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.