Uh, Bishop McElroy, the 70s called and they’d like their stupid seamless garment theology back! Sigh. Fellow Catholics around the United States, the California faithful apologize: http://americamagazine.org/issue/greatness-nation
Last time I checked, the Church at large has politics covered. I’ve got to laugh at Bishop McElroy’s use of self-aggrandizement. I mean, what was his point? Doesn’t seem you can get more self-aggrandizing than his piece. Does he really think he’s added something to the documents listed below? If you think about it, though, he really has added something when he worked the seamless garment theory into his own little “document” on the issue. The following documents are a better source for Church teaching on political issues, but first, check out the Cliffs Notes “Voter’s Guide for Serious Catholics” from Catholic Answers: http://www.catholic.com/sites/default/files/voters_guide_for_serious_catholics.pdf
Here are the rest of the documents that Bishop McElroy might have wanted to give a nod to but didn’t:
Bishop McElroy meanders through his really long piece in typical seamless garment fashion: lay out Catholic teaching, say how important it is, quote some non-binding comments from popes, and then add the final dash of trying to bring abortion, euthanasia and the rest of the non-negotiables down to the same plane as war, hunger and poverty, workers’ rights, etc. even though the Church has said time and again they are not. Sorry, Bishop, still an epic fail. And let’s talk about your Four Pillars. Are these the Four Pillars of the Catechism? Four Pillars of Dominican Life? No, not quite.
Let’s look at this section where Bishop McElroy sets up his “Four Pillars” of the big seamless garment circus tent:
The Four Pillars of Life
A far better guide to prioritizing the major elements of the political common good of the United States lies in the intriguing words Pope Francis used in outlining those elements for the bishops of the United States: “I encourage you, then, my brothers, to confront the challenging issues of our time. Ever present within them is life as gift and responsibility.”
Ummm, there really wasn’t a prioritized list from Pope Francis. It was a list of challenging things the Church has to deal with, and it certainly doesn’t mean that all of these challenges carry the same weight. As you can see from the various Church documents I posted, they most certainly do not. Now Bishop McElroy goes on to make his own list as if it’s the prioritized list of the Church:
At this moment there are four pre-eminent political issues facing the United States that touch upon life as gift and responsibility in a decisive way.
The first is abortion. The direct destruction of more than one million human lives every year constitutes a grievous wound upon our national soul and the common good. It touches upon the very core of our understanding of life as gift and responsibility. As Pope Francis wrote in “Laudato Si’,” “How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is unwanted and creates difficulties. ‘If personal and social sensitivity toward the acceptance of the new life is lost, then other forms of acceptance that are valuable for society also wither away.”
He got this one right, but then he falls off course with the others until the end.
The second is poverty. In a world of incredible wealth, more than five million children die every year from hunger, poor sanitation and the lack of potable water. Millions more die from a lack of the most elementary medical care. In “The Joy of the Gospel,” Pope Francis wrote: “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills.” The United States is the most powerful economic actor in the world today, and even the most basic ethic of solidarity demands that it take dramatic steps to reform the international systems of trade, finance and development assistance in order to save lives in the poorest sections of the world. Moreover, inside the United States, the realities of exclusion and inequality created by poverty are growing, menacingly sapping the solidarity that is the foundation for our national identity and accentuating the fault lines of race and class. In the richest nation in human history, homeless people live on the streets, the seriously mentally ill are all too often left without effective care, and our prisons overflow with young men who are disproportionately poor and of color.
A third pre-eminent issue centering upon life as gift and responsibility is care of the earth, our common home. The progressive degradation of the global environment has created increased poverty and death among many of the poorest peoples on earth. Each year thousands of species are destroyed, lost forever to our children and to the earth’s future. Most chillingly of all, science has clearly established the existence of dramatic climate change produced by human action, a peril that threatens the very future of human existence. Pope Francis underscored the urgency of global action saying: “Every year the problems are getting worse. We are at the limits. If I may use a strong word, I would say that we are at the limits of suicide.
The final pre-eminent question at stake in the political common good of the United States today is assisted suicide. For at its core, assisted suicide is the bridgehead of a movement to reject the foundational understanding of life as gift and responsibility when confronting end-of-life issues. In 2015 the state legislature of California passed a bill legalizing assisted suicide but would not fund palliative care for the state’s suffering poor at the end of their lives. Such is the “false sense of compassion” that Pope Francis has described as lying at the heart of the movement to spread assisted suicide. As with abortion, this movement corrodes society’s responsibility to secure the health of its members as an integral component of the common good.
The underlying assault upon the notion of life as gift and responsibility embodied in these four issues marks them as the four central pillars of life for the election of 2016. Each of them reflects the “throwaway culture” that Pope Francis has identified as a central cancer of our modern world. The unborn child, the poor, the sick and the elderly are all disposable; even the very planet that is vital for the continuation of human life itself has become disposable.
I have little doubt the seamless garment crowd is doing some cheerleading. That said, here’s where he goes wrong. There are really five pillars of life and they go like this: abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, stem cell research, and the sanctity of marriage. How can Bishop McElroy fathom leaving even one of these off the list? Without getting square on these five issues, we can kiss the fight against poverty, against human trafficking, for workers’ rights, etc., goodbye. This is why, first and foremost, we must fight against these “non-negotiables.” Then, just maybe, God will restore humanity’s respect for the human person, and we can clean up the mess left in the wake of the basic lack of respect for life and the destruction of the family. This is something the seamless garment crew just doesn’t seem to get, or maybe they just don’t want to because they have a little trouble swallowing some of them.
Now I’m going to go all “McElroy” and meander around a little aimlessly on my commenting because this part really annoyed me and I thought it best to highlight it at the end:
A Spiritual Conversion to Solidarity
Such a conversion requires deep self-scrutiny and reflection. It demands a rejection of the tribal element of politics that sees voting as the opportunity to advance the well-being of our race, our class, our religious community at the expense of others. It entails a purging of the inherent human tendency to allow anger and wedge issues to infect our voting choices. A spiritual conversion among voters demands that we reject the increasing habit in our political culture of attributing all differences of opinion to ignorance or dishonesty. And such a spiritual conversion prohibits us from framing political choice in the United States as essentially a competition between two partisan teams, one good and one bad, with all the visceral enjoyment that such a competition brings.
Most important, a spiritual political conversion requires the orientation of soul that flows from the principle of solidarity that St. John Paul II powerfully outlined as a fundamental element of Catholic social teaching. This orientation reminds us that in society we must always understand ourselves to be bound together in God’s grace and committed, in the words of “On Social Concerns,” “to the good of one’s neighbor, with the readiness, in the Gospel sense, to lose oneself for the sake of the other rather than exploiting him.”
The implications of such a spiritual stance for discipleship in voting are clearly reflected in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church: “The principle of solidarity requires that men and women of our day cultivate a greater awareness that they are debtors of the society of which they have become a part.”
What does Bishop McElroy’s take on “Solidarity” equal, you may ask? It’s a big heaping plate of moral relativism. It takes the Church teachings on solidarity and twists them to try and muzzle our cries against evil. That’s actually quite the opposite of Church teaching. We should get angry and we should fight against anything that injures justice because, as Pope Paul VI said, “if you want peace, work for justice.” We should not engage in moral relativism in the political process. Wedge issues, Bishop McElroy?! It doesn’t get more liberal speak than that. Like what? Abortion? Euthanasia? “Gay Marriage?” They are called intrinsic evils and they are grave injustices, Your Excellency. We are called to fight them to the best of ability. We are to have solidarity with the Church and her doctrines because this is where justice and peace can be found. We are not to have solidarity with intrinsic evils for the sake of getting along. There is right and wrong. There is good and evil. And, yes, there is one good team and one bad team, although they are not necessarily segregated by political party. We don’t need anyone to tell us that with a condescending pat on the head.