The Church Flatulent

The Catholic hierarchy is no doubt disappointed that the Blunt-Nelson amendment – designed to provide accommodation for those who, for reasons of conscience, find paying for contraceptive devices and abortifacients unpalatable – failed to pass in the Senate today, and I can easily understand why. Eighteen years ago, as John McCormack pointed out on Tuesday in an article posted on the website of The Weekly Standard, the precise language of that amendment was, as a matter of course, included in the healthcare proposal that came to be called Hillarycare. But, of course, that was then, and this is now. In 1994, the Democrats in the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives were eager to avoid offending the Roman Catholic Church and its faithful adherents, and now, with exceedingly rare exceptions, they are intent on humiliating that church and its adherents.

TedKennedy.jpgThe bishops, priests, and nuns of the American Catholic Church may be dismayed, but they should not be in any way surprised. The situation that they now find themselves in is one of their own making. Thirty-eight years ago, when the Supreme Court handed down its decision inRoe v. Wade, the country was resolutely hostile to abortion on demand. At that time, many Democratic politicians, not all of them Catholic, announced their opposition to abortion. For a time, Bill Clinton and Al Gore were in their number. Had the Church pressed the question resolutely at the time, the 5-4 court decision would quickly have been reversed. As Mr. Dooley was wont to say, the Supreme Court follows the election returns.

CardinalBernadin2.jpgBut, of course, under the leadership of Archbishop Joseph Bernardin, who became President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) in 1974, the hierarchy chose to soft-pedal the issue, treating abortion as one among a number of issues, such as the death penalty and the public provision of healthcare, that Catholics should take into consideration when voting in local, state, and national elections. Nowhere did the bishops expressly say that outlawing abortion was no more important than providing healthcare and eliminating the death penalty, but by treating these issues all as part of a “seamless web,” Bernardin and his supporters implied as much.

KathleenSebeslius.jpgMoreover, thanks to the efforts of Bernardin and those of his adherents whom he installed as his successors atop the NCCB in later years, Catholic politicians came to realize that they could with impunity publically repudiate the teaching of the Church to which they professed to belong and propagate the notion that pregnant women had a right to kill their children as yet unborn. Mario Cuomo was the pioneer. He tested the waters, encountered criticism, and came away politically unscathed. Before long, virtually every Catholic who held elective office as a member of the Democratic Party occupied the ground that he had cleared. No one was excommunicated for taking this stand. Next to no one was publically reprimanded, and the faithful were never once told that they could not in good conscience vote for pro-abortion candidates. In the meantime, thanks to the silence of a host of clergymen who gave only lip service (if even that) to the notion that abortion is murder, more than forty million unborn Americans were deprived of their lives. It would not be too much to say that those who remained silent in the face of this have blood on their hands.

NancyPelosi1.jpgThe Blunt-Nelson amendment failed to pass the Senate today for one reason and one reason only. The supporters of abortion-on-demand are serious about the matter. They will do what it takes to punish at the polls any Democrat who crosses them. The bishops of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States have spent almost four decades intimating with a wink and a nod that they are not really serious about this question. In the process, they have made themselves politically irrelevant.

For the first time in memory, however, the leadership of the American Church has fallen into the hands of a man who appears to have a backbone. We will soon learn what Timothy Dolan, Cardinal-Archbishop of New York, and his episcopal colleagues across the country are made of.

ArchbishopTimothyDolan.jpgIt is not easy to recoup moral authority that one has spent four decades in squandering. It will take a supreme effort on their part. It will take courage. It will take determination and grit. And it will take humility – for it cannot be done if the bishops do not first admit to themselves and to the rest of us that they have been party for a very long time to a pact with the devil. Renewal begins with repentance. If the Church Flatulent does not now become again the Church Militant, in the United States, it will be regarded from now on as the Church Irrelevant.

  1. Midget Faded Rattlesnake

    Dr Rahe, when you titled this post, did you have in mind these lines from The Inferno?

    ma prima avea ciascun la lingua stretta coi denti, verso lor duca, per cenno; ed elli avea del cul fatto trombetta.
  2. Mel Foil

    Red Meat from Michael Voris:


    Updated Link:

  3. Paul A. Rahe
    etoiledunord: Red Meat from Michael Voris: · 1 minute ago


  4. The King Prawn

    As a Protestant I must say how refreshing it is to have an opportunity to reunite with the Church on these very important moral matters. The strength of the Church can be used for great good in this nation if only she will do so. I remain hopeful and encouraged by the stand taken by the bishops.

  5. Valiuth

    They bent before the gentle breeze of accommodation, and thus squandered their moral capital. Therefore there is only one way to regain it. The Church must disobey this unjust law, and prepare to stand up against the winds that will howl in outrage. Then we shall see of what wood the cross is made these days.

    I am now rather agnostic, but it would break my heart to see the Catholic Church dwindle away. There is much in it that I love and agree with, even when I can not bring myself to believe in all of it. One day I may come back into its embrace, but for that to happen they must still be around. I hope they find the courage to stand for their convictions. 

  6. Aaron Miller

    It seems I’ve read this all before.

  7. Bern SHN

    Prof. Rahe, how can you oppose Sebelius and Bernardin when they are clearly so compassionate?  Look at the head-tilts, for crying out loud.  Don’t we all know that they are our betters?

  8. Paul A. Rahe
    Bern SHN: Prof. Rahe, how can you oppose Sebelius and Bernardin when they are clearly so compassionate?  Look at the head-tilts, for crying out loud.  Don’t we all know that they are our betters? · 2 minutes ago

    As you can see, I have trouble resisting their siren call.

  9. Paul A. Rahe
    Aaron Miller: It seems I’ve read this all before. · 6 minutes ago

    Most, not all. Here I touch on Hillarycare and what it once contained. And here I discuss Mario Cuomo and the manner in which the churchmen handled “dissidents.”

  10. James Gawron

    Dr. Rahe,

    Cardinal Dolan needs to channel Pope John Paul II.  John Paul stuck his thumb in the Soviet’s eye and didn’t look back.  Cardinal Dolan needs to have the same attitude to the Jelly Fish in Chief in the White House.



  11. K T Cat

    What scares me is not that the HHS mandate might stand, it’s that the Church might give up the fight. Where do you go then?

  12. Nanda Panjandrum

    The substance of Dr. Rahe’s discussion of this topic on Flagship Podcast #106 was straightforward and well-expressed, as well as informative.  I’m afraid I can’t say the same for his 2  subsequent posts.  I suggest that propitiation and reparation may well be more in order than vituperation [See Mt. 16:18].



  13. K T Cat
    etoiledunord: Red Meat from Michael Voris: · 55 minutes ago

    Wowsers. Thanks for sharing that link!

  14. Byron Horatio

    Being a strayed Catholic, I still am close friends with my old theology teacher from years ago.  We meet about once a month to discuss matters of religion and current events.   In is frustrating sometimes, because he is horrified by the abortion-on-demand, hates the march of secularism, and yet remains a liberal (albeit pro-life) Democrat. who thinks Republicans are menacing, dangerous, war-mongering running dogs of capitalism.  He supports universal healthcare (though quarrels with Obamacare) and expansive regulatory powers to the state.  I’m not quite sure that these liberal Catholics understand that the Church will only wane in influence as the State takes over more and more of their former territory.  

  15. Mel Foil

    Bishops come from priests, and priests come from Catholic families, and lots of those Catholic immigrant families came from Irish or Italian regional brotherhoods, that once in America, easily transferred that clannishness into the trade-union one-for-all mentality. And once the unions became synonymous with Democrat, then everything flowed downstream (like sewage) from there.

    So, when little Mickey goes off to seminary, there’s nothing concrete there to tell him that being a Democrat is wrong. And if abortion doesn’t give him a clue that being a Democrat is wrong, then nothing else will. The Church is powerful, but so is ethnic culture. Culture was especially powerful leading into the Vatican II reforms. That was before pro-abortion came automatically with the Democrat label. Back then, it was harder to see where that stubborn loyalty to the Democrat Party would ultimately take you. Ultimately, it takes you to Hell.

  16. Aaron Miller
    Paul A. Rahe

    Aaron Miller: It seems I’ve read this all before.

    Most, not all. Here I touch on Hillarycare and what it once contained. And here I discuss Mario Cuomo and the manner in which the churchmen handled “dissidents.”

    Fair enough. Sorry.

    I don’t expect much. These are the same bishops who have watched Catholic schools mock the Church’s teaching for generations and done nothing substantial about it.

    George Carlin wasn’t far off with his Buddy Christ parody. The Church is still recovering from a movement that forgot Christians are meant to be “in the world but not of the world.”

  17. Paul A. Rahe
    KC Mulville: Hey, a post about the Catholic Church … and … and … oh yeah, right.

    Just out of curiosity, Professor, can you discuss what’s theologicallywrong about the Seamless Garment? · 12 hours ago

    I did in my earlier posts. It confuses the moral teaching of the Church with the politics of a certain set of churchmen, leaving the laity to suppose that supporting an expansion of the welfare state is their duty as Christians.

  18. Paul A. Rahe
    James Gawron: Dr. Rahe,

    When you get the chance please review and comment on my essay “My View of Abortion and Embryonics: An essay within an essay”.  I connect all the dots with my Constitutional arguments at the end.  It is very long. I’m sorry for that.  The subject matter demanded it.


    Jim · 11 hours ago

    Will do after I am done teaching today. You are right about the subject matter.

  19. Paul A. Rahe
    Samwise Gamgee: Which “organization” has been a stronger supporter of the unborn since Roe V. Wade than the Catholic Church?….

    Oh, that’s right.

    How many more posts on how Card. Bernardin was lukewarm before we can set our sights on defeating the HHS mandate and defending the Church? · 11 hours ago

    If you mean by “the Catholic Church,” the recent Popes, you are certainly right. If you mean the institutional Catholic Church in the Untied States, I beg to differ. The various groups of evangelical Protestants have done much better.

  20. Paul A. Rahe
    Colin B Lane: Dr. Rahe,

    I generally agree with all you have said, but with this caveat/observation: Laying so much of the blame at Cardinal Bernardin’s feet too easily exonerates the vast numbers of laity who have willingly ignored candidates’ pro-abortion voting records and the many (most? vast majority of?) practicing Catholics who knowingly and willingly violateHumanae Vitae’s teachings on contraception and sterilization every single day. 

    Strong Church leadership on these topics will help. But ultimately, just like the success of the Church writ large, it is the laity itself that must embrace the problem and drive change — even if it means some difficult conversations with family and friends who are Catholic but who vote for openly pro-abortion candidates.

    We must allspeak up now, and not wait for Church leadership in America to grow a spine (or cure its gas problem). · 11 hours ago

    I agree. I focus on the bishops, however, because their failure as teachers has sanctioned the laity’s failure to act. Think of the message that they  have repeatedly sent.

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