October 11, 2008
Liberal Catholic Bigotry Against Sarah PalinBy Joseph D'Hippolito
The Catholic Left, which ostensibly advocates compassion and justice in the name of Jesus Christ, does not like Sarah Palin, and finds fault with her unwed 17-year-old daughter's pregnancy, and even accuses her of apostasy.
Catholic Left notables Michael Sean Winters and Garry Wills are part of a campaign to destroy Palin. The Catholic Left wants to provide pseudo-theological cover for Catholic liberals who wish to vote for the Democratic ticket of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden. Obama supports legalized abortion while Biden, a Catholic, opposes the Magisterium's teaching on abortion.
Winters -- a writer who also blogs on politics for the liberal Catholic magazine, America -- declares Palin to be an apostate. The Los Angeles Times reported on Aug. 30 that Palin was baptized into the Catholic Church as an infant in Idaho. Soon afterward, the Times reported, Palin's family moved to Alaska and attended the Wasilla Assembly of God Church - a Pentecostal congregation in which Palin was baptized again at 12.
"One searches the Code of Canon Law in vain for the term ‘ex-Catholic,'" Winters wrote on America magazine's blog Sept. 4. "Similarly, the Catholic Church does not recognize the ritual the Times called ‘re-baptism.' More importantly, it is difficult to see how submitting oneself to a ‘re-baptism' would not be a renunciation of your prior baptism. And the technical term for renouncing one's baptism is apostasy."
Winters' pomposity becomes more pronounced as his post continues:
"A precocious teenager"? What gives Winters the right to make such an audacious judgment? "Severity of the crime"? What crime? Since when is it a crime in the United States -- which guarantees freedom of religious expression in the First Amendment of its Constitution -- for children to attend their parents' church? Since when are young children responsible for their parents' decisions?
Given that Palin's family switched churches when she was an infant, it is highly doubtful that Palin ever perceived herself as a Catholic. Perhaps if Palin promoted herself as a Catholic or proclaimed that her opinions reflected Catholic thinking, then Winters might have a point. But as the next passage makes clear, Winters' opinion about the state of Palin's soul merely obscures his real concern:
Wills, a professor at Northwestern University who writes on American and Catholic history, raised Palin's 17-year-old daughter as an issue in his Sept. 2 commentary in the New York Times. Wills had the audacity to imply that Palin is unfit for consideration because, among other things, she is the parent of an unwed mother:
What does an unwed daughter's pregnancy have to do with any candidate's qualifications and fitness for office? Moreover, why do liberals who criticize conservatives for obsessing about sexual matters in politics suddenly display the same obsession? When former Pres. Bill Clinton faced perjury charges resulting from his non-marital sexual behavior, Wills criticized Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr for pursuing an investigation while reviewing[TL1] Clinton's autobiography, My Life, for the New York Review of Books in 2004:
"Though Clinton's conduct was inexcusable, it does pale next to the deep and vast abuses of power that Kenneth Starr sponsored and protected." Wills never bothers to enumerate Starr's alleged "abuses of power." Instead, he engages in personal invective:
Wills handles his facts as carelessly as his conclusions. Four days before Wills' commentary on Governor Palin appeared, NBC's Doug Adams described Palin and Stevens as opponents on a post for MSNBC.com. Adams cited Palin's defeat of Stevens' ally, Frank Murkowski, in Alaska's Republican gubernatorial primary and her public criticism of Stevens when he was indicted on corruption charges. Yet Wills does not extend his moral outrage to the current Democratic ticket. He has never suggested that Illinois Sen. Barack Obama -- the Democratic Party's presidential nominee -- ask Biden to leave the ticket because Biden once plagiarized the speeches of former British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock. Nor has Wills suggested that Obama might be unfit for consideration because of his associations with William Ayers, the unrepentant former Weather Underground terrorist, or Tony Rezko, who was convicted in June for seeking bribes from companies that wanted to do business with the State of Illinois. Yet liberal Catholics suggest that Palin should not be elected because of her religious associations and views. Consider reaction to this statement Palin made in June at the Wasilla Assembly of God, now her former church:
The liberal Catholic blog Vox Nova -- which openly supports Obama and condemns the American military presence in Iraq -- not only accused Palin of being a stalking horse for a conservative Protestant ideology that combines patriotism and fundamentalist eschatology, but also essentially equated her political beliefs with those of Islamic terrorists:
Rod Dreher, a member of the Dallas Morning News' editorial board, took a calmer view in his own blog:
On the other hand, Vox Nova defended Rev. Jeremiah Wright -- Obama's former pastor -- for such anti-American remarks as blaming the United States for its own victimization by Islamic terrorists seven years ago:
Vox Nova views Rev. Wright's sermons as so politically prophetic that the blog's writers - including a former Congressional staffer and a theology professor -- excuse his proclamation, "God damn America!"
Wills and Winters also have political motivations for their bigotry. In his review of Wills' book, Head and Heart: American Christianities, Patrick Allitt of the New York Times described Wills' perspective:
Winters' attitude is more pronounced, as the title of his latest book makes clear: Left at the Altar: How the Democrats Lost the Catholics and How the Catholics Can Save the Democrats. In a commentary for The New Republic,[TL2] Winters suggested to Obama and the Democrats that "Catholic social thought provides Democrats with the kind of moral vision and linguistic clarity that their economic positions have lacked for decades now." For Winters, that includes "government intervention on behalf of the common good."
Regarding Iraq, Winters wrote that Obama could "go to a Catholic university and discuss how the fiasco in Iraq might have been avoided, not only by reading the National Intelligence Estimate, but also by consulting the 5th century just-war theories of St. Augustine."
Conservative Catholic commentator George Weigel, who wrote Pope John Paul II's official biography, once described Winters' rhetoric as "combining low-grade sourcing, a faux-authoritative voice, and leftist political spin in equally impressive measures." Members of the Catholic Left and their secular allies do not criticize Palin for what she has done or might do in office but for who she is. Condemning Palin for "apostasy" or dismissing her unwed, pregnant daughter is the same kind of Pharisaical behavior that such "progressives" routinely condemn conservatives for allegedly exhibiting. By smearing Palin, they reveal far more about themselves and their own sort of morality.