The right's selective political manipulation of Catholicism

Kathryn Jean Lopez's tawdry politicization of religion knows no bounds.

Glenn Greenwald
May 7, 2008 3:19PM (UTC)

(updated below)

Yesterday, National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez -- one of the crassest political exploiters of Catholicism in the country -- demanded to know: "what were any Catholic sisters doing voting for either Clinton or Obama?" Andrew Sullivan responded that "being a Catholic does not mean membership in the Republican party" and that "this political co-optation of faith is sickening - and typical." That prompted this from Lopez:

As I say on Vatican Radio and elsewhere when asked to comment, Catholic does not equal Republican or Democrat. Catholic does mean taking seriously the Church's teaching on innocent human life, however. And Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton should therefore both make Catholics pause for grave reasons. And Catholic sisters who are presumably teaching the faith through word and deed should know that.

But it's hard to imagine how a Catholic could disregard "the Church's teaching on innocent human life" more than Lopez -- or John McCain. From Fox News, two weeks prior to the invasion of Iraq:

Pope John Paul II and top Vatican officials are unleashing a barrage of condemnations of a possible U.S. military strike on Iraq, calling it immoral, risky and a "crime against peace."

John McCain's entire worldview on foreign policy, cheered on excitedly by Lopez -- not only with regard to endless war in Iraq but also Iran and beyond -- is nothing but a vehement violation and rejection of "the Church's teaching on innocent human life":

[Then-Cardinal-now-Pope] Ratzinger has said, "A preventive war is not in the Catechism."

Civilta Cattolica points out that an American attack on Iraq would be motivated in large part by political and economic reasons rather than military necessity and rejects the Bush argument that a preventive war should be considered a defensive action. Archbishop Martino said that "a preventive war is a war of aggression."

Here is what Lopez and her candidate, John McCain, have done to "innocent human life" when -- to use Lopez's words from her ugly 2004 political crusade to excommunicate John Kerry -- they "act[ed] out of conformity with the public teaching of the Catholic Church":

A car bomb blew up in the capital's Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Sadr City on Thursday, killing at least four people, as a new survey suggested that the civilian death toll from the war could be more than 1 million. . . .

According to the ORB poll, a survey of 1,461 adults suggested that the total number slain during more than four years of war was more than 1.2 million. . . .

It was the highest estimate given so far of civilian deaths in Iraq. Last year, a study in the medical journal Lancet put the number at 654,965, which Iraq's government has dismissed as "ridiculous."

Of course, the exact numbers are in dispute because of how nonexistent is the concern among her beloved Bush administration for "innocent human life":

Thousands of Iraqi civilians have also died as a result of conflict and its bloody aftermath -- but officially, no one has any idea how many.

Human rights groups say the occupying powers have failed in their duty to catalogue the deaths, giving the impression that ordinary Iraqis' lives are worth less than those of soldiers.

This is what tawdry religious manipulators like Lopez have been doing for years -- selectively accepting slivers of moral dogma and religious institutions purely for political gain, while advocating policies that could not be more opposed to that dogma and those institutions.

That's how many of the right-wing ideologues who are responsible for this, and want much more of it -- such as Lopez -- can continue to parade around as faithful Catholics righteously devoted to the sanctity of "innocent human life," even as they wage war against the Church's explicit teachings and, by doing so, continue to obliterate more "innocent human life" than virtually any other political faction in the world.


In our political discourse, that's how warped the concept of "moral issues" has become. As McCain supporter Gary Bauer (about whom McCain recently said: "I am honored to have Gary Bauer's support, and his advice and counsel will be critical as we continue to bring our Party together for victory in November") once put it: a Vermont court's ruling on same-sex marriages "was in some ways worse than terrorism." Somehow, the policies of ours which result in the greatest obliteration of innocent human life -- or its complete degradation -- are totally drained of any moral component. And the entire playing field of "moral issues" is thus ceded to religious hucksters like Lopez and her political comrades as they openly support the most morally grotesque, and irreligious, policies imaginable.

UPDATE: As Mona notes in comments (and as she wrote about here), long-time right-wing advocate and prominent devout Catholic Doug Kmiec (formerly Dean of Catholic University and a Professor at the University of Notre Dame School of Law) recently endorsed Barack Obama and made several of these points:

As a Catholic looking at candidates, my faith instructs me to look at the whole person respective to the church's social teaching on wages, education, issues of family, culture, responsibility toward the environment, the reduction of mindless or excess consumption. And the Catholic Church was quite explicit about the concept of preemptive war being contrary to the principles of just war. One of the things that happened to Catholics over the last two decades is because of the evil of abortion, we've been somewhat less mindful of the need to serve those around us -- those who are calling upon us for assistance in a tangible way. . . .

When I look at Obama's eloquent speeches, his references to Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King, those are so much a part of modern Catholic education. And the preferential option for the poor or solidarity with the poor, how that is not heard by the Catholic mind has troubled me. So one of the reasons for speaking out at this point, and one of the reasons to peak out on Easter Sunday, is to have my fellow Catholics reexamine this topic and listen with more careful ear.

Kmiec was the head of the Office of Legal Counsel in the both the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations.

Glenn Greenwald

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