Campaign advice for President Obama on how to defend his contraceptive mandate. A nun offering a "Catholic" defense of same-sex marriage. Both items from this Saturday's paper constitute the latest example of how the Washington Post's "On Faith" feature is a printed bully pulpit for both liberal theology and a liberal political agenda.
In "How Obama should fight the ‘war on religion,’" Post religion correspondent Lisa Miller waited all of two paragraphs to mock the Catholic Church. "It seems far-fetched, from my perspective, to think that God should have any opinion at all about contraceptive technology, let alone about which corporate entity should pay for it," Miller snarked. "Yet that is the argument the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops made last week. God doesn’t like birth control, they said. To force Catholic organizations to pay for birth control goes against God and so against the consciences of right-minded Catholics who believe in God."
"The First Amendment protects the bishops’ rights to freely believe such things — to teach them in their parishes and in their schools, to say them out loud without fear of reprisal," Miller allowed, but lamented that those pesky bishops actually take their beliefs into action, included in the political arena when necessary:
Yet last week, the furor over protecting the religious beliefs of that small minority grew so loud that the president blinked. He entered a negotiation on the bishops’ terms, over their so-called freedoms.
Of course, there was no negotiation. Catholic bishops and other conscientious objectors were not brought to the table. The administration simply announced it would force insurance companies to cover, free of charge, contraceptives for employees of religious institutions. That's hardly a negotiation and certainly doesn't address the still unresolved moral concerns of the bishops.
Miller continued to by dismissing the bishops as just another set of lobbyists:
In Washington, religious groups are interest groups. Just like the National Rifle Association or the farm lobby, the bishops want their priorities to take precedence over everyone else’s — and their clerical garb gives their position gravitas. But in truth, the bishops’ claims to moral truth are just that — claims. Their religious vows do not make them, in any objective sense, more moral than anybody else. (And, to bring up a sore subject, the sex abuse scandals of a decade ago might force one to conclude that the moral compasses of a few American bishops are extremely out of whack.)
The “religious freedom” argument, then, is a red herring, an election-year ploy to make the president look un-American. Last election cycle, Obama was tarred by criticism that he was a communist, a Muslim, an atheist, a terrorist sympathizer. This time around, his political foes want to portray him as an enemy of religion, trampling the freedoms of God-fearing Americans.
Having all but said Catholic bishops are lobbyists and partisan Republicans cynically throwing out an election year "red herring," Miller turned to advise Obama about how to make the case for his contraception mandate:
Here, then, are some suggestions for the president as he enters these new culture wars.
●Have some moral backbone. By negotiating with zealots, you lose the high ground. By standing up to the zealots, you show them for what they are: zealots.
●Stress the record. This is the president, remember, who infuriated his base by inviting the anti-gay-marriage evangelical pastor Rick Warren to pray at his inauguration and who stood up in federal court to protect the National Day of Prayer.
●Tell a different religion story. It’s time to remind people that in a democracy citizens have to participate in activities they don’t like and sometimes pay for things they don’t believe in.
Taxpayer dollars have funded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan resulting in the deaths of more than 6,000 U.S. service members and countless more civilians — and yet the conversation on the moral dimensions of these conflicts barely exists in the public sphere. My conscience tells me the death penalty is wrong, yet 58 people sit on federal death row, and some fraction of my federal tax dollars will inevitably contribute to their execution.
Obama made the Golden Rule the moral foundation of his 2008 campaign, and he has started to speak this way again. In his budget speech in Northern Virginia this week, he linked a sense of collective destiny to patriotism. “Here in America, the story has never been about what we can do just by ourselves; it’s about what we can do together.”
It is a difficult moment to convince Americans that they should care about their neighbors as much as themselves, but if anyone can make the case, this president has the rhetorical gifts to do so. He needs to use them.
Elsewhere on page B2, in the "On Faith" feature, editors published a "Catholic case for marriage equality" by one Sister Jeanne Gramick and Francis DeBernardo, who were described as the co-founder and executive director, respectively, of New Ways Ministry in Mount Rainier, Md.
Unmentioned, of course, was that the Vatican rebuked Gramick in 1999 for doctrinal error:
“Sister Jeannine Gramick has been at odds with the Magisterium of the Church for decades,” Marcus Plieninger, Director of Policy Studies at the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, told LifeSiteNews.com. “In her latest article, she pits the Catholic hierarchy’s authoritative defense of Church doctrine regarding marriage against millions of Catholics, who she claims feel otherwise, including two Catholic governors advocating for the legalization of homosexual marriage…Church teaching is defined not by polls, not by popular opinion, not by politicians, not by the ideological winds of ‘social justice,’ not even by Sister, herself, but by what the Church, in fact, teaches.”
Dr. Morse, who testified in Olympia against Washington state’s same-sex marriage bill, said such a change would carry drastic consequences for the family and for society as a whole. “The natural reality of mother and father is being defined out of existence and being replaced with something that is a legal and social construct.”
Marriage, motherhood, and fatherhood “are natural realities…that predate any government,” Dr. Morse told LifeSiteNews. “The Church stands for that natural reality against the State attempting to redefine it for its own purposes and for the benefits of a special interest group.”
“Something like redefined marriage can’t sustain itself without a lot of coddling from the State,” she said. “The State will have to enforce that view everyplace that the Church interacts with society, so the thing we’re seeing with the insurance mandate is going to get played out on the marriage side, as well. All of this expansion of the State is being done to accommodate the growth of so-called sexual freedom.”
Sr. Gramick’s authorship contradicted a 1999 order by the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith that she not address the issue of homosexuality, because her teachings were “doctrinally unacceptable.”
Dr. Morse called the authors “the usual suspects, who have never accepted Church teachings on any sexual, moral issues.”
Sr. Gramic and Fr. Robert Nugent founded New Ways Ministry – which describes itself as “a gay-positive ministry of advocacy and justice for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Catholics, and reconciliation within the larger Christian and civil communities” – in Mount Rainier, Maryland, in 1977.
In 1984, Archbishop of Washington James Hickey refused to grant approval of its activities; Sr. Gramick and Fr. Nugent were ordered to resign their leadership positions and end their participation in any of its activities. They resigned but continued teaching and writing on behalf of the organization.
Ultimately, Rome itself weighed in. Fifteen years later the Congregation for the Defense of the Faith issued a statement that “the positions advanced by Sister Jeannine Gramick and Father Robert Nugent regarding the intrinsic evil of homosexual acts and the objective disorder of the homosexual inclination are doctrinally unacceptable.”
“[T]the promotion of errors and ambiguities is not consistent with a Christian attitude of true respect and compassion: persons who are struggling with homosexuality no less than any others have the right to receive the authentic teaching of the Church from those who minister to them. The ambiguities and errors of the approach of Father Nugent and Sister Gramick have caused confusion among the Catholic people and have harmed the community of the Church. For these reasons, Sister Jeannine Gramick, SSND, and Father Robert Nugent, SDS, are permanently prohibited from any pastoral work involving homosexual persons and are ineligible, for an undetermined period, for any office in their respective religious institutes.”
The statement was approved by Pope John Paul II and signed by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI..
While Fr. Nugent observed the order, Sr. Gramick has been defiant, replying, “I choose not to collaborate in my own oppression.” Two years later, after spending 20 years with the School Sisters of Notre Dame, Sr. Gramick transferred to the Sisters of Loretto, who “support her in her ministry of education and advocacy on behalf of lesbian and gay people.”
How can a nun who's been at war with the teaching authority of the Catholic Church offer an honest "Catholic" defense of same-sex marriage?