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Contradictory Catholic voices cause confusion at convention

The multiplicity of ‘Catholic’ voices at the US Democrats' convention highlights the apparent confusion over who defines Church teaching.

  • Joan Frawley Desmond
  • United States
  • September 13, 2012
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The 2012 Democratic National Convention featured a slew of self-identified “Catholic” voices — from the vice president of the United States to the daughter of a slain U.S. president, from a “nun on the bus” to Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, who delivered the final blessing at the three-day event.

A half century ago, the lineup of Catholics would have been a source of pride for an immigrant Church. But this year in Charlotte, the diverse, even contradictory positions of these co-religionists seemed designed to sow confusion, leaving the audience to ask: Who speaks for the Church, and does the Church still hold to non-negotiable truths on issues like abortion and marriage?

While Caroline Kennedy told convention delegates that her Catholic faith bolstered her defense of “reproductive rights,” Cardinal Dolan’s benediction beseeched the Almighty to defend unborn life.

Sister Simone Campbell, the executive director of Network, the social-justice lobby, also stepped to the podium, leveraging the moral authority of her Church to condemn the budget proposal of a fellow Catholic, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the GOP vice-presidential candidate.

Sister Simone elicited wild applause when she reminded the delegates that Ryan’s proposed cuts of social programs had been strongly criticized by the U.S. bishops, and she was cheered when asserting that “pro-life” values explained her own bus tour that targeted Ryan’s fiscal priorities.

Yet this same audience also applauded top abortion-rights activists who warned them that GOP efforts to bar federal funding of Planned Parenthood and protect conscience rights would turn back the clock on women’s rights.

Thus the convention proceedings left the impression of a moral equivalence between defending the unborn child’s inalienable right to life and partisan decisions to block cuts in social spending. In a similar vein, speakers seemed to suggest that a genuine Christian concern for women could be fully realized through abortion-rights advocacy.

No surprise that Cardinal Dolan, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, used his benediction to address the selective approach to issues of justice.

“Grant us the courage to defend it — life, without which no other rights are secure.  We ask your benediction on those waiting to be born, that they may be welcomed and protected,” the cardinal prayed, in his distillation of Catholic teaching on the inalienable dignity of all human life, along with passages addressing traditional marriage and religious freedom.

Did the television audience pay special attention to the cardinal’s pointed remarks? Hard to tell, when even Church leaders must fight for airtime to articulate definitive Catholic teaching.

So, who speaks for the Catholic Church in the public square?

Full Story:  Who Speaks for the Catholic Church?

Source: National Catholic Register
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