Tuesday, October 21, 2008

This lapsed Catholic chooses Obama

Lively discussions erupting around the blogosphere about Catholics voting for Sen. Obama -- or not. As always, the right wingers who have hijacked Catholicism are telling Democrats they are going to hell because they support abortion rights. I am a proud "Cafeteria Catholic," which means I pick and choose what I want off of the Catholic menu and leave the rest. However, I no longer attend Catholic mass in Cheyenne. I've outlined some reasons in the letter (below) that I recently wrote to my sister. I attend mass when I'm out of town on a Sunday, just to see what Catholics do in other parts of the country. The basics of the service are the same all over the world. I grew up experiencing it in another language -- Latin -- so I have no trouble with the mass en Espanol.

Not only am I a Cafeteria Catholic, but I'm also "lapsed" or "fallen away." Maybe I'm just taking a break until the church comes to its senses and realizes it's made a major mistake forging alliances with Christian fundamentalists because of the abortion issue. If you know your U.S. history, you know that fundamentalists have a long tradition of hating Catholics. Catholics were immigrants from Ireland and Poland and Italy. They spoke in strange tongues (especially the Irish) and took their marching orders from the pope in Rome. It's Un-American, that's what that is. At least that's what Americans once thought, even in 1960 when JFK ran for president. Some thought that JFK would not only have a red phone but also a direct line to the pope.

Now, there are those American Catholics who insist that all of us must follow the dictates of the pope when it comes to abortion. When you object, they say that you must obey, that "the church is not a democracy." Funny, but these same people didn't call for unquestioning obedience when Pope John Paul II called for opposition to the war in Iraq. Talk about your Cafeteria Catholics.

Lots to report on this subject. Memphis Bishop J. Terry Steib said this in an Oct. 21 story in the National Catholic Reporter:

“We must recognize,” he wrote, “that God through the church, is calling us to be prophetic in our own day. If our conscience is well formed, then we will make the right choices about candidates who may not support
the church's position in every case.”

Citing words from a statement, “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” a voting guide issued last November by the bishops of the United States, Steib wrote that "there may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate's unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil."

Father Michael Carr in the October issue of the Wyoming Catholic Register wrote this:

"In the Catholic Tradition, responsible citizenship is a virtue, and participation in political life is a moral obligation. As Catholics, we should be guided more by our moral convictions than by our attachment to a political party or interest group. As Catholics, we are not single-issue voters."

Father Carr does talk about abortion as an "intrinsic evil," yet he equates it with another intrinsic evil: "promotion of racism." He takes an even-handed approach to the issue. But he's that type of person. He's one of the first priests I met when we moved to Cheyenne in the early 1990s. We served together on the first board of directors for Laramie County Habitat for Humanity.

This comes from the Oct. 21 Chicago Tribune:

"I feel that every Catholic can vote for Obama in good conscience," said Patrick Whelan, president of Catholic Democrats. "I think Barack Obama is the first Democratic presidential candidate who has come out and said he plans constructive measures to reduce the number of abortions in the United States."

www.catholicsforobama.org/ argues that voting on the basis of only one issue runs afoul of the faith. Obama's broader social policies would do more to reduce the number of abortions than anything proposed by Se. John McCain, who is an open opponent of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. the group says. The crux of the argument is that criminalizing the procedure is less effective in reducing abortions than addressing the social circumstances that lead women to seek them.

Finally, here's a letter I e-mailed to my sister (one of my eight siblings, all in various states of lapsedness) after she had received some hateful e-mail missives from holier-than-thou Republican Catholics:

Dear Molly:

Don't know if you saw the video last week from the Daytona Beach News-Journal that showed the demolition of Father Lopez. It made me sad. I know that Father Lopez has built a shiny new school, but I spent four good years at the old Lopez. Made some good friends, learned a lot about being a Catholic and I learned a lot about myself.

Watching the old school come down, I thought about my life as a Catholic. I don't go to Catholic Church any more. Occasionally I go to to the First United Methodist Church which has an open-door policy and a very spiritual Sunday service. No priests or deacons are up at the altar railing against gays or Democrats or abortion or birth control or stem cell research. I've had it with that nonsense. I used to find a lot of comfort going to mass. But no more.

It's an interesting and passionate thread you have going on here. As you know, I'm voting for Barack Obama and his Catholic running mate, Joe Biden. Their platform is pro-life in the truest sense. Universal health care, a living wage, an improved education system (including more aid for college students), a plan to wean us off foreign oil in ten years, and an end to the ridiculous war in Iraq. John McCain wants to continue us down the same destructive path we've been on for eight years. McCain and Palin have been spewing their hateful message across America during their campaign, while Barack Obama brings a message of hope.

You probably remember the three theological virtures we learned in the catechism. The Bible in First Corinthians puts it this way: "And now abideth faith, hope, and love, even these three: but the chiefest of these is love". Sometimes "love" is translated as "charity." It's a selflessness that lets us to care for another human being, whether that's our mate, our kids, even our enemies. It's sometimes a challenge to do the latter.

Faith comes first on the list. Love -- the most important --comes last. I'll take that (and hope) over faith any time.

Sometimes faith can be blind. We're seeing that in some of these pious "Defenders of the Faith" in this e-mail thread.

Me, I'll keep working for Obama and a truly pro-life America.

Love, Mike


mpage225 said...

Mike, nice post. Both of my bosses are Catholics who go to mass regularly. And both are unrepentant "Cafeteria" Catholics. One time when I was trying to goad Nancy on some Catholic anomaly, she said "what do you expect from such a male dominated institution."

I am still upset with the Catholic church up the street from me. Last election we had a stem cell amendment on the ballot and they put several very large signs outside facing the street. Now I don't care if they tell their parishoners how they should vote, but I was offended that they would go out of their way to try to preach to the rest of us with those signs. To echo your thought, I wondered where the signs were opposing the war, the death penalty and other things the Church opposses but tries to keep quiet about so as not to offend the republican flock.

Oh well, us Methodists welcome one and all.


Michael Shay said...

I am very thankful for you Methodists. Without you, I'd have no place to go.

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