Monday, November 17, 2008


Since this past Easter, The Common Man has officially been Catholic (as opposed to a virtually Catholic, which is a little like being "near-beer" in that you get the same beer-belly of guilt but none of the benefits of consumption, such as beer buzz, the feeling of invincibility, and the miraculous ability to eat an entire pizza and a plate of cheese-fries at 3 AM). And he's proud to be Catholic. But before he became Catholic, stories like this kept The Common Man and the Church at arm's length from one another.

According to the Associated Press, a Greenville, SC priest, Jay Scott Newman, sent a letter around to his parishioners, telling them that they must do penance before receiving Holy Communion if they voted for Barack Obama. Newman, obviously forgetting Kang's short-lived campaign slogan "Abortions for all!" (which he and his campaign team quickly changed to "Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others!") claims that Obama is "the most radical pro-abortion politician ever to serve in the United States Senate or to run for president." He went on to say,
Voting for a pro-abortion politician when a plausible pro-life alternative exists constitutes material cooperation with intrinsic evil, and those Catholics who do so place themselves outside of the full communion of Christ's Church and under the judgment of divine law. Persons in this condition should not receive Holy Communion until and unless they are reconciled to God in the Sacrament of Penance, lest they eat and drink their own condemnation.

What The Common Man has learned, however, is that while Newman is being terribly narrow-minded and dead wrong about the tenor of an Obama administration and the relative merits of an Obama presidency versus a McCain one (certainly a vote for John McCain would have violated one or several Catholic tenets), he is an outlier within the church. Already, his own diocese has contradicted the priest, saying "Father Newman's statements do not adequately reflect the Catholic Church's teachings. Any comments or statements to the contrary are repudiated." Indeed, whenever a priest goes off the reservation and says something ridiculous, it seems as though it gets picked up in the mainstream press. Meanwhile, obscure protestant bigots around the country are allowed to say what they will without media attention.

The Common Man doesn't know where the fascination with Catholocism and the Catholic priesthood has come from, and why the media's obsession with the laity is largely focused on Catholics. Perhaps it has roots in a 19th and early 20th Century anti-immigrant backlash that mythologized the Pope and popularized the idea that Catholics were somehow subserviant to the whims of the pontiff, like the orders of a Catholic George III. Or maybe it's that Catholics, for all their success in this country, are still a minority (though a growing and not a very marginalized one). Or maybe it's the Latin. Or the incense. Or the pretty robes. It doesn't matter. The Common Man doesn't necessarily need the media's hyper-focus on Catholocism to be rectified (because all powerful organizations should be watched and questioned), but wishes that others were subject to the same level of scrutiny.

Meanwhile, American bishops have indeed been active in drumming up support for the anti-abortion movement. Last Tuesday, according to the AP, "the nation's Catholic bishops forcefully confront the Obama administration over its support for abortion rights." The Common Man hopes they do, and that their efforts bring about some kind of consensus between them and Barack Obama. Indeed, while reasonable people can and do disagree on the issue of abortion, surely all can agree that it would be better for everyone involved if there were fewer of them. And perhaps by working together, instead of throwing around heated rhetoric, these disparate groups can come together to promote more comprehensive and useful sexual education and to better educate parents on how to keep their children from having unplanned pregnancies. Anyway, that's what the Obama-supporting The Common Man is going to pray for before he takes Communion on Sunday.


bikemonkey said...

While I may agree that it would be better if we had fewer abortions, there is a more important prior.

That we have fewer unwanted children.

One more screwed up, psychologically crippled person unleashed to continue the next generation of pain? I'll take an abortion over that any old day of the week.

The fact that this is NEVER part of the abortion conversation is abhorrent. Pro-choice is the middle position. The pro-abortion part of the distribution is completely absent in our politics.

The Common Man said...

"One more screwed up, psychologically crippled person unleashed to continue the next generation of pain? I'll take an abortion over that any old day of the week."

While The Common Man really does not want to grab the third rail that this issue represents and fry here, Bikemonkey, The Common Man has to say that this seems like an incredibly cynical view. After all, neither you nor The Common Man have the wherewithall to determine which unloved little children will grow up to be a meth addict, and which will grow up to be the 42nd President of the United States. Indeed, your position denies the importance of human agency and reduces the debate to a numbers game.

The Common Man has no desire to make the anti-choice argument, nor does he want to minimize the struggles faced by kids born to unwilling and resentful parents. However, The Common Man believes that all people should have the opportunity to make of themselves what they can. And that, by predetermining what the value of a child will be, you inherently devalue your own life, as well as The Common Man's. And eventually you get to a position where China's One Child policy becomes palateable.

BikeMonkey said...

I suspect we do not agree on the point at which we are dealing with "a child". But the point about one child policy is novel ground. Are you suggesting life begins at a twinkle in the eye????

The Common Man said...

First, The Common Man wants to make it clear that, while he believes that life begins when a fertilized egg successfully implants in a uterus, he acknowleges that his belief is informed by his faith. As such, The Common Man has no desire to legislate or judicially impose his belief upon those who do not agree with him. He would, however, like to see more people (not just women) take greater responsibility for their reproductive capabilities, receive better sexual education to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and make the choice to carry their baby to term and give it up, rather than terminate a pregnancy.

Second, you initially pointed out that a fetus, regardless of your definition of when life begins, if unchecked, grows up to be a person, when you acknowledged that you would rather see abortions than "one more screwed up, psychologically crippled person unleashed to continue the next generation of pain." So, from the beginning, you are inherently figuring what the value and quality of a human life will be, predetermining whether it's "worth it" for the mother to give birth. And if that is the criteria you use to determine whether an abortion is a good idea or not, you are discouting human agency and personal choice as powerfully determinitive forces, and you are saying that some people shouldn't live. And when a society begins making those kind of value judgements about the quality of a person's life, individuals are subject to the same arguments, so that, perhaps, others can objectively determine whether your own life is valuable enough or not.

But, frankly, The Common Man is tired of defending himself, and instead will go on the offensive. What is it about being born, bikemonkey, that somehow magically makes a person worthy of the rights and legal protections that are not provided to a fetus? Why can't a person make the same determinations about a 2 month old infant that you make in your initial comment? That, because it is unwanted and may grow up to be "screwed up" and "psycholocially crippled," it should not be allowed to grow up?

BikeMonkey said...

point being that the fundamental definition is key. The rest follows. I don't consider abortion to be stopping a life. I consider it still in the category of potential- closer to twinkle, ethically than to two month old. That's why your reference to the one child thing sounded as if you extend full consideration as "a person" to the vast sphere of potential-child.