Reality has finally caught up to Michael Sean Winters of National “Catholic” Reporter (ht: Mary Eberstadt):
President Barack Obama lost my vote yesterday when he declined to expand the exceedingly narrow conscience exemptions proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services. The issue of conscience protections is so foundational, I do not see how I ever could, in good conscience, vote for this man again.
I do not come at this issue as a Catholic special pleader, who wants only to protect my own, although it was a little bracing to realize that the president’s decision yesterday essentially told us, as Catholics, that there is no room in this great country of ours for the institutions our Church has built over the years to be Catholic in ways that are important to us. Nor, frankly, do I come at the issue as an anti-contraception zealot: I understand that many people, and good Catholics too, reach different conclusions on the matter although I must say that Humanae Vitae in its entirety reads better, and more presciently, every year.
That is one potential positive of the Obama presidency I’d not considered: getting folks to appreciate the wisdom and guts of Pope Paul VI. Here is some more from Winters:
No, I come at this issue as a liberal and a Democrat and as someone who, until yesterday, generally supported the President, as someone who saw in his vision of America a greater concern for each other, a less mean-spirited culture, someone who could, and did, remind the nation that we are our brothers’ keeper, that liberalism has a long vocation in this country of promoting freedom and protecting the interests of the average person against the combined power of the rich, and that we should learn how to disagree without being disagreeable. I defended the University of Notre Dame for honoring this man, and my heart was warmed when President Obama said at Notre Dame: “we must find a way to reconcile our ever-shrinking world with its ever-growing diversity — diversity of thought, diversity of culture, and diversity of belief. In short, we must find a way to live together as one human family.”
To borrow from Emile Zola: J’Accuse!
I accuse you, Mr. President, of dishonoring your own vision by this shameful decision.
Winters apparently still wants to believe the early rhetoric of President Obama rather than take a long, hard look at the public record of Obama the community organizer, ideologue, and Senator. He needs to consider that the President’s “vision”, in fact, is what Barack Obama has been quite deliberately pursuing all along, which is that of a leftist, statist ideologue who has little respect for the traditions, virtues, and values held by a majority of Americans.
I accuse you, Mr. President, of failing to live out the respect for diversity that you so properly and beautifully proclaimed as a cardinal virtue at Notre Dame. Or, are we to believe that diversity is only to be lauded when it advances the interests of those with whom we agree? That’s not diversity. That’s misuse of a noble principle for ignoble ends.
See the point above. Statist “diversity” and tolerance are rooted in a type of scientism which insists that any belief or principle cannot be proven “scientifically” must give way and eventually be suppressed. Thus, Kathleen Sebelius declared, in her January 20th statement, “Scientists have abundant evidence that birth control has significant health benefits for women and their families, it is documented to significantly reduce health costs, and is the most commonly taken drug in America by young and middle-aged women.” The benefits of “birth control” are quite debatable, to put it mildly; what is of most interest for my point here is that the statements of “scientists” trumps, for all intents and purposes, the beliefs and principles of a huge number of people, many of them Catholic, but many of them of other religious and philosophical traditions.
Modern tolerance “insists that things science does not deal with, such as substantive value,” writes James Kalb in The Tyranny of Liberalism (ISI, 2008), “be treated as subjective feelings because they cannot be determined by neutral experts.” This means that “opinions regarding value, to the extent that they are not tolerant in the advance liberal sense, be kept private. … Advanced liberal society therefore discredits, neutralizes, or silences those who speak out about matters of good and evil…” What we are seeing today, to state the obvious (it is obvious, right?), is the increasingly open clash between the beliefs of the minions of “advanced liberal society” and those who adhere to more traditional values and virtues based in religion and the track record of tradition, history, and commonsense. Winters, I think, believes in the former, but also has some toes in the latter. And those toes are getting smashed in the doorway of sometimes painful and seemingly inevitable statist progress:
I accuse you, Mr. President, of betraying philosophic liberalism, which began, lest we forget, as a defense of the rights of conscience. As Catholics, we need to be honest and admit that, three hundred years ago, the defense of conscience was not high on the agenda of Holy Mother Church. But, we Catholics learned to embrace the idea that the coercion of conscience is a violation of human dignity. This is a lesson, Mr. President, that you and too many of your fellow liberals have apparently unlearned.
All this talk about conscience, however, means nothing if there is no recognition and admission that we as humans are not only capable of knowing truth, but have an obligation to pursue and uphold truth. The ideologue, in the end, chooses his system over truth because his system is meant to shape man in a certain way, not to help man conform himself to truth and goodness. In other words, it begins with a certain understanding of the nature, origin, and ends of man. If I had to bet, I’d say that President Obama would say that he and his administration have made a decision in keeping with their collective conscience. But, again, such an understanding of conscience is not oriented toward truth, but through a political agenda aimed at a larger and quite frightening vision of human nature, which is not rooted in reason (although it constantly uses the rhetoric of reason) but in ideological coercion and scientistic aspirations. Blessed John Paul II wrote of this in Veritatis Splendor:
As is immediately evident, the crisis of truth is not unconnected with this development. Once the idea of a universal truth about the good, knowable by human reason, is lost, inevitably the notion of conscience also changes. Conscience is no longer considered in its primordial reality as an act of a person’s intelligence, the function of which is to apply the universal knowledge of the good in a specific situation and thus to express a judgment about the right conduct to be chosen here and now. Instead, there is a tendency to grant to the individual conscience the prerogative of independently determining the criteria of good and evil and then acting accordingly. Such an outlook is quite congenial to an individualist ethic, wherein each individual is faced with his own truth, different from the truth of others. Taken to its extreme consequences, this individualism leads to a denial of the very idea of human nature. (par 32)
One final bit from Winters:
I accuse you, Mr. President, of treating shamefully those Catholics who went out on a limb to support you. Do tell, Mr. President, how many bullets have the people at Planned Parenthood taken for you? Sr. Carol Keehan, Father Larry Snyder, Father John Jenkins, these people have scars to show for their willingness to work with you, to support you on your tough political fights. Is this the way you treat people who went to the mat for you?
And let’s not forget Douglas Kmiec and Fr. Thomas Reese, S.J., who seem(ed) willing to go to the rack for President Obama, and who presented the POTUS as being more fully and truly Catholic than anyone since the founding of the Church. And, yes, Mr. Winters, that is exactly how folks such as President Obama treat useful tools. (And, to be fair, it is how most politicians today treat religious groups; this is not just a tactice of leftists and Democrats.) Frankly, I don’t fully understand Winters’ remark about Planned Parenthood, as they have applauded the Obama administration’s strong arm tactics. Regardless, it is good to see that Winters is waking up to reality a bit and starting to see what many of us saw several years ago. Not that I’m gloating. Matters are far, far too serious for gloating and scoring cheap rhetorical points. This is not a time for gloating, but for soul searching.
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