The Conformist

This doesn’t surprise me at all.  Catholic voters seem to view Rick Santorum the same way they view the Catholic hierarchy in general – with indifference.  Romney trounces Santorum among Catholic Republicans.  Less than half of Catholic Republicans even knew Santorum shared their faith.

That’s probably because their faith teaches them such different things than Santorum’s.  The Catholic Church’s leadership is more interested in its crusade against sexuality than in its members.  But Catholics are willing to forgive their leaders such peccadilloes.  Sexual frustration doesn’t come without some consequences, and American Catholics are nothing if not patient with their hobbled priests and bishops.

The church is not a democracy, as it repeats endlessly.  And that is an important point to keep in mind.  The church leadership can take even the most extreme stands, and not have to worry much about consequences.  It is easy for Catholics to ignore church teachings, and live their lives according to a more reasoned, personal morality, and the dictates of conscience.  Church teachings are ultimately advisory.

But civil laws are not.  When Catholics back away from Santorum, it is because they seem to understand the separation of church and state in a far more sophisticated way than Santorum and their church leaders do.  The government really can ban abortion and contraception, and crack down on same-sex relationships and many other things.  The only checks on government power are found in the constitution, and if a candidate is promising to change even that, political ambition can exceed the authority of any church in the modern world.

I say “ambition” because some constitutional changes are simply beyond the reason of the American people – such as a ban on contraception.  Even Santorum seems to realize that political reality.

But Americans in general, and American Catholics in particular, demonstrate a moral generosity that exceeds that of their leaders on issues like same-sex marriage and even a secular right to abortion.  And lay Catholics seem to recognize that other Americans don’t always have that same compassion and respect for the opinions of others.  That is why they cannot back Santorum.  He takes the bishops too seriously, and is appealing to people whose views are aligned with the worst, not the best of their church’s morality.

The rejection of Santorum by Catholics is the mark of the vitality of American Catholics.  They demonstrate the cardinal (you should pardon the pun) virtue of a democracy, respectful dissent.  By prohibiting that dissent among its leaders, the Vatican ultimately inspires, and even encourages individual moral reasoning and sometimes resistance among its members.

Santorum’s Vatican-approved anti-sexual crusade has little appeal among his fellow worshippers, but there will always be some zealots somewhere fervent to light a torch.  What are a few doctrinal differences among voters?

Santorum’s only headache — and ours — -is that he’s not running a church, he’s running a campaign.

14 Comments for “The Conformist”

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  2. posted by Houndentenor on

    I have a question for practicing Catholics. If you go to a church where you disagree with what you are told to do, then go out and do whatever you were going to do anyway, why go to church at all? I realize that I was raised Protestant where we’d just go to a different church. I know it’s a cultural thing and perhaps there’s not an explanation that will make sense to me, but I’d love to hear one just in case a logical explanation for this behavior exists.

  3. posted by Gus on

    Santorum is a marriage of Evangelicals and Catholics consumated at abortion clinic protests and anti-marriage equality campaigns. There is no monolithic “Catholic vote” and hasn’t been since Vactican II.

  4. posted by TomJeffersonIII on

    I was raised Catholic and would consider myself to be so, but I also make a distinction between what the Church as an Institution tells us is right/wrong and what God tells us is right/wrong.

    The Catholic Church is an organization of men with lots of internal politics, factions, grudges, egos and what-not. This is not to discount the good works that they do or to suggest its all sham, but on certain issues it seems more like the Institution wants to tell us one thing, but God is probably telling us something else.

    Sexual orientation is one clear example. I believe that the Institution is flat out wrong about this issue (in terms of theology and ethics) as well as birth control. I would also argue that the Catholic Church (given its vast wealth could do more to substantially deal with poverty.

  5. posted by Shadow Chaser on

    The Catholic Church is a democracy, but the members of the hierarchy have yet to understand that Catholics vote … with their feet. Will the last Catholic in America please remember to snuff out all the candles, turn out the lights and locks the doors when leaving …

    As a practicing Catholic (maybe one day I will get it right), I have never had problems accepting the doctrines of transubstaniation, the Immaculate Conception, Virgin Birth, etc. However that doesn’t mean that this Catholic will submit meekly to the Church’s dictates on the role of women (especially in terms of reproductive rights and priestly ordination), the family (divorce and remarriage, GLBT issues) etc.

    Until the hierarchy of the Catholic Church sincerely understands the damages its pedophile clergy has inflicted upon the body of the Church and until the hierarchy makes restitution and seeks true penance, it will have no standing in discussing “pelvic sins.”

  6. posted by Jorge on

    I say “ambition” because some constitutional changes are simply beyond the reason of the American people – such as a ban on contraception. Even Santorum seems to realize that political reality.

    Then why are you even suggesting that it’s on the agenda? It’s not.

    I agree with the rest 100%.

    I have a question for practicing Catholics. If you go to a church where you disagree with what you are told to do, then go out and do whatever you were going to do anyway, why go to church at all? I realize that I was raised Protestant where we’d just go to a different church. I know it’s a cultural thing and perhaps there’s not an explanation that will make sense to me, but I’d love to hear one just in case a logical explanation for this behavior exists.

    Not practicing, and the church I don’t practice at is now the gay church, but I’ll try to answer anyway.

    Actually it’s very hard for me to improve on Shadow Chaser’s response. The Catholic Church teaches certain things about the nature of God and God’s relationship to man that have great meaning to me. God speaks to me through this religion in a way that most Protestant religions do not. The fact that the Catholic Church might be wrong on certain issues, or right but taking a theocratic stance, does not change the fact that it is the only religion that is true in my own experience of God. Also, you focus overmuch on the wedge issues and not enough on the multitude of other public interests the church tries to take a leadership role on. Finally, I’ve always considered the Catholic Church to make room for shades of gray and doubt.

    To change churches is not a difficult thing to do, but the head of my faith is still the Pope.

    • posted by Houndentenor on

      Thanks, Tom, Shadow and Jorge for taking the time to answer.

  7. posted by Gary Allen on

    Former student seeks apology from school
    EDUCATION / Bullying has ‘lifelong impact’: Vancouver School Board chair
    Nathaniel Christopher / Vancouver / Thursday, March 15, 2012
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    When Gary Allen was a teenager he prayed that morning would never come so he wouldn’t have go to school.

    Allen was a student at Vancouver’s Killarney Secondary from 1979 to 1981 where, he says, he was bullied so badly the experience still haunts him to this day.

    “I used to walk the halls of that school daily in fear,” he tells Xtra from his home in Nanaimo. “When I look back on what I went through there, I don’t know how I made it through school because I used to skip school to escape bullies and forge my dad’s name on notes to be excused from school, until I got caught.”

    Allen, who describes himself as a shy and quiet type, says a group of boys guessed he was gay and called him homophobic names, physically assaulted him and threatened his life on several occasions.

    “Two of these bullies were in most of my classes, so I never had any peace and always worried about what they were going to do to me,” he says. “As a result I could not concentrate on my school work and got poor grades, and I am not a stupid person.”

    Allen regrets that he never told any adult about the situation.

    “One time I was in the office to see the vice-principal and considered telling him, but the next person to be seated was one of the worst bullies,” he says. “When I saw him there I lost my nerve. I figured it’d come back on me through the bullies. I never told anybody about the bullying I went through; I completely kept it to myself. I didn’t even tell my father and his girlfriend because I didn’t want to put it on them and didn’t feel like they could deal with it.”

    On his final day at Killarney, a group of boys in art class hurled clay balls at him. Allen left high school and never went back.

    “Clay balls hurt. I might as well have been stoned for the way it felt to me,” Allen says. “I had as much as I could take. I walked out of the classroom and I told them, ‘I’m never coming back,’ and I was crying and I’d never cried up to that point. I went home and my dad was having problems with his mental health and I was worried about him and all the bullying I went through, so I began not sleeping and I ended up in the mental hospital in Victoria because I had a mental breakdown.”

    “I want to get the story out for other people and make teachers realize how bad bullying can be and what goes on right under their noses sometimes,” says Gary Allen, who was bullied as a student at Killarney Secondary 30 years ago.(Courtesy of Gary Allen)Allen says the bullying left him with a panic disorder and hastened a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. “It turns out after a couple of years the psychiatrist diagnosed me with bipolar disorder,” he says. “He felt maybe I was predisposed to that, but it might not have come on if it wasn’t for all that bullying I went through.”

    Allen came forward with his story after seeing a CBC advertisement on Facebook asking if people were bullied in their youth. “The reason I tell my story is to help other people and encourage people that are being bullied to go forward to somebody they trust, and don’t keep it all to yourself. And for people to try to be proud of who they are and not let other students or other people tell them who they are.”

    He also contacted the Vancouver School Board (VSB) and initially asked for an apology from his former school but later dropped that request.

    “I don’t care if they give me an apology or not,” he says now. “I want to get the story out for other people and make teachers realize how bad bullying can be and what goes on right under their noses sometimes.”

    While the VSB did not offer Allen a formal apology, deputy superintendent Jordan Tinney offered Allen a personal apology in a telephone conversation on March 8.

    “I didn’t get the sense that that’s what he wanted,” Tinney says. “He seemed far more concerned that there were structures in place. He didn’t ask for an apology. I just offered it on a personal basis; that’s how it came about. It was a very difficult time. What I did say was that ‘I’m sorry that happened to you.’ And I am. But that’s me; I’m not the school board. I am sorry that happened to him; he was clearly bullied.”

    Tinney also asked if there was anything he could do to assist Allen now.

    “One thing he said was to listen to his story, but he also wanted to know that there were more structures in place now than in 1979 or 1980. I told him about the policies. He seemed to be quite reassured that things were quite different. We not only have policies, but practices and structures. I also said I know bullying happens and that we’re not perfect, but we do all we can.”

    The VSB passed anti-homophobia policy in 2004 and now has a part-time anti-homophobia and diversity consultant to continue training staff, finding resources for schools and providing consultation on a regular basis for students, says VSB spokesperson Kurt Heinrich.

    Vancouver also developed the Focus on Bullying Prevention Program in 1998 for elementary schools, which was adopted by the Ministry of Education and distributed to every elementary school in BC, Heinrich says. VSB staff also participated in the development of a second ministry resource for high schools called Focus on Harassment and Intimidation in 2005/2006, he adds.

    VSB chair Patti Bacchus says it’s critical to listen, welcome and respect the stories and advice of former students such as Allen.

    “I am aware of Mr Allen’s letter. It was very moving, actually remarkable and brave to come out at this point,” she says. “It speaks to how much of an impact bullying has on peoples’ lives long after the fact. We have some commentators say it is part of growing up, but we know it has a lifelong impact.

    “We certainly can’t turn back the clock,” Bacchus says, “but as trustees we can learn from the past and do things better and respectfully acknowledge the impact bullying has had in the past and ensure we do everything in our power to make sure students don’t experience that again.”

    Allen, now a health worker, hopes to talk to people who are being bullied, or have been bullied, to see if he can help. “I would share my stories if they are willing to listen and tell them the things I learned about myself going through that,” he says. “I learned that I was strong all along and I had to relearn my self-esteem. They stripped my self-esteem, and I built it back up myself.”

  8. posted by 澹兮若海 on


    • posted by Houndentenor on

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  11. posted by James M. Martin on

    The Roman Church is an organized criminal enterprise masquerading as a nation in order to enjoy the protections afforded ambassadorial immunities and perquisites, such as diplomatic pouches (God knows what might be in them!). The crime the organization has conspired to engage in, and has engaged in, is obstruction of justice. The current head of state was the last pope’s advisor, right-hand man, and enforcer. He had to have played a role in the denials of claims, cover-ups, and recycling of pedophile priests. Considering that the New Majority on the Supreme Court (an unhealthy imbalance of Catholics), I suspect we are fucked. Without even noticing it, we have been taken over by a foreign power.

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