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USA The End of a Catholic Moment

Discussion in 'Breaking News' started by Archived_Member16, Feb 17, 2013.

  1. Archived_Member16

    Archived_Member16
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    The End of a Catholic Moment

    By ROSS DOUTHAT - THE NEW YORK TIMES - February 16, 2013


    THE last time the Chair of St. Peter stood vacant, during Pope John Paul II’s funeral in 2005, the Roman Catholic Church enjoyed a wave of unusually favorable coverage from the American press. The Polish pope had a way of disarming even his most stringent critics, and that power extended beyond his death, turning his funeral into a made-for-television spectacle that almost felt like an infomercial for the Catholic faith.

    Perhaps not coincidentally, the mid-2000s were the last time the Catholic vision of the good society — more egalitarian than American conservatism and more moralistic than American liberalism — enjoyed real influence in U.S. politics. At the time of John Paul’s death, the Republican Party’s agenda was still stamped by George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism,” which offered a right-of-center approach to Catholic ideas about social justice. The Democratic Party, meanwhile, was looking for ways to woo the “values voters” (many of them Catholic) who had just helped Bush win re-election, and prominent Democrats were calling for a friendlier attitude toward religion and a bigger tent on social issues.

    That was a long eight years ago. Since then, the sex abuse scandals that shadowed John Paul’s last years have become the defining story of his successor’s papacy, and the unexpected abdication of Benedict XVI has only confirmed the narrative of a church in disarray. His predecessor was buried amid reverent coverage from secular outlets, but the current pope can expect a send-off marked by sourness and shrugs.

    The collapse in the church’s reputation has coincided with a substantial loss of Catholic influence in American political debates. Whereas eight years ago, a Catholic view of economics and culture represented a center that both parties hoped to claim, today’s Republicans are more likely to channel Ayn Rand than Thomas Aquinas, and a strident social liberalism holds the whip hand in the Democratic Party.

    Indeed, between Mitt Romney’s comments about the mooching 47 percent and the White House’s cynical decision to energize its base by picking fights over abortion and contraception, both parties spent 2012 effectively running against Catholic ideas about the common good.

    This transformation suggests that we may have reached the end of a distinctive “Catholic moment” (to repurpose a phrase from the late Catholic priest-intellectual Richard John Neuhaus) in American politics, one that began in the 1980s after John Paul’s ascension to the papacy and the migration of many Catholic “Reagan Democrats” into the Republican Party.

    This was hardly the first era when Catholic ideas shaped American debates. (New Deal-era liberalism, for instance, owed a major debt to Catholic social thought.) But it was the first era when the Catholic vote was both frequently decisive and genuinely up for grabs, and it was an era when Catholic debates and personalities filled the vacuum left by the decline of the Protestant mainline.

    The fact that the Second Vatican Council had left the church internally divided limited Catholic influence in some ways but magnified it in others. Because the church’s divisions often mirrored the country’s, a politician who captured the typical Catholic voter was probably well on his way to victory, and so would-be leaders of both parties had every incentive to frame their positions in Catholic-friendly terms. The church might not always be speaking with one voice, but both left and right tried to borrow its language.

    If this era is now passing, and Catholic ideas are becoming more marginal to our politics, it’s partially because institutional Christianity is weaker over all than a generation ago, and partially because Catholicism’s leaders have done their part, and then some, to hasten that de-Christianization. Any church that presides over a huge cover-up of sex abuse can hardly complain when its worldview is regarded with suspicion. The present pope has too often been scapegoated for the sex abuse crisis, but America’s bishops have if anything gotten off too easily, and even now seem insufficiently chastened for their sins.

    The recent turn away from Catholic ideas has also been furthered by a political class that never particularly cared for them in the first place. Even in a more unchurched America, a synthesis of social conservatism and more egalitarian-minded economic policies could have a great deal of mass appeal. But our elites seem mostly relieved to stop paying lip service to the Catholic synthesis: professional Republicans are more libertarian than their constituents, professional Democrats are more secular than their party’s rank-and-file, and professional centrists get their encyclicals from Michael Bloomberg rather than the Vatican.

    Nothing that happens in Rome over the next few months is likely to convert the Acela Corridor’s donors and strategists and think tankers to a more Catholic-friendly worldview. The next pope may be more effective than Benedict, or he may be clumsier; he may improve the church’s image in this country, or he may worsen it.

    But if there is another Catholic moment waiting in our nation’s future, it can only be made by Americans themselves.

    source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/17/o...nd-of-a-catholic-moment.html?ref=opinion&_r=0
     
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  3. spnadmin

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    I have read the article several times and confess that I do not know what the author is talking about, except toward specifics here and there. For example few would disagree with
    But most of the article is about difficulty the Vatican will face influencing public policy in a socially and politically diverse US. Neither conservatives nor liberals within and without Roman Catholicism will be influenced by a Catholic "worldview." The author says

    What Catholic ideas is he talking about? Aside from the Vatican's position on abortion and contraception, what Catholic ideas were so influential that they influenced a non-Catholic electorate and energized the Catholic electorate to chose one candidate over the other? I am not aware that any other ideas about the environment, the death penalty, poverty, social engagement, economic materialism and secularism, as espoused by the popes before Benedict, carried much sway. Could someone explain? Otherwise I have to conclude that the author is being swept away by his own rhetoric.

    A pope that is even more patriarchal and invested in canonical solutions to social problems will simply be irrelevant to US politics. The US is increasingly a collection of political islands and economic self-interests, having little to no sense of a common good. Allowing priests to wed and women to be priests are attractive topics on religious forums. Influence in the non-virtual world requires the ability to make compromise attractive. Exactly where would the next pope be willing to propose compromise? If the author can explain that, maybe I will understand what the author is getting at.
     
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    #2 spnadmin, Feb 18, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2013
  4. Archived_Member16

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    AS A MATTER OF INTEREST:

    Why Religion Rules American Politics

    Nigel Barber
    Biopsychologist; Psychology Today's 'The Human Beast'


    Religion is important for American politics because religion is important for Americans.1 Yet, there are factors in American political life that amplify the role of religion in a way that is not seen in other developed countries.

    For a developed country, the U.S. is extraordinarily high on religion. Thus 65 percent of Americans say that religion is important in their daily lives compared to just 17 percent of Swedes, 19 percent of Danes, and 24 percent of Japanese.2

    Why America is more religious than Europe
    There are several likely reasons why Americans say that they are so much more religious than Europeans. One may be that they exaggerate their own religiosity in the same way that they claim about twice the attendance rates relative to people actually showing up in church.1

    Life is more difficult in the U.S. than in Europe by several measures even though Europe is currently in an economic decline.3 Problems here range from health problems and lower life expectancy, to higher crime rates, and relative lack of involvement in the community.4 All of these problems are bound up with inequality - with a chasm between the living conditions of rich and poor.4 This gap has widened in recent decades and reveals holes in social safety nets relative to Europe.5

    So Americans feel far less secure economically, and in relation to their health and well-being than the overall wealth of the country in terms of GDP per capita would predict.4 This existential insecurity provides a fertile ground for religion.1
    Historians are fond of attributing American religiosity to historical factors such as the Puritan founders. Yet history counts for little in these matters given that virtually every country has a devout past -- specifically the currently secular countries of Europe.

    Why religion is emphasized in American politics
    Religion influences American politics to a degree not seen in other developed countries. Despite the constitutional firewall between church and state, national politicians hardly ever give a major speech without invoking religion.

    The president is forever asking God to bless America, sending his prayers to victims of disasters, hosting religious leaders, and extolling religious values. Such advocacy of religion is unheard of in Europe but that may be because the majority is no longer religious and because voting members of the native population (as distinct from immigrants) are not very devout.

    In America, religion is much more a part of public life whatever the constitution says. There are various reasons for this. One is that evangelical Christians under the banner of the Moral Majority made a determined push to influence political leaders since the 1970s and to inject religion into political debates. This broad agenda animates contemporary right-wing media including talk radio personalities such as Rush Limbaugh and TV channels such as Fox News.

    The religious propensities of immigrants mean that they are receptive to the conservative religious message and can be induced to vote across class lines. In doing so they support an agenda that favors the wealthy and makes them even poorer.

    Given this threat from the religious right, Democrats feel pressure to emphasize their own religious credentials, or risk losing a chunk of the poorer immigrant population who make up their natural constituency.

    So religion is embroiled in American political life and that magnifies the apparent significance of religion in people's everyday lives. According to wits, U.S. conservatives went to war in Afghanistan to separate religion from politics abroad while striving to unite religion and politics at home.

    American politicians talk a lot about religion. Yet, they have no more in common with theocrats like the Taliban than ordinary Americans have with the religious fervor of ordinary Afghanis.

    Many poor people in America undermine their economic interests by voting for Republican politicians who are interested in further concentrating wealth in the hands of the affluent. They do so, in part, because the Republicans appeal to their religious propensity.

    That religious propensity is strengthened by increasing insecurity in the lives of the poor because difficult living conditions are associated with increased religiosity.1 So the worse their living conditions become, the more likely they are to follow a self-defeating voting pattern. That seems like another great reason for really separating church and state.

    Sources


    1. Barber, N. (2012). Why atheism will replace religion: The triumph of earthly pleasures over pie in the sky. E-book, available here.
    2. Gallup (2010). Religiosity highest in world's poorest nations.
    3. Zuckerman, P. (2008). Society without God: What the least religious nations can tell us about contentment. New York: New York University Press.

    4. Wilkinson, R., & Pickett, K. (2010). The spirit level: Why greater equality makes societies stronger. New York: Bloomsbury Press.

    5. Huffington, A. (2010). Third World America. New York: Crown.

    source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nigel-barber/why-religion-rules-americ_b_1690433.html
     
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  5. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    Thanks ji

    This article gives a far more realistic picture of what I see happening around me than the original article in this thread. Of course opinons and perspectives are always limited by the limits of anyone's personal experience. This one rings true. The other one doesn't.
     

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