Ralph Neas of the People for the American Way made it official. He said it. I bet he didn’t even know he said it. Debating C. Boyden Gray of the Committee for Justice on the Fox News Channel’sHannityand Colmes July 29, he was decrying the implication in a Committee for Justice ad that certain senators on the Judiciary Committee were anti-Catholic. The now famous ad defending federal court nominee Bill Pryor depicted a court house doorbearingthesign, “Catholics need not apply.”
After voicing his outrage at the suggestion — which Mr. Gray denied making — that the senators were anti-Catholic, Mr. Neas further protested that he himself was Catholic. Program co-host Alan Colmes also protested that several of the senators in question were Catholic. This, of course, proves nothing, because there is no shortage — especially in the U.S. Senate — of people who were raised Catholic and yet spit in the face of common Catholic teachings and beliefs.
It is here that Mr. Neas spilled the beans. After angrily demanding an apology from Mr. Gray for allegedly calling people anti-Catholic, he said, “Our position at People for the American Way is to oppose those nominees of an extreme right-wing judicial philosophies [interruption] … in opposition to reproductive rights — many other issues.”
In case you missed it, as Mr. Neas obviously did, he just characterized normative, orthodox Catholic belief as “extreme right wing.” If by “reproductive rights” he means abortion on demand as defined by Roe vs. Wade, he further insults Catholic belief by employing this transparent euphemism, and in so doing he tipped his hand as to the true attitude toward Catholicism held by him and those he is defending.
Mr. Neas’ tone certainly indicated his contempt for things “extreme right wing,” which further indicates that he has some contempt for Catholicism since normative Catholic teaching is, by Mr. Neas’ definition, “extreme right-wing.”
It follows that in the minds of Mr. Neas and the obstructing senators, a judicial candidate who happens to believe, agree with and holds true the teachings of his Catholic faith is to be considered “extreme right wing” and somehow dangerously unfit for high judicial office.
For the record, Catholic teaching condemns all abortion as intrinsically evil and therefore always and everywhere wrong. If holding this normative Catholic belief makes one “extreme right wing,”thensomeonehas moved the fulcrum on this balance, or Mr. Neas’ perspective is coming from an extreme left-wing perspective, because the Catholic Church hasn’t moved on this in 2,000 years.
Catholics and other pro-lifers do not oppose abortion because they want to “control women’sbodies”orother things their opponents’ protest signsstupidlysuggest. Catholics oppose abortion because it is murder, and murder cannot and must not be countenanced in a civil society.
If the senators wish to distance themselves from a 2,000-year-old intellectual and legal tradition that supports this, and instead align themselves with those whose greatest contribution to Western culture is “Keep your rosaries off of my ovaries,” that’s their choice.
If the senators view the latter group as the “mainstream” and the defenders of 2,000 years of civilization as “extreme right wingers” that is also their choice. But they should not be shocked — shocked! — when they are opposed by Catholics.
If the senators believe the Catholic tradition is a lot of nonsense, that’s fine. But if so, they should not call themselves Catholic because this is what Catholics believe. It is time that the Catholic Church be dealt with on its own terms rather than dissent, misunderstandings and bigoted fallacies.
With regard to senators who protest that they are Catholics, yet regard judicial candidates as “dangerous” and “extreme right wing” precisely because of their deeply held Catholic beliefs, one must ask these senators what exactly they think Catholicism is. Catholicism, among other things, and at the very least, is a set of beliefs, and we have senators who reject those beliefs as “extreme” and contemptible while simultaneously protesting that they are Catholic.
By their public support for abortion, they have effectively placed themselves out of communion with the Catholic Church. So what exactly do they mean when they call themselves Catholic? Their upbringing? Which evidently failed in forming them as Catholic adults?
It does suggest that dissident or fallen away Catholics are acceptable for the bench but orthodox Catholics who actually believe what they profess are not.
John Mallon is contributing editor of Inside the Vatican magazine and a political consultant.