Opinion: Obama and American Catholics? Responding to Kathleen Kennedy Townsend
title of the new encyclical, Veritate (Truth), which is a necessary part of religion and only occasionally a feature of politics, that Townsend misses. In an age of moral relativism, those without the guidance of the Bible and Holy Tradition have come to use the word “charity” in the same way they use “tolerance”, meaning unquestioning acceptance of any behavior. The Pope warns in the introduction to his new encyclical that, “I am aware of the ways in which charity has been and continues to be misconstrued and emptied of meaning, with the consequent risk of being misinterpreted, detached from ethical living and, in any event, undervalued … charity in its turn needs to be understood, confirmed and practiced in the light of truth … Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love.”
Townsend is representative of those who have ignored two thousand years of Church teaching in order to make God in their own image. They apply moral relativism to today’s problems and arrive at some sort of secular humanism that proposes solutions that are entirely outside the realm of reasonable, let alone doctrinal, thinking. These solutions are seen by them as “charitable”. They would contend, for example, that it is charitable to abort a baby than to risk the chance that it might have problems, be they medical, parental, or social, later in life. Presumably that decision was not reached by polling the intended victims.
In her piece, Townsend provides a perfect example of the disparity between truth and liberal fiction. She rails against Humanae Vitae because Pope Paul VI rejected his “advisors’” opinions and declared birth control to be sinful. Unfortunately, American Catholics once again knew best, and polls have shown that they contracept with the same frequency as the rest of the population. Recently, the Pope told an audience in Cameroon that this contraceptive mentality and the resultant distribution of condoms in Africa, has actually aggravated the spread of AIDS. Townsend says he is wrong because “Seventy-nine percent of American Catholics disagree, according to a 2007 poll by Catholics for Choice (an unbiased source), and that his statement goes “against all scientific evidence and protestations from clergy on the ground…”
The problem is that the Pope’s statement does not go “against all scientific evidence”. Dr. Edward C Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development, told National Review Online, “The pope is correct, or put it a better way, the best evidence we have supports the pope's comments. We have found no consistent associations between condom use and lower HIV-infection rates, which, 25 years into the pandemic, we should be seeing if this intervention was working."
Encouraging Africans toward monogamous sexual relationships, which liberals also find a matter of personal choice and lifestyle, has proven to be a much more effective strategy that distributing condoms. "The best and latest empirical evidence indeed shows that reduction in multiple and concurrent sexual partners is the most important single behavior change associated with reduction in HIV-infection rates," Dr. Green said. “More and more AIDS experts are coming to accept the above. The two countries with the worst HIV epidemics, Swaziland and Botswana, have both launched campaigns to discourage multiple and concurrent partners, and to encourage fidelity."
Veritate. Truth. Not opinions, not slogans, not ideology. Truth. Ironically, Townsend’s book is entitled, “Failing America's Faithful: How Today's Churches Are Mixing God With Politics and Losing Their Way.” This is indeed a danger for the Church, but not in the way that Townsend means. In her opinion, “The pope has a lot to learn about Catholic politics in America.” In reality, Catholics in America need to learn from Caritas in Veritate that, “Without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is. A humanism which excludes God is an inhuman humanism. Only a humanism open to the Absolute can guide us in the promotion and building of forms of social and civic life — structures, institutions, culture and ethos — without exposing us to the risk of becoming ensnared by the fashions of the moment.”
Dr. Fred Liewehr is an endodontist who teaches at the VA Medical Center in Richmond and also works in private practice in Fredericksburg. He is a convert to Catholicism in 1983, having been drawn to Christ's Church as compellingly as a moth to a candle. He is a member of St. Benedict parish in Richmond where he sings bass in the choir. He is also a member of the Knights of Columbus and a Cooperator of Opus Dei.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
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