‘The Right Is Mean, and the Left Is Foul’

Deal W. Hudson
Published April 2, 2009

The rising temperature of the debate over President Barack Obama’s scheduled visit to Notre Dame has created some heated rhetoric on both sides. Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg criticized Notre Dame’s decision but was himself criticized for complaining about the “uncivil and venomous” comments made by those opposing the honor being bestowed on President Obama.

Bishop Lynch is exactly right in raising this concern. Here is what he says:

The rhetoric being employed is so uncivil and venomous that it weakens the case we place before our fellow citizens, alienates young college-age students who believe the older generation is behaving like an angry child, and they do not wish to be any part of that, and ill-serves the cause of life (emphasis added).

Granted, some will label as uncivil any assertion about the truth of the Catholic Faith. These tactical accusations of incivility are exactly what they appear to be – an attempt to silence and discredit all who defend the Church. Putting that tactic aside, it does weaken our case for orthodoxy when it is couched in vicious name-calling, profanity, and unsupported generalizations.

Some say the coarseness of their rhetoric is justified by the truth they speak or by the crimes they decry, such as abortion. In my opinion, they either don’t care about persuading anyone who’s listening, or they don’t know they’re providing an excuse for people to ignore what they say. A good illustration of that approach is the effort of Randall Terry at Notre Dame. Terry has gone to such an extreme that Archbishop Raymond Burke had to dissociate himself from the use Terry was making of his comments.

The last thing orthodox Catholics need to do is bring discredit to a bishop who has the courage to speak his mind.

Archbishop Charles Chaput, another bishop who speaks his mind, recently spoke in an interview with the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life about his experience with e-mail rudeness. He attributes the vitriol to the “immediacy” of Internet communication, “which means we immediately speak out of our emotions rather than write a letter.” Just as important is anonymity behind which most people hide when making comments or posting on Web sites.

Some of the most vicious e-mails Archbishop Chaput has received, he says, are from “Catholic conservatives” who want him to excommunicate pro-abortion Catholic politicians. But he has noticed an interesting difference between how conservatives and liberals are impolite.

“The Left mail I get will use terrible words but be less vitriolic. They use the F-word and things like that, call me names like that. The Right is meaner, but they’re not as foul.”

The Right is mean, and the Left is foul – that observation matches my experience in the virtual world. The Left often resorts to expletives to express their disapproval; whereas the Right, including Catholic conservatives, will indict your faith, your intelligence, and your love for your mother if you happen to disappoint them.

Rudeness has nearly become the rule, rather than the exception, on the Internet. Blogs, forums, e-mails, and comment sections are hothouses for the unedited savagery of the miscreant, the coward, and the Pharisee. Yet it is the place where we have chosen to speak with a Catholic voice. As Archbishop Chaput has said of his own reaction to hateful e-mails: “The Lord reminds us that we are sheep among wolves, but it’s important for us not to become wolves ourselves because of our experience.”

It’s a sore temptation to respond in kind to such attacks. Most Catholics will agree with Bishop Lynch and Archbishop Chaput that our best chance for changing minds and being successful evangelists is speaking with a tone of voice that offers no excuse to turn away.

Will the Church Split Along Red and Blue Lines?

Deal W. Hudson
Published October 9, 2008

An Obama victory on November 4 is far from certain, but the momentum behind his campaign prompts me to wonder: What impact could an Obama administration have on the Catholic Church?

The Bush victories in 2000 and 2004 brought a flood of commentary on the so-called red and blue states. If Obama wins in 2008, I would not be surprised to see the emergence of a similar division among Catholics.
Many will finally realize, and admit to, the power of the political Left in their Church. This may lead to a kind of red state, blue state divide among Catholics in the United States. Such a divide could extend to the dioceses, reflecting both regional differences and the leadership of present and past bishops.

Most Catholics miss the institutionalized dissent, political liberalism, and Democratic Party alignment that exists throughout parts of the Church in this country. It exists in a network that includes parts of the USCCB and extends through chanceries, universities (especially Jesuit), Catholic organizations, and much of the Catholic media.

This network has become adept at cloaking its dissent, its political intentions, and its disdain for the agenda of Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI. It’s a well-chronicled story that is gaining traction with more Catholics because of events surrounding this election.

Some evidence of the red-blue separation is anecdotal. I have received many reports of priests touting the virtues of Obama from the pulpit. These are the same parishes where Respect Life Sunday was completely ignored. People are shaking their heads in disbelief; they didn’t realize it was “that bad,” they told me.

But there have also been public indications of this red/blue tension. This election year, a record number of individual bishops (see the list below) have made public statements in response to Catholic supporters of Sen. Barack Obama. All of them have reminded Catholic voters of the Church’s teaching on when life begins, and the issue’s relevance in politics.

Although the number of bishops speaking out is remarkable, there are another 200-plus who have said nothing individually. Furthermore, Catholic supporters of Obama are referring to the outspoken bishops as a “rogue group” and are lecturing “one-issue bishops” on the “correct” interpretation of Catholic teaching.
The aggressive style of Obama Catholics in this election was presaged back in February when a prominent Catholic journalist wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post ending with, “Sounds like I’ll be voting for the Democrat [Obama] — and the bishops be damned.”

There is no public record of how the bishops responded, but the still-growing list of prelates who have publicly corrected Biden, Pelosi, or defended life in this election suggests they are not cowering.
Some of these bishops come from blue states like New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Illinois — a fact that might prove my thesis about the coming divide wrong. Yet the Catholic vote in these states has consistently been in support of pro-abortion Catholic politicians. These heavily Catholic states are blue because Catholics have made them so.

If Catholic voters help to elect Obama, it will be a wake-up call for some in the Church and a cause for celebration to others. The theological and political divide among Catholics, along with regional differences, could be exacerbated. Dioceses may begin to appear more red or blue as a result.

The following is a list of those bishops who have made public statements about Catholics in politics in this election. Regarding those bishops not on the list, it should be mentioned that the joint statement by Justin Cardinal Rigali, chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Bishop William Lori, Chair of the Committee on Doctrine — as well as the follow-up statement from Cardinal Rigali and Bishop William Murphy — carries the unified voice of all the bishops.

1. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver
2. Bishop James Conley, auxiliary of Denver
3. Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C.
4. Justin Cardinal Rigali of Philadelphia, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities
5. Bishop William Lori of Bridgeport, chairman of the Committee on Doctrine
6. Edward Cardinal Egan of New York
7. Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo
8. Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh
9. Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs
10. Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio
11. Bishop Oscar Cantu, auxiliary of San Antonio
12. Bishop William Murphy of Rockville
13. Bishop Edward Slattery of Tulsa
14. Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas
15. Bishop Gregory Aymond of Austin
16. Sean Cardinal O’Malley of Boston
17. Bishop Thomas Wenski of Orlando
18. Archbishop John Nienstedt of Saint Paul/Minneapolis
19. Francis Cardinal George of Chicago, President of the USCCB
20. Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker
21. Bishop Jerome Listecki of La Crosse
22. Bishop Richard Lennon of Cleveland
23. Bishop Ralph Nickless of Sioux City
24. Archbishop George Niederauer of San Francisco
25. Bishop Glen Provost of Lake Charles, LA
26. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of Brooklyn
27. Bishop Joseph F. Martino of Scranton
28. Archbishop Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura
30. Bishop Peter J. Jugis of Charlotte
31. Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Raleigh
32. Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City, KS
33. Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City-St. Joseph, MI
34. Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison, WS
35. Bishop Ronald Gilmore of Dodge City, KS
36. Bishop Paul Coakley of Salina, KS
37. Bishop Michael Jackels of Wichita
38. Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito of Palm Beach
39. Bishop Kevin W. Vann of Fort Worth
40. Archbishop Henry J. Mansell of Hartford
41. Daniel Cardinal Dinardo of Houston
42. Bishop Joseph Galante of Camden
43. Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Patterson, NJ
44. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Harrisburg, PA
45. Joint Statement by the bishops of New York State (22 bishops)
(Please let me know if I have left any bishops off this list.)

Are We at a Moment Before the Deluge?

Deal W. Hudson
Published July 5, 2010

The phrase “Après moi, le déluge” is attributed to Louis XV on his deathbed. Fifteen years later, in 1789, the French Revolution confirmed his prediction: “After me, the flood.” Whether the king felt a sense of foreboding of things to come or simple indifference, the expression seems an apt description of where our nation stands on its 234th birthday.

Princeton’s Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman set off a lively debate with his New York Times op-ed from June 29, observing we are in the “early stages of a third depression.” Conservative commentators like Larry Kudlow and Steve Forbes were quick to respond that Krugman’s solution of more federal spending, rather than less, was at the heart of the economic downturn.

As Forbes put it, “Well, it’s like the old physician who continues to bleed the patient and wonder why the patient isn’t getting better and then bleeds the patient even more.”

The spiraling national debt has become such a prominent national issue that Gallupnow reports that 30 percent of Americans identify themselves as Tea Party supporters, while 28 percent oppose it. Thirty-five percent of those polled remain neutral, but that number will go down as the ramifications of national debt and the creation of the health-care entitlement hit home.

On June 1, the national debt went past the $13 trillion mark for the first time. In the first 15 months since President Barack Obama took office, the debt increased $2.4 trillion. During the eight years of the Bush presidency, the deficit increased $4.9 trillion. Yet when President Obama addresses the issue of the deficit, he continues to blame his predecessor.

National unemployment continues to rise, with 15 million out of work and another 8.8 million unable to find jobs. Writing for FoxNews.com, Liz Peek rightly calls this situation “a horror.” Peek’s argument, aimed at Krugman’s suggestion of more spending, is that we have reached the “Debt/Stimulus/Confidence Frontier”:

The concept is simple: while deficit spending is sometimes necessary in the early stages of a recession to jolt the economy and especially to provide the consumer with some extra buying power, there comes a point at which increased indebtedness has a negative effect – on confidence, and then on GDP.

The more the public becomes aware of the increasing deficit, the lower goes consumer confidence, which dipped sharply and unexpectedly by ten points to 52.9 in May. Liberals never seem to take into account human nature, Peek notes. People will start compensating for what they perceive an overspending government: “The liberal notion of all-purpose government sustenance is irreconcilable with the very human instinct of self-protection.”

Even Mort Zuckerman, editor in chief of U.S. News & World Report, warns that both political parties are avoiding the central issue and have

failed to explain how we are going to address our future debt and accept the limits of what the federal government can do. If they fail, we will be saddling the young with huge debts and immense taxes, and the American ethic of believing in a better future for our children will be in jeopardy.

For example, because of an aging population, Zuckerman warns that taxes will have to double if the country is to continue our current level of Social Security and Medicare payments to men and women over the age of 65.

With that challenge lying ahead, the Congress and the president passed a health-care package with the promise it would reduce the deficit. The financial reality, as doggedly explained by Catholic congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and confirmed by the Congressional Budget Office, is that the new health-care bill increases the deficit by $260 billion in the first ten years and $600 billion in the second decade.

The next big agenda item for the Obama administration was to be immigration reform, a piece of legislation strongly urged by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. However, recent signals suggest an immigration bill is at least a year away. It’s not known whether or not the delay has to do with its price tag,estimated at $30 billion and adding another $15 billion to the deficit. That cost could run double if health-care expenses for the 11 million undocumented immigrants are included in the legislation.

Growing awareness of the national debt load is already driving down consumer confidence and leading many into the Tea Party movement. Average people are getting the sense of foreboding, that something bad is waiting for them in the future – in short, they are losing hope. It’s past time for our elected representatives, starting with the president, to realize the limits of government, or to put it bluntly, the limits on spending.