Thursday, May 12, 2011

Double Edged Sword

Like Michael McGough, I have some mixed emotions about the letter recently sent to House Speaker John Boehner by a number of Catholic theologians and professors at Catholic University in advance of Boehner's visit to the university to deliver the commencement address. In that letter, the Speaker is taken to task for his miserable record in Congress with respect to the basic teachings of the church.

McGough cites one paragraph from that letter:

For example: "Mr. Speaker, your voting record is at variance from one of the church's most ancient moral teachings. From the apostles to the present, the Magisterium of the Church has insisted that those in power are morally obliged to preference [sic] the needs of the poor. Your record in support of legislation to address the desperate needs of the poor is among the worst in Congress."

Yes, it is nice to see the smarmy hypocrisy of the Speaker and members of his party when it comes to addressing the issues of poverty in America laid out so deftly, and, yes, it is nice to see church leaders protesting something other than abortion and women's reproductive freedom. Still, like Mr. McGough, I am troubled by the intrusion of the Church into our politics.

And yet, it bothers me that Boehener, as a Catholic, is being called to account for his actions in Congress. It is true that the budget he shepherded through the House "guts long-established protections for the most vulnerable members of society." But there is a sense about the letter that Boehner hasn't followed his marching orders from the church. This is the same critique that conservative Catholics make about Catholic members of Congress who support abortion rights. And the implication is the same: that Catholic politicians' first duty is to their faith as it is articulated by the hierarchy, and not, say, to the opinions of constituents. [Emphasis added]

This was a battle that should have ended with the election of John F. Kennedy decades ago, but it clearly has not. While my lesser angel is gleefully applauding the smack-down of Boehner, my better nature, the one that prizes the wall separating church and state, knows that such an intrusion is one that has to be fought if we are not to slip into theocracy that our founders wisely rejected.



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