Catholics & the 2004 Presidential Election - Collected Readings & Resources

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

The Popularity of Ambiguity  

Posted by Oswald at 12:06 PM

I was recently stuck in a traffic jam in Sterling Heights, MI, one of the original enclaves of the famous Reagan Democrats. As you may recall, the Reagan Democrats were those traditional, usually working-class Democratic voters who crossed party lines to elect Reagan twice as president. This time the traffic jam was caused by Bush supporters heading to an outdoor rally at which George W. Bush would speak. It is likely that more than a few Reagan Democrats were headed to the rally. All of which raised for me the different personal styles of Reagan and Bush on one hand and John Kerry on the other.

If the pollsters are correct, a "gender gap" persists in this presidential election with more women preferring Kerry, while more men prefer Bush. Whether that gap will last until November 2nd is unclear. My own hypothesis is that the gender gap may have to do with our differing cultural reactions to assertive politicians with a penchant for morally unambiguous statements. Back in the eighties, when Reagan stated the abundantly obvious—that the Soviet Union was an "evil empire"—he was roundly criticized as a warmonger by the liberals and the liberal media. Reagan had committed the sin of making a clear-cut distinction between good and evil. Reagan had played the role of the assertive male. At the same time, Margaret Thatcher, the "Iron Lady," was playing the role of the assertive female who did not shrink from calling a spade a spade and was also the target of venomous criticism.

The assertive proclamation of good and evil is viewed in today's culture as insensitive and unintelligent. We can see that in the current paralysis by many Catholic bishops on the question of denying the Eucharist to pro-abortion politicians. Some—including most recently Bishop Mengeling of the Diocese of Lansing, MI—take cover in the obvious fact that they can't read the minds of every Catholic seeking to receive communion. Of course, this excuse is transparently baseless. No one is talking about denying the Eucharist to anonymous parishioners. We are talking about prominent political celebrities who go out of their way to publicly reaffirm again and again that they are leaders in the pro-abortion movement. There is no need to read their minds or consciences. They have spilled forth the contents of their minds for all, but the most timorous, to see. But there is a strong cultural affinity for the "nice" approach that shrinks from unambiguous confrontation with evil.

In a way, an inaccurate view and caricature of Christ has been partly responsible for this cultural preference for moral ambiguity. The false image of Christ that is the darling of liberal Protestants and liberal Catholics is that of Christ as the sensitive male who never confronts evil. The Gospel picture is radically different. Christ was brutally executed because he would not desist from confrontation. Christ had a spine of steel, while the caricature is that of a biblically fictitious person who would have offended no one and would have never been executed.

But back to political preferences. Today, George W. Bush is the favorite political target of those, both male and female, who favor the morally ambiguous male. Bush is mocked and derided as unintelligent, as a warmonger, and even as a killer of civilians because he dared to overthrow a genocidal tyrant who terrorized thousands of his subjects for years while the U.N. engaged in endless debate. Bush routinely refers to the terrorists as evildoers, while the culturally sensitive seek to focus exclusively on the excuses and frustrations that lead to terrorism.

Kerry, on the other hand, with his trademark pink salmon-colored tie, is the quintessential tortured Hamlet who is incapable of making a clear judgment call. He is for and against everything, and breathes ambiguity. The ambiguity even enveloped for years his own ethnic background. As reported by the Boston Globe, Kerry was happy to leave Massachusetts voters for years with the useful impression that he was of Irish Catholic background. To the surprise of many who had been his constituents for years, Kerry lacks any Irish Catholic background. Kerry's ambiguity extends to more significant matters: rejecting Catholic teaching on abortion but refusing to get out of the communion line, supporting and then attacking the Iraq War, crowing against gas guzzling vehicles but owning an SUV, basing his whole campaign on his Vietnam war record but refusing to release all of his military records, and making populist attacks on tax cuts for the rich while at the same time being an extremely wealthy man with a conspicuously opulent lifestyle who supports his heiress wife's refusal to release her own tax returns. In sum, Kerry is the incarnation of the cultural affinity for the Hamlet-like, sensitive, "intelligent" male paralyzed by distinctions.

Experience teaches many of us that, at some point, excessive introspection is not a sign of intelligence but of moral escapism. Life is by nature dramatic and requires dramatic choices. That is how we form our character. Yet, we see a strong cultural affinity for ambiguity that is a mark of our preference for seeking escape, whether in the pursuit of power, alcohol or other drugs, pornography, or materialism. In the real world, escape is sometimes not an option. Sometimes you must make a clear choice and take up the cross.

Ongoing commentary by the editors of CatholicKerryWatch

Sen. John Kerry stands with Kate Michelman (right) President of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

Since 1995, Michelman's group has given Kerry a 100% rating for his voting record to defend abortion.


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Contributing Editors:

Oswald Sobrino of
Catholic Analysis

Earl E. Appleby of
Times Against Humanity

Jeff Miller of
The Curt Jester

Ad Limina Apostolorum

Christopher Blosser of
Against The Grain

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Kerry's Critics


Ad Limina Apostolorum
The Black Republican
The Blog From The Core
Catholics for Bush [Blog]
Catholic Light
Defensor Fidei (Jimmy Akin)
Domenico Bettinelli, Jr.
The Galvin Opinion
Just Being Frank
Laudem Gloriae
Let's Try Freedom
Mark Shea
[The Meandering Mind of a Seminarian]
The Mighty Barrister
Open Book
Thrown Back
TriCoastal Commission


Catholics Against Kerry
De Fide
Kerry Wrong For Catholics
Priests For Life

News Resources

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Mallon's Media Watch
New York Times
Yahoo News

Kerry Communion Watch @

The Candidates on Abortion: Where do they stand?




National Catholic Reporter
National Catholic Register
The Hill
Crisis Magazine
National Review
Weekly Standard

Related Documents & Articles

Worthiness To Recieve Communion: General Principles
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger

Doctrinal Note on some questions regarding The Participation of Catholics in Political Life
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

Evangelium Vitae
Pope John Paul II

Worthy to Receive the Lamb: Catholics in Political Life and the Reception of Holy Communion, from Archbishop Donoghue (Atlanta, GA), Bishop Baker (Charleston, SC) and Bishop Jugis (Charlotte, NC).
August 4, 2004

Catholics in Political Life U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. June 7, 2004.

Catholic Politicians and Bishops. By Most Rev. Raymond L. Burke, Archbishop of St. Louis. America June 21-28, 2004.

A Time For Honesty, Pastoral Statement by The Most Reverend John J. Myers, Archbishop of Newark. May 5, 2004.

Why Communion Could Be Denied to Anti-Life Legislators. Interview with Father Thomas Williams, dean of the School of Theology of the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum.

Why Don't Catholic Politicians Practice What the Catholic Church Preaches?, by Judie Brown. Washington Dispatch April 19, 2004.

How to tell a Duck from a Fox: Thinking with the Church as we look toward November, by Archbishop Chaput. Denver Catholic Register April 14, 2004.

On the Dignity of Human Life and Civic Responsibility, a Pastoral Letter by La Crosse Bishop Raymond L. Burke.

Blood On Their Hands: Exposing Pro-abortion Catholic Politicians, by Mark Stricherz. Crisis May 2003.

The Failure of Catholic Political Leadership, by Robert P. George & William E. Saunders. Crisis 18, No. 4 (April 2000).

Denying Holy Communion: A Case History, by Bishop Emeritus Rene Henry Gracida. [PDF Format].

Ten questions regarding the denial of the Eucharist, by Barbara Kralis.

Recommmended Reading

John Kerry, Abortion and the Catholic Church

Irreconcilable Differences", by Matthew Mehan. NRO Sept. 16, 2004.

John Courtney Murray and the 'Liberal Catholic' Justification of Abortion Investigative report by Christopher Blosser. August 30, 2004.

"Please answer the question, Senator Kerry", The Mighty Barrister. August 2, 2004.

You wouldn't even ask. Fr. Pavone (Priests for Life). July 2004.

Kerry isn't making abortion stand clear, by Raymond J. Keating. Newsday July 27, 2004.

Senator Kerry May Be Human . . . But is He a Person?, Catholic Kerry Watch. July 23, 2004.

Kerry's Catholic Problem, by Brent Bozell. July 7, 2004.

The Body Politic and the Body of Christ: Candidates, Communion and the Catholic Church. Debate btw/ Thomas J. Reese, S.J. and George Weigel. June 23, 2004.

The Kerry challenge, by George Weigel. May 5, 2004.

Rites and Wrongs: Why John Kerry should not take communion, by Philip F. Lawler. Wall Street Journal April 30, 2004.

John Kerry's Catholic Problem", by Cal Thomas. April 26, 2004.

Kerry Distorting Catholic Doctrine. interviews George Weigel. April 16, 2004.

"Personally Opposed, But…" Five Pro-Abortion Dodges, by Todd M. Aglialoro. Crisis April 1, 2004.

On Embryonic Stem-Cell Research

Reagan vs. Reagan and The Stem-Cell Cover-Up, Catholic Kerry Watch, August 14, 2004.

Senator Kerry dismisses religious convictions as "ideology"  Catholic Kerry Watch. August 9, 2004.

Ron Reagan & Functionalism, Revisited, Catholic Kerry Watch. July 29, 2004.

Out of Touch, by Michael Fumento. Refuting Kerry's claims on the use of embryonic stem cells. Citizen Magazine August 2004.

Stem Cell Defection, by Ramesh Ponnuru. National Review August 16, 2004.

Stem Cell Research: Fact Sheets, Letters to Congress and Articles from the USCCB.

On Voting, "Proportionality" and Cardinal Ratzinger's Memorandum

What Ratzinger Said, by James Akin. Sept. 9, 2004.

Bishops Refute Flawed Theology (of Andrew Greeley) Barbara Kralis. August 22, 2004.

Thoughts on Proportionality, Catholic Kerry Watch. July 12, 2004.

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