I normally ignore Cal Thomas’ columns in the Pacific Daily News, his right wing demagoguery is not to my liking. But today’s column caught my eye, primarily because I just read an interesting article on Tom Paine.com about Al Smith and his disastrous 1928 bid for the presidency. Smith was the immensely popular Democratic governor of New York whose campaign was torpedoed because of his Catholic faith and Irish upbringing. Pundits and columnists questioned his fealty to the United States. “A prominent Episcopalian lawyer published an article in the Atlantic Monthly, questioning Smith’s ability to function as president as long as he owed ultimate allegiance to the Pope. Smith dismissed the idea as silly. He declared he had ‘never heard of those bulls and encyclicals and books.'” Yet Smith went down in crushing defeat to Herbert Hoover, losing even his home state of New York.
A curious inversion has taken place in the 21st century. Instead of Republicans questioning John Kerry’s allegiance to the United States, right wing idealogues like Cal Thomas are questioning whether a man that refuses to follow Church doctrine is fit to lead the United States. Thomas states “When Kerry and other Catholic politicians say they accept church teaching but selectively deny it when it comes to abortion, they place the state above the church and man above God. They mortgage their consciences to convenience and principle to pragmatism. Should such a person lead this nation?”
Funny what a difference 76 years makes. Now Republicans are saying that Catholic Democrats are beholden to the Pope, not the Constitution. Black is White, War is Peace.
The instigation for all this furor was the Cardinal Arinze, a potential successor to Pope John Paul II, who stated on Friday that politicians who support abortion should be denied communion. While the Cardinal refused to address whether John Kerry should be excluded from the holy sacrament, pro-choice Catholic Democrats rallied behind Kerry and incurred the usual fusillade of vitriol from the right wing attack dogs, including Cal Thomas.
More than a few things here give me pause. First, Cardinal Arinze is not the Pope, the titular head of the church and infallible authority on spiritual matters. Dude’s got no authority to speak for the church on this matter. Second, there are plenty of pro-choice Republicans out there, notably Governor George Pataki and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. I don’t hear the right wing idiots questioning their authority to govern because they support a woman’s right to choose. Lastly, this show of support for the Catholic Church on the abortion issue is rife with hypocrisy. Sure the Church opposes abortion; the church also vehemently condemns the death penalty, something near and dear to Republican’s hearts. Don’t hear Cal Thomas condemning politicians who authorize state institutionalized murder do you? Funny how folks only pick out the things they want to emphasize and totally ignore other issues. Or perhaps the whole idea of the church trying to dictate temporal, earthly policy in the 21st century is a non-issue and we would all be better off if we took religion out of the debate?