HOLIER THAN THOU

For the past decade, every prominent Democratic politician who describes him- or herself as a Catholic has at some point been subjected to the manufactured controversy of "Should he be allowed the sacraments? Should he get a Catholic funeral?" It is inevitably the product of an individual clergyman (or even worse, a commentator or PR-for-hire man like Bill Donahue) seeking to use his tax-exempt organization as an entry into the political arena. As I have said many times, I have no problem with Focus on the Family, Pat Robertson, or the Catholic Church operating as partisan political groups. Just surrender the tax exemption and then do as you please. Alas, they choose to hold onto it and remain "non-partisan."

I am very, very far from a moral authority on Catholicism or any other religion. But when we hear questions about whether John Kerry should be allowed the sacraments or, more recently, if Ted Kennedy should be permitted a Catholic burial (K-Lo wants to know too!) because of their failure to back a pro life agenda, it strikes me as, if not the lamest argument on Earth, a strong contender for the title. The Catholic Church considers abortion a moral evil and a mortal sin. This cannot be debated. What is so stupid is the idea that the Church can or should pick and choose, making ad hoc decisions to deny aspects of the faith to well known politicians.

Allow me to fill K-Lo and Bill Donahue in on a little secret. Every weekend – nay, every day – there are millions and millions of people in the world who receive Communion while seriously disagreeing with (or blatantly violating) some aspect of the Church doctrine. We can take that even further. There are people who sit in St. Whatever's every Sunday, receive Communion, and give all the outward signs of being practicing Catholics without believing a single word of it. What is the moral justification for providing services (for lack of a better term) to silent non-believers and people who routinely flaunt nearly every aspect of the Catholic faith in their daily lives yet denying the same to Kerry or Kennedy? There is none. We can only recognize it for what it is: a cheap attempt to score publicity and engage in politicking behind the shield of a tax exemption.

At no point in my years as a practicing Catholic did anyone quiz me to make sure that I was ideologically qualified to receive sacraments. No one ever said, "He doesn't think being gay is a sin! NO COMMUNION FOR YOU." My alcoholic great-aunt tried to murder her husband with a handgun – twice – yet when she died I attended her Catholic funeral and burial. Beyond what anecdotes I can offer you, famous Catholics are never called to account for their very non-Catholic behavior unless it involves casting pro-choice votes in Congress; no one, to the best of my knowledge, suggested denying Ted Kennedy's departed brother John a Catholic funeral despite the fact that he spent 8 hours per day being President and the other 16 balling every woman he could get his hands on, and I don't mean Jackie. Never is Arnold Schwarzenegger's eligibility for Communion questioned despite the colorful tales of steroid abuse, gangbangs, and insanely violent films that made up the bulk of his adult life. And once again these examples all pale in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of people who take Communion every Sunday while believing that the whole of Catholicism is complete bunk.

Sadly (from the Church's perspective) Ted Kennedy is probably an example of one of the more observant Catholics in public life. Yes, he departed from Church teachings on a number of issues. This differs little from the overwhelming majority of people who call themselves Catholics, keep such disagreements to themselves, and have the good fortune to be nobodies and therefore useless for the purpose of political grandstanding.

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14 Responses to “HOLIER THAN THOU”

  1. daphne Says:

    And then there is the Italian mafia. By all measures, these wiseguys should be banned from stepping foot onto church property.

  2. Aslan Maskhadov Says:

    Every minute, some practicing Catholic male goes into a whorehouse somewhere in the world, possibly run by a Catholic pimp- neither are called into account or denied communion. The Catholic Church once threatened excommunication for those who collaborated with Communists, while never denying it to those who collaborated with Nazis, and in fact they worked diligently to protect and shelter some of the most bloodthirsty fascists such as the Croatian Ustase.

  3. Desargues Says:

    Remember, you're sharing the country with these people, who are probably more numerous than the likes of us. Countries get the politicians they deserve.

    Ahnult did gangbangs? I heard a much lamer story about him. While out at a club, The Barbarian invited two 20-something chicks back to his 'bachelor pad-like' apartment in Santa Monica for some coke festivities. The girls were happy to do some blow, although neither was ready to blow The Black Nigga. However, abruptly, the action star announced he was taking a shower. The girls decided that that would be a good time to leave, and were heading out the door, when Schwarzie raced out of the shower yelling: "Wait! Wait! You can make me come with your hand!"

  4. ladiesbane Says:

    Aren't private citizens denied sacraments when they are known to have committed mortal sins? Remember the doctor who was recently excommunicated for performing an abortion on a 9 year old rape victim? If your deity says it's immoral to wear green on Friday, then you go to hell for it, regardless.

    I did not grow up Catholic, but one of the things that occurred to me when I first learned of priests sexually abusing children was that they were ADMINISTERING the Sacrament unconfessed; if I were Catholic, that would be yet another layer of grief, as good intentions don't count much in the world of dogma. (Later, I had the horrible thought that they had confessed, been absolved, and were still on the job.)

    But a lot of the sins you mentioned are misdemeanors anyway. Steroids? Breaking the law of the land? If it doesn't directly violate God's law, you're three miles offshore and heading to sea. If you've confessed and received absolution…what sin? You're pure as the driven, son.

    P.S.: would like to hear more about homicidal alcoholic great-aunt.

  5. beau Says:

    second that p.s.

  6. Wauwatosa Whacko Says:

    I'm no Catholic but it seems to me catholicism is big on social justice. This being the case, why are people who oppose programs for the poor allowed communion or Catholic burials?

    The other question of political-religious hypocrisy that always gets me is, if we need laws protecting us from teh geys because the Bible makes a reference to homosexuality being wrong, then don't we need confiscatory tax policies since the bible also clearly warns us that being rich makes it pretty hard to get into heaven?

  7. Whatever Says:

    Don't forget, the Church's stance on capital punishment is similar to it's stance on abortion. Will Catholics who support the death penalty be denied the sacs?

  8. Pat Says:

    What the sacrament denialists (or whatever we're calling these idiots) are willfully ignoring is a basic tenet of Catholicism: humans are sinners, and the sacraments are supposed to be the way to overcome that to get back in God's grace. To say that a sinner shouldn't receive a sacrament is the exact same logic as saying a cancer patient shouldn't receive chemo, since the patient is sick. It's basic Catholic theology on the nature of the sacraments, and to argue contrarily is to actively ignore everything the church says.

  9. Susan of Texas Says:

    But you're also supposed to have confessed all your sins before you take communnion, something routinely ignored these days.

  10. displaced capitalist Says:

    I think I can answer some of the questions here:

    Aren’t private citizens denied sacraments when they are known to have committed mortal sins?

    Yep, you're right, and the key word there is "committed". Since neither Kerry nor Kennedy ever practiced gynecology in their life, I don't think they ever committed the mortal sin of abortion.

    Why are people who oppose programs for the poor allowed communion or Catholic burials?

    Because programs for the poor aren't mortal sins.

    Will Catholics who support the death penalty be denied the sacs?

    The difference here–as has been explained to me by more self-righteous people than me–is a matter of scale. In any given year only a few hundred people are killed by death penalty, while millions of fetuses are aborted each year. Therefor their goals is to stop polycide first and worry about homicide later.

    The biggest shame about the Catholic Church is their hypocritical unwillingness to compromise. See William Saletan's great article about how Catholics really just want stop sex, not abortion.

  11. displaced capitalist Says:

    Whoops, the "self" in "self-righteous" above was supposed to have a strike through. My attempt at sarcastic humor was FAIL.

  12. Desargues Says:

    Maybe a shithead like Donahue can't be stopped from running at the mouth on all sorts of bullshit theologico-political points; he's a layman. But if it's true, as you suggest, that sometimes Catholic clergymen engage in this Dem-baiting, then I expect their ecclesiastical superiors to throw the book at them, since this is clearly stupid and out of line. Unlike Protestants, Catholics are supposed to recognize a rather strict pecking order in their hierarchy. So, if is no archbishop calls out whatever fascist little priest mumbles shit about Kerry not good enough for sacraments, I infer that these higher prelates are complicit in the manufacturing of such knock-off outrage. It's as if they're complicit in this scam. What will they do next? Look away as pedophile priests abuse children? Shield them from retribution?

    Oh, wait…

  13. Sarah Says:

    I think the Church is, in fact, trying to use us nobodies as pawns in political grandstanding. They got all bent out of shape over all the Catholics who voted for Obama while knowing the guy is pro-choice. They should most definitely give up their tax exemption, if they are going to get hot and bothered about what I'm doing when I am in a voting booth. And that's yet another reason I'm glad to be an ex-Catholic.

  14. Desargues Says:

    I'm glad to be an ex-everything.