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Unlike smooth operators such as Newt and the pretty boy journalist playing gotcha with him, I have no trouble framing the current health controversy as a contraception issue, AND as a religious freedom issue. It is clearly both: the "either-or" framing is what's wrong. But the either-or framing allows it to be addressed as a democrat vs republican issue, and that is all that matters in the baloney factory of America.Democrats stress the contraception issue, because they know that most people, including most Catholics, in this blithering nation will hold on to their birth control devices like grim death. So, manuevering republicans into a position which seems to restrict access to these agents of little deaths is thought to be a canny tactic, especially given the skittishness of establishment republicans like Mitt Romney toward the issues of the religious constituencies to which they pander.Republicans, on the other hand, prefer to see it all as an encroachment of President Black Jesus upon religious freedom, and there is certainly considerable justification for doing so.For Catholics, however, both framings are important. The encroachment of Black Jesus and his sinister inquisitor Sebelius (her name is a defamation of a great composer) upon the up-to-now unassailable right of religious institutions to behave like, well, religious institutions, stands out like a sore thumb. Even American Catholics, among the most jaded, lazy, and confused Christians on the planet, ought to be able to see it, and react accordingly. Will they? Doubtful, precisely because they are so lazy, jaded, and confused that they take socialist democracy and the urban legend of “freedom” for Catholic doctrine and teaching, and follow Black Jesus instead of Jesus. Better sex that way, too.How has such confusion come to pass? It is the product of centuries of spineless leadership by American bishops, who preached Americanism when they should have preached Catholicism. Couple it with the debacle of Vatican II, which provided the “pastoral” basis for associating a suspicious “freedom” of conscience with American self-indulgence, and throw into the mix the dizzy declaration that the saintly voice of the laity must come to the fore whilst clergymen stand aside in awe and wonder, and you have the current sorry American parody of Catholicism, fawned over proudly by our so-called leaders as if they were watching their nieces and nephews acting in a high school play.But the contraceptive framing matters just as much. Artificial contraception was the first major issue of the post V2 period. Pope Montini, forever a Hamlet when decisiveness mattered most, strutted and fretted far beyond his hour before he summoned the fortitude to declare artificial contraception a murderous instrument off limits to Catholics. But this was also the first major post V2 issue in which the policy of collegiality was put to the test. Most bishops throughout the first world provided pro forma backing and nothing more. They tossed Humanae Vitae down the Well of Forgetfulness, and turned everything over to the golden calf of individual conscience.Thus the USCCB rested its case for lo these many years. Souls were in the balance during that whole time, but never mind. Only now, when Inquisitor Sebelius threatens the solvency of our bishops’ pet institutions – hospitals, charities and colleges which seldom tow the traditional Catholic line as it is -- only now do the ample posteriors of our Catholic leaders rise from their padded chairs as ululations of protest escape their normally somnolent lips. To American Catholic leaders, it is the institutions which matter. Either way the issue is framed, American Catholic leaders have themselves to blame.
Newt was greatRalph here is as well.He needs to be a speechwriter.
After reading Ralph's great commentary, I am inclined to break my new-drinking-on-a-school-night Lenten pledge and open a nice bottle of cabernet tonight and toast him in absentia.Kudos, Sir.
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"What is the first business of philosophy? To part with self-conceit. ...It is impossible for anyone to begin to learn what he thinks he already knows." -- Epictetus (c. 100 A.D.)