Article VI Blog

"Religion, Politics, the Presidency: Commentary by a Mormon, an Evangelical, and an Orthodox Christian"

United States Constitution — Article VI:

"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

The Pope’s “In Town,” As Was Huckabee, and more…

Posted by: John Schroeder at 03:58 am, April 21st 2008     —    1 Comment »

About The Pope . . .

Just so you know I am not new to this whole thing, years ago (college), I lost a girlfriend because I argued with her mother over dinner that Roman Catholics were indeed Christians. Through the course of this blog and the Romney campaign I have gained a new appreciation for the Roman Catholic Church. That church has, through history had both the worst, and, I am beginning to think – in America at least – the best, interplay with government forces of any church. And so I have been watching the papal visit with great interest. Two bits have caught my eye.

On The Good Side . . .

We have a WaPo column in praise of Catholicism from Michael Gerson.

But the Catholic Church has more than endurance on its side. It remains an indispensable institution, for several reasons:

First, despite charges of dogmatism, the church is the main defender of reason in the modern world.

[...]

So Catholicism offers a second contribution: It is the main defender of human dignity against a utilitarian view of human worth. And the church has applied this high view of man with remarkable consistency — to the unborn and the elderly, the immigrant and the disabled.

[...]

An institution accused of superstition is now the world’s most steadfast defender of rationality and human rights. It has not always lived up to its own standards, but where would those standards come from without it?

I have to agree with this assessment. There have been louder voices in the battle over abortion, for example, but few have worked harder, or more within the bounds of reasonable discourse that the Catholic voices. It is terrible difficult for Protestants of any stripe to look to the Catholic church for anything, we after all are defined by breaking away from that institution, but in this instance, I think there is much to learn. The RCC has managed to reform, albeit much more slowly than we Protestants did, and to preserve ecclesiastical authority. They cannot afford to say it so boldly, but they have reformed. (This latter point is something they share very much in common with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.) And by doing so while holding on the the good parts of their 2000 years of existence they have gotten a lot better at some things than we are.

On The Bad Side…

K-Lo got an email, in reaction to her piece in praise of the Pope.

I am sure I am not the only person disgusted by your pretending to be a good, serious, intelligent Roman Catholic. You supported a fake Christian for President. I know this. Anyone with even basic knowledge of Christianity and Mormon cultism knows this. Check your Church’s website on this, if you wish to really be more than a faux-Papist. I prefer to think that you are simply ignorant of Christian doctrine, and are to be pitied. If you knew better, you would be open to more scorn than than any one person could heap upon you. Please, quit pretending to be a Catholic in good standing. Any priest worth his salt would deny you Communion, until you admitt [sic] to your monumental error in supporting Romney and his cult.

Now, first of all, there is no way this note was written by a Catholic – no way. No self- respecting Catholic would use the term “Papist” in any context. The idea of someone not a Catholic questioning the Catholic credentials of anyone is almost beyond belief. But for a person of such obvious bigotry to attempt to defend the “Christian” label as applied to Roman Catholics is so incredible as to be laughable. I am fairly certain that K-Lo published this because it is so over the top as to be self-criticizing.

But that last phrase is quite revealing: “supporting Romney and his cult.” What is it about a presidential vote that supports the religion of the candidate? Well, in a nation that has separation of church and state – a nation like ours – nothing that I know of. And yet, this seems to be the one single mistake made by almost everyone. I have had many Mormons see my efforts here and conclude that I, as an Evangelical, support Mormonism. That is not true, I support Mormonism’s right to exist in the United States of America and I support their right to participate fully and equally in our political processes, but I do not support their doctrine – I live in competition with it. (I also think the “problems” with Mormon doctrine, at least in its current state, are somewhat overwrought, but that is a different story and not for this place.)

My point is straightforward. When you vote for someone, you vote for that person, not the church he or she belongs to. Yes, that church may help to shape people, but so did their parents and the schools they went to. We do not hand any NCAA trophies to the alma maters of our presidents. Nor do we, by by electing a person of some faith other than our own, grant the church to which that person belongs the imprimatur of “truth.”

On The Best Side . . .

Catholic News Service Reports:

For the first time, representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints participated in a papal prayer service — and it all started over coffee.

In an interview with Catholic News Service and other reporters before the start of the ecumenical prayer service at St. Joseph’s Church in New York April 18, Father James Massa, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interrreligious Affairs, said that during a coffee break at a recent meeting a representative of the Latter-day Saints asked him if there was any possibility of their participation in the papal visit.

“My reaction was, ‘Why not?’ We have shared values and there is a possibility of collaboration on a number of social issues while respecting our theological differences,” he said.

Father Massa said, “We’re not making any theological statements today,” adding, “This is a very big statement they (the Latter-day Saints) are making.”

He said the Latter-day Saints are “a bit bruised” by reaction to the presidential campaign of Republican Mitt Romney, a Mormon. National polls found that many Americans were uncomfortable with the idea of a Mormon president.

From my perspective this is proof positive of the superiority of Roman Catholicism over Protestantism, and certainly Evangelicalism in some areas. The rest of the article goes on to discuss how there are definitive theological distinctions between the RCC and CJCLDS, but at least they are willing to meet in the common areas, you know, basic things like prayer. I am tempted to go on at length about the maturity of Catholicism and the necessity of thought about sacrament and when theology matters and when it does not, but that would just be boring to all but seminary student. Instead applause to the RCC for this very smart decision AND ACTION.

Lowell chiming in:

I have a little information and insight to offer here, as well as a theory (and that’s all it is) about the difference between Catholics and Evangelicals in this regard.

It is not widely known that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the “LDS Church”) and the Roman Catholic Church have collaborated on many public issues. California Proposition 22 in 2000 (clarifying the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman) is just one example. So is this story (interesting in its own right) about “collaboration of caring” between Catholic Relief Services and the Humanitarian Emergency Response and Welfare Services of the LDS Church. So it is not new or unusual for Latter-day Saints to be involved with Catholics, at least on temporal matters.

Now for the theory. I think the Roman Catholic willingness to accept Mormons as fellow Christians stems from Catholicism’s maturity. That faith has been around for a long, long time and has been through an awful lot. And yet it’s still there, and still a powerful and stabilizing force for good in the world.

What’s interesting about this is that theologically, Mormonism’s claims go straight to the heart of Catholicism’s legitimacy as a Church. We Mormons claim direct authority from Jesus Christ, restored to Joseph Smith by a personal visit from none other than Peter, James and John, three of Christ’s original apostles. If we are right, than Catholicism is wrong, plain and simple – and vice-versa, I might add.

So it is no small thing that Catholics work with Mormons and now are willing to allow Mormon participation in a papal prayer service. That’s a much more appealing attitude than Shirley Dobson showed when she refused to allow Mormon participation in her National Day of Prayer event in Washington.

Why the difference? I think many Evangelicals are still simply nervous about their standing in the eyes of the faithful and potentially faithful. Mormon missionary efforts make them nervous, and have since the days of Joseph Smith. (This is especially true of Evangelical pastors, in my experience, who for over 150 years have been writing books warning their flocks about Mormons.) Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention says more Baptists leave that faith to become Mormons than any other, and vice-versa. I have no idea if his data are correct, but his claim is fascinating if true.

In the LDS General Conference just two weeks ago, Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church, said:

I would encourage members of the Church wherever they may be to show kindness and respect for all people everywhere. The world in which we live is filled with diversity. We can and should demonstrate respect toward those whose beliefs differ from ours.

Anyway, the Catholics are showing leadership in this regard. So is President Monson. I hope Evangelical leaders can find the courage to do the same.

And While We Are Applauding Catholics…

From the New Nixon Blog:

The Daily Kos is crying hypocrisy as Nancy Pelosi was refused in Washington. However there are key differences. Rudy Giuliani’s obligation to uphold statutory law is based on his responsible temporal power as chief executive. In addition, he expressed continued reverence for the Church. Nancy Pelosi on the other hand, possesses the legislative power to promote bills which uphold Judeo-Christian values. Unfortunately she has consistently refused.

When you put that with the third item, previous section, mountains have been spoken.

Why I Am Not Worried About Huck “Next Time”…

From Jonathon Martin:

He said that he was going to focus on long-shot candidates, folks like him who weren’t give much of a shot to win. He’ll help them with tips on how to get noticed — any and all earned media they can get! — go to states and districts to rouse the faithful.

That does not sound like a guy that really wants to be president. Winners work with winners. This preserves his opportunities to play spoiler, but does not build to a legitimate candidacy. And, in a head-to-head, spoiler cred won’t get you very far. Then there is this:

But he’ll be on the road a good bit, in part because he’s looking at what he termed some “media opportunities.”

Media opportunities do pay better, and Huck sure likes the attention.

This does make me wonder about Huck’s motivation again. He obviously has no respect for Romney at all; could the roots of that disrespect be in faith? That crack about “the faithful” is ominous.

Lowell: I’ve noted here several times the intriguing depth of Huckabee’s animosity towards Romney. Matt Lewis reports another of Huck’s latest Romney slams.

All this really says much more about Huck than about Mitt. I’ll just leave it at that.

Going Deep…

This blog caught my eye because it deals with the writings of one of the lefties that is on our list of most-bigoted writings from the campaign, Damon Linker. Didn’t know what to expect when I tuned in, but what I got was some interesting church/state thoughts from a Mormon that knows Linker personally. Worth the read.

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