The Giuliani Crusade

The Catholic blogosphere’s (and others’) efforts to derail the candidacy of Rudy Giuliani get noticed in the Times. Not being a party member, this soap opera has pretty much no effect on the confluence of my state of grace and my voting record. But permit me some base cynicism about it.

Every other Republican candidate is happy (if not supportive indirectly or otherwise) because one formidable opponent is under the gun. It would serve just as well if Rudy showed up alcohol- or drug-impaired at a debate. A last-minute fumble at the goalline is as sure a way to lose as being outplayed. Thing is, in politics, the surest way to outplay your opponent is to outspend. Even then you could be subject to a squeaker. It’s nearly impossible to preach a message above the din, so why not throw the cash around. And if you’ve got no cash, a strategy of full-contact musical chairs might be the next best shot. Great civics lesson, this.

Hold-your-nose Republican Catholics can feel the sweet relief from hypocrisy. Let’s gang up on a Republican like we did on Kerry, they say, while congratulating themselves on equanimity. Rudy Giuliani doesn’t seem to receive Communion anyway, so maybe the worst they can deny him is a Catholic funeral.

Bishops who regularly feel the powerlessness confronting the neighborhood abortion clinic get some press for uttering criticisms against an easy-target politician. It’s easier than the hard work of altering the moral landscape one tree at a time. Or showing up at a speaking event to politely and firmly disavow instead of disinvite.

The Times mentions:

The Rev. Frank Pavone, leader of Priests for Life, a Catholic anti-abortion group, said he believed that some bishops were reticent because — after the last campaign season — many were warned by their legal advisers not to violate Internal Revenue Service rules that prohibit churches from endorsing or denouncing political candidates.

They might be more concerned about the Pell/Burke effect. They should be. An overwhelming state parliament majority passed a stem cell research bill earlier this month in Australia. Last Fall I wondered if the Missouri anti-clones chopped off the top of their wave surge by hammering too hard on ESCR in the parishes. In the Aussies’ case, fence-sitting leglislators might have wanted to rub it in the cardinal’s face. For Missouri ESCR opponents, the vote was close enough to consider that Dale’s lack of “cred” factor might have easily been enough to tip the scales for the medical research industry.

On one level, life issues are black and white. You kill a person or you don’t. It gets less easy when more or less well-intentioned people start talking about defense against an aggressor, national security, the mother’s health, the benefit of potential cures, safety against prison breaks, and even vengeance.

It’s hard to control the decisions of millions of women to have abortions. Or the decisions of tens of thousands of health care providers to assist. On the other hand, it is a lot less cluttered in the cases of torture and capital punishment. As is true with abortion, there is a chain of “command,” either from the president down military lines or the governor to the death row personnel. Ultimately, one person is responsible, though granted, far fewer lives are taken unjustly.

The strategy of charging uphill against the citadel is no doubt a glorious one. But if the struggle against the so-called Culture of Death is to be effective in saving lives, I question the effectiveness of bishops leading this charge. I question the advisability of focusing on individuals rather than issues. I continue to question the wisdom in abandoning the seamless garment approach.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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3 Responses to The Giuliani Crusade

  1. Dale Price says:

    This one’s a little scattershot, Todd. Since the C v. Rudy contingent is and will be a mostly lay endeavor, I don’t see where the Pell/Burke factor figures in.

    Plus, the cynical swipe at “equanimity” is way over the top. Because you would (rightly) give conservative Catholics the business if they gave Giuliani a pass. You veer awfully close to levelling a posturing charge on this one, I think.

    The fact is, there is little choice but to hammer away at the stances of individual candidates. Especially given the power of a successful party standard bearer to shape the party. This is a lot of what is driving the opposition to Giuliani: what little gains the SoCons have with the Repubs would be lost in a Giuliani GOP.

    While you point at the stem-cell battles, you also have to consider the 2004 Presidential election. For a Catholic candidate to lose the Catholic vote is staggering. It’s far from established that such a tactic is a loser. Ms. Henneberger’s recent column in the NYT is also food for thought, coming as it is from someone who can’t be painted as any kind of right winger.

  2. Tony says:

    Todd, why do you believe the seamless garment is being abandoned? When it comes to life issues, the Vatican has been very clear that there is priorities of some life issues to others.

    Killing the unborn (be them partial birth babies or blastocytes) mondo bad juju all the time.

    Killing the dying? Mondo bad juju all of the time.

    Killing prisoners mondo bad juju all of the time.

    Torture? What do your mean by torture?

    The garment is seamless, but some things take priority.

    I don’t see myself voting for Rudy in the primary. From the looks of things, I’ll be working for and voting for Fred Thompson. Should Rudy become the candidate for the Republicans, I’ll be happy to vote for him against anything the Democrats can put up (unless by chance they draft Lieberman).

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