The waves of totalitarianism are lapping at the feet of the American Catholic Church, in the form of the new “initiative” on the part of the Obama administration to provide “reproductive services” to women as part of health plans connected with Catholic institutions. And what are ordinary American Catholics likely to do about it? Yeah, I mean the folks 54% of whom voted for Obama in 2008. Talk about sheep to the slaughter! The chaplain of my local Latin Mass community pointed out that there is nothing new about this – i.e. about Catholics lying down and playing dead in the face of intrusive and persecutory policies on the part of the government. We have tolerated every fresh assault ever since the country was young, so what reason would the government have to expect us to stand firm now? Everyone knows that Catholics have been, historically, tolerated in this country as a source of cheap labor and Democratic votes, but have never been more than second-class citizens. Even John F. Kennedy had to, basically, apostatize in order to keep his campaign for president alive... and it still didn't do him any good in the long run. No, anti-Catholicism has been part of the life blood of America since its founding, and I suppose that we can only claim to have held our own in the areas of primary and secondary education and big-city politics. But even that is a thing of the past, since parochial schools have fallen on hard times and the (admittedly corrupt) big-city machines have fallen victim to the ethnic cleansing of blue-collar whites from the cities. So there's really nothing left of Catholic political or social power these days – and the final blow was (or was supposed to be) the exposure of “pedophile priests” in every diocese and parish. So the Catholic Church in this country is, undoubtedly, on the ropes, politically speaking, without a friend in the world – which means that it's ripe for the picking, especially if you're a Democratic/liberal power-hungry demagogue (including those who are nominally Catholic).
And, for that matter, what is “the Catholic vote”? Does it really exist? I say that it doesn't, for the simple reason that, statistically, the “Catholic vote” is indistinguishable from that of the general populace. And when there is no statistically-significant difference, you have to conclude that the groups are, for all intents and purposes, the same. So if most people would have no objection to the government imposing its own “health care” values on Catholic institutions, why should Catholics? Why, in particular, should Catholics who themselves make use of artificial birth control and even, heaven forbid, abortion? As far as they're concerned, the government is simply validating what they already felt to be the case – that the Church was being a fuddy-duddy, and behind the times, and imposing their rules and standards on everybody.
Of course, what no one has yet mentioned in the current controversy is that anyone working in a Catholic institution who doesn't like the health-care plan that is offered there is free to leave, or to purchase their own policy outside the institution. It's not as if we're talking about a bunch of slaves here, who have no choice of where to work or whom to work for. Another option – also unmentioned to date – is that the Church simply disengage from the institutions in question. I don't know what their legal relationship is now, but I can't imagine that most of them would not survive being independent – if their services are truly needed. I mean, is a hospital or charitable organization going to go out of business just by ceasing to be “Catholic”? Still another option would be for the Church to simply refuse to cooperate, and take the government to court on the matter – and this seems most likely at this point... more likely than capitulation, which would be a complete disaster, because then all we would have to do is wait for the government's next outrageous demand... like that Catholic hospitals start performing abortions, “or else”.
This is, truly, a time for the Church to stand tall and reclaim the moral high ground – yes, even as the “pedophile priest” cases plod drearily through the courts and new revelations crop up with each passing day. It's time to say that the current generation will no longer put up with attacks and insults – and that the “wall of separation of church and state” has to operate both ways, not just to protect the state from religion (which it does very effectively if you're talking about the Catholic Church) but also to protect religion from the state.
The problem is, Catholics have such a long history of compromise – of going along to get along. We know that, outside of the old urban enclaves and a few isolated rural areas, we are in a vast landscape of anti-Catholicism and hostility... or, at the very least, skepticism and distrust. What, after all, was the great fear about John Kennedy? That he would be “more loyal to the Pope than to America”. (Funny how no one seems to have a problem with our politicians being more loyal to Israel than to America...) Well, when it came to JFK, that was the least of their worries – but it's still a good question. If America is a moral country, and if the Catholic Church teaches morality, you would expect their interests and values to seldom, if ever, diverge. Right? The problem is that America embraces a Protestant version of morality, which has little or no use for, for example, Catholic social teachings or “just war” doctrine. So whenever these come into conflict, the Protestants invariably win, while the Catholics are open to charges of disloyalty and not being “real Americans”. And this is, quite simply, why “Catholic” politicians leave the Church behind when they get into politics – the two are incompatible and can never be reconciled. I mean, it must be tough enough to be a politician in a “Catholic country” like Spain or Italy, with all the conflicting pressures; over here it's impossible. And yet, these characters persist in identifying themselves as “Catholic” in the expectation that this will give them some advantage in elections – although if the “Catholic vote” is an illusion, then one has to wonder if it's worth the trouble.
Ideally, the Church should, without delay, excommunicate any politician who supports, in any way, abortion. Occasionally, some isolated bishop threatens to do this, but to my knowledge it has not yet been done. The most they will ever say is that politicians of this sort “have excommunicated themselves”. Yeah, well... whoop-te-do. I think it would more dramatic if they were officially excommunicated, and then driven from church with a flaming sword if they ever tried to receive Communion. That would be the “church militant” -- that would be a church with, if you'll pardon the expression, balls. That would be a church that is unapologetic, assertive, and willing to stand up for its rights, rather than the cringing lap dog we see so much of the time. That would be a church that – come to think of it – acts like the Jews and Moslems do all the time. Imagine that!
It is to the credit of some bishops that they have stood up and protested this most recent offense – and likewise some politicians (even those who are less-than-stellar Catholics). And sure enough, the Obama administration has backed off a bit -- maybe too small a bit to be significant. But it is too little, too late? Is it all too pathetic, like the half-hearted opposition to abortion on the part of the Catholic establishment? Are we afraid that we might wear out our welcome, and be put on boats and shipped back to Europe and Latin America? Well? I mean – what on earth do we have to lose? If the bishops rose up as one man and simply said, do not vote for any politician who supports abortion, period – what's the worst that could happen? Ooo, we might lose our tax-exempt status or something. Well... it's been my observation that, historically speaking, the true moral power of the Catholic Church seems inversely correlated with its material wealth. This is certainly true if you break it down to the level of religious orders, or even dioceses or parishes. We might say that in poverty there is (moral) strength, and in riches there is, inevitably, compromise with the world. What this administration is asking us to do is compromise – fatally – with the world, even when there are no discernible advantages to doing so, and no discernible disadvantages to refusing. If you work day and night for years... decades... centuries to rob the Church of its political and moral influence, what incentives are you then going to offer for its “cooperation”? The answer is – none. We have arrived at the point of brute force... of the last battle between church and state, at least in this country. The Protestants are already fatally compromised, and have been for decades; the Jews have traded their spiritual birthright for a mess of political, social, and economic pottage; the Moslems in this country are the new minority that it's politically correct to hate and oppress... and so who is left to take a stand? Basically, it's the Catholics or no one – and yet we have become so unused to the idea that it seems downright shocking, and possibly in bad taste as well. Wouldn't it be easier just to allow ourselves to sink into the same “melting pot” -- the same morally-indifferent mush as everyone else? But I call to your attention Dore's illustrations of the Inferno – just being in the majority in no guarantee of comfort and security.