By Tom Cushing
Point/Counterpoint: Biden’s Catholicism a big deal?Uploaded: Nov 19, 2020
Blogger’s notes: This exchange is sufficiently off-topic in the Comments of the previous blog that it’s better as a freestanding edition.
I’d also like to note at the outset that bias is usually best judged by its object, who is more finely tuned to its impacts (thus, for example, Caucasians should be very reluctant to dismiss movements like Black Lives Matter). As a non-Catholic, I’ve tried to be conscious of that point, below.
Posted byAmerican, a resident of Danville,
Well, Tom, since you brought up the issue re "priesthood", what is your take on why the media and the Democratic Party, that are constantly celebrating diversity and breaking through ceilings, i.e. first female VP, first African-American VP, etc., have given no airplay to Mr. Biden being only the second Catholic President in the history of our nation, despite Catholicism being the largest religious group in the U.S? Why do you think there has been absolutely crickets from the media and the Democratic party on this fact? I am actually interested in your opinion.
My own belief is because the media and the Democratic party have zero tolerance for diversity when it involves religious views and practice that are not part of the "Progressive's playbook". As we saw during the shameful Judgeship confirmation hearings the last few years, the Democrats and the media treat Catholicism like being a white supremist, with attacks of "extreme dogma", with even Ms.Harris the VP elect claiming being a member of the Knights of Columbus( a charity group that serves the homeless, raises money for the mentally retarded, and does true civic charity for the less fortunate) is grounds for denial of Judgeship, treating them like they are the Klu Klux Klan. We have also seen the Obama/Biden Administration try to force the Little Sisters of Mercy nuns to buy insurance that covers birth control and other services against their religious tenets. We also have the Biden platform on abortion that advocates for late term abortions, even minutes before birth, not due to mothers health or other concern, but just as a matter of right.
Diversity, like unity, is a two way street, and should celebrate all diversity, whether the breakthrough in inclusion is in the Democratic playbook or not.
Am – it will not surprise you to learn that I see things differently: where you see a vast media conspiracy to bury a story, I see little story at all (but one that was covered); where you see the targeting of a charity by an ‘intolerant’ regime, I see a law of general application, applied to all similarly situated organizations – a non-mandatory service to every organization’s individual employees.
America has a sadly rich history of religious bias – hence religion’s inclusion among the protected categories in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the periods after Irish and southern European immigration, much of that bigotry was aimed at Roman Catholics by Protestants who’d been here longer.
I recall the whispering campaign against JFK’s candidacy in 1960 – that he would be the Pope’s President. It was conducted not by any liberal cabal, but by Protestant adherents, notably among the Southern Baptist denomination. To his eternal credit, Kennedy ventured into a Lion’s Den (a Baptist convention in Houston), and delivered what I believe is one of the great speeches – ever. This video of it represents 11 minutes very well-spent:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBNlS8Zg1WA (I am also proud to say it was written by the Unitarian Ted Sorensen, but I digress).
Religion has never loomed large in more recent Presidential campaigns, including when contenders have involved other non-Protestants, e.g., prominent Jews Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders. It might be tempting to conclude that America has grown more accepting (I dislike the term ‘tolerant’), but instead I fear the terms of religious bias have simply changed. Witness the tribulations and attempted ‘othering’ of Muslim lawmakers, and imagine the uproar over any avowed atheist candidate for Prez.
Finally, although I’m no Big Data maven, I did a cursory google search of Biden and mass – it turned up almost 12 million responses, the first five of which were videos showing him going to his local church on November 8 (Note: only one of the top ten links related to ‘mass’ celebrations of his election).
Googling Biden Catholic controversy did prominently turn up a recent report of a South Carolina priest denying Mr. Biden the eucharist, which seems ‘unaccepting’ from that side, but I will leave that to your interpretation. Here’s a pretty positive NPR piece on how Biden's faith shapes his politics. https://www.npr.org/2020/09/20/913667325/how-joe-bidens-faith-shapes-his-politics
So, even allowing for my Blogger’s Note reservations, my response is that Biden’s Catholicism is simply no big deal, and not all that newsworthy – it’s so mid-20th century.
But if that’s the case, then why the barely concealed enmity toward Justice Barrett? I believe one issue explains it: abortion.* I do not believe opposition relates to her Catholicism, per se. If she had come to her anti-choice beliefs in some secular way and held them with equal fervor, the concerns on the Dem side would have been every bit as deep.
Now, as to the issue of the Little Sisters disdain for birth control, I think that as a lawyer you know better, but let’s pretend and play it straight. The ACA/Obamacare by its terms requires that no-copay birth control be available as part of any health care plan. This was not aimed at Any religion, but was meant to help prevent unwanted pregnancies (and thus lead to fewer abortions – a good thing, right?). It is what is known as a ‘law of general application,’ covering everybody.
In a 1990 decision involving ritual use of peyote, arch-Conservative (and Catholic) Justice Scalia wrote for the Court that when a ‘law of general application’ presents a conflict with a religious practice, the practice loses. In response, Congress enacted RFRA, a law requiring that in such instances, there must be a ‘compelling state interest’ served by the law, and that it only impose the least possible burden on the religious practice.
So, the Obamas were not forcing pills down the throats of defenseless nuns – they were trying to make sure that the employees of that organization had access to birth control … if they wanted it. The Court even found the required ‘compelling state interest’ (in the similar ‘Hobby Lobby’ case) but simply thought there might be less burdensome ways to go about the birth control access.
The upshot? Those employees are denied the kind of birth control access that most other women get under the ACA – they have to pay for it separately. It is difficult for me to see how that serves ANYbody’s interests in the abortion debate, but it certainly presents a nuanced issue that can easily be distorted to make a liberal look like a tyrant. He’s not – I’d be Much more concerned about abyssal flaws and continuing tyrannical tendencies of his successor.
Am, I expect that this conversation will continue in the Comments. If we do this again, I hope you will agree to come out of this particular closet and ‘own’ your content.
* While it’s also true that there are other tenets of her fringey Catholic community that, to me, suggest a retrograde belief in female subservience in general, the clear and dominant focus was on the future fate of Roe v. Wade.