Why are the Bishops silent?
On the stump, politicians who would be President speak of the “politics of envy” and “class warfare.” Mormon Mitt and conspicuously Catholic Rick and Newt want the hurting poor to get over their “envy” of what one of their own, Texas Governor Rick Perry, called “vulture capitalists. ” They want the millions who have lost their jobs and their homes to be less angry about the voracious appetite of the largely unrepentant one percent. Too many amongst the ninety nine percent go hungry and homeless because too few amongst the one percent choose to temper their greed. But that should not make them envious, says Mormon Mitt. Ordinary wage earners should not take it personally if they lose their jobs as a consequence of the ebb and flow of investments by those who have the money to make more money. This is how “free enterprise” works, we are told, and it should not be put on trial.
But if anything is on trial, it is the very idea of Christianity. The politicians who would be president cannot declare strongly enough how earnestly “Christian” they are…and therefore mightily ready to lead America to new glory. They fall over themselves trying to woo evangelicals by the sturdiness and conservatism of their faith. They parade their families and their children and, in the Newt’s case, his capacity for redemption and for finding God in America despite the sins brought on by an excess of patriotism, wives and the treasures of Tiffany.
If a man has two coats, Christianity tells us, he should give one away to the man who has none. How does that jive then with an unstoppable appetite for buying up companies, putting some out of business and pocketing the not inconsiderable change? How does professed Christianity fit with multiple mansions and a tax return too embarrassing in the story of disproportionate wealth it will likely tell that the candidate is still coy about showing it?
The Catholic candidates are the really interesting ones for how they work the faith and the faithful to their political purpose. It is equally interesting—and deeply disappointing—that the brand of Catholicism they peddle seems not to trouble the US Bishops. There has been little to no sign of discomfort at Newt’s dismissal of the Palestinians as an invented people and the Bishops are unperturbed by the fact that Rick seems to have missed the class about the “preferential option for the poor” being one of the foundational tenets of Christianity.
The discussion of poverty in terms of racist stereotypes has also drawn no fire from the Bishops. The deliberate, repeated distortion of President Obama’s efforts to address practices and policies that systemically keep the poor from moving out of poverty have been derided as the efforts of a “food stamp President,” a favorite epithet frequently dispensed by the newly redeemed Newt. President Obama’s calls for the top one percent to give a little more from their abundance to the national tax coffers is dismissed as “class warfare.”
The Bishops have publicly articulated their grave concern about so called threats to the faith as a consequence of President Obama’s historic healthcare and LGBT policies. This President’s initiatives if anything do not go far enough to serve those in need and to right old wrongs. But he clearly demonstrates by his persistent efforts to speak for the middle class and the disenfranchised that if he has a preferential option, it is for the poor.
What then are we to make of the silence on the part of the US Bishops in the face of very un-Catholic demagoguery from Catholic candidates who wear their faith on their sleeve and on the stump ?
Is the politics of silence on the part of the US Bishops perhaps the more real threat to the Catholic faith in America—and the newest failure of leadership in the church today? If Catholics are not single-issue voters as the Bishops assert, we need to hear a response from these Church leaders to the faux Catholicism peddled by politicians.
New: Some Catholic leaders chastise the Newt and Santorum publicly!http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/catholics-warn-gingrich-santorum-on-race-baiting/2012/01/20/gIQAtrFEEQ_story.html