Not many articles at the National Catholic Reporter begin with, “My friend Deal Hudson.” But Michael Sean Winters bucks the trend by framing his polished polemic as a“shout out” of sorts to a friend on the other side of the Catholic political spectrum. (How far apart we really are is something to be determined down the road.)
The occasion for this unusual gesture is my article at InsideCatholic about the growing frustration among the rank-and-file Catholic laity with the leadership of some bishops on life and marriage issues and with the USCCB in particular.
He rightly notes my ambivalence toward the conference which, I believe, is entirely justified towards any institution doing much that is good and some things that are not.
Yet, Mr. Winters is guilty of some caricature when he assumes that what I mean by a “Catholic Tea Party” would be the equivalent of a “secular tea party [which] wishes to take back the government.” Catholics who are either in the Tea Party or who have the Tea Party spirit are fundamentally orthodox and embrace the authority of the bishops in matters of faith and morals. Tea Party Catholics don’t want to “take back” anything, they want the bishops to speak more loudly about the faith and morals entrusted to them.
Thus, I will pass over much of Winters’ argument based upon his false assumption about my meaning. Tea Party Catholics don’t “idolatrously” worship the Constitution; they honor the Magisterium of the Catholic Church and wonder why so much dissent is tolerated at the institutions that bear the name Catholic, such as the Catholic Health Association.
Speaking of the CHA, Mr. Winters accuses me of “invective” toward Sr. Keehan. I don’t think my friend has ever really seen what I consider invective coming from me – it’s really nasty – perhaps my standards are too high on that front.
Stating the simple fact that Sr. Keehan contradicted the bishops, including the President of the USCCB, Cardinal George, regarding the presence of abortion funding in the health care bill seems to be lost on Mr. Winters. He also claims there is no abortion funding in the bill. Thus, Winters, too, must assume the bishops are wrong about this.
I agree with Mr. Winters that this is not “dissent” in the technical sense, after all Sr. Keehan declares her belief in the sanctity of life at every meeting she attends while insisting there is no abortion funding in the bill for which she lobbied the Catholic members of the House.
Anyone who doubts the presence of abortion funding should take a look at the reports listed on the National Right to Life web site where all the academic shills for the Catholic Left have been soundly refuted.
Mr. Winters, for reasons he does not reveal, believes “most bishops have come to realize what Hudson cannot bring himself to realize, that Sr. Carol might have been right, that there is no abortion funding in the health care overhaul. . . .”
I’m not aware of any bishops who have stated publicly what Mr. Winters believes “most bishops have come to realize.” That would mean either 100 bishops, if he were counting by dioceses, or over 150 if he is counting them in the aggregate.
If true, Mr. Winters is sitting on the biggest Catholic story to be written in 2010:
“Catholic Bishops Admit They Were Wrong About Obamacare and Abortion.”
It’s a disappointment to me that Mr. Winters throws in the predictable “partisan” jab, due to the fact of my former relationship to President Bush as the volunteer head of his Catholic advisory board and outreach. I wish he would answer this question: “Why is it that a Catholic aligned with the Democratic Party is never accused of partisanship?”
By Mr. Winters’ measure, any Catholic who has held a position, volunteer or otherwise in government as a Republican or Democrat, can be accused of partisanship in whatever public statements they make. In that case, both John Carr and Ralph McCloud, both of whom have government credentials as Democrats and work at the USCCB, must be “partisan.”
But, I don’t accept that line of argument, even if Mr. Winters implies that he does.
I’m touched, however, that Mr. Winters defends his friendship with me, entirely virtual as it may be, and I would attribute to him the same sincerity in his faith that he attributes to me. I strongly second his concern about the “anger” so often found in our discourse about Catholics in politics – it’s often so vicious and senseless it only shames the writer.
I accept his warning about Tea Party anger, but I don’t accept it as a general description of the phenomena. I accept it because an excess of anger both hurts the soul and the cause. Just because part of the citizenry takes to the streets does not mean they are overflowing with animosity. I’ve seen little of that displayed, even though the media has done its best to find it.
When Winters writes, “The last thing the Catholic Church needs is its own Tea Party,” he seems to think I am encouraging a Tea Party rather than describing what is welling up from within the laity itself, and for good reason. My use of the Tea Party symbol is a warning about what I see brewing in the pews; the bishops and the USCCB are perfectly able to turn down the heat of growing discontent, if they would listen and act.