John Edwards did the right thing, progressives should follow suit

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.


I see your point; however...

why does religion merit such special treatment that we can't say boo about it? (I just finished reading Dawkins' The God Delusion, see.)

Why is a critique of the policies of a church (RCC, ECUSA, UMC, SBC, whatever) seen as 'attacking' the church or its members? Back in the days when I was living at home and attending church (a United Methodist one in MD), the church leaders were debating whether or not to perform ceremonies 'marrying' gay couples (though it might have been whether to ordain gay clergy; I forget.) The governing body of the church came out against it, and I thought that was bullshit. (Still do.) Is my saying that bashing the UMC? Does it make a difference that my friend, who's actually Christian, said the same thing?

Of course, no one wants my opinion; I can't even run for elected office in this state because I "deny the being of Almighty God."

I'll need to think about this one.

I see where you're coming from and appreciate the sentiments, but the blurring of the line between religion and politics makes this a challenging request.

Your comments about singling out any particular religion for criticism are on the mark. In fact, I believe that the anti-gay posture of many African American Episcopal churches deserves no less scorn than the same practice among Southern Baptists.

What is progressive about standing silent while this or that religion uses god to justify discrimination? And once one decides to speak out, what is the "progressive" way to call bulloney on institutional prejudice?

I will think about this and see where I come out, but it's a tall order.

I agree with much of what you said. However,

if the church, any church, sticks its nose/beliefs into the political arena they become fair game. If church A wants to preach to its members about the evils of drink or any other "vice," or preach their version of how the earth came to be, etc., they're perfectly free to do so within the confines of their organization.

When the church starts sticking their long scaly fingers into schools and politics and trying to influence legislation or policy or political campaigns that affect everyone, then they've ceded their privileges.

Stan Bozarth

sort of

There is a respectful way to disagree and a disrespectful way.

For instance:

When the church starts sticking their long scaly fingers into schools and politics

How am I to interpret this? Catholics believe that all Catholics are the "church" Are you saying that all Catholics are sub-human when they get involved in politics? Specifically, are we reptiles?

I know that you didn't mean it that harshly, but this is how ubiquitous Catholic bashing has felt on the blogs in the last few weeks.

"Repealing the estate tax is like choosing the 2020 Olympic team by picking the eldest sons of the gold-medal winners in the 2000 Olympics". - Warren Buffett

"Repealing the estate tax is like choosing the 2020 Olympic team by picking the eldest sons of the gold-medal winners in the 2000 Olympics". - Warren Buffett

All Catholics are saints

None of them are reptiles.
None of them are sub human.
None of them every do anything wrong.
All of them are God's gift to the world.

Feel better?

Maybe instead of getting defensive, you could consider drawing distinctions between what is right and good about your religion and where it is being used to foster hate and prejudice. I'd certainly be much more willing to consider your point of view if it wasn't draped in so much victim-hood.

Catholics are so hard to

Catholics are so hard to understand, as a political bloc, because they have so much diversity of opinion within their ranks. The same church that gives you a monster like Rick Santorum gives you a saint like John Kerry. It's easier for us political types to understand churhces like the Mormons and Southern Baptists on the right and the Jews and Episcopalians on the left. No group is monolithic in its party support or ideology, but many groups seem to identifiably swing one way or the other (I'm a Presbyterian, and we tend to vote 2-1 Democratic, according to surveys).

I made the point on a blog in reaction to one of Stormbear's comics last week that Edwards had to be very careful not to alienate the huge bloc within the church (call it the Kerry-Easley wing)that sympathizes with our party and could help him get elected. That's a political reality that he must consider in all aspects of his campaign, not just in dealing with bloggers.

But we have to stand up to the Bill Donohues of the world. He doesn't speak for all Catholics in much the same way Louis Farrakhan doesn't speak for all black folks or black Muslims, for that matter (and, yes, I think that's a GREAT comparison). And the views he espouses and tries to protect
are against everything we as progressives stand for---equality for women, equal rights for our gay brothers and sisters, abortion/contraceptive rights, etc. While we have to be delicate on the subject at times, out of respect for the origin of some of these beliefs among well-meaning folks, we need to call out people like Donohue for the mongering bigot that he is and not let him hide behind his church.

War is over if you want it.