Information, observations, and analysis from the James River valley on the Northern Plains-----
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The Catholic Church maintains its firm alliance with the ultra-regressives in its vendetta against Tom Daschle. That is good. It reminds us of the original motives behind the Reformation and why our ancestors emigrated to America when the protestant state churches intruded themselves into their private lives in their homelands. It recalls Roger Williams, the first American to articulate the principle of separation of church and state, when he said "God requireth not an uniformity of religion to be enacted and enforced in any civil state, which enforced uniformity (sooner or later) is the greatest occasion of civil war, ravishing of conscience, persecution of Christ Jesus in his servants, and of the hypocrisy and destruction of millions of souls."
The ultra-regressives are complaining that Tom Daschle is still in evidence on the political scene. Alternatives to their neo-fascist concepts of returning to the feudalism of lords (aka CEOs in our time) and clerics who will dictate all terms of life to a huge serfdom sends them into sputtering rages. Tom Daschle represented the forward embrace of gains our civilization made in civil rights, privacy and individual freedom, equality and equity, and a state of intelligent peace as opposed to a war of mindless belligerence. Those concepts of personal freedom and equity are what the ultra-regressives call "liberalism." To most of us, they represent the only state of tolerable existence.
The main charge against Tom Daschle is that he is one of those liberals. He advocates a form of democracy that gives ordinary people the power and resources to live independent from those who would hold them in thralldom. Sometimes that means a government big enough and strong enough to enforce the concepts of equal justice. That does not necessarily mean big government, but it does mean effective government in enforcing democracy for all. The ultra-regressives want to see the gains in individual liberty and autonomy turned back. They challenge affirmative action, collective bargaining, healthcare for all, freedom from poverty, and freedom of choice.
Tom Daschle is a Roman Catholic and a devout American. Some in the Roman Catholic church say he cannot be both. While the ultra-regressives are howling in great discomfort that Tom Daschle is still around, they raise their pitch to a screech on his stand on abortion. Tom Daschle has stated, repeatedly, that he does not approve of abortion. He has stated and acted, repeatedly, on the premise that abortion is a matter for a woman to decide with her physician. Tom Daschle's stance is consistent with what a majority of Americans have expressed, repeatedly, through polls.
While we do not approve of abortion, neither do we approve of government dictating to people the decisions they make about their personal lives. The belief that the government should make criminals out of people who violate our religiously-derived moral preferences is, to many us, a concession to those forces who would take our civil liberties and dictate the conditions of our personal lives. Abortion is a dilemma, but like Roger Williams, we think it must be decided not through the contrivance of law, but through "that sword which is only (in soul matters) able to conquer, to wit, the sword of God's spirit, the word of God." Although the anti-abortion militants have erected an elaborate argument that abortion is baby-killing and murder, their position is not held as credible by many governments in the civilized world and by many cultural practices that have existed in our own country. The theological and legal certitudes that the anti-abortion militants proclaim do not have the universal theological and scientific credibility.
Tom Daschle is still a player on the political stage, and that in itself is a source of great fury among the ultra-regressives. He represents an obstacle to their moral bullying. But when he appeared at fund-raiser for the Planned Parenthood organization in Santa Barbara, Calif., he set off the old clamor about him being a hypocrite for disapproving of abortion and supporting the right-to-choose at the same time. The neo-regressives cannot deal with the concept that one can disapprove of abortion but think it is more wrong to have government dictate to women how they are to make crucial choices about their personal lives. It is a matter of whether the state should become the instrument of a theocracy.
A number of web logs have taken up the matter of Tom Daschle's speech to the Planned Parenthood group. According to the news reports, he said "he has always had a special affinity for the organization, as the two have similar enemies within the Religious Right and elsewhere."
In a practice of using partial quotations and false paraphrases familiar to readers of ultra-regressive blogs, a Catholic cleric renders the report as, "The erstwhile public official assured his audience that he has always had an affinity for the organization because they shared similar foes, especially pro-life groups."
The issue goes beyond abortion. Tom Daschle, and those identified as liberals, have enemies among the religious and other ultra-regressives. To identify them, one need only recall who sponsored the advertisements of character assassination and false accusations of the political campaign a year ago. Where Monsignor Charles M. Mangan, writing in Catholic Online, is challenged by truth and accuracy is when he changes "Religious Right and elsewhere" to "especially pro-life groups." Daschle is speaking against those religious groups who would impose their sectarian preferences and brands of oppression through government law. Msgr. Mangan, in one of those Orwellian word-shifts of denotation, tries to make it sound as if Tom Daschle was singling out pro-life groups as his enemy. He says in good inquisitional style that Tom Daschle "attended a function that can only be termed a pitiful 'celebration' of abortion."
According to the doctrine of religious intolerance expressed in Catholic Online, one cannot be pro-life and pro-choice. Tom Daschle, and most of the country, are pro-life but anti-totalitarian. Our ancestors fought this battle throughout the centuries as they formed an American government that separates theocratic dictatorship from democratic rule, and we don't really want to fight it again.
So, Tom Daschle, that "erstwhile elected official" continues to be the subject of an inquisition. That raises some questions about the Supreme Court. If a former Senator is subject to such agitation from the Catholic Church, how about other government officials. If Samuel Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court is approved, here is how the court will look according to religious affiliation:
John Roberts (Chief Justice) --Catholic
Stephen G. Breyer --Jewish
Ruth Bader Ginsburg --Jewish
Anthony M. Kennedy --Catholic
Antonin Scalia --Catholic
David H. Souter --Episcopalian
John Paul Stevens --Protestant
Clarence Thomas --Catholic
Samuel Alito --Catholic
We can only hope, to paraphrase John Kennedy, that the five Catholic justices would be primarily Supreme Court justices who happen to be Catholic, not Catholics who became Supreme Court justices.
Msgr. Mangan closes his tome against Tom Daschle with a benediction that sounds more like a malediction loaded with purgatorial menace: "May God have mercy on that former elected official."
May our Supreme Court be free of that kind of blessing. We depend upon it to keep us all free from that kind of blessing.