Democratic Party Activist Unveils New Strategy to Demonize Pro-Life Catholics

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 13, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Democratic Party Activist Unveils New Strategy to Demonize Pro-Life Catholics

by Deal Hudson
May 13, 2009 Note: Deal W. Hudson is the director of the Morley Institute for Church & Culture and, and is the former publisher and editor of CRISIS Magazine, a Catholic monthly. He is the author of six books and his articles and comments have been published in many newspapers and magazines.

Bob Shrum, a well-known Democratic party operative, published a column today unveiling the new Catholic outreach strategy for Catholic outreach.

Here’s the basic approach: To demonize orthodox Catholics, including priests and bishops, who follow the teaching of the Church on the priority of life issues in politics.

Shrum calls them "neo-Catholics" who have practiced "sharia politics."

Shrum, who was a top adviser to both the Gore and Kerry campaigns, shapes his attack in a clever, though sophistical, way. Since Shrum brags about his "16 years of Catholic education, including Georgetown University," I assume he knows what it means to be sophist, that is, one whose purported wisdom is merely nonsense disguised by eloquence. Such an argument is what Shrum puts on the table in response to Catholic efforts to oppose pro-abortion politicians, especially those who are Catholic.

For example:

The conservative Catholic assault on Kerry was hypocritical. Not a word was uttered about Catholic Republicans who disdain the Church’s teachings on social justice or who vigorously supported the massive taking of life in the Iraq war, which the Pope had opposed from the outset. Instead, hardliners embraced Bush and the GOP, and aligned themselves with the religious right, which once had scorned — and in some cases still does — the Church of Rome as "the anti-Christ."

Did Bush "disdain" the Church’s teachings on social justice? I don’t think so, and if so, how? And how was Kerry any different? Note that Shrum completely ignores the distinction between prescriptive life issues and prudential matters. Iraq? Wait a minute, isn’t that the war that Kerry and other Democrats supported at the outset? And what’s the big deal about a few anti-Catholics in the religious conservative
coalition, when practically the entirety of the Democratic coalition is aggressively opposed to the core of Catholic teaching on life and marriage?

If this was the kind of stuff Shrum was feeding Gore and Kerry, it’s no wonder they lost those elections and the support of Catholic voters.

But this sophistry is even better:

The bishops and their acolytes succeeded in battering pro-choice John Kerry in 2004, when a majority of Catholics joined the Rovian Republican base that narrowly delivered a second term to George W. Bush. Kerry, a faithful church attendee, declined to retract his support of the constitutional guarantee of a woman’s right to choose. His position was consistent with the view, articulated more than twenty years ago, by two of the nation’s most prominent Catholic political leaders — Edward Kennedy and Mario Cuomo. They had argued — at Notre Dame and elsewhere — that in a free and pluralistic society, political leaders cannot impose their religious beliefs on a majority of citizens who disagree.

Hmmm, let’s see, Shrum cites Mario Cuomo and Ted Kennedy as his authority for Kerry’s abortion position — that makes sense! But — stop the presses! — both Cuomo and Kennedy argued their position at Notre Dame, which I guess makes their pro-abortion position entirely Catholic.

Shrum has a rather eccentric view of the Church’s Magisterium: Dissenting statements by pro-abortion Catholic politicians, confirmed in their veracity by having been articulated under the aegis of the university soon to honor President Obama. Got that?

Shrum is so out of touch with the Catholic Church he doesn’t realize that the term "neo-Catholic" has long been used by traditionalists to talk about people like me who they think have sold out to modernism. At first glance, it appears that whatever and whoever a "neo-Catholic" is, he must be closer to what the traditionalists think than Shrum. After all, how can "neo-Catholic," be a "conservative Catholic"… which suggests the opposite of being "neo."

The reader shouldn’t expect rational argument from a sophist, especially one whose mind has gone soft from spending too much time in the world of sound bites.

I will not pass along Shrum’s comments about Archbishop Burke which would be really vicious if they weren’t so stupid. Kerry, as a presidential candidate, went out of his way to invite the criticism of Catholic bishops by declaring himself a ‘good Catholic candidate.’ That was a dumb move, and one probably advised by Shrum, who is looking for redemption by associating himself with Obama’s 2008 success with Catholics.

The fact is, Obama got much better advice on Catholic outreach than did Gore and Kerry, and I’m sure the president knows better than to embrace Shrum’s effort to demonize so-called "neo-Caths."

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