Fake Catholics?

Deal Hudson, of InsideCatholic.com, is at it again. He has published an article accusing two groups, Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, with being "fake Catholics" because of their support for health care reform. He admitted to "journalistic hyperbole" in making the charge in an interview with Dan Gilgoff, but then went on to defend it. "This has to do with a nonnegotiable teaching of the church," he said.

The term "nonnegotiable" derived from a voting guide issued in 2004 by the group Catholic Answers, a group that does not, last time I checked, enjoy any magisterial authority. The five "nonnegotiable" items on their list conveniently dovetailed with planks in the Republican Party platform. It involves a sleight of hand. There is a difference between being an abortionist and being a legislator. The latter task involves weighing a variety of concerns, applying principles to concrete situations, and finally trying to achieve the common good while working with those who do not necessarily share one’s worldview. It is a moral task, to be sure, but people of good will and good conscience can sometimes reach different conclusions and, besides, legislation is all about negotiating. Sometimes, negotiations are the only way to convince others to see your own point of view.

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To be clear, I do not see how anyone can be pro-abortion and Catholic. The charge of "fakeness" is not, a priori, an impossible one to level. Indeed, the group Catholics for Choice seems to me to deserve the charge and Hudson conveniently fails to note that Catholics for Choice has consistently attacked Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for being too pro-life. And both Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance have consistently stated, and publicly stated, their opposition to federal funding of abortion.

But, the deeper falsity of Hudson’s charge lies in the crimped analysis he brings to his task of political evaluation. Hudson reduces religion to ethics, not just politics. The reason abortion is of such integral significance – integral is a key word used by Pope Benedict in his encyclical Caritas in Veritate – is because it offends not just Catholic morality but it offends Catholic anthropology. There is not a single moral claim in the Creed, but the Creed does claim, "We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth." Catholics cannot abide abortion because it cannot be reconciled with the idea that life, all life, is created and creation is received as a gift. It is not the product of our strivings. Liberal Democrats are the not the problem here. Modernity is the problem here, and Hudson is smart enough to know it. The modern worldview sees man as the creator of his own world, his own values, his own ethics and just so it is a deceit. But, it is a deceit that is found just as easily among the Republicans as it is among the Democrats. Unsurprisingly, Hudson does not want to have that discussion.

Hudson’s charge would also carry more weight if his on-line journal had not been so utterly indifferent to the needs of the uninsured, especially to the plight of poor women who lack health insurance and for whom the prospect of carrying a pregnancy to term is unbelievably daunting. She, too, is created in the image and likeness of God. But, Hudson passes by on the other side of the road when he sees that woman in need. His slavish devotion to the free market trumps his concern to help poor women, and he fails to see that the Catholic belief in subsidiarity requires the government to care for its citizens when the private sector fails to do so, and that the federal government must step in when states and localities fail to meet their obligation to care for the health of their citizenry. All that gets shunted aside because it is more important to hand President Obama a defeat.

It is not clear what the final language on abortion funding will be. It is quite clear that the obstructionist tactics of anti-reform zealots like Hudson have made it harder, not easier, to achieve pro-life health care reform because if they are going to oppose health care in any event, there is no reason for Congress or the White House to listen to them. I have been quite clear that if there is federal funding for abortion in the reform, I would vote against it if I had a vote. But, I can see how others see it differently, and that difference does not make them fake Catholics.

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David Cochran
7 years 12 months ago
Well said. On his blog, Hudson has been desperately attacking the healthcare reform efforts from the beginning, including those like the House version that have strong pro-life language (he has said he will oppose even a Stupak version of the bill). He regularly attacks Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance for not being authentically Catholic because they don’t echo GOP talking points.

Perhaps he should focus some attention on groups on his side of the aisle and their ignoring Catholic teaching on a range of important issues (they use the phrase “prudential judgment” as a magic wand to arrive at any conclusion they want). Or even at their funding. Erik Prince, the kind soul who runs Blackwater, has been a major donor to Catholic Answers Action (the voting guide you mention), Hudson’s own former magazine Crisis, and a range of other conservative Catholic groups. His company’s involvement in war-profiteering, indiscriminate killing of civilians, bribing foreign governments, regimes with terrible human rights records, and CIA assassination and rendition/torture programs is certainly at odds with Catholic teaching (including “intrinsically evil” acts). It would be like an abortion-provider funding liberal Catholic groups (how do you think Mr. Hudson or his comrade in arms Bill Donohue would react to that?).

In my view, Catholics United and Catholic in Alliance are more faithful to Catholic social teaching in its entirety then the perspective Mr. Hudson represents.
Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 12 months ago
This whole notion of calling some Catholics "fake", and others "real" gets at a nerve.  Rightly or wrongly, there are many Catholics in the USA whose "Catholicity" is more tied to their sense of family and belonging than their stated beliefs or politics.
 
If you want a Church where everybody accepts the party line, I guess kicking out members is the way to go.  If you want a Church where each member is treasured and heard, then you can't call some of them "fake".
 
My own sense is that the sacredness of life is a lived belief.  And Church is more than an institution or a club with rules that must be adhered to or else you're out.  But then, I color outside of the line and many people would call me "fake".
 
MSW says that Catholics for Free Choice deserve the title, "fake".  I wonder if that term also applies to infertile couples who use in-vitro fertilizaton in order to conceive a child? I know that the many Catholic who strongly support the Death Penalty are not called "fake".
 
I'm just saying that drawing this line between fake and real Catholics may getting into very tricky territory.
Think Catholic
7 years 12 months ago
The Democratic health care bill is a massive expansion of abortion, giving it away for free to the tens of thousands of women who don't get them every year because of cost, and mainstreaming abortion as a matter of overpowering US policy.  The US Bishops, along with Democrats led by Bart Stupak and Ben Nelson, recognize that a health care bill expanding abortion in this way is a much bigger disaster than passing no bill.  Catholics who try to pass it anyway are indeed betraying fundamental social justice inherent in Catholicism.  There's no reasonable way for a Catholic to support such a plan massively expanding abortion.
Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 12 months ago
ps. I totally agree with MSW's explanation for why abortion cannot be reconciled with a fundamental belief in the gift of Creation and life, which he expressed so very well.  My problem is with the ways in which we bring people around to recognition and acceptance of this glorious revelation. 
Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 12 months ago
Matt, I don't mean to be confrontative, but you state that tens of thousands of women do not get abortions every year because of the cost.  Is this really true?  I cannot imagine a women who is desperate to have an abortion, somehow thinking that having the baby is less expensive than however much an abortion would cost.
 
Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 12 months ago
Matt, I don't mean to be confrontative, but you state that tens of thousands of women do not get abortions every year because of the cost.  Is this really true?  I cannot imagine a women who is desperate to have an abortion, somehow thinking that having the baby is less expensive than however much an abortion would cost.
 
Think Catholic
7 years 12 months ago
Beth, studies on both sides show that there are large numbers of women, maybe hundreds of thousands, who don't get abortions every year because they aren't insured.  Under this bill those women will all have free abortion.  And this is why Minion's technicalities are irrelevant-this bill massively expands the *numbers* of abortion, AND the *federal government* involvement in mainstreaming abortion AS healthcare.  It is a seismic shift.  So here's the irony: liberal Catholics like Minion and these fake groups have been claiming they want a pro-life Democrat coalition for social justice across the board.  So one finally coalesces, under Stupak and Nelson and the USCCB, which is truly prolife and pro-health reform, meaning there are lines they will draw on both, and massive expansion of abortion is one such line.  And what do Minion and these fake groups do to the pro-life Democratic coalition they claimed they supported?  They throw them under the bus by not only refusing to join their pro-life pro-health care stand, but by working to defeat that stand and pass a bill that includes the massive abortion funding. 
James Lindsay
7 years 12 months ago
Matt, there are other women who do get abortions because they don't have insurance. Giving them insurance may give them enough economic security to have the child.

As far as health care reform expanding abortion, no one is sure. It's pretty unlikely that an insurance exchange without some form of Stupak will pass conference and very unlikely that any public option will even pass the Senate at all. Until the Confence Committee begins markup, we don't know what's in the bill. If the Senate provisions on public financing are adopted in lieu of the public option, then there will be no public insurance coverage because Medicaid, Medicare (as far as I know) and FEHBP are all currently covered by Hyde. Have you been paying attention to current events? Apparently Hudson has not, since a bill resembling what is being considered in the Senate has no expanded abortion coverage.
Brian Thompson
7 years 12 months ago
Deal Hudson, as rediculous as he can be sometimes, does have a slight point in that those who hold a position contrary to Church teaching, much less the nature of reality, do not do so as Catholics. It is nonsensical to say "as a Catholic I support abortion rights." No; As one who deviates from the teaching of the Church you hold that position. Now, we cannot turn off our baptism, and everything we do should be as Catholics, so to stand in opposition to the teaching of the Church is to be mired in self-contradiction, rebellion against who you are, and that is so much worse than being an impostor or "fake."
Think Catholic
7 years 12 months ago
Michael, only people who don't want to be sure aren't sure that this bill will massively expand abortion.  Studies overwhelmingly show a very large number of women who don't get abortions because of lack of government funding.  And this bill puts the enormous weight of the federal bureaucracy behind abortion-as-health-care in a multitude of ways. 
 
Catholic liberals can keep calling Deal Hudson partisan all they want, but the simple fact is that when liberal Catholics told us to support Obama and the Democrat takeover on the basis that they were for a pro-life Democratic coalition, it was a fraud.  A Democratic coalition has emerged, in the form of Stupak, Nelson and the USCCB, and these groups are siding with Obama and NARAL to push the bill without the Stupak amendment when it comes down to it.  So as it turns out, they were just partisan Democrats all along, Obama-right-or-wrong types, who refuse to stand on principle with real pro-life Democrats when they actually emerge.
Tony Annett
7 years 12 months ago
OK, then, consider this hypothetical case. Let's assume that the government did more to force companies to give health benefits to their employees (think of an employer mandate), but without any subsidies. Let's assume that this would dramatically increase the number of people with health insurance, and would especially benefit poor and minority women. Would you oppose this provision? After all, it is poor and minority women who have the most abortions, and if you there is indeed a great unmet demand for abortions out there, then we should also see a major jump in abortion rates in this scenario. But I doubt people would oppose this on moral grounds. Double standards, yet again.
Think Catholic
7 years 12 months ago
Minion, the only double standard is your claim to have supported this Catholic liberal movement and then your obstinate refusal to stand with Stupak, Nelson, and the USCCB when they finally emerged and are taking a stand.  Standing with them means insisting that health reform not expand abortion.
 
In your hypothetical, if the mandate gave insurance to all poor and minority women, and mandated that each of them had to have access to a plan covering abortion, and everyone in those groups had to pay an abortion premium to cover the cost of these newly mandated covered abortions, like the Senate and Capps-House bills say, then of course there would be opposition to it on moral grounds.  But you still arrogantly deny all the research studies showing that these women exist and that they aren't getting abortions due to lack of coverage.  You even failed to specify in your hypothetical how such a plan would cover the target group, many of whom don't have jobs.  And you of course didn't specify the degree to which the women who are covered in your hypothetical would have abortion as part of their coverage.  
 
Catholic liberals such as the ones criticized by Hudson have wedded themselves to politicians whose primary goal is to make abortion free for everyone in the country by government funding or mandate, especially for the poor who aren't getting abortions because they aren't free.  Every single "compromise" from their side has made sure to achieve this goal.  Yet the Catholic liberals who claimed they were for a PRO-LIFE Democratic coalition are supporting health plans with these "compromises", instead of standing with the pro-life Democrats who actually answered their apparently fraudulent call for pro-life Democratic action.  You got what you asked for, the Stupak coalition, and now that it is here you want to hand it a death blow.  I guess you never wanted the pro-life part of pro-life Democratism in the first place.
Michael Liddy
7 years 12 months ago
MSW - This column is a distraction and it shows that your emotions are running very high, possibly hoping for passage even though the bill funds abortions. If you end up supporting this bill with the current or very similar abortion language, you will lose all credibility (and you will take down the very few pro-life Democrats with you). You need to be aware of that.
Jim McCrea
7 years 12 months ago
"When Pius X died, the conclave of 1914 elected Benedict XV, who immediately issued an encyclical calling on Catholics ‘to appease dissension and strife" so that "no one should consider himself entitled to affix on those who merely do not agree with his ideas the stigma of disloyalty to faith.’
 
‘There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Cagtholicism’ he concluded. ‘It is quite enough for each one to proclaim 'Christian is my name and Catholic my surname’ “
 
David Gibson, “Who Is a Real Catholic?” The Washington Post, Sunday, May 17, 2009 
 
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/05/15/AR2009051501390.html?sid=ST2009051503626
Tony Annett
7 years 12 months ago
Jim raises a valid point. Ironically, the inclination of American Catholics to single out "fake Catholics" often owes more to Protestant dualism and dichotomy than to the very Catholic concept of unity. See de Lubac etc.
Jeff Bagnell
7 years 12 months ago
Maybe the fault is with Canon Law.  It clearly states that anyone who, directly or indirectly, procures an abortion is automatically excommunicated.  Voluntarily supporting a measure that would have taxpayers paying for abortion would seem to run afoul of this provision.  Maybe MSW and America can work on the Holy See to clarify Canon Law on this point so that we can all support "healthcare reform" in good conscience.
Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 12 months ago
Isn’t it time for Catholics to grow up and understand/live spirit of the law?As MSW states in his post, abortion is not reconcilable with Catholic belief because the Catholic creed affirms that all Creation is gift.  Abortion directly renounces, refuses, and abuses that gift.  Excommunication is not something that is done from the outside - as in the bigwigs tell you that you’re out.  It is an internal violence to one’s own soul and its relationship to the Creator.  The only way that one can heal such profound internal soul-violence is to recognize the error/sin, and ask for forgiveness. State sponsored killing - as in the Death Penalty - is also a profound crime against Creation in which we are all complicit.The sacredness of life is, as MSW states, integral to the Catholic Creed.  But one is not separated from the community of believers - excommunicated - by a decree from the outside.  This is something that is happening within one’s own soul.
Rudy Rau
7 years 12 months ago
''A Democratic coalition has emerged, in the form of Stupak, Nelson and the USCCB, and these groups are siding with Obama and NARAL to push the bill without the Stupak amendment when it comes down to it.  So as it turns out, they were just partisan Democrats all along, Obama-right-or-wrong types, who refuse to stand on principle with real pro-life Democrats when they actually emerge.'' ...........Matt, am I reading this right? Stupak, Nelson, and the USCCB are supporting a bill tthat uses federal funds for abortion??  And the USCCB is among the 'partisan Democrats'??
If that is what you intend to say, the best that can be said of your observation is that it is just another Republican zinger which is somewhat warped in its logic.
Tony Annett
7 years 12 months ago
There is so much misinformation when it comes to abortion in this healthcare bill, misinformation that is exploited by Catholics who shamelessly oppose this bill on un-Catholic libertarian grounds.

There is indeed an issue on subsidies being used to purchase plans that include abortion. I personally would like an iron-clad Stupak provision. But there is no moral argument out there that this must be (to use that awful phrase) "non-negotiable".

Why? Well, first, the real issue is private insurance funding of abortion. If they didn't do it, the government would not be tainted. What's the moral difference between a person having a remote connection to abortion through taxes or through private insurance premiums? Given the domination of the US insurance industry by a small number of large players, I'm pretty sure that nearly all of us with private insurance are subsidizing somebody's abortion somewhere. Why is this not on the radar at all?

Second, private provision of insurance is already subsidized. The tax treatment granted to employer-sponsored insurance amounts to a subsidy of $250 billion a year. Economically, a subsidy is something that changes the relative price of a product - it does not matter whether it happens on the tax or spending side (I fear that that many, including some in the USCCB, don't fully understand this). There are even more direct examples. The federal government gives money to Planned Parenthood with the proviso that it not be used for abortion - but isn't money fungible? About 13 percent of abortions are paid by medicaid - despite the Hyde amendment, the federal government gives a wink and a nod to the states to finance this.

So, yes, let's fight to keep the distance between health reform and abortion as great as possible. But let's not kid ourselves that this is some line in the sand - that line has been crossed many many times. Let's focus instead on the real problem - the cozy connivance between the abortion industry and the big insurance companies. And lets remember that adequate health insurance for the poor is not only something that all Catholic should support, but that it will also help alleviate the conditions that cause women to seek abortion in the first place.
Think Catholic
7 years 12 months ago
No Alan I was saying the opposite.  A Democratic coalition has emerged, in the form of Stupak, Nelson and the USCCB, that is insisting that health reform not expand abortion.  Liberal Catholic groups who urged Catholics to put Obama and the Democrats in total power on the basis of a forming a supposed pro-life Democratic coalition are opposing that pro-life Democratic coalition that actually arose, and instead of standing with Stupak on principle the liberal Catholics are seeking to pass health reform even while it expands abortion, which will deal a death blow to the nascent pro-life Democratic coalition, because that coalition needs as many allies as it can get to take its principled stand, and the liberal Catholics are leaving them alone in the crossfire even though the liberal Catholics are the ones who called for them to exist in the first place.  Apparently the liberal Catholics like Minion and CU and CIA never wanted Democrats to be pro-life, they just wanted Democrats to be in power.  Yet they accuse pro-life Catholics of being partisan Republicans.
Jeff Bagnell
7 years 12 months ago
Beth, are you saying it's time for the Holy See to grow up?  Because that would be refreshing candor.  Incidentally, the excommunication incurred for procuring an abortion, or substantially assisting, is latae sententiae, i.e., automatic.  No "bigwigs" impose or announce it.
The larger point was how any "Catholic" can support "healthcare reform" with language that seeks to proliferate the culture of death in this country with taxpayer money.
Matt's points are correct; the Catholic Democrats supporting this bill are more concerned with political power than protecting innocent human life in all phases.
 
 
Helena Loflin
7 years 12 months ago
If Deal Hudson is reading the comments here, he is so enjoying this divisiveness among Catholics who are too blind to see that they are the pawns of the Republican Party.  As for Deal, you can take the man out of fundamentalism, but you can't take fundamentalism out of the man. 
ANN ODONOGHUE
7 years 12 months ago
" As for Deal, you can take the man out of fundamentalism, but you can't take fundamentalism out of the man."

Yes you can. You just need to be one of his drunk students. The hypocrisy that surrounds this man is bewildering.
Brian Thompson
7 years 12 months ago
Jim McCrea, yes that is very true. Benedict XV did promulgate that teaching and we must follow it. However that was to quell people trowing around charges of heresy against those who have different opinions on theological questions that are still open for discussion. Abortion is not open to discussion. It is an unspeakable evil, the Church has always condemned it as a tenet of the natural and divine law (and thus binding on all humans, not just Catholics) and marked as erroneous all those who think otherwise. While holding the opinion might not be enough to truly substantiate a charge of heresy canonically, if one denys that the Church is correct in the condemnation of abortion, one is technically a heretic.
However, I would not be inclided to call anyone that in comon parlance unless they were outrageously heretical. That is, a teenager seduced by progressivism-a phase many go through-is not a heretic. A person who is only nominally Catholic and errs, I would not call a heretic. But anyone who would say, "as a Catholic I believe abortion is not evil," such a person is approaching the point where I would use the term. And, a public and obstinate and formal proponent of Abortion-like the group Catholics for Free Choice-are the real deal and should bear the full brunt of a canonical smackdown.
We can differ on how this evil is to be combatted in practical terms (eg whether we should go for wholesale unborn personhood, starve PP financially, slowly regulate it into oblivion, accept life, rape, and incest compromises as a step in the right direction), but in order to speak on this issue as a Catholic, much less a Catholic in good standing, one must never deny that it must be combatted in every feasible and moral way.
 
Beth Cioffoletti
7 years 12 months ago
No, JSB, I wasn't asking for the Holy See to grow up.  As far as I can tell, they've got the Canon Law right.  What I'm having a problem with is how this Law is used as a "threat" to keep us in line.  Give me a break.  We're not children. 
 
The Canon Law that says that those who procure abortions is "automatic" is meant to show how integral the beleif that life is a God-given gift is to the Creed.  If we truly believe that our lives are sacred gifts from God, any deliberate act refusing or abusing this gift (including executing criminals), automatically separates one from the body of believers. 
 
However using the threat of excommunication to keep believers in a political block is not only scandalous, it is simply absurd.  No one has the power to excommunicate else, excommunication is an inside job.  
 
I'm saying that it is time for Catholcs to recognize this, and not fall for the line that they are not "good Catholics", or "fake", if they don't fall in line with certain political ideologues who are using Catholic beliefs to justify their one-sided agendas. 
James Lindsay
7 years 12 months ago
Brian, no one here is denying the evil of abortion (at least elective abortion). Where we differ is how to oppose it. That is in the realm of prudential judgement. Indeed, many on the left are more qualified on how this should occur than the USCCB pro-life office, which has unwittingly become part of the Republican Amen corner, even though many of the GOP's economic policies INCREASE the likelihood that women will get abortions.
Think Catholic
7 years 12 months ago
Michael proposes that lay people rather than the USCCB have the qualifications to aply Catholic teaching to specific political issues.  And he thinks that the USCCB are Republican shills.  Even the Bishops in charge of the offices of health reform and immigration, I suppose, since they are unanimous on opposing abortion in health care. That's fascinating-I guess by Michael's reasoning the USCCB should, out of incompetence, refrain from making any statement on specific policies, like supporting health care reform at all, and opposing nuclear proliferation, and calling for repeal of the death penalty, and promoting relaxed immigration laws, and speaking on the multitude of issues it has spoken on over the past thirty years. But of course Michael doesn't really believe that, because the USCCB usually tracks the views of Michael's "many on the left."  No, what liberal Catholics propose is that the USCCB is infallible when it speaks on left-leaning issues, and is incompetent when it speaks against abortion.  That my friends is the definition of partisanship, and it is what makes liberal Catholics like those supporting the passage of pro-abortion health reform "fake."  MSW failed to observe that Deal wasn't saying that CU and CIA are fake in being Catholics, he was just accusing them of good old fashioned fraud.  They're fake to their own self-identified non-partisan ideals and pro-life banner.  They simply track their pro-abortion party's line, whatever it wants, and attack any objector from the pro-life Catholic perspective as "partisan," even the USCCB.
James Lindsay
7 years 12 months ago
Neither the USCCB, or Mr. Bowman, understand the difference between the way abortion was legalized in the United States and the way it was in Italy and Mexico. What you can say to legislators in Italy on the subject does not apply to American legislators.

As I and others have said, no one argues with the immorality of abortion.

Last I checked, by the way, a public policy was not required to be a bishop. Those of us who have such things are a bit more qualified to judge the "how" to protect life than the bishops are.

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