So Hillary Clinton is campaigning this afternoon and evening in San Antonio. I am a precinct captain for Obama, and want him to win more than any politician I have ever followed. So I don't consider this so much a pro-Clinton rant against our arch-bishop at the blatant hypocrisy he represents this morning.
As it turns out, Senator Clinton is going to be at St. Mary's University, a Catholic university on the southwest side of San Antonio, a largely working class and Hispanic area of town. (This is an ideal place for her to campaign, as those are two of her key demographics that she must dominate on March 4 if her campaign is to be viable on March 5.)
Enter the San Antonio archbishop, who is on the radio this morning complaining that Clinton will be using a Catholic university's facilities to campaign. Presumably, this is because she is pro-choice.
I, too, am pro-choice, though it is an issue that I have some difficulty with. Ultimately, in my mind, there are a couple of arguments that are decisive for me on this. First, it is unclear whether having abortion be illegal actually reduces the number of abortions. Several studies seem to point in the opposite direction. So making abortion illegal wouldn't make it less common, but would only make it less safe. Second, I am not convinced that life begins at conception. Most of us can agree that life ends when brain activity ceases, and so one very reasonable position is that life begins when brain activity begins. There was an article the other day in Slate about parthenogesis - or asexual reproduction in animals that usually reproduce sexually - may be a more common phenomena than we had previously thought. If it is possible for female sharks to have their eggs turn into baby sharks without fertilization, is the same process possible in humans? And if so, does that mean even unfertilized eggs have all the rights of humans because they too are the perfect possibility of life? Just a little thought experiment.
After that aside, I can understand why abortion is such a huge issue for many people. What I don't understand is why the Catholic heirarchy believes that this is an issue far above any other. All of the Republicans support the death penalty, against Catholic teaching, and yet noone threatens to refuse Communion from its proponents. John McCain runs around singing, "Bomb Iran, bomb bomb Iran" and yet I could find no complaints when he visited Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, as recently as 10 days ago.
I am not arguing that religion should not be part of our politics, especially at a personal level. I am a liberal because I am disciple of Jesus Christ. There is no way for me to separate one from the other. I view the immigration issue, for example, through the lens of Matthew 25. How do I meet the Jesus in the illegal immigrant? How do I treat him with dignity and respect? I think the Democrats give us better answers than Republicans. I think the Democrats give us better answers about the social safety net, about the connectedness of all races and genders, and so on.
I understand that reasonable people disagree, and I know plenty of faithful Christians whose beliefs lead them to disagree with me on these positions. And pretty much all of us disagree with the official Catholic teaching on some point or another. (Who is calling for the outlawing of birth control?)
And yet our archbishop wants to refuse St. Mary's facilities to Senator Clinton because she is pro-choice. And he does this after the university has received countless tax dollars.
Every now and again, I find myself waxing nostalgic and wishing things would change enough for me to feel welcome in the church that was (and in many ways is) my home. And days like these remind me that it is so far away.