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February 14, 2012

“Once a Catholic, Always a Catholic”

Roy Meachum

Barack Obama caught hell at Washington’s Conservative Political Action Conference this weekend. That’s not news. But Saturday the right-wingers scoffed at the president’s shift on birth control insurance, away from the position the Tea Party is founded on.


Fiscally I agree on many parts and points the GOP candidates cite. We’ve given too blank a check to past administrations, e.g. the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the way financial institutions were allowed to roam freely. Last Friday’s $25 billion fine on housing lenders was but a step in the right direction. Many banks and mortgage companies practiced fraud on the American people, while political conservatives argued they had the right in this free society. To crown the precedent, the Supreme Court of the United States judged that a corporation has the same political rights as an individual citizen.


Requiring insurance underwriters to pick up the tab for Catholic companies and hospitals (to pay for reproductive services like birth control and the morning-after pill) will naturally increase premiums for everyone insured. To demand otherwise flies in face of all principles the Democratic Party is based upon, which is why I’ve never changed my registration to the GOP. My party requires no one to lock step with anybody else. Will Rogers spoke for me: “I belong to no organized political party. I’m a Democrat.”


The statement has much to do with why I’m no longer Roman Catholic. Congregation of Holy Cross brothers educated me, but I was always uneasy in a church with so many naysays. I threw up my hands when the Counsels of Vatican II said it was okay to eat meat in Lent and other arbitrary rules that I had minded for years. I was in Rome, covering a Bishops’ Synod for The Washington Star, when hundreds of ordained priests showed up demanding the right to marry.


My introduction to church politics came in 1967 when Catholic University attempted to fire moral theologian Father Charles Curran, who taught that conscience should guide individual reactions. Hundreds of students, faculty and the public protested his treatment, taking over the university that canceled all classes for a week. On the eve of the anti-Vietnam demonstrations, it proved respect for authority rarely existed; I was brought up saying “Yes, ma’am” and “No, sir.” Within 10 years, Richard M. Nixon was ousted from the White House. Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter were sent on their ways after a single-term.


Over the years, countless Catholics responded to surveys that in spite of Humanae Vitae encyclical, they employed condoms and other birth control methods. On Friday, when the president announced the shift, the 1973 organization, Catholics for Choice, ran full-page ads in The Washington Post and other newspapers; artwork illustrated that purportedly 98 percent of church members practice birth control.


Still, bishops, official lay leaders and the Vatican purported to speak for all Catholics, including me, I suppose. “Once a Catholic, always a Catholic” is a phrase. I attend New Market’s Grace Episcopal Church and keep current on my financial pledge, with envelopes on Sundays. After service, I drink coffee in the rectory, right off MD 75 (Green Valley Road), going to Libertytown.


The Catholic Church was at one time a refuge for immigrants, which contradicts the political right-wing. The GOP resembles more and more the early Know Nothing Party, which came into life to resist the Irish Catholic flight to America. For most of the post-Civil War years, the Republican reason for being was to keep formerly Confederate states down in the political cellar. Mr. Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” with its frank pro-segregation bent changed all that.


Now Rome has aligned with the Ku Klux Klan, which confuses the memories from the Holy Cross chapel when May Benediction services left the room hazy with incense and candle smoke.


Che peccato, as the Romans say. What a sin, in English.


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