Remember back in 2004 when the news media and the wingers were all atwitter about how John Kerry, because he supported a separation of church and state and upholding the Supreme Court decision in Roe v Wade, was supposedly a rotten Roman Catholic and was under siege by the Roman Catholic Church? Well, the stories were always wildly overblown, and usually ignored the important fact that the few Bishops who mouthed off about denying communion to Kerry were acting as free agents, because the American Bishops voted 183-6 against adopting an official policy of denying communion to politicians who supported abortion rights or any other social policies in conflict with the Church’s teachings. As you should expect, this fact was almost completely ignored by the press.
The "priests will deny communion to pro-choice politicians" story has returned, but this time with a twist: it’s about a Republican, Rudy Giuliani:
Roman Catholic Archbishop Raymond Burke, who made headlines last presidential season by saying he'd refuse Holy Communion to John Kerry, has his eye on Rudy Giuliani this year. Giuliani's response: "Archbishops have a right to their opinion."
Burke, the archbishop of St. Louis, was asked if he would deny Communion to Giuliani or any other presidential candidate who supports abortion rights.
"If any politician approached me and he'd been admonished not to present himself, I'd not give it," Burke told The Associated Press Wednesday. "To me, you have to be certain a person realizes he is persisting in a serious public sin."
Next month the American Bishops will discuss the issue of granting communion to pro-choice politicians, so it’s possible the policy could change. But a more restrictive policy would generate a major backlash among American Catholics. Contrary to popular belief and the bloviations of pundits, 70% of American Catholics say the Bishops aren't important in determining how they vote, 78% oppose denying communion to politicians who support abortion rights, 72% support stem cell research, 71% support the death penalty, 61% believe abortion should be legal, 53% support physician-assisted suicide, and 53% consider themselves "pro-choice." Imposing a restrictive policy on denying communion to pro-choice politicians could greatly antagonize American Catholics, many of whom are still incensed at the church’s failure to protect children from predatory priests.
Will the 2008 version of this story get a fraction of the attention devoted to the brouhaha about Kerry in 2004? Will the rightwing Catholic fundies attack Giuliani, a guy who considered the priesthood AND is the authoritarian strongman that rightwing Catholics so often find seductive? Will Giuliani stand firm on his avowed pro-choice beliefs? And will the conflicts between Giuliani’s policy positions and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church be the Republican’s biggest electoral problem caused by a Giuliani nomination? Not if we’re to take seriously the threats issued in this NYT op-ed by uber-fundie James Dobson:
Reports have surfaced in the press about a meeting that occurred last Saturday in Salt Lake City involving more than 50 pro-family leaders. The purpose of the gathering was to discuss our response if both the Democratic and Republican Parties nominate standard-bearers who are supportive of abortion. Although I was neither the convener nor the moderator of the meeting, I’d like to offer several brief clarifications about its outcome and implications.
After two hours of deliberation, we voted on a resolution that can be summarized as follows: If neither of the two major political parties nominates an individual who pledges himself or herself to the sanctity of human life, we will join others in voting for a minor-party candidate. Those agreeing with the proposition were invited to stand. The result was almost unanimous.
The other issue discussed at length concerned the advisability of creating a third party if Democrats and Republicans do indeed abandon the sanctity of human life and other traditional family values. Though there was some support for the proposal, no consensus emerged.
Speaking personally, and not for the organization I represent or the other leaders gathered in Salt Lake City, I firmly believe that the selection of a president should begin with a recommitment to traditional moral values and beliefs. Those include the sanctity of human life, the institution of marriage, and other inviolable pro-family principles. Only after that determination is made can the acceptability of a nominee be assessed.
That looks to me like a litmus test, one that Rudy Giuliani would not pass. Would a Giuliani nomination split the Republican voting coalition? Will the American Catholic hierarchy split themselves off from the majority of their parishioners and play politics at the communion rail? And will the traditional press and the bloviating pundits give this story a faction of the attention they gave to reports of Kerry’s supposed "Catholic problem" in 2004?
Our primary contest is important because we’re most likely choosing our next president. The Republican’s contest is important because they could be determining whether their party remains competitive or splits in to multiple and incompatible factions that guaranty long-term minority status.