“When, one wonders, will Catholics hear a letter from the pulpit on the vital question of torture – and the support for it from a leading Catholic candidate for the presidency?”

When indeed?

Leading Catholic conservative, advocate of gay marriage and center-right Obama supporter Andrew Sullivan –he’s an interesting guy, well worth a read – is fed up with the Cafeteria Catholicism of the Church’s hierarchy.

While the Church is insatiably keen to interfere in affairs of state that intimately affect the lives, health and rights of non-Catholics on questions of abortion, gay marriage and even contraception – with prominent US bishops eagerly denouncing leading Catholic Democrats as unworthy of receiving communion –this same hierarchy is the first to claim “religious persecution!”  the moment the state asserts its primacy in setting public health policy. See recent and ongoing showdown on access to contraceptives for more.

So why do the righteous moral protests and threats to withhold communion fall deafeningly silent the moment prominent Catholic politicians, like leading Republic nominee Rick Santorum, campaign on violating core Church teachings on torture?

  • westprog

    When I saw that heading, I assumed it had particular Irish relevance. It wouldn’t be too difficult to replace the American names in that story with Irish ones.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Is Santorum practising or enabling torture … because just saying words is just you know … Freedom of Speech.

    I think that the American people won’t enable him to enable.

  • ed

    err a…I guess when the U.S. government forces them to pay for torture? The question is over forcing church insititutions to pay for things that directly go against church doctrine.

  • Ruarai

    ed –

    Nice try but the Church explicitly rejected a compromise based on NOT having to pay:


    Plus, cost-provision is just one question (and an incomplete summary of it – see links)

    There are others, contained in the post, such as the double standards on abortion vs. torture vis-a-vis communion denial. And before you suggest that the payment issue is new, consider who pays for torture. And even if they were given a cost-exemption on that one too, they’ve been quiet on their own teachings on human dignity with regard to that issue in stark contrast to the domestic health rights questions.

  • ed

    Ruarai, who’s your beef against? The Catholic church, Santorum or the Republican party? And due to what event? The Bishops replied to a mandate imposed upon them.It is totaly acceptable for them to do. They do speak out against the death penalty, torture and war on a regular basis. I see no double standard and I’m not even Catholic! Santorum doesn’t speak for the Catholic church. He is another flag waiving crusader and the Republican party is, well, the Republican party. The birth control mandate came down as a cost saving issue. I think it makes sense but it ought not be imposed upon religious organizations.

  • Taoiseach

    Still laughing at your describing Andrew Sullivan as a “Catholic conservative”.

    Ed has it spot on. When Santorum tries to bring in legislation forcing Catholics to commit acts of torture then the comparison will fly.

  • Ruarai

    T – read his book, The Conservative Soul


    As for the legislation and the debate around it, you’re either following it or not. Here’s a recap:


  • Brian

    Screw the Church hiearchy.

    98% of Catholics have used contraception or birth control at some point. These Church leaders are out of touch and going completely overboard.

    And then there is this: Don’t accept any government money if you have a problem with complying government guidelines on health insurance. Don’t accept government money and you can do whatever you want. You can’t have it both ways….at least you shouldn’t be able to.

  • Ruarai

    ed – your points can be answered if you reread the posts and even some of the links.

    The communion example was deliberaly choosen from 2004 (long beore this health care debate) and was based on principle oppostion, not payment mechanisms. If you can find an equivalent example applied on the principle of torture, please share.

    I think it makes sense but it ought not be imposed upon religious organizations.” – And the compromise meant it wasn’t – see NYT link above.

  • Harry Flashman

    Ruari, I’ve read your post three times now and besides a dazzlement of red ink I cannot make head nor tail of what you are talking about. Who or what is advocating torture? Is Rick Santorum or the Catholic Church?

    Can you make it a bit simpler please for those of us not in the know?

  • ed

    The compromise was little more than a sleight of hand trick. Here’s an idea- how about we not require religious institutions to carry insurance that compromises their values and beliefs? If the employees of said institutions are not happy with that they can either pay for their own contraception or find another job. Why is it so important that Catholic institutions offer contraception to it’s employees? Isn’t there more important issues in regards to health care in this country? And why paint the Bishops in a bad light? Is anyone surprised by the fact that they don’t want to offer contraception to people who work for CATHOLIC institutions? People get so wrapped up, and I think that’s what your initial post did, in the argument and fight that they lose sight of what the fight is about. How ’bout leave private insurance companies alone and require the federal government to provide free contraceptionon demand. I’m sure a cost analysis of that would certainly be favorableto the government in the long run….

  • ed

    “Don’t accept any government money if you have a problem with complying government guidelines on health insurance”

    I don’t believe they are taking any government money. They use private insurance companies, of their choosing, based on what is right for their needs just as a business would do. They are not asking to have it both ways so what are you talking about? Please explain?

  • ed

    Brian- and the fact that 98% of Catholics use birth control is beside the point. Last time I checked the Roman Catholic church isn’t a democracy. 98% of people sin (if you believe in that sort of thing). Certainly you’re not suggesting that the church should condone that too!

  • Ruarai

    Harry – the original link is to Sullivan’s discussion of Santorum’s defense of torture/enhanced interrogation (as Sullivan points out, from a Catholic doctrine perspective, the distinction makes no difference).

    Sullivan takes issue -rightly, I believe – with:

    a) Santorum presenting his faith as his defining moral compass while rejecting this core component of Church teaching

    b) The lack of Catholic hierarchy sanction for his double standard, particularly because he’s currently one of the most, if not the most, prominent public face of Catholicism and its relationship with US politics

    I offered a reinforcement of Sullivan’s criticism of the Church’s relative silence on this ‘Cafeteriaism’ by Santorum. Namely, the Church hierarchy is taking a Cafeteria approch to their own teachings with regards to when they are choosing to play a leading advocacy role in public policy debates, an advocacy role that has frequently involved rebuking elected Catholic officials who dissent. And these rebukes – such as threatening Presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004 with no longer receiving the sacrament of communion – have crystalized the Church hierarchy’s priorities.

    (ed then entered a red herring attempt to reframe the debate on contraceptive coverage as being a debate about cost responsibilities. A compromise offer removing the Church from the need to directly provide contraceptives to eomployees of Catholic run employers like hospitals or universities or schools was rejected by the Church bishops. A rejection, incidently, that Catholic Charities, to their credit, publicly criticized the bishops for.)

    ed – to your question: “how about we not require religious institutions to carry insurance that compromises their values and beliefs? If the employees of said institutions are not happy with that they can either pay for their own contraception or find another job.”…Here’s a better idea:

    Let’s allow elected public representatives, overseen by the courts, to decide on public health policy. They’re in the process of doing so and this process will result in every woman employed in the US having access to contraception by virtue of her employment in the US and not the tastes, morals, whimps or budgets of her employers.

    So your like it or lump it approach will indeed apply – with one difference. It won’t, any longer, be the non-Catholic janitor working in one of the few jobs available to her that has to lump it anymore.

  • FuturePhysicist

    I feel Ruarai you’re only using Torture views as political currency here. How should a church sanction a person simply for speaking against its views?

    Where is the inconsistency?

    The church does not believe in contraception therefore it does not want to issue it.

    The church does not believe in torture therefore it’s not going to hand out torture apparatus either.

    And since Santorum hasn’t engaged or enabled torture he has not committed the sin of torture … all you want is for the Catholic Church to crack down on free speech.

  • Neil

    I don’t think anyone would suggest that should Santorum win, that it would be acceptable to allow your religious beliefs. If every world leader’s pronouncement was predicated on the rules of their faith there would never be any wars (and most certainly no extra judicial killings on the streets of foreign countries or drone strikes of any kind).

    He can believe what he wants, but if he were to become president that would not make the the President of US Catholics but the President of the USA. His religious life should in no way inhibit his ability to make the correct moves for the many faiths and none that he would theoretically represent. This includes breaking the rules of the church if necessary, though we Christians of all types are on a winner anyway as our God’s a forgiving one.

  • Neil

    Should read

    *I don’t think anyone would suggest that should Santorum win, that it would be acceptable to allow your religious beliefs to influence your policy

  • Taoiseach

    This thread is a little confused at this point, isn’t it. There’s the issue of torture, contraception, conscience, freedom of religion, right of a Church to have its own policies on communion.

    Santorum’s line is that the interview techniques he supports aren’t torture. Most of them are the sort used in Long Kesh which the ECHR ruled were not great, but not torture either. The term “breaking” doesn’t mean destroy – we all know what it means in the context of interviewing suspects and it’s legitimate. The bishops have been very clear in being opposed to torture – but there is room for debate on the specifics and Santorum is in that space.

    The contraception mandate – there’s a couple of issues – the federal government forcing private individuals and employers to have health insurance for things set by Fed Gov is probably unconstitutional per se. Forcing a church to provide insurance for things it regards as evil such as contraception, abortificients, sterilisation will almost certainly by found by Supreme Court to breach the 1st amendment. The so called compromise is, if anything worse – you pretend not to provide the insurance and we’ll get the companies to pretend the services are free which clearly they are not.

    Communion – it is clearly the right and responsibility of the Church to control who receives the sacraments within the Church. The likes of Pelosi and Sebelius should not be given communion as they are clearly “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin” (Canon 915) by their public support for abortion.

    As for the notion that someone’s religious beliefs that someone’s religious beliefs should not influence their policy, why not? If someone is an environmentalist I would expect that to influence their policy; if someone believes passionaltely in the free market that will influence their policy; if someone has a strong belief in equality and against racism you would expect that to influence their policy. But somehow uniquely a Catholic politician should take their beliefs off like it were a hat when they go into the White House? Every politician has to make prudential judgements based on principles. A Catholic president won’t eat meat on Fridays in Lent. But he won’t propose making it a law either, the way Obama might. If he’s hosting a State dinner he might go for salmon. He’s against abortion and will veto any bill supporting it. He’s against contraception, thinks it’s sinful. He won’t make it illegal. But he won’t want to pay for you using it either. So much of what a politician does comes down to prudence. Is making Chrismas Day a federal holiday imposing religious views? Is the concept of a weekend a Judeao Christian plot?

  • Brian

    Catholic charities and hospitals receive 62% of their funding from the Federal Government.

    That is what I’m talking about. If they don’t want to abide by the government’s rules, then don’t take any money from them.

  • Taoiseach

    Brian – firstly, this law obliges all employers, not just those receiving federal funds.

    Secondly, lets remember where the Federal funding comes from – it’s tax payers money, not the Government. A hospital doing vital work in the community should be able to receive funding without having to act against its conscience.

  • Brian

    Yes, and the tax payers elected representatives who make laws on public health care policy.

    They, also, overwhelmingly support the rights of women to have access to contraception through their health insurance. That is why the Chuch, and others, are doing their best to make this into some sort of “War on Religion’ to appeal to people’s emotions and not their reason.

    The Church, incidentally, supported the passage of the very same health care legislation that they now decry. You don’t get, or you shouldn’t, get to pick and choose what part of the law/regulation you like and abide by.

    Many people who work for Catholic hospitals or charities are not Catholic; in some cases that is where they have the opportunity to help people, since those charities receive the funding. I don’t think they should be forced to cover their own birth control or contraception out of pocket just because the Church leadership thinks it is evil or wrong.

  • andnowwhat

    I became aware of this american lunatic fringe while flicking through the channels on my TV in Thailand.

    It seemed to be based around Franciscan monks but the madness they were espousing was more like something from a boogy woogy church’s channel. Lots of women with lots of Stepford Wives style smiles but very, very fundamentalist and quite right wing.

    Even before the crash of scandals, RC’s always took much of the church’s teachings and practices with a pinch of salt and zealots were regarded as “Holy Mary’s” or nut jobs.

    According to Catholic media at the time, many commentators had face slap moments of astonishment when Benny (the man who said that Brazllian indians longed for their lands to be conquered so they could find Christ. WTF!) was elected as Pope and unable to feel the direction of the wind, Benny has tried to bring the church even further to the right (though, he seems to think that rent boys are the only people on the planet who are morally right to use johnnys).

    Now, does the above fit in to the Santorum version of the faith?

  • Can anyone enlighten me as to which Christian Sect played the leading role in assisting German mass murderers of mainly those evil Jewish people to escape to relative comfort in South America after 1945?

  • Ruarai

    In an update over on the Daily Dish, the continued conversation State-side mirrored almost exactly where our tussel was 20 hours earlier:


  • abucs

    I think you are referring to some of the German officers sneaking out of Germany using the same escape lines set up by that so called ‘sect’ which saved countless numbers of Jewish lives both before and after 1945.