Yeah, she went there.
In truth, though, Obama’s pragmatic approach to divisive policy (his notion that we should acknowledge the good faith underlying opposing viewpoints) and his social-justice agenda reflect the views of American Catholic laity much more closely than those vocal bishops and pro-life activists. When Obama meets the pope tomorrow, they’ll politely disagree about reproductive freedoms and homosexuality, but Catholics back home won’t care, because they know Obama’s on their side. In fact, Obama’s agenda is closer to their views than even the pope’s.
In fairness to Townsend, she does have a point. Many people in America who call themselves Catholics do in fact agree with the president’s views on abortion. Of course that says more about the horrid state of catechism in this country than about the relevancy of the Church’s teachings.
It’s fitting that Obama’s visit comes just days after the publication of “Charity in Truth,” a Vatican encyclical that declares unions, regulation of capitalism’s excesses, and environmentalism to be ethical imperatives. The document gives moral credence to Obama’s message and to progressive politics writ large.
Ugh. It’s not surprising that religiously illiterate progressives would put such a spin on the encyclical – after all, politically motivated progresso-Catholics are busy spinning it that way as well. So once again, Townsend can’t totally be faulted.
Even more intriguing is the pope’s support for political activism, which he refers to in the encyclical as “the institutional path … of charity, no less excellent and effective than the kind of charity which encounters the neighbor directly.” As a member of a family that preached that politics is an honorable profession, I see that he is opening the church to roles that for too long have been neglected. Here Obama (the community organizer from Chicago) could teach the pope a lot about politics—and what a Catholic approach to politics could entail. They agree, too, on poverty and Middle East peace. So far so good on papal-presidential concordance.
It sure is a good thing that Pope Benedict is the first Pope to imply that political activism is a good thing. For far too long Catholics have been forbidden to even speak of politics, so the loosening of these burdensome restrictions is certainly a load off. I also agree that a complete neophyte politician like Barack Obama – a man with an extensive geopolitical career as a community organizer, as a half-term member of the US Senate, and as President of these United States for five months will assuredly have so much to teach the man who has been Supreme Pontiff over the world’s billion plus Catholics for four years and who has spent almost his entire life in international ecclesial circles. I’m sure the Pope will be left speechless by President Obama’s musings. Primary among the president’s important lessons will probably be how not to ge caught ogling 17-year old girls.
But there they part ways. Politics requires the ability to listen to different points of view, to step into others’ shoes. Obama might call it empathy. While the pope preaches love, listening to the other has been a particular stumbling block for the Catholic hierarchy (as it is for many in power). The hierarchy ignores women’s equality and gays’ cry for justice because to heed them would require that it admit error and acknowledge that the self-satisfied edifice constructed around sex and gender has been grievously wrong.
And here we get to the crux of the matter. It really isn’t about whether or not Catholics in America view the Pope or the President more favorably, it’s about a faux Catholic’s outrage that the Church refuses to change its core teachings and mission on the say-so of irate children like Townsend. We’ll leave aside the sheer duplicity in the statement that Obama actually listens to different points of view and focus instead on the shrill cri de couer of another bitter progresso-Catholic who believes she knows better than the Magisterium. I guess when you’re the spoiled child of a family that hasn’t contributed anything to the American polity since her grand-dad built his fortune by exploiting the 18th Amendment, you’re pretty used to getting your way. But here we have the Pope, head of an institution that has the temerity to say “NO!” emphatically to the progresso-Catholics who just stomp their feet in anger over the Pope’s refusal to give them condoms and let their gay friends get married.
The rest of the piece, believe it or not, degenerates from there. Townsend attempts to play amateur theologian AND amateur historian, proving once again that idiots can get an education anywhere so long as their parents are rich. Kathleen, there’s saying about opening one’s mouth and removing all doubt. I suggest you heed it.
I believe that this one sentence sums up so much about Townsend and her ilk:
Yet polls bear out that American Catholics do not want to be told by the Vatican how to think.
Somebody should probably tell Townsend that in order to be told what to think, one has to be capable of thought in the first place.