07 July 2009

Defending the Indefensible

The case of a rejected potential mate came up in conversation with friends over the weekend. This loser's biggest fault? She was Catholic - which led everyone around the table to enthusiastically agree to hating the Catholic Church.

I was silent though I usually speak up at such moments. It's been infinitely more difficult to defend religion in general since Bush was elected... OK - it was always difficult to defend a group that raised the fetus to the point of idolatry, where abortion - rather than faith or personal sacrifice for justice - became the sine qua non for believers. At my weekend table I had to also wonder if the whole bit weren't some kind of passive-aggressive hostility aimed at me, since everyone there knew I'd worked for the Church for 16 years.

Instead of speaking up I was thinking of the editor at the Catholic Sentinel, my old boss, saying that Catholicism was the last bastion of respectable bigotry. It's no longer acceptable to hate African-Americans, Asians, gays, Islam, Judaism, or paganism, but it's OK to hate the Church.

Now that's a bit over the top, a bit Bill Donohue and Catholic Leagueish - after all, if someone vehemently disagrees with a powerful organization's policies because those policies do quantifiable harm, it's disingenuous to put that criticism down to prejudice. Eric Alterman and other critics of Israel's policy towards the Palestinians are not anti-Semitic. For crying out loud, Alterman is Jewish. As the Israeli state increasingly became identified with its wall and settlements, however, it became harder and harder to criticize those policies without sounding anti-Israel in general. Especially since Israel's defenders themselves evidently defined Israel by those policies. The same is true for Republicans, the anti-government, don't-believe-in-global-warming, Christianism party, and for the Catholic Church, the church of anti-contraception and no-abortions-even-to-save-the-life-of-the-mother faith.

Shouldn't Israel, Republicans, and the Church be more than that? It seems like they should do their part in helping those of us out here who would like to come to their defense in a fair-minded way.

Then there's the related problem of in so doing becoming aligned with frothers who insist that the entire Democratic Party is anti-Catholic. Right. Pelosi, Kennedy, et al.

Someone else over the weekend, in a completely different conversation (this one about the Church coming out strongly in favor of the coup that ousted Honduras's leftist president), said that they really didn't like this current pope's leadership.

Now that's a fair criticism.

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