Raised in a Protestant home, I converted to Catholicism after the birth of our only child, to help give him a consistent religious framework during his formative years. It was neither a significant nor difficult change: I had long believed Christianity is Christianity, period. Of course, I now appreciate how that belief in the equivalence of Christian faiths might hold true in a larger, metaphysical sense, but is simply not true when applied to the respective ideologies of different Christian churches.
That disparity in Christian churches rocketed back home this afternoon, as I took time during my brief lunch “break” to scan news of the day and stumbled on this post by Andrew Sullivan, excerpting a recent St. Louis Review commentary by Bishop Robert Hermann.
I knew Bishop Hermann before he was a bishop, when he was merely the priest of our parish. I always considered him a kind, gentle, decent man. I suspect, on balance, he still is. I was also a big fan of his homilies, which I recall as both insightful and refreshingly brief.
Those recollections notwithstanding, Bishop Hermann has, in this commentary, convinced me to finally “un-convert” and seek a different Christian church/community.
For those of you who are interested, I encourage you to read all of the bishop’s commentary; neither Sullivan’s excerpts nor mine do it justice. But whether you read it all or not, this paragraph was the pivotal one for me:
The Catholic Church teaches, in its catechism, in the works of Pope John Paul II and in the writings of Pope Benedict XVI, that the issue of life is the most basic issue and must be given priority over the issue of the economy, the issue of war or any other issue. These same teachings inform us that when both candidates permit the right to abortion, but unequally so, we must chose to mitigate the evil by choosing the candidate who is less permissive of abortion.
To be fair, that’s not just Bishop Hermann’s view. In fact, I think its a fair representation of Catholic ideology all the way to Rome and back. Nor do I fault Bishop Hermann or the Church for drawing a hard line on these matters. Nor would I be so presumptuous as to ask them to change or compromise. If anything changes, it should rightly be my church affiliation.
While my son was growing up and attending Catholic schools, I consistently dodged the differences between Catholic ideology on abortion and my own evolving views. Now that my son is out of the parochial hold and off to a (very) secular college, I don’t feel compelled to continue the dodging dance.
So again: It’s time for me to find another church in the Christian faith, one that’s more accepting of those of us who consider ourselves middle-roaders on questions of abortion and legal protections for pre-birth life* — those of us who dare believe there may be issues of life and war and peace and charity that are more critical in this and potentially other elections than Bishop Hermann’s narrow edict might otherwise suggest.
* I effectively net out on these questions where Joe Biden does in this clip, with two possible exceptions: First, regarding exceptions for the life of the mother, I might go a little further than Biden seems to. I believe, when the mother is reasonably believed to be in medical danger, protecting her life takes priority, regardless of the trimester. Second, when the mother’s life is not in danger, I might lean more “conservative” than Biden with respect to protections for the fetus after the first trimester.
Granted, Obama seems to be to the left of both Biden and me on these questions. And that has given me reason for pause. But then I recall (though I can no longer source) reports that abortions declined at a greater rate during Clinton’s eight years than at any other time since Roe v. Wade. Obviously, Clinton was never the “less permissive of abortion” candidate. So why did abortions decline during his tenure? I firmly believe it’s because non-legal, non-governmental factors (such as effective sex education and programs that promote options for young mothers) play a far more significant and enduring role than law in this equation.