Sunday, October 05, 2008

Say It Ain't So, Joe



As the church bells ring this Sunday morning, if you are Catholic and live in Scranton, you may want to give a pass on mass. In what's ironically called "Respect Life Sunday," the Bishop of Scranton disrespects Catholics everywhere by imposing his political views on the city's parishioners under the guise of his anti-abortion stand. The Times-Tribune reports, Scranton Diocese priests read abortion position letter to parishioners:
A letter from Bishop Joseph F. Martino to be read aloud by priests at all Roman Catholic Masses in the Diocese of Scranton this weekend calls on the faithful to understand and remember the church’s position on abortion come Election Day.

“Jesus Christ ... does not ask us to take up his Cross only to have us leave it at the voting booth door,” Bishop Martino says in the two-page pastoral letter, which will also be circulated with all parish bulletins on Saturday and Sunday. In it, he criticizes the laws that protect abortion rights and takes particular aim at political candidates who express support for those rights.

In the letter, Bishop Martino refers to abortion as “homicide” and writes, “It is a tragic irony that ‘pro-choice’ candidates have come to support homicide — the gravest injustice a society can tolerate — in the name of ‘social justice.’”
No mention by Martino, of course, of the death penalty or torture or supporting unjust wars (like Iraq, perhaps), all issues that relate to life -- or loss thereof. The Republican Bishop justifies this by saying:
Bishop Martino’s letter also confronts the argument that abortion is not the only “life” issue that should concern Catholic voters. The bishop notes such reasoning is sound “only if other issues carry the same moral weight as abortion does,” for example, euthanasia and “destruction of embryos for research purposes.” Other issues, including health care, education, economic security, immigration and taxes do not carry the same weight, he writes.

He also argues that abortion is a “deeper” and “more corrupting” moral failure than “mistakenly believ(ing) that an unjust war is just.”

I just wrote a few days ago about my experience at my family reunion last month, where the priest (from Scranton) who officated mass gave a lecture against voting for any candidate who supports abortion. See God is on My Side. I didn't realize that this was part of a concerted (political) campaign in support of the Republican party.

Now I know why SNL called Scranton a "hellhole" in its VP debate skit last night. The writers must have seen the NYTimes piece on Martino's order to issue instructions to parishioners on how to vote in the election next month. Fortunately, not everyone is a Stepford Catholic. As the Times reports, Catholic Church Is Riven by Internal Debate:
As the Roman Catholic Church observes its annual “respect life” Sunday in this heated presidential election season, the unusually pitched competition for Catholic voters is setting off a round of skirmishes over how to apply the church’s teachings not only on abortion but also on the war in Iraq, immigration and racism.

In a departure from previous elections, Democrats and liberal Catholic groups are waging a fight within the church, arguing that the Democratic Party better reflects the full spectrum of church teachings.

It is a contest for credibility among observant Catholics, with each faction describing itself as a defender of “life.” The two sides disagree over how to address the “intrinsic evil” of abortion.

* * * *

In Scranton, Pa., every Catholic attending Mass this weekend will hear a special homily about the election next month: Bishop Joseph Martino has ordered every priest in the diocese to read a letter warning that voting for a supporter of abortion rights amounts to endorsing “homicide.”

“Being ‘right’ on taxes, education, health care, immigration and the economy fails to make up for the error of disregarding the value of a human life,” the bishop wrote. “It is a tragic irony that ‘pro-choice’ candidates have come to support homicide — the gravest injustice a society can tolerate — in the name of ‘social justice.’ ”

In response, a coalition of liberal lay Catholics is pushing back, criticizing the bishop’s message for neglecting other aspects of “life” talked about in Catholic social teachings, like concern for the poor.

See also an earlier Times piece on the issue, Abortion Issue Again Dividing Catholic Votes.

The Times-Tribune also discusses the fact that not all Catholics support the Bishop, Hot topic: Groups rip Martino on vote advice:

Groups that advocate for a broad view of Catholic social justice teaching and for maintaining the separation of church and state have criticized a letter by Bishop Joseph F. Martino that instructs Catholic voters to consider abortion above all other issues on Election Day.

The letter, which will be read in place of the homily at all parishes in the Diocese of Scranton this weekend, ignores aspects of the official statement on voting issued last fall by the national organization of bishops, progressive Catholic groups say.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops holds that Catholics “are not single-issue voters” and allows for Catholics to vote for candidates who support abortion rights, but only if they do so for other “morally grave” reasons.

The national bishops also define racism, torture and genocide, as well as abortion and euthanasia as among the most important issues for Catholics to consider.

Chris Korzen, the executive director of the progressive Catholic group Catholics United, said those other issues, which the church considers “intrinsic evils,” are “conspicuously absent” from Bishop Martino’s letter.
As Sr. Mary Elizabeth Clark of the national Catholic social justice lobby Network, in Washington, said when the issue was raised in the 2000 election:
"Poverty is an act of violence against life," Clark said. "Trade policies that will dehumanize people and the earth are life issues as much as is abortion."
See Catholics able to `think for themselves,' bishop says.

Is it any wonder that the Catholic Church is more losing members than any other faith? Swing Shift. I can attest that it was people like Martino that drove me away from the Catholic Church long ago and things haven't changed for the better since then. Way to go, Joe.

1 comment:

quakerdave said...

Just another reason why anti-religionists hate religion.

Just another reason why believers are leaving the church.