexander.
And to all that cloud of witnesses, I would add my own humble thoughts on the matter. I’ve never found the Church’s position on contraception inhibiting. Would it be nice to be able to do what you want whenever you want to (i.e., to be able to rely on contraception, and not have to wait with NFP)? No, actually, I don’t think it would be. Look, spaghetti and meat sauce with ice cream cones for dessert is probably my favorite meal.
Grrrrr, pregnant lady, why you talk about food?
But it would not be my favorite meal if I had it every day. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’d be sick and tired of it in short order, not to mention ten pounds heavier. It’s normal to have to regulate eating, exercise, and other less mentionable biological functions. It’s normal, and it’s actually pleasant, to have seasons of “cleansing” and “fasting.” It’s weird to think that you wouldn’t have such seasons. And to this (admittedly personal and perhaps superficially idiosyncratic) opinion I will add the testimony of the villain Syndrome from The Incredibles (paraphrased slightly for relevance):
Chew on that one for a while, and consider whether pornography, Fifty Shades of Grey, and certain comments by an unhappy political candidate may have to do, as much as anything else, with boredom and addiction as with pleasure. In the words quoted in a fiery speech by one excellent rhetorician (another antihero, who also incidentally provides an excellent example of the sort of community organizing the Clinton camp appears to have in mind):
But at this point, in the words of Lord Peter Wimsey,
(Sorry, you’ll have to watch the whole thing. You can thank me later. Now, for some pickles and ice cream.)
Honi soit qui mal pense.