Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Many Kinds of Catholic

Frank Bruni gets some things right in his recent NYT editorial. Yet the article only scratches the tip of a doctrinal iceberg. For one, I don't agree with Bruni's thesis that Rick Santorum's Catholicism is that of the Church hierarchy. Rather, Santorum has taken up some of the issues important to conservative Catholics and made hay of them in his bid to win support in the mainly Protestant culture of the GOP base. Given that culture's obsession with sex, Santorum's strategy is bound to pay off.

Yes, the Christian right has sex on the brain: anything to do with sex and they get all holier than thou. Abortion, homosexuality, birth control, pornography--if you look at the list of things Bruni points to as constituting Santorum's supposed agreement with the Church hierarchy, this is basically it: the sex-and-reproduction doctrine of the (conservative) Church. Still, that Santorum is in line with conservative Catholics on these issues can't obscure the fact that he is not in line with Catholicism on much else.

Catholicism, even traditional Catholicism, is so much more than sex-and-reproduction teachings. The Catholic Church, including all recent popes and most bishops, have criticized unregulated capitalism, militarism, and consumerism over and over and over. And it's not just lip service to a humanitarian ideal. It's part of Catholic teaching to fight for social justice. Yet what does Santorum fight for? The sex doctrine. And why? Because it's the sex doctrine that allows him to stand out in a culture all hot and bothered with the question of who is sleeping with whom and how they're doing it. To me it's sick.

Most American Catholics are outside this loop. They're aware of the generalized illness and they're repulsed by Santorum's own religious perversion. It's an interesting fact that in the primaries many Republican Catholics are choosing the Mormon Romney over Rick Santorum. Ask yourself why. But even more interesting is that next November more Catholics will vote Obama instead of the candidate the supposedly more Christian GOP nominates. Again why? I believe it's because American Catholics, although most are opposed to abortion, are also deeply in support of Jesus. And Jesus taught that we must cherish and provide for the least among us. Which teaching is heresy to the GOP.

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