Peter Steinfels on the Catholic Vote

A typically astute article by Peter Steinfels--one of his very best--in The New York Times, on the Catholic vote, here.

Here is Steinfels:

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’Many Catholics may understandably feel that the bishops are talking out of both sides of their mouths: Catholics are not supposed to be single-issue voters, but, by the way, abortion is the only issue that counts. The bishops do not intend to tell Catholics how to vote; but, by the way, a vote for Senator Obama puts your salvation at risk. Catholics are to form their consciences and make prudential judgments about complex matters of good and evil — just so long as they come to the same conclusions as the bishops.’

James Martin, SJ

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9 years ago
To which bishops is Mr. Steinfels referring? The directive of the USCCB to Catholic voters was specifically NOT to be one issue voters but to inform their consciences based on the whole range of life issues and all others affecting the dignity of the human person. This did not preclude voting for a pro-choice candidate when it comes to abortion as long as the voter was not voting with the specific intent of promoting it. As a group the US bishops have been very clear about this for quite some time, although a minority of individual bishops have continued to insist that abortion "trumps" all other issues. It seems that in this case the USCCB cannot win for losing.
9 years ago
The day of the election, I was campaigning by phone for a man by the name of David Campos. David was running for Supervisor of District 9 in San Francisco. Incidentally he won. I was with about 50 people when we all learned that Obama had been elected. Most of us in that room were Latino. I would guess most of us were Catholic. We were jubilant. Somebody put on some Celia Cruz and we were literally dancing in the streets. Overwhelmingly the Latino community voted for Obama. I think the Republicans have lost the Latino vote for a very long time for a number of reasons including what they were not willing to do for immigrants. I hope the bishops learn something from this. I don't think some of them will.
9 years ago
I don't consider certain bishops' obvious lack of political savvy the least bit trivial. I was grateful to, for the first time, see comments from bishops unwilling to make like second-rate James Dobsons. (Thank you, bishops Hubbard and DiMarzio.) I'm sure conservative Catholics don't want those bishops telling them how to vote- so why should Burke, Finn, Martino, et al, have that privilege?
9 years ago
I agree with Anne and Milbo. I also agree with Bishop Hermann. ''Any one of us here would consider it a privilege to die tomorrow--die tomorrow!--to bring about the end of abortion,'' said Auxiliary Bishop Robert Hermann of St. Louis.
9 years ago
So called embryonic stem cells are not in the womb. I apologize to Anne. However, these were not leaks - they were announcements. Leaks are anonymous. Obama is right on stem cells, by the way - although their use can only give you a regrown organ with the same ''age'' as you are currently - so stem cell research will yield no fountain of youth, or even an overcoming of basic genetic defects in the patient. Of course, if someone needs a new organ at their current age, theraputic cloning may be effective. The moral qualms the Church has are incorrect and not in keeping with traditional Catholic doctrine (pre Humanae Vitae). Before Gastrulation, stem cells are equivalent to adult stem cells in their ontology - they are just dividing cells. If you remove them from the Chorion, they are not damaged. If you remove one or two from the Chorion and let the rest develop into a child, the child is not damaged. Of course, the problem with stem cells is that half of them are bad - as research will find. Gastrulation is when the defective ones are weeded out - although this would not be the case with therapeutic cloning - we know that those cells are useful because they already survived gastrulation once. Stem cells prior to gastrulation may not even be human. We know they usually are if they came from in vitro fertilization, but as a general rule hybrid stem cells continue to grow until gastrulation. Unless you are claiming that blastocysts with similar ontology are morally different, you cannot claim that a blastocyst has a soul. If you want confirmation, see the paragraphs on gastrulation in the Macropedia of Encyclopedia Britannica under the article on Growth and Development. Now that you have been told of its existence, failure to do so is vincible ignorance and you are morally culpable for the result. Of course, the only result is your own error, as stem cell research will go on as scheduled after January 20th.
9 years ago
Note that the forgoing post on Gastrulation pretty much puts to bed the infallibility of the Magisterium, since Evangelicum Vitae is obviously incorrect in its stance that life begins at conception. No good can ever come from using authority in place of natural reasoning. This lesson should have been learned with Galeleo. Sadly we are making the same mistakes as a Church. Papal infallibility, when you really see it for what it is, is the height of relativism, since it depends on the application of specific authority to specific groups. The Pope's teaching is true for those who believe in his authority, but that is as far as it goes. This calls into question either the intrepretation of Christ's grant to Peter or the successorship of the Latin Patriarch to Peter's Chair, which may have moved to Constantinople when the seat of empire was moved.
9 years ago
Michael, your apology is accepted. There actually was a leak the night before Leon Podesta's interview with the WaPo, hence my use of the term. "Spreading rumors" is really not my thing so I do appreciate your humility in posting an apology. That being said, your defense of embryonic stem cell research has confused me: "Stem cells prior to gastrulation may not even be human" --Yes, if you are talking about animal-human hybrids (Thanks England! Brave new world, here we come) then yes, the stem cells may be of human or animal origin. That's beside the point. When you develop a human embryonic stem cell line, you are removing cells from the inner cell mass from a blastocyst whose origins and development are human without question. If you take a human egg and sperm, it forms a zygote whose behavior (scientifically speaking) is completely different than the sperm and the egg. If allowed the proper environment and fatal genetic defects, etc., it is fated to become a morula, blastocyst, fetus, to a new human baby, not a puppy or giraffe. The zygote exhibits a developmental trajectory that is different from the egg and sperm. It is a new human organism. It is a human life. This is not a theological answer, but a scientific one. But if you destroy that blastocyst (as is done when embryonic stem cell lines are created by removing the inner cell mass), you have destroyed a human life. Again, this is not a theological discussion about ensoulment of the developing human.
9 years ago
I wanted to comment about IVF embryos. Even if one wishes to disregard that embryos are human life and use IVF created embryos to harvest stem cells, these will not work for therapeutic applications. The stem cells will be obtained from non-identical human embryos and if infused into patients, it will be rejected by the recipient's immune system. This is wildly acknowledged by scientists in the field, hence, the push for cloning. But cloning requires new ova to be "donated" by women. In S. Korea, the disgraced researcher Dr. Hwang Koo Suk (who lied about having successfully cloned a human embryo and deriving viable ES cells from them) was found to have used thousands of oocytes in his research, obtained many times by coercing junior female researcher into egg donation. In this country, the donation would be compensated with money (just like those IVF egg donations), which is a subtle form of coercion that disproportionately affects the poor and minorities. And at what price to the woman who must endure mega doses of hormones to superovulate to provide enough eggs? Why, then, when there are many viable alternatives (in fact more viable) to the many moral and ethical problems with ESC research do we continue on this path? To date, adult (be it marrow, cord blood, etc.) stem cell therapy has proven in animal as well as human studies to efficaciously treat MS, Parkinson's, Type I DM. Two scientists who originally worked on ESC research published last year that they had created induced pluripotent stem cells (IPSCs), which are adult skin cells reprogrammed genetically to a pluripotent pattern. Hence, they display the same plasticity as embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos to do it. One of the scientists who talked about why he decided to adopt this new line of investigation said: “If human embryonic stem cell research does not make you at least a little bit uncomfortable, you have not thought about it enough.”
9 years ago
To which bishops is Mr. Steinfels referring? The directive of the USCCB to Catholic voters was specifically NOT to be one issue voters but to inform their consciences based on the whole range of life issues and all others affecting the dignity of the human person. This did not preclude voting for a pro-choice candidate when it comes to abortion as long as the voter was not voting with the specific intent of promoting it. As a group the US bishops have been very clear about this for quite some time, although a minority of individual bishops have continued to insist that abortion "trumps" all other issues. It seems that in this case the USCCB cannot win for losing.
9 years ago
Using the parlance of the recent election, let's call this what it is: a small group of U.S. Bishops 'went rogue,' stepping away from the intelligent, nuanced discussion put forth in 'Faithful Citizenship' to put forth their own more narrow-minded interpretation of how Catholics should vote. My concern is rather than standing as a united voice (see history of the word: 'Catholic'), the Bishops now appear as fragmented leadership. Let us pray for them as they attend their U.S. Conference.
9 years ago
Perhaps the bishops' problem is that they rely too much on moral reasoning and not enough on Gospel values. We are still measuring how far we can go in killing before it becomes morally unacceptable. What Christ thinks of all violence is pretty clear. And the bishops still seem to underestimate the intelligence, sincerity, and deep faith of the people. When bishops start to listen more, their moral authority will be strengthened, not weakened.
9 years ago
Astute analysis, indeed. And it must take at least a little bit of schadenfreude to refer to your Bishops as "losers". On a day when leaks from the President-Elect's office foreshadow executive decisions allowing goverment support of the intentional creation and destruction of human embryos for embryonic stem cells as well as including abortion as part of USAID's promotion of "family planning", analyzing the political saavy or lack thereof of our shepherds seems trivial to me.
9 years ago
Anne, I don't really trust accounts of Obama transition leaks. His operation did not leak once in the campaign. Why would they now? Don't spread rumors.
9 years ago
Michael, Anne is not spreading rumors. Obama's new chief of staff has stated that Obama will reverse President Bush's executive orders banning embryonic stem cell research. Face the truth, Mr. Obama is hostile to the child in the womb.

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