As a pro-choice, pro-gay rights, progressive Catholic, John Edwards’s blogging scandal produced some funny reactions for me.
As a huge critic of the direction the Church has taken, I’m always amazed at how defensive criticism from non-Catholics towards the Church makes me feel.
I think that people need to realize that within the Catholic Church there is a struggle between progressives and traditionalists that has been quietly raging since the reforms of Vatican II in the 1960s. Vatican II called for a great deal of change for the Catholic Church – much of that change has not yet been realized. The council called for equality between the sexes, collegiality among the leaders of the church, (read: a move towards democracy and away from the current monarchical hierarchy) and a more enlightened understanding of human sexuality.
Perhaps the reformers pushed too far, because the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI have moved the Church back to the right.
The battle continues today and the reformers in the church have received new strength from the mis-handling of the recent sex abuse scandals and now the financial scandals that are coming to light.
American Catholics have been an important part of the Democratic Party and Democratic coalitions in the past century could not have been possible without the support of Catholics.
When polled, a majority of American Catholics are pro-choice, pro-gay rights, supportive of stem cell research, and oppose the death penalty.
Furthermore, the Catholic Church is the single fastest growing religious group in North Carolina (and many of the most politically under-represented people living in North Carolina are Latino Catholics.)
The first Catholic Governor of North Carolina is Mike Easley.
Clearly, it is very important for Catholics to feel comfortable in the Democratic Party and as part of the progressive movement in North Carolina. They need to feel like they are respected and that their faith is respected.
I would like to make a heartfelt appeal to my fellow progressives concerning the Catholic Church: for the sake of change, please treat Catholics and their faith with respect.
When the Church is attacked from the outside (like any group) the natural tendency is to be defensive. I’m afraid that attacks on Catholicism from the left at this point will only serve to embolden those who wish to move the Church further to the right. If Catholics feel like progressives respect them, they will be more likely to listen to what they have to say.
So while it really is unfortunate that someone felt the need to dig up the writings of Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan and use them against them, I feel that John Edwards did the right thing and I would say that he really scored points with me and with other Catholics I have spoken with.
In closing, I would like to offer a challenge to my fellow progressives. I found the comics posted on this blog to be amusing, but I couldn’t help but wonder: would the author be as willing to criticize anti-choice, anti-feminist, and anti-gay rights views and teachings held by predominately African American churches?
I seem to hear a lot of criticism of predominately white Churches when they are anti-choice and anti-gay rights, but it seems that the left is self-censoring when it comes to predominately African American churches. I think there is a wisdom in this: liberals understand that they need to respect these churches and the faith of their congregations if we are to ever have any chance of winning majorities. I think that respect needs to be given to people of all faiths.
For the sake of building a progressive coalition that can win, I ask that we keep criticism of religion outside of the progressive political movement. There are better places for it.