Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dodd’s Way

What percentage of the Connecticut Congressional delegation is Catholic?

Some orthodox Catholics would say zero percent. To turn a phrase, it depends on what you mean by Catholic.”

Sen. Chris Dodd is a well known Catholic.

At least, he was baptized into the Catholic Church. His immediate family – Sen. Tom Dodd and his mother Grace – were indisputably Catholic. We all were in the early 40s when baby Dodd was received into the Catholic communion.

But there is a question mark hanging like a Damoclean sword over Chris Dodd’s head. Being Catholic is similar to but not exactly the same as being a member of the Democrat Party.

Catholics have a thing called communion which, in addition to being a sacrament, also points to the unity of the church. In fact the words “unity of the church” are pronounced in the liturgy when the faithful take communion. And if you are not in doctrinal unity with the faith, you ought not to take the sacrament which, in any case, will not be efficacious.

Sometimes when public Catholics are visibly and ostentatiously not in communion with the Catholic Church, they are denied communion by the heads of their church. About a year ago, a great stir was created in the media when some Catholic bishops threatened to excommunicate a few senators who vigorously supported abortion. There are a few reasons for this, the most important of which is that the Catholic senators had advertised themselves as being Catholic. Leading Catholics are supposed to lead by example, to use a much abused expression.

Some would say Dodd is a poor example of a Catholic, one who is not in communion with his church on matters considered important to the church.

Think of it this way: Dodd is a liberal Democrat. Let’s suppose that tomorrow he were to reject the progressive income tax as incompatible with good government and come out in favor of a flat tax –publicly, volubly, boastfully.

Under those circumstances, befuddled Democrats would question both Dodd’s sanity, his standing within the Democrat Party and his political acumen, since most voters in Connecticut are Democrats who hold the Democrat line on the question of the progressive income tax. We should not be surprised in such a case if leading Democrats in his party rail against him. Among them there would be not a few who would be calling for his ouster from the Democrat Party on the grounds that he had converted to a heretical form of Republicanism. No one would be the surprised at any of this.

When Sen. Joe Lieberman jumped ship – actually he was forced to walk the plank by certain disgruntled Democrats who supported Ned Lamont in a fractious primary – by supporting Sen. John McCain rather than Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. Hillary Clinton for president in the last campaign, there were calls that the party’s doors should be bolted shut against him. No one was surprised at this, least of all Sen. Lieberman, who had already made a graceful exit by running for re-election to the senate as an independent.

Why should we deny to the Catholic Church a similar means of purgation thought to be therapeutic in political circumstance?

Dodd and other Catholic politicians who are not in communion with their church are bad examples.

This much obvious in matters of abortion and gay marriage: Dodd should not be permitted to get within ten feet of a catechumen, at least on the point of abortion and, lately, gay marriage.

Dodd’s position on this issue – if he can be said to have a position – is, from a Catholic point of view, simply incredible. It lacks credibility. People who make up a kind of synthetic religion as they go along will find it satisfactory. Because that is what Dodd has done: He is making it up as he goes along, as many politicians do.

Here is what Dodd said: “While I’ve long been for extending every benefit of marriage to same-sex couples, I have in the past drawn a distinction between a marriage-like status (“civil unions”) and full marriage rights.

“The reason was simple: I was raised to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. And as many other Americans have realized as they’ve struggled to reconcile the principle of fairness with the lessons they learned early in life, that’s not an easy thing to overcome.”

Such beliefs, common in benighted Catholic households when Dodd was received into the church, are subject to revision by ambitious public figures, increasingly at the whim of the revisionist.

“I believe that effective leaders must be able and willing to grow and change over their service. I certainly have during mine – and so has the world. Thirty-five years ago, who could have imagined that we’d have an African-American President of the United States?”

So, Dodd has grown up, after having had a conversation with some gay rights activists. Would his growth have been any different if he had had a conversation with his priest?

Probably not.

The reasoning here is just silly: I believed A when I was a thoughtless child; I have grown up; now I believe not-A.” This is a radical reversion of Paul’s declaration, “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” Paul had a reason. Dodd had a political opportunity to put himself in the good graces of yet another liberal constituency at a time when he has been weakened by political controversies.

There are different kinds of growth. It was Cardinal Newman who said that to become perfect is to have changed often. But Dodd’s “growth” is a radical departure from the theology of his church, one which, if persisted in, will and should leave him outside the church doors. He is “growing” out of his faith, and if he continues on this path, he should have the decency to leave his church and join a syncretistic faith more to his liking.
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