27 thoughts on “Wearing a MAGA Hat is Not Pro-Life

  1. There is far more to what Bishop Stowe said in this article in America. https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2019/01/24/bishop-stowe-why-maga-hats-march-life

    Abortion cannot be the only issue for Catholics. The Catholic Church is against abortion, but that is not the only issue involved for the Church. Just like sin, the issues the Church confronts are not ranked in any order. “While the church’s opposition to abortion has been steadfast, it has become a stand-alone issue for many and has become disconnected to other issues of human dignity,” Bishop Stowe wrote.

    Immigration is one of those issues the Church confronts and its stance on immigration is practically the opposite of Donald Trump’s. The Church rejects discrimination against all people, including LGBT people while Donald Trump’s agenda includes discrimination against multiple groups of people, including LGBT people. The Church’s teachings reject individualism and the virulent form of nationalism at the heart of Make America Great Again. The Church rejects the inequality rampant in Make America Great Again.

    The Church even embraces European style healthcare if it does not involve abortion or birth control. Catholic social justice is just pretty much in opposition with almost everything that MAGA stands for. Unfortunately, too many Catholics, mainly older ones have become one issue voters. This is partly responsible for the decline in church attendance with the reaction to the molestation and coverups being another large part. On the other hand we see a large number of Catholics still coming to Mass and we know that the Church will move past these crises.

    Churches will change over time to meet the needs of their members. Those that do not are churches that fade away and die out. This Catholic Church is adjusting in order to meet the needs of its members. It is a slow process and that will not suit some. Change is inevitable and some may not like the changes, but it will change. That change is not going to be towards the malignancy that drives MAGA and those that champion it.

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    • Jimmy Dick,
      The reasons for the membership/attendance decline in the R.C.C. is not a simple issue. You did rightly cite the sexual abuse problem as a contributing factor. Unfortunately, the problem has been compounded by the feckless response of the pope and many of the bishops. The pope is still trying to punt it down the road leaving loyal rank and file Catholics frustrated.

      Another significant body of loyal lay people believe that the declines can be traced to the improper implementation of Vatican II or to Vatican II itself. This same group sees the the prevalent theological lack of clarity as emblematic of the ravages of the Vatican II reforms. For anyone who grew up under a strong catechetical system, it is heart-breaking to see the contrast with much of today’s Church. Fortunately, the folk masses with Kum Ba Ya singing have mostly departed but some of the young priests who implemented that in the late 60s are still in the Church.

      I am not sure why you think the whole LGBT thing is a significant factor. The official position of the Church is that homosexuality is a disordered behavior. That was the essential position of all major churches for 2,000 years and I don’t see the R.C.C. ever condoning sexual relations outside of traditional heterosexual marriage. There may be homosexuals who would have it otherwise, but the Church cannot change that historic position without theologically betraying certain ontological verities. That sort of change would go far beyond Newman’s theory on the development of doctrine.

      As to your first point, Jimmy, I agree that no political party is going to hit a home run with us on every issue. We must weigh the issues in importance and vote based on that and other factors. Is the life of an unborn baby more important than establishing a policy for building low income care facilities for aging senior citizens? Voters must prioritize but not all of these goals are mutually exclusive.

      May I close with a comment on Bishop Stowe? I personally believe he jumped the gun and editorialized before all of the facts were known. He should have given the high schoolers the benefit of the doubt rather than following the lead of the secular media. People in leadership owe their subordinates support unless the facts dictate otherwise. The bishop failed the boys shamefully.

      By the way, I used to receive America Magazine, the Jesuit journal you quoted. I initially sent off for it because I heard it was an intellectually stimulating publication. After several issues, I was very disappointed. The content was jejune at best.
      James

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      • Membership decline in the Catholic Church is a concern, but it is not driven by Vatican II. Only older, more conservative Catholics are angst ridden over Vatican II since only about 1 in 10 Catholics are part of the pre-Vatican II demographic. Interesting numbers in this article from 2011 which is 8 years old, so the number of pre-Vatican II Catholics has obviously declined since that publication date. https://www.ncronline.org/news/survey-reveals-generation-shift-catholic-church

        What we should look at is the information in this article which is data generated by surveys driven, not opinion driven such as yours. Your opinion, James, reflects your beliefs and only your beliefs. You, just like I for myself, do not speak for anyone but yourself. Before you continue to bash the Catholic Church for not sticking to a medieval version, keep in mind that Protestant churches, particularly those that emphasize conservative hard line approaches are also shedding members. As this article points out for the Catholic Church, people leave for a lot of reasons, but not meeting their spiritual needs is the main reason. https://www.ncronline.org/news/parish/hidden-exodus-catholics-becoming-protestants

        As for America magazine, I would be of the opinion that you prove my point in that you don’t like to read what you don’t want to hear.

        As for conservative beliefs, you might as well get used to the reality that the majority of the people in this nation are rejecting them. The times are changing. We are entering a liberal cycle again. It is my opinion that Trump’s administration is the last gasp of the conservative cycle. As the Baby Boomers decline in numbers over time their stranglehold on political dominance will cease. Their views will no longer be enough to sustain their “my way or the highway” approach to politics. As you just saw over the last 35 days, that was an utter failure. Conservatives have no choice but to work with liberals if they want any voice in governing this country for a while. That means changing their political platform or being reduced to being a minority with little power.

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        • Good afternoon, Jimmy:

          I think you might have missed my point about Vatican II and it’s effect on the Church. To the extent that my writing was not complete, I will take full discredit. Accordingly, let me put it another way. The fact that the ranks of pre-Vatican II Catholics are thinning due to actuarial facts was is not the issue. To the contrary, the point which many loyal Catholics make is that the relaxing of the once-rigorous catechism and Catholic doctrinal distinctives came with Vatican II. The implementation of those looser principles within the U.S. Church has caused disorder for Catholics of all ages———not just the older folks. This comports with the point that you make in your second paragraph that many Roman Catholics do not believe they are being fed spiritually by today’s Church. I once heard the late, esteemed Ralph McInerny give a talk on this very subject., and, as usual, Dr. McInerny was very persuasive.

          Jimmy, I tried twice to “like” reading America Magazine. (two trial subscriptions). It simply lacks the intellectual and spiritual gravitas of other Roman Catholic journals.

          As far as the future political direction of our country, we shall see. Maybe you and I will be still discussing these matters on Dr. Fea’s site after the 2020 election. In the meantime, I will remind you that virtually all of the liberal establishment pollsters showed Hillary winning in a landslide leading right up to the 2016 election.
          James

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  2. As an evangelical I do identify as “pro-life,” but over time I have tried to think of being pro-life as not solely about changing a particular legal ruling as so many of my fellow evangelicals do, but rather as a posture which tries to be consistent in always favoring life-affirming policies, programs and philosophies. Maintaining such a posture has implications for a wide range of issues beyond just abortion, such as health care availability and affordability, education, care of the environment, poverty, maintaining some sort of safety net for the most vulnerable of society, immigration, elder care, end-of-life issues, etc., etc. (Note, I am not saying that this posture defines precisely how those issues are addressed, but it definitely recognizes their importance and the need to address them.)

    What has troubled me for a long time is how so many of my fellow evangelicals give unqualified blanket support to politicians and to one political party because of the one specific goal of overturning the legal decision regarding abortion, when that party and those politicians also regularly advance many policies that directly or indirectly inflict so much more hardship and difficulties on those unexpectedly facing the reality of bringing a new life into the world and on those new lives after they have been born. (And then those evangelicals also derisively sneer at the mere mention of issues like those I mention above, dismissing even the discussion of them as “liberal socialism,” as they have been trained to do through years of ingesting right-wing media.) Yes, I am opposed to abortion, at least for most of the reasons for which it is usually performed. But to me it seems both contradictory and cruel to push for legal/legislative prohibition while *simultaneously* enacting policies that make things more difficult, more expense, more burdensome for so many to carry the new life to term and to care for and raise that child. And yet so many of my fellow evangelicals advocate and celebrate those other policies that result in increasing the degree to which vulnerable pregnant women and families are placed between a rock and a hard place. It would be a bit like outlawing divorce while simultaneously pushing for a hefty marriage tax that will push many couples into bankruptcy. Who on earth would think that was a good idea?

    It frustrates me to no end that so many of my fellow evangelicals have, because of this one issue and this one single-minded way of addressing it, essentially given “carte blanche” to a single political party and to particular politicians and now unquestioningly and unfailingly provide total support for *anything* and *everything* they do and say. Even a peep of criticism of Trump and the GOP within many evangelical circles today is sufficient to draw the “Oh, I guess you don’t care about all the dead babies” response.

    One other note, I firmly believe that many (admittedly nowhere near all, but still many) of the “pro-life” politicians could really care less about the issue itself and they happily maintain that position simply because they know it locks up the votes of virtually the entire evangelical base. In fact, I also don’t doubt that many of these same politicians would prefer that the abortion issue remain just as it currently is, status quo, because of its great utility in galvanizing their base and driving up voting turnout and boosting their political fundraising through appeals.

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    • Democrats made birth free, and Republicans have made it their platform to undue it. Democrats made the adoption tax credit more accessible to middle and low income families and that was the first thing Republicans undid when they took control in 2012.

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      • Alex,
        I need your clarification on this one. According to what I have read, the credit expired in December, 2012 and was renewed in 2013. I see no evidence that it was blocked by Republicans. Furthermore, does the law not allow the credit to a family making something close to 200,000.00 dollars a year? How does that hurt the middle class? Please clarify if my numbers are wrong.
        James

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        • They key is the Dem’s made the adoption tax credit refundable. When it’s not refundable the amount you can claim is limited by how much you pay in taxes (how much you make). My wife works part time in her field and I work full time in my field and even we don’t make enough to be able to claim the full credit under the republican’s plan.

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          • Alex,
            The dates you cite don’t match up. The GOP assumed control of the House in January, 2011. You said that they took control in 2012 and “undid” this credit.
            I still am not sure what you mean by not making enough to claim the credit. The way this tax credit works is by having a high-end earnings cap of roughly 200 thousand dollars. I can’t see how it would effect you and your wife if you make less than that. Of course, if you jointly make more you are starting to get out of the middle class bracket into a bit more more affluence.
            James

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            • Only families that pay $13,810 in taxes can claim the full tax credit for a single adoption, or $27,620 for a sibling set of two, or $41,430 for three siblings.

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              • Alex,
                If the amount you cite is the current IRS rule, I don’t see that as being unfair. You might want it you be less just as all of us would like to find a way to get more credits. I can’t blame you for that.
                As far as the people who actually set that IRS rule into place, I would not be so quick to blame one party or the other unless I saw a transcript or a summary of the committee meetings. The drafting of tax policy is one of the more complicated feats on Capitol Hill and it involves lobbyists bending the ears of all committee members regardless of party affiliation.
                But let’s just put all that aside. Who was president during that period? Not a Republican! Any tax law would have been signed by President Obama. If he were overly concerned with the dollar amount of the tax credit, his legislative liaison on The Hill could have fought for change, but presumably he had other concerns. It was not his priority. Or perhaps he even supported the final draft?? Do we really know?
                James

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                • James, as I’ve repeatedly said, the Republican plan limits you by how much you pay in taxes (how much you make). I’m not complaining the limit is $13,810, I’m saying half of Americans can’t claim any of it because they do not make enough, and most of the families that can claim some of it wont be able to claim anywhere near the full amount because they don’t make enough. Only rich people can claim the full amount.

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                  • Alex,
                    Well, that is the way a lot of the tax system works. More taxes paid bring more credits. In any case, Obama signed the tax law which contained the credits and I never heard him complaining. He seemed to be concerned with other matters.
                    James

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    • Dave,
      Your views are obviously your prerogative but defining all of them as “pro-life” is not going to be understood by most people, including liberals, who have come to accept a more narrow definition of the term. (The liberals might not be in favor of restricting abortion, but they generally understand the pro-life expression to signal just that.). Your much broader definition of the term has utopian overtones which arguably require a more widely-understood definition.
      James

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      • I beg to differ on the “utopian overtones” characterization. I was speaking here specifically in relation to how I view these issues through the lens of my Christian faith, and how I believe that faith should shape my worldview and my actions. There are a lot of things Christians are supposed to do that we know will not be fully achieved, at least not in this earthly realm, but we are still asked to be faithful and do them anyway. I am told to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven, though I know full well that this will not completely occur in a fallen world. I am told to live a life pleasing to God, though I know full well that I will stumble and sin on a daily basis. I am told to love my enemies, even though I know full well that my human nature will undermine that and I will still struggle with hatred and resentment. I am told to help those less fortunate than myself, even though I know full well that any help I provide will be but a small drop in a vast ocean of need. Am I to just abandon my faith and tell God that, sorry, your expectations are unrealistic, and you need to scale them back since they could only be achieved in a utopian dream world? Am I to tell God, sorry, you need to get real and let go of this “pie in the sky” fantasy, this is the real world and I need to do things the way the world does it?

        I feel like that is what some of my fellow evangelicals are saying and doing when they “join a team” and immerse themselves in the political realm and enter the culture wars and take their marching orders from the politicians and media talking heads. I am sorry, I just can’t do that and then still claim to be a follower of Christ.

        (Side note re. theological understanding: I believe that the reason God asks us to do these things that we know we won’t actually be able to accomplish is not because God is an unrealistic taskmaster, but rather because God is not so much concerned with the results as He is with cultivating lives of faithfulness and trust and dependence in His people.)

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  3. Glad to see Catholic leaders stand up and say that the agenda behind MAGA is not representative of Catholic and Christian values. Leadership like that makes me glad to be a Catholic and sad for those who reject Christian values while claiming to be Christians.

    As for those who continue to attack the media, I think they need to stop running their mouths and actually look at what the media has reported. This entire story has been well covered by the media and quite fairly. In fact, the media has done exactly what it is supposed to do which is to cover a story and explore it from multiple angles. Yes, the beginning was not good and presented an inaccurate picture of the event, but the media definitely got into the story and explored it. Obviously, some people are upset that the media doesn’t present the story in a way that reflects what they choose to believe, but that’s not the media’s job. The media is supposed to present the facts about the story. It erred in the beginning, but it definitely got on the ball and presented the facts about it.

    Basically, what we are seeing is some people continue to whine about the media because the media doesn’t tell them what they want to hear.

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    • Jimmy Dick,
      Now that the families of the unfairly-maligned Covington Catholic boys have legal representation in their possible slander action against certain media organs, we shall see how far these “journalists” will go in defending their inaccurate reporting. Failure to exercise “due diligence” in this case should not be hard to prove.
      Adversarial journalism is acceptable; blatant disregard of the facts and the slandering of minors is not.
      James

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      • If I want blatant disregard of facts, I’ll turn on FOX News or listen to conservative talk show hosts or whatever else it is that people who reject facts in favor of their fantasies rely on for further support of their fantasies.

        As for legal representation, would that be similar to the legal representation displayed by Michael Cohen and Rudy Giuliani? If so, the kids would be better off without legal representation. They can go to court all they want. Unfortunately for those who like to ignore facts, courts require facts.

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        • Hello Jimmy Dick,
          Please give me a couple of examples where Fox has misstated facts without issuing a subsequent retraction. I personally don’t watch a lot of T. V. news, but from what I can see Fox makes an attempt to have liberals and DEMs as frequent guests and also as regular commentators. Furthermore, the weekday afternoon newsman, Shepherd Smith, is no conservative. Newsmax is far more conservative and monolithic than Fox. They are the ones for whom you might want to save your real critiques.

          I am not sure I understand your final point about Rudy and Mike Cohen, Rudy had a very successful federal legal career before becoming N.Y.C. mayor. Cohen was, on he other hand, more of a “fixer” than a regular courtroom lawyer.
          James

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  4. I find Bishop Stowe’s remarks to be a cowardly and almost revolting sop to the liberal media who wanted to turn this sad incident into a discussion about Donald Trump. He tacitly admits that the behavior of the boys was not necessarily wrong but faults them for their hats. Would this bishop have made the same critical remarks if a separate group of liberal Catholics had shown up at a political rally with shirts or hats supporting an abortion-friendly candidate? I doubt it

    With leaders like this, is it any wonder that mass attendance and Roman Catholic affiliation is falling? This bishop bows to the media enemies of the Church and criticizes her friends. His tac has not been successful for Mainline Protestantism and it won’t strengthen the R.C,C. save emboldening a handful of folks who use the Church principally as a vehicle for social activism.

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    • “He tacitly admits that the behavior of the boys was not necessarily wrong but faults them for their hats.”

      That is blatantly not what he said. He wrote that he doesn’t care that there more “context” to the video–it’s still wrong and hypocritical to advertise support for a racist slogan and president and call yourself a pro-life advocate. The official Catholic position is that the universal right to life cannot be separated from the dignity of the human person after they are born, and that contradicts official GOP policy and rhetoric. Sorry if that offends you.

      “the liberal media wanted to turn this sad incident into a discussion about Donald Trump”

      How could the conversation NOT possibly turn to Donald Trump when these teenage “advocates” are wearing his campaign slogan like it’s a Catholic uniform? Of course the bishop spoke up! God forbid we should be seen as aligning ourselves as an institution with this “leader” or his policies, no matter what these sad high school kids imply by their conduct.

      It’s imperative to make it clear to the world that being Catholic is not tantamount to supporting the Donald. Of course many conservative Catholics have fallen headlong into the political-culture wars as if that were the real spiritual battlefront, but there is more to Catholicism than wearing your red hats to all your Catholic events like a badge of pride.

      Maybe other Christian groups will want wear the MAGA label for the next thirty years. But many of us evil liberal Catholics abhor the idea that we might have to associate with the GOP label once the world sees and remembers this presidency like it remembers Nixon.

      You seem deeply unhappy with almost everything on this blog and I wonder why you keep coming here to vent your anger.

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      • “Deeply angry.” I’ve read many of James’s posts — he doesn’t seem angry at all. He simply disagrees with many (not all) of John’s positions, as do I.

        I credit John for allowing dissenting views on his blog: it makes for a more intellectually diverse venue. People should be able to civilly disagree with each other. I’m glad John cultivates a blog where vigorous but respectful give and take can occur. Echo chambers are boring and stultifying.

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        • Tony,
          Yes. I think that Dr. Fea attempts to manage The Way of Improvement using classical, “liberal” principles. This positive type of liberal thinking does not necessarily comport with the more narrow American political and social definition of the same word. (Which, by the way, is becoming increasingly illiberal, especially in the academy.)
          James

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        • Hi Tony, unfortunately I said James seems “deeply unhappy” not “deeply angry,” and while both descriptions are true enough, I chose my words carefully. He seems deeply unhappy with Dr. Fea’s position almost every time he speaks up, even when he is not raging.

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      • Justin,
        You might not feel like the bishop tacitly admitted that the boys were not in the wrong in their behavior toward Mr. Phillips. That is the way I read the 4th paragraph in the excerpt which Dr. Fea posted. Admittedly, it is “weasel-worded”, but the bishop sadly seemed to want to present a nuanced position which did not indirectly criticize Mr. Phillips or the Black Hebrew Israelites.

        I appreciate the fact that you admit to being a liberal Catholic, Justin. Many in your camp will not own their actual sentiments instead behaving as stealth Democrats. The problem for liberal religion is that it eventually devolves into a doctrinal mush with every man setting his own bounds on truth.

        I regret it if you see me as an angry man.

        James

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        • Hi James,

          I don’t see you as an especially angry person–I only have your blog comments to guess what you might be like in real life. You seem to frequently defend conservative evangelicalism and attack ‘the liberal media.’ To be honest you remind me of my mother and many of my childhood friends and mentors, who are conservative evangelical fundamentalists. After thirty-something years of exposure, I feel l know that world and culture very well. You don’t seem especially angry, but just as angry as my friends and family who intuit that the world outside their religious social bubble does not confirm the reality projected inside that bubble, and are offended by the contradictory perspective.

          By the way, I think of myself as a liberal Catholic, but I am not a Democrat. Since you seem interested, I am a registered Independent with leanings towards whichever party works towards universal human dignity because my faith directly informs my politics (but not the other way around). It’s true that my doctrinal perspective is not especially rigid. I am more interested in pursuing truth than in maintaining dogmatic certitude.

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          • Dear Justin,
            Thanks for your candid posting. I enjoyed the insights you offered.

            While I am a Republican, albeit with a strong populist bias, I don’t know that I could rightly call myself an evangelical, There is just too much richness in the Latin and the Eastern Orthodox tradition to ignore. By the way, I am currently reading a clever, light biography of Thomas Aquinas written by G. K. Chesterton. As I have gotten older, I have come to realize that all Christians are standing on the shoulders of Aquinas in one way or another.
            As far as the liberal media, I think it’s hard not to be vexed by their deliberate bias. That doesn’t mean that I slavishly watch Fox News all day, but they do provide an alternative view.
            I am older than you and can recall when there were only three major networks. When my father came home from work, he would tune in to the network with Douglas Edwards who simply read the national and international news for fifteen minutes. There were no “on the spot” reporters or any of the theatrics which entered with the thirty minute nightly news. Also there were no commentators——-just Edwards reading the news from behind a desk. Obviously, the producers determined what Edwards read, but there seemed to be an effort to minimize the hyping of a story as we see today.
            At this point in my life, I get most of my news from satellite, short wave, off-air radio, print, and internet. T.V. is not my first choice.

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