In "Separation anxiety," Scott Stossel discusses recent controversy over John Kerry and other pro-choice Catholic politicians receiving Communion. Are church officials who have criticized Kerry inappropriately mixing faith and politics? Or are they correct to demand that Catholic politicians uphold the church's basic moral teachings in the public sphere? Given the party's stance on abortion, is there any contradiction in being a good Democrat and a good Catholic?
Not possible if "good" democrat is defined with a mandatory acceptance of abortion. If that mantle is removed, then absolutely it is, and probably much easier than being a "good" republican
I guess it depends upon your definition of a "good" catholic. I believe that, yes, you can be both because I do not believe that what you believe personally has to be the same as what you feel the government should believe. Despite talk of the "judeo-christian ethic" this nation was founded upon, the government is supposed to be separate from religious beliefs, and instead look at what is right for its entire people. The hot-button issue of course is abortion. I am a Catholic, I consider myself a "good" Catholic, and yet I am Pro-Choice. How can I reconcile those two things? Personally, I find the idea of abortion abhorrent and would never suggest it to a woman. But I also do not believe the Government should be telling women what they can and cannot do. My sincere wish is that no woman would find herself in the position of being pregnant when she had no desire to bring a child into the world, but my wishes cannot be legislated. Of couse I also believe in birth control, gay marriage, married priests and female priests, so I'm sure in the eyes of many I am not myself a "good" catholic. Being a "good" Catholic is about the faith in your heart and in God. It is not about blindly following the interpretation of God's word by men which, if you look back through history, has changed repeatedly and often in contradictory ways.
Dave C., Billerica
Church officials are inappropriately mixing everything. The church is collapsing under its own weight. The only contradiction is between being a good catholic and a good person.
I think this is the wrong way to phrase the question. It's not about the Democratic Party of America. It's not about the Catholic religion. It is about the influence of a sovereign power on American politics. This is about the political path which the Papal States started on in the mid 8th century with the establishment of a sovereign government run by the Bishop of Rome. This act has resulted in a horrible mix of religion and politics in a single institution. It was also a rebellion against the tradition order of the original christian churches, resulting in the Great Schism of the 12th century and the excommunication of the Roman church - which lasted until the 1960's. So if you want to ask if there can be some sort of JFK-like balance, the question is really to be put not to Democrats, nor to the Catholic faithful, but to the officials of the Papal States and their American representatives. Unfortunately, the lesson of history is clear and unambiguous. And to ignore it is to ignore the link claimed to Saint Peter. Let us not forget that as recently as 1848 the Republic of Rome, established by popular uprising against the oppression of the Papacy, was crushed after Cardinal Antonelli convinced France to send in an army and replace a newborn democratic government with an 1100-year old despotic regime under Pius IX. Let no one forget that the pope, unlike every other leader of the original christian churches, is a sovereign as well as a religious leader. Let us hope that the current pope can reach greater wisdom than his predecessors and undue the wrongs commited since that fateful mistake 1200 years ago to take the path of earthy kings and usurp a beautiful religion in the cause of earthy power. If John Paul can see this wisdom then the true flowering of Catholicism may begin, unleashed from the burdens of earthly kingship.
"Separation Anxiety" with its description of the Shriver method of balancing good politics and good Catholicism illustrates very clearly the reason this methodology would not work today. Contemporary politics has become a black-and-white game, where only absolute views are valid and shades of grey are derided as "indecisive". Politicians, arrogant, or deluded about the intelligence of voters, strive to simplify and deny the many variations of opinions between the outer edges of each point of view. One must either be absolutely for or absolutely against gay marriage, abortion, family planning, adherence to religious dogma, prayer in schools, etc. etc. Attempting to express a view that thoughtfully takes into account the many facets of an issue either leads to the "waffling" charge, or, it results in opportunistic labeling by an opponent. Sadly, we will continue to get the partisan politics and political bullying by various institutions like the Catholic Church until voters reject absolutism in politics and begin to value intelligence, thoughtfulness, and range of opinion. Only then can a good Catholic also be a good politican.
I think the Catholic Church or anyother Church should not have any say at all ,as far as politics are concerned.I beleive in separation of church and state.I cannot believe the flack the Kerry is getting form the Church.The Church is supose to believe that all life is sacred,and just love George Bush,they have forgotten about all the people he put to death,when he was the governor of Texas. Paul Moscato
Paul , Siler City ,North Carolina 27344
Scott Stossel focuses on the abortion issue as the identifying issue for American Catholics. I think this is seriously over-simplifying how a Catholic should vote, although this is how Catholics (and Christians in general) are now being directed to vote. I think there is more contradiction in being a Republican Catholic than a Democratic Roman Catholic. The Democratic Party has supported every social cause in line with Roman Catholic teaching except in one area: Human Sexuality. When it comes to understanding abortion & embryo rights, contraception, and gay rights, the Democratic Party and Roman Catholic Church part ways. But this break has been allowed by many to move Catholics away from the traditional attention to helping the poor, finding voice for the voiceless, and mercy to all who suffer the world's many and varied injustices. The Democratic Party has always acted with compassion towards addressing the needs of marginalized Americans, on matters concerning capital punishment, homlessness, the poor, the sick, the aged, and children's welfare, just to name a few. Those who claim that a Roman Catholic can never join the Democratic Party must also accept, then, that a Roman Catholic has no place in the Republican Party. This is because the Republican Party also parts way from the Catholic pro-life stance. Abortion is not the sole aspect of the pro-life issue. Capital punishment, civil rights, education, environmental issues, just to name a few, combine to complete pro-life issues. And the Republican Party doesn't have a great track record on things like healthcare, the environment, civil rights, capital punishment, etc. The late Cardinal Bernardin, former Archbishop of Chicago, spoke of the pro-life movement as a seamless garment, of which only one element is abortion. By reducing the garment to one part, we do serious injustice to the People of God and American Citizens. The truth of the matter is that Roman Catholics are charged with the responsibility of voting with an informed conscience, and elect officials accordingly. It is understood that politics is a human convention and subject to human limitations, and as such, it is possible to elect an official who doesn't agree with every single issue, but rather, is most in line with the whole array of issues vital to a good and proper society.
Dan , Cambridge, MA
There is no contradiction in being a good Democrat, pro-choice on abortion law, and being a good Catholic. St. Thomas Aquinas argues that you should not support an unenforceable law, since it weakens support for all law. To try to make abortions illegal in 2004 would be unenforceable. I support Kerry because of the difference between him and Bush on social justice issues that make a real practical difference. A more just taxation of the wealthy, justice in health insurance for all, and a far greater participation in the United Nations, and cooperation with the community of nations, rather than unilateral foreign policy, are all reasons why a Catholic can in good conscience support Kerry and other pro-choice Democrats who fight for social justice.
Larry, Quincy, MA
This is one of the tougher questions to face as a Democrat and a Catholic. I knew too many fellow Catholics in the last election who did not approve of Bush but voted for him simply because of his position on abortion (why Bush's non-pro-life record with the death penalty never seem to be given equal weight I don't know). How sad it is that a single issue polarizes so many, when a broader view reveals that a candidate who may not want to repeal Roe v. Wade may on all other issues be the candidate who most represents one's beliefs. By and large it has been Democratic candidates who uphold the values we as Catholics hold so dear: charity, mercy, preservation of life, social responsibility, and loving all souls equally. Shriver's stance may be the best way to reconcile these questions - to live as a good Catholic and follow one's conscience to be charitable and merciful when making legislative decisions, but to be mindful of the separation of church and state and one's civic responsibility to allow the freedom of those with other beliefs. What a great example he is to follow.
I don't think the Globe, which has long hated the Catholic Church, should once again address the proper role of the Church in the lives of Catholics. Why don't you ever criticize another religion?
Terrence, South Boston