Does E.J. Dionne Even Pretend to be a Catholic Anymore? (Updated)

E.J. Dionne thinks the American Bishops are just a bunch of right-wing meanies .  No, seriously.

The headlines this week were about lawsuits brought by 43 Catholic organizations, including 13 dioceses, to overturn regulations issued by the Obama administration that require insurance plans to cover contraception under the new health-care law. But the other side of this news was also significant: The vast majority of the nation’s 195 dioceses did not go to court.

Which Dionne takes as a signal that those dioceses do not approve of the suits.

Has Dionne ever taken even an elementary logic course?  That the other dioceses did not join the suit does not imply that they oppose the suit.  They may have chosen not to participate for any number of reasons.  For instance, newly installed Bishop Lori in Baltimore explained on EWTN just last night that the Archdiocese of Baltimore did not join the suit because it was a time of transition with him just being installed last week.  As for the other dioceses, they may not have the time and resources to join the suit.

Dionne then – hysterically – implies that the Church is being over-run by right-wing Bishops.

Until now, bishops who believed that their leadership was aligning the institutional church too closely with the political right had voiced their doubts internally. While the more moderate and liberal bishops kept their qualms out of public view, conservative bishops have been outspoken in condemning the Obama administration and pushing a “Fortnight for Freedom” campaign aimed at highlighting “threats to religious freedom, both at home and abroad.”

But in recent months, a series of events — among them the Vatican’s rebuke of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, encouraged by right-wing U.S. bishops — have angered more progressive Catholics and led to talk among the disgruntled faithful of the need for a “Catholic spring” to challenge the hierarchy’s shift to the right.

It’s amusing that Dionne chooses to frame the issue as a right-versus-left one, and even more amusing that he seems to be implying that the Vatican was prodded by a bunch of scheming winger-Bishops to issue its rebuke.

To his credit, Dionne does manage to find a few Bishops who are opposed to the lawsuit.*

Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., broke the silence on his side Tuesday in aninterview with Kevin Clarke of the Jesuit magazine America. Blaire expressed concern that some groups “very far to the right” are turning the controversy over the contraception rules into “an anti-Obama campaign.”

“I think there are different groups that are trying to co-opt this and make it into [a] political issue, and that’s why we need to have a deeper discussion as bishops,” he said. “I think our rhetoric has to be that of bishops of the church who are seeking to be faithful to the Gospel, that our one concern is that we make sure the church is free to carry out her mission as given to her by Christ, and that remains our focus.”

My sympathies to the Catholics in Stockton, California.  One can only imagine the sterling homilies they must hear every Sunday.

This is simply nonsense.  The Obama administration drew a very clear line in the sand.  I’m sorry to break this to Bishop Blaire, but when  a presidential administration declares open war on religion freedom, it de facto becomes a political issue.  I realize that you must be of the generation that believes that the only way to resolve anything is deep dialogue and expressions of “concern,” but sitting on your behind and just hoping that the administration will be nice to you down the line is not going to accomplish anything.

Already, there are reports that some bishops will play down or largely ignore the Fortnight for Freedom campaign, scheduled for June 21 to July 4, in their own dioceses. These bishops fear that it has become enmeshed in Republican election-year politics and see many of its chief promoters, notably Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore, as too strident.

I’m so confused.  Bishop Lori himself didn’t attach himself to the lawsuit, so obviously by Dionne’s logic he must be opposed to the suit.  Does that mean that Bishop Lori believes that Bishop Lori is too strident?  The mind reels.

Again, it’s a pity that some Bishops do not have the courage to stand up and fight for religious freedom.  Like Bishop Blaire, they are of the mindset that it’s best not to cause too much trouble or kick up too much of a fuss – unless of course the issue is changing the translation of the Mass.  Then these same Bishops kick and scream and do everything in their power to fight change.  But when it comes to challenging an administration intent on curtailing their freedoms – meh, better to just hold a series of seminars and hope everything gets sorted out in the end.

Dionne then makes some hay over the phony “compromise” offered by HHS, a compromise only gullible left-leaning Catholics put any stock into.  Because at the end of the day, for people like Dionne hiking taxes on the rich is more important than minor issues such as abortion and religious freedom.

Dionne closes with this whopper:

For too long, the Catholic Church’s stance on public issues has been defined by the outspokenness of its most conservative bishops and the reticence of moderate and progressive prelates.

Yes, we all remember how all those right-wing Bishops led the charge when it came to immigration reform, or the war in Iraq, or in recent budget debates.

Signs that this might finally be changing are encouraging for the church, and for American politics.

Hey, Dionne finally says something I agree with. Of course he has now clue that the behavioral change is now quite the one he thinks is happening.

*Update:  See Donald’s comment.  In fact, even Blaire is on board with his fellow Bishops.  Sorry, EJ.

24 Responses to Does E.J. Dionne Even Pretend to be a Catholic Anymore? (Updated)

  • Oops, it looks like Demented Dionne will have to find another bishop to cite:

    “Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif. has clarified that he is united with his fellow bishops in their efforts to oppose the threat to religious freedom posed by the federal contraception mandate.

    “I stand solidly with my brother bishops in our common resolve to overturn the unacceptable intrusion of government into the life of the Church by the HHS Mandate,” said Bishop Blaire in a May 24 statement.

    He explained that he wanted to “clarify some misunderstandings” related to his earlier comments about the mandate.

    A May 22 article in America magazine quoted Bishop Blaire as having concerns about an announcement the day before that 43 Catholic dioceses and organizations around the U.S. were filing lawsuits against the federal government.

    Filed in 12 different jurisdictions across the country, the lawsuits challenge a federal mandate that will require employers to offer health insurance plans covering contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs, even if doing so violates their consciences.

    Bishops from every diocese in the U.S. have spoken out against the regulation, warning that it poses a serious threat to religious liberty and could force Catholic schools, hospitals and charitable organizations to close.

    Several media outlets and commentators have used Bishop Blaire’s comments to suggest division among the bishops regarding the mandate.

    However, Bishop Blaire said that his comments have been misunderstood. He stressed his full support for his brother bishops in their efforts to fight the mandate and protect religious freedom.

    He noted that the bishops’ administrative committee issued a statement in March committing to fight the mandate through appeals to the Obama administration, Congress or the courts.

    “I contributed to and voted for this statement, and continue to support it, including its call for legal action as was announced on Monday,” he said. ”

    http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/bishop-blaire-rejects-claims-of-division-over-mandate-lawsuits/

    Early in his career Dionne could sometimes manage to write something worth reading. His descent to being simply a shrill partisan hack has been sad to behold.

  • Ioannes says:

    Who is that guy? (didnt say in the intro).

    All undone by a little book called THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH.

    I think we as catholics need to publicize that little white book more. Priests should hold it up from the pulpit and encourage the faithful to get it. When in doubt, consult the book. Gotta problem with it? Start your own sect! The Sebellians? Or the Cafetirians? Hmmm….

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour says:

    The fallacy that appeals to “Natural Law,” based on a concept of “pure nature,” can establish some sort of neutral ground for the debate of political issues has done immeasurable harm to the Christian approach to politics By overlooking this, many Cathoolic bishops, past and present, have assumed that a politician’s political views can be independent of his views on religion and that, because they coincide with Catholic social teaching, with proper precautions Catholics could associate themselves with his movement. That is to betray the sacred and indissoluble alliance between Throne and Altar, which has been at the heart of Catholic political thought, since the the divine and august emperors, Gratian, Valentinian et Theodosius established Christianity as the religion of the Empire on 27 February 380

    On the contrary

    “Integral political science . . . is superior in kind to philosophy; to be truly complete it must have a reference to the domain of theology, and it is precisely as a theologian that St. Thomas wrote De regimine principum . . . the knowledge of human actions and of the good conduct of the human State in particular can exist as an integral science, as a complete body of doctrine, only if related to the ultimate end of the human being. . . the rule of conduct governing individual and social life cannot therefore leave the supernatural order out of account (The Things that are not Caesar’s, p. 128, Jacques Maritain).”

    Thus, Blondel maintained that the human person must be considered in his actual, concrete historical conditions and not some hypothetical state of “pure nature.”

    “…they never forget that one cannot think or act anywhere as if we do not all have a supernatural destiny. Because, since it concerns the human being such as he is, in concreto, in his living and total reality, not in a simple state of hypothetical nature, nothing is truly complete (boucle), even in the sheerly natural order (“La ‘Semaine sociale’ de Bordeaux.” p 32).

  • Phillip says:

    “The fallacy that appeals to “Natural Law,” based on a concept of “pure nature,” can establish some sort of neutral ground for the debate of political issues has done immeasurable harm to the Christian approach to politics By overlooking this, many Cathoolic bishops, past and present, have assumed that a politician’s political views can be independent of his views on religion and that, because they coincide with Catholic social teaching, with proper precautions Catholics could associate themselves with his movement.”

    Of course this “fallacy” is only of recent manufacture by those who have misinterpreted Aquinas. While there are problems with the concept of pure nature, there are far more problems with the modern concept that produced this alleged “fallacy.”

    http://www.amazon.com/Natural-Desire-According-Thomas-Interpreters/dp/1932589546/ref=pd_cp_b_0

    The distortion of this teaching of Aquinas, along with subsequent distortions of Natural Law, have done no service to the Church.

  • Dale Price says:

    The proper reaction to the discovery that you can not make your political precommitments line up with your faith would be to examine those precommitments.

    That is, if the latter was the central pivot of your life.

    Sadly, I think Dionne is doing precisely that–which reveals what his faith is: in the part of Rum and Rebellion–no more Romanism for him.

  • Kevin J Jones says:

    “These bishops fear that it has become enmeshed in Republican election-year politics”

    I have a hard time understanding where people see Republican activism on this issue. The GOP made some noise in January and February, and they tried to pass the Blunt Amendment, but haven’t GOP leaders been pretty cowed and low-key since Rush Limbaugh’s Fluke comments?

    There is some grassroots activism on this issue, but from what I can tell it’s more among religious believers than GOP activists per se.

    Most local GOP activists I know are deeply wary of “social issues”, but perhaps they are not representative.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour says:

    Phillip

    I would suggest the fallacy goes back to Suarez. He posited a more or less complete and self-contained “natural order,” with its own ends, uncoloured by the supernatural order, which could easily come to be seen as a mere gratuitous addition.

    That that was a travesty of St Thomas’s position goes without saying.

    It reached its reached its zenith in the support of many Neo-Thomists for Action Française and the Catholic atheism of Charles Maurras.

  • Phillip says:

    Actually, the fallacy I referred to was not the making of Neo-Thomists nor of Suarez. Rather, as the link I provide shows, and as many well-accomplished Thomists today believe, it unfortunately begin with De Lubac.

  • Gail Finke says:

    Wow, talk about delusional. In my neck of the woods, anyway, no one but the Church and some civic/political organizations made up entirely of Evangelical Christians have said Word One about the mandate. The idea that the bishops are some kind of Republican operatives is hilarious! Yeah, that immigration reform, build a “circle of protection’ around the poor, school voucher promoting group of Bishops is REPUBLICAN. Sheesh.

  • PRM says:

    If Bishop Blaire is worried about the issue being cooped by right-wingers, all the more reason for lefties such as himself to get more active against the mandate (this may be the best reason for welcoming Notre Dame’s bring its own suit).

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour says:

    Phillip
    I find nothing in Cardinal de Lubac that was not anticipated by Maurice Blondel in his publication, L’Annales de philosophie chrétienne and, particularly, in the 1910 exchange between Blondel’s editor, the Oratorian, Lucien Laberthonnière and Pedro Descoqs. It was a fundamental moment for la Nouvelle Théologie, much as Keble’s Assize Sermon had been for the Oxford Movement and it is what united such disparate thinkers as Blondel, Maréchal, the Dominicans, Chenu and Congar and the Jesuits, de Lubac and Daniélou. Indeed, it is possible to find early anticipations in the works of such outliers as the Jesuit, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (whose orthodoxy was so ably defended by de Lubac) and the great historian of French mysticism and member of l’Académie française, L’Abbé Brémond. I would also include the Oratorian Louis Bouyer.

    Again, to take a theologian outside the French school, and they are few enough, Hans Urs von Balthasar wrote “Christianity owes it to the world to make a clear connection between its testimony to the sole Redeemer, in whose name it takes ‘every thought captive to obey Christ’ (2 Cor 10:5), and the witness of the Holy Spirit, which causes the entire world to awake to a religious freedom and universality which, left to itself, it could never attain nor imagine.”

    To suggest that the rejection of ““a false theological notion of some state of pure nature” (Laberthonnière) began, or was confined to de Lubac is quite wrong. After all, Pascal, three centuries earlier, had declared that “The true religion teaches us what our duties are.” True justice is what “it has pleased God to reveal to us.” God alone is “the true good” of man. At bottom, all of our “lights” can show us only that we do not find within ourselves “either truth or goodness.” In short, “without the faith, man cannot know his true good or justice.”

  • Phillip says:

    “To suggest that the rejection of ““a false theological notion of some state of pure nature” (Laberthonnière) began, or was confined to de Lubac is quite wrong.”

    Not to suggest it began with him, but, as the link provided, as well as a great number of current theologians suggest, his work Surnatural was the flowering of such theories.

    Of course there are a great many current works that show this flowereing is false. I gave one link above. Two others here:

    http://www.amazon.com/Wisdom-Face-Modernity-Thomistic-Theology/dp/1932589554/ref=pd_bxgy_b_text_c

    http://www.amazon.com/Surnaturel-Controversy-Twentieth-Century-Thomistic-Philosophy/dp/193258952X/ref=pd_sim_b_2

    One reviewer of the latter work wrote noted that the traditional conception of a “pure state of Nature” was the stronger argument.

    But that is the point. Both at this point are theories (and as noted the theory of a pure state of Nature being possible stronger.) I say theories because, they in fact are simply both theological theories. Neither are denied by the Church but neither is one or the other affirmed as dogmatic either.

    Which goes to the original point of my first comment. There is no fallacy that “…appeals to “Natural Law,” based on a concept of ‘pure nature,’”. Thus, one can argue for some sort of neutral ground inpolitical issues. And in fact a Catholic can associate themselves with politicians with beliefs that coincide with Catholic social teaching “with proper precautions” to use your term.

    “That is to betray the sacred and indissoluble alliance between Throne and Altar, which has been at the heart of Catholic political thought, since the the divine and august emperors, Gratian, Valentinian et Theodosius established Christianity as the religion of the Empire on 27 February 380″

    I will leave this on its own, though I might suggest that Catholic Social Teaching has evolved from the consideration of the alliance between Throne and Altar as being sacred. Another flawed conclusion from a likely false theological premise that is most prominently associated with De Lubac.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour says:

    Phillip

    I merely pointed out that the opinion of a “state of pure nature” had been vigorously attacked in 1910 by both Blondel and Laberthonnière in the pages of L’Annales de philosophie chrétienne. Now, Henri de :Lubac was born in 1896, so he was fourteen years old at the time of the Descoqs – Laberthonnière exchange.

    One can see the roots of that in Blondel’s doctoral dissertation of 1893, L’Action in which he sought to show the illegitimacy of the reigning “separated” philosophy, which considered the “transcendent” as utterly superfluous to self-sufficient reason’s capacity to explain reality.

    De Lubac acknowledged his debt to Blondel in his “Brief Catechesis on Nature and Grace” ” Latin theology’s return to a more authentic tradition has taken place–not without some jolts, of course–in the course of the last century. We must admit that the main impulse for this return came from a philosopher, Maurice Blondel. His thinking was not primarily exercised in the areas proper to the professional theologians, nor did it base itself on a renewed history of tradition. Still, he is the one who launched the decisive attack on the dualist theory that was destroying Christian thought.”

    Of course, de Lubac was important, but so were Thomists like Joseph Maréchal and Marie-Dominique Chenu, who were also attempting to recover St Thomas from his latter commentators.

    The fact that a teaching has not been condemned by the Church does not mean that it is not false in concept and pernicious in practice, as de Lubac’s words suggest.

  • Mike Petrik says:

    Of course, Thomistic natural law has nothing to do with the modernist notions of state of nature. But I disagree that appeals to natural law are feckless or objectionable. Right and wrong are discernible not through appeals to divine authority alone. Natural law is the law imprinted on the hearts of all men, and all men have access to it without regard to their faith. Ask any young child whether it is morally ok for their mother to kill the unborn child within her, and you will observe natural law in action.

  • Phillip says:

    “The fact that a teaching has not been condemned by the Church does not mean that it is not false in concept and pernicious in practice, as de Lubac’s words suggest.”

    Go back and read my last comment. Again, while the Church has not condemned de Lubac or Blondel or whoever’s denial of the “Natural State”, nor has it condemned those who assert it. Thus, your claim of a fallacy is itself false.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour says:

    Mark Petrik

    Pascal observed that “Men admit that justice does not consist in these customs [the laws of each country], but that it resides in natural laws, common to every country. They would certainly maintain it obstinately, if reckless chance which has distributed human laws had encountered even one which was universal; but the farce [la plaisanterie] is that the caprice of men has so many vagaries that there is no such law Theft, incest, infanticide, parricide, have all had a place among virtuous actions.”

    Besides, if justice and the common good can be established by the light of unaided human reason, the liberals are right, when they claim that religion has no rôle to play in the public square. If, on the other hand, Christianity is necessary to confirm and complete natural sentiments and notions that anticipate, indeed require, a specifically Christian metaphysical foundation, then unaided reason is plainly insufficient, of itself, to establish true justice.

    The socio-economic order cannot ignore the human beings, in their totality, that are its subject, and that includes their supernatural destiny.

    Phillip

    The “fallacy” to which I referred was Suarez’s misinterpretation of St Thomas. Suarez postulated a state of “pure nature,” which, whether condemned by the Church or not, is something that St Thomas never taught and that has no existence in reality. That error is responsible for “the dualist theory that was destroying Christian thought,” as De Lubac avers: a false dichotomy between nature and grace and between reason and revelation, as though the natural and the supernatural have utterly separate ends, in and of themselves.

  • Phillip says:

    “The “fallacy” to which I referred was Suarez’s misinterpretation of St Thomas. Suarez postulated a state of “pure nature,” which, whether condemned by the Church or not, is something that St Thomas never taught and that has no existence in reality.”

    Please read the referenced works that again, as noted several times, assert that the concept of “pure nature” is in fact in Thomas’ works. De Lubac’s interpretation, to very reasonable Thomists, is wrong. Here yet another argument that De Lubac is wrong and that Thomas, and the early Church, accepted the concept of “pure nature.”

    http://dlibrary.acu.edu.au/digitaltheses/public/adt-acuvp238.11012011/index.html

    Yet again, the fallacy you refer to, does not exist.

  • Mike Petrik says:

    Michael,
    Access by all men to essential moral principles, albeit imperfectly, no more renders participation of Christianity in the public square superfluous than does the Church’s teaching that righteous non-Christians can attain Heaven render Her Sacraments superfluous.

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