Monday, December 01, 2008

Catholicism Keeps Getting Worse

You may have noticed that Fosco has had a Catholic bee in his bonnet lately. Mostly, this is because of Fosco's anger at Catholic support for Prop H8. While this current story is not about Prop H8, Fosco thinks it clearly illustrates the kind of coercive tactics that the Catholic Church now uses on its members in order to influence politics in the (supposedly secular) public sphere.

From the SF Chronicle: Calif. priest tells Obama supporters to confess.

That's right, a parish priest is asking his parishioners to confess if they voted for Obama:

A Roman Catholic priest has told parishioners they should confess if they voted for Barack Obama because the president-elect supports abortion.

The Rev. Joseph Illo says his parishioners at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Modesto shouldn't risk losing their "state of grace" by receiving communion sacrilegiously. He delivered the message in a Nov. 21 letter and during mass.
"Father" Illo then goes on to note that voting for Obama would qualify as a "mortal sin." A mortal sin, as per Aquinas, is one that would exclude the sinner from heaven (if not confessed and repented).

First things first. "Father" Illo is a douchebag.

Second, let's take a minute and unpack this whole thing a bit. This is actually a remarkable move on "Father" Illo's part. Note, this is not the Catholic Church supporting a specific policy proposal (such as a ban on abortions or, say, gay marriage). While Fosco may disagree with the Church's position of these issues, he can understand how the Church may choose to urge Catholic voters to adopt the Catholic position in voting on these issues (of course, threatening any Catholic with damnation for their vote is repulsive). But this is not just about voting on a specific issue, rather, the Church here is weighing in on a candidate--a candidate who (like almost any political candidate) holds complex views on policy. "Father" Illo has essentially reduced Barack Obama to a pro-abortion caricature.

This is wrong for several reasons. The first of which is that Barack Obama is not exactly "pro-abortion." You can see that here. Obama (like all of us who support Roe v. Wade) would actually like there to be fewer abortions. And how do we reduce abortions? I think comprehensive sex education and improved economic opportunity might be a good place to start. Obama, like many of the rest of us, recognizes that we can reduce abortions by reducing unwanted pregnancies. Guess what, the Democratic party even has a plan!

So, if Barack Obama's plan to reduce abortion is not good enough for the Catholic Church, then John McCain must have been planning to outlaw abortion altogether, right? Well, not exactly. Apparently, McCain's entire plan was to appoint enough conservative justices to overturn Roe v. Wade, "returning the abortion question to the individual states." Hmmm. That doesn't actually seem like much of a plan, does it? I think we all know which states would outlaw abortion if RvW were overturned. And I'm guessing that most women, even those who live in the South, would be within one day's drive of one of the legal abortion states. Of course, overturning RvW would still cause a lot of pain and hardship for women in abortion-illegal states. And there would certainly be women too poor to travel for an abortion (although some might consequently risk their lives for unsafe illegal abortions). So this plan probably would reduce abortion as well. But overall, it's not entirely clear to me which plan would actually reduce abortion more: Obama's or McCain's.

But isn't the point of this sort of thought experiment that it is possible for intelligent people with a moral conscience to disagree about how best to reduce abortion? This is what "Father" Illo and the Catholic Church is denying here. They are being intellectually dishonest by ignoring the fact that there are numerous ways to reach goals that, in some degree, we all share. But clearly, disagreeing with the Church on the "right" way to reduce abortion means eternal damnation for your soul.

Do I even have to note that, by focusing on abortion in determining who to vote for, the Catholic Church is ignoring several other social justice issues that the Church used to care about? You know, issues like poverty and war. Does "Father" Illo really think that John McCain would save enough aborted fetuses to make up for the hundreds of thousands of people in Iran that he would kill? Although, come to think of it, those Iranians aren't Christians so presumably they count less...

1 comment:

todd said...

I'm pretty sure I read the official church position is that it's ok to vote for a pro-life candidate as long as you didn't actually vote for them because of that issue.

I looked for a reference but my Google-Fu is weak tonight.