May 25, 2004

Andrew Sullivan

Category: Politics :: Permalink

In his recent editorial for Time, Andrew Sullivan expresses his dislike of the recent declarations made by some bishops in the Roman Catholic Church:

It has — amazingly — been forty-four years since a Catholic ran for the presidency of the United States under one of the two major party banners. And how things have changed. In 1960, John F. Kennedy had to persuade Americans that he was not too Catholic to be president. In 2004, John F. Kerry has to persuade the Catholic bishops that he is not too American.By “too American,” I mean the sense that religious faith is a personal matter, that it can be sealed off from public life, that it doesn’t dictate political views on any one issue or another. But with the issue of abortion, that is exactly what some in the Catholic hierarchy and conservative grass-roots seek to challenge. These orthodox Catholics believe that no public official can be openly Catholic and support the right to a legal abortion, which the Church regards as a moral evil of the highest order. The distinction between someone’s private view of the morality of abortion and their public stance about its legality is a distinction without a difference, they argue. Until now, that has been simply a rhetorical assertion — and certainly one well within the rights and duties of the bishops. But in the last few years — accelerating fast in the last few weeks — orthodox forces are demanding more stringent action — that pro-choice politicians not simply be publicly reprimanded but barred from receiving Holy Communion, the central, unifying act of Catholic worship.

Sullivan may be correct: For many Americans (and Canadians) religion is private; it isn’t political — and Sullivan likes it that way. He rightly recognizes, too, that what is sometimes called “fencing the table” is necessarily a political act: some people are allowed to partake of the Eucharist and others aren’t; some people are members of the body and others aren’t.

And that’s what bothers Sullivan: he doesn’t want the church to be able to police its own boundaries, at least, not when it comes to politicians and the policies they promote. Sullivan, it appears, wants the church to stick to dispensing advice, which people may then take or leave, not to act with authority. He doesn’t want the church to be the church; he wants the church to be Ann Landers.

Posted by John Barach @ 8:19 pm | Discuss (0)

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