Catholics Need Not Apply?
Whether Rick Santorum survives the rest of the campaign or not, one fact has become abundantly clear: a presidential candidate may not display any degree of religious sincerity regarding the practice of his faith without a ferocious assault from the mainstream media and his opponents. Perhaps lulled by the Kennedy, Kerry, Pelosi, Cuomo, or Sibelius types, the appearance of a candidate who actually follows the dictates of the faith scandalizes the press as an unacceptable secular blasphemy.
Santorum has made the mistake of speaking unguardedly of good and evil, spiritual dimensions, and powers foreign to the cultivated minds of contemporary thinkers. The press has leapt with delight into the breach, painting the former senator as a religious zealot and treating his ideas with undisguised contempt. The resulting demonization of someone caught actually referring to demons in public would seem reasonable to a Torquemada.
Not only is Santorum guilty of being rigid, bigoted, and lacking compassion, but he has committed the sin of calendar-obstructionism. As one of the Washington Post's resident geniuses, Kathleen Parker, put it, "Rick's a good man, just a good man in the wrong century." After being exposed as stupid, or crazy, or uncaring, the inevitable charge of being Neanderthal is always leveled next. Ideas can be refuted only so far through patience, forbearance, and logic, so when all else fails, the label of "dinosaur" must be applied. Don't think the Constitution mandates free condoms for all? Dinosaur! Overreaching federal power-grabs concern you? Caveman. (This tactic is so pervasive that it must be written in some Pundit 101 manual somewhere.) It's the one argument most prized by the left because it isn't an argument. Attitude is all, and the dogma of "progress" is irrefutable. Many offenses can be forgiven, but trying to "turn back the clock" is a hanging crime.
The charge of living in the Dark Ages is nothing new for the Church. They have been accused of this since...the Dark Ages. The chronology-concerned critic of today has developed an even more sinister and dangerous litmus test today: "Mainstream Thought." For if being behind the times is bad, being out of the mainstream is even worse.
"Mainstream thought" as decided by the mainstream elites, of course, is a very narrow stream indeed, and outside its flow lie thoughts dangerous, backward, strident, and by common consent impermissible. To even discuss ideas that conflict with modern assumptions has become unacceptable. Diversity, to the likes of the Washington Post editorial staff, is just swell, as long as it heeds the very narrow boundaries of secular, liberal, admissible contemporary thought as decided by the editors.
Catholics in America have always had to adapt and compromise in a land of freedom and republicanism untethered to ecclesiastic authority. And accordingly Catholics have thrived and prospered in a nation of many faiths tied together by a unified civic religion of tolerance. But as the word "tolerance" is used more, its spirit is observed less. The desire to reconcile modern trends with ancient rules must eventually come to a "last stand," and apparently that "last stand" occurs now.
This is where Catholics lose. For as "mainstream thoughts" drift farther from the moral traditions of the West, so too do they fall outside the acceptable guidelines of religious thought as understood for twenty centuries and still held dear by over a billion people.
If the argument that serious Catholics are in effect barred from presidential consideration seems overstated, consider the long list of basic Catholic positions that part from the evolving and progressing mainstream and are therefore considered unacceptable:
- Family issues including parental rights, schooling, and educational choices
- Abortion, euthanasia, and medical rights
- Taxes and the use of public funds for immoral purposes
- Sexual norms, gay marriage, promiscuity, illegitimacy
- Social concerns, poverty programs, outreach, and the call to evangelize
- War and peace, the dictates of "Just War" theology
All these issues fall within the concerns of basic and non-controversial Catholic teaching, and all will be seen as out of the mainstream and therefore forbidden.
So the die has been cast. Serious Catholic candidates for office will be considered only if they deny their faith in public. Joining the sad march of unserious, unfaithful Catholic-in-name-only political opportunists is their only option. Any deviation from acceptable discourse will by definition render them unfit for office. Liberal "patron saints" such as Eugene McCarthy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King will retain their halos as long as the source of their "good works" remains unmentioned.
Perhaps another Catholic politician will earn the Oval Office in the future. But rest assured that it will not be because such a person broadcast his or her most deeply held religious convictions. We can collectively breathe a sigh of relief at being safely undisturbed by dangerous Catholic orthodoxy. And the left can cynically pretend they have moral relevance.