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Monday, February 20, 2012

The Catholic?

Rick Santorum, now challenging Romney to head the Republican ticket, is almost a caricature of what I oppose in my ethical model which I call Integrity.

He exemplifies moral certainty (which Cullen Murphy describes in God's Jury, the history of the Inquisition and the making of the modern world).  He bases his morality and his policies on the Bible which is God's Word to him.  He pretends that the USA is founded on Christianity and that the nation is and should be a Christian.  He condemns secularism as an evil opposed to Christianity and the nation.

He believes that he has a duty to oppose artificial birth control (condemned by the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy), "radical feminism" (which removes women from their proper role in the family), military women in combat (because it is naturally distracting to men), pre-natal examinations (since they could result in abortion), abortion (which is murder because human life is fully present, a soul infused, when the egg is fertilized), government support of the poor and aged (because that should be left to God and family; and socialism is evil),  homosexuality (because it is forbidden by the Bible and the Church), gay marriage and the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" in the military (because it condones homosexuality).  He wants to minimize government role in economic policy, but maximize it in cultural policy (e.g. related to women, gays, sexual mores).

His passionate sincerity and moral certainty are unquestionable.  He is the "good Catholic" as the current Pope, the Bishops, and most clergy would define that.  But, as Catholic journalist E.J. Dionne has often said,  Santorum is far from being a Catholic in the tradition of Pope John XXIII, Archbishop Romerro, Dan Berrigan, Telhard de Chardin, Karl Rahner, Rosemary Reuther, Jack Egan, Dorothy Day, Graham Greene, Dominick Crossan, Thomas Merton, David Steindl-Rast, and the American Bishops who sent the Pastoral Letter on the American Economy.  He does not know, probably because he was never taught, the rich Catholic tradition of social teachings which he castigates as a Marxist heresy called "liberation theology."

Ironically, though he condemns the theology of the secularists, he has no theology.  Theology is the questioning of religious doctrine and ritual in the light of reason in order to bring the Church in dialogue with the contemporary world towards a continue transformation of Church and World towards a free, just, and open society.  He does not know theology, he only knows dogma as it has been approved by authority.  He is a Catholic ideologian without a Catholic theology.

Like George Bush, he is not evil.  He is a likable, nice guy and a true believer.  But his true belief and moral certainty would be a near occasion for evil policies in the world as it was for George Bush who permitted two wars killing hundreds of thousands of people, condoning torture, increasing an obscene disparity in wealth, capitulating to big corporations leading to a huge economic downturn for ordinary people (not the very wealthy), a further sacrificing of the health of the planet, and a disparaging of science.

As Eric Hoffer pointed out long ago and Cullen Murphy today, it was true belief and moral certainty that led to the Inquisition, the Holocaust, and most wars of genocide.  Cardinal Torquemada, Innocent III, Bloody Mary, Pius XIII, Benito Mussolini, Generalissimo Franco, Adolph Hitler, Joe McCarthy were all Roman Catholics and supported by the official Roman Catholic Church.  Many of them were pious in their private lives and nice people socially.

Obama's people attacked Romney for having no "core."  If that means not having absolute principles, true beliefs, or moral certainty, then I think that is a good thing and I hope Obama has none either.  If that means pragmatically putting religious values to the test of humaneness and making sure that no principle gets in the way of treating others humanly, go Romney.  I don't mind your Mormonism as long as you don't pretend America has to be Mormon and as long as it does not obstruct your sense of human fairness here and now.

We sure don't want another sincere, true believing, nice-guy Christian in the White House.

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