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Spinning for Pols
by Thomas A. Droleskey
October 24, 2000

Soon-to-be former President William Jefferson Clinton has been looking for something to provide him with a legacy by which his presidency will be hallowed in the annals of American history. But each of us knows that our outgoing president already has a legacy of corruption, venality, vice, deception, the killing of the innocent here and abroad, and an abject distortion of reality to justify whatever he does, both personally and politically. His legacy of spinning the truth may prove to be his lasting “contribution” to American political discourse: people on both sides of the political aisle have exhibited a pronounced tendency in recent years to try to turn one thing into something else.

For example, establishment pro-life leaders went to great lengths in 1996 to try to spin Bob Dole into a genuine champion of the unborn. His votes to confirm Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Stephen Breyer were conveniently not included on scorecards issued by the National Right to Life Committee’s political action committee and the Christian Coalition in 1996. His active support for funding fetal-tissue experimentation in 1993 was ignored. The former Senate majority leader’s desire to insert a “Declaration of Tolerance” concerning abortion into the Republican Party’s 1996 national platform was an embarrassment to those who had spun so hard for him during the primaries earlier that year. His spinners assured politically naive and uninformed conservatives that the inarticulate and ever-changeable Dole was more “electable” than the articulate and principled Patrick Joseph Buchanan. The result was a disaster politically, a disaster that was not difficult to predict and one that could have been avoided had simple honesty not been replaced with spin.

The phenomenon is being repeated by establishment pro-life leaders this year with Texas Governor George W. Bush. Bush’s record of appointing pro-aborts and pro-sodomites to the Texas State Supreme Court is not mentioned. His discussion of abortion as a “matter of opinion” (not a matter of fundamental justice founded in truth) is left to stand as though he is right, that abortion is indeed a matter of “opinion” over which “good” people may disagree. His support for the destruction of little babies in certain supposedly “hard” cases as a matter of principle is accepted without complaint. His claim — in his October 3 debate with Vice President Gore — that he would be powerless as president to reverse the FDA’s decision to market the human pesticide, RU-486, was represented by his apologists as virtuous, although the handstands and gymnastics required to pull off that spin were worthy of the Rosemary Woods stretch. Bush’s statement that abortions should be “rare” bordered on the Clintonian. Nevertheless, this man who clearly does not understand the prophetic nature of the life issue must be spun into something that he is not, the truth be damned.

I carry no brief for establishment pro-life spinners and their hapless candidates, who spin as they do partly because they lack trust in the power of the truth of an uncompromising, no-exceptions pro-life message to resonate with voters. However, another reason they feel compelled to spin is that they seek to do battle with pro-abortion Democrats who have the tacit support of the leftist establishment within the highest quarters of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference. The vice president’s partisans are trying to spin the rabidly pro-abortion Albert Arnold Gore into a man who is opposed to all late-term abortions, including partial-birth abortion.

The apparatchiks who populate what I call the “cement palace” across the street from the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., are reflexively attached to the statism, collectivism, and redistributionism of the left wing of the Democratic Party. They are the people who time and again made war against President Reagan in the 1980s, doing everything they could to turn prudential judgments on national defense, foreign policy, and the domestic economy into matters of revealed truth from which there could be no dissent from Catholics in the pew. Their patron saint, the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, gave them political cover by inventing the so-called Consistent Ethic of Life, which equated opposition to abortion with all the issues listed above. Abortion was simply one issue among many to consider when voting. That was designed to help elect former Vice President Mondale and other pro-abortion Democrats in 1984. A number of Catholic priests spoke favorably of then-Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro, a pro-abortion Catholic, and the ever-arrogant governor of New York at the time, Mario Cuomo. The leftist apparatchiks in the NCCB/USCC believe that the Democratic Party is the repository of moral truth and social justice, so much so that the destruction of our Lord mystically in the persons of unborn children in their mothers’ womb must be subordinated to the interests of the statists and collectivists and redistributionists.

To wit, Robert D. Novak reports that the United States Catholic Conference released a questionnaire which had been sent to Gore concerning his stands on issues. It quoted the Gore campaign as answering in part: “Al Gore opposes late-term abortions and the procedure of partial-birth abortion.” But the Catholic News Service, which is an arm of the USCC, did not question the qualification that Gore placed on that position: namely, that there had to be “provisions to allow doctors to protect the life or health of the mother.” There was no questioning of Gore on his position, which would render such a ban absolutely meaningless.

Indeed, the spinners at the USCC unwittingly find themselves allied with the pro-life establishment on the matter, as even the American Medical Association has said that there is “no identified situation” in which it is necessary to kill a child by the means of partial-birth abortion, giving the lie to establishment pro-life efforts to place a totally unnecessary (and morally unjustifiable) “life of the mother” exception in bills at the federal and state levels to ban partial-birth abortion. And as I have noted on a number of occasions, even a total ban on all partial-birth abortions would not save one single child as there remain other ways in the later stages of pregnancy to slaughter a child that would remain perfectly legal.

You really have to give Gore credit for knowing the politics within the United States Catholic Conference — and for knowing the state of the pro-life movement in this country. He knows that most pro-life voters, so desperate to defeat him, are willing to accept Bush as a pro-life champion principally because he says he will sign (but not work for) a conditional ban on partial-birth abortions. Well, why not tap into that sentiment by trying to convince traditionally Democratic-leaning Catholics that he, Gore, is just as acceptable as Bush on the issue? All Gore wants to do is to win enough votes in enough key states to swing the election his way. And he knows he has supporters in the confines of the cement palace in Washington eager to do his bidding for him. He was even astute enough to use Bernardin’s “common ground” slogan to evoke the image of a mild-mannered man who is open to listening to people who disagree with him about a woman’s “right to choose.”

However, Novak gets it all wrong when he expresses “wonder” that “the Catholic bishops have given [Gore] the unimpeded use of their own transmission belt to communicate.” There is no wonder to it at all.

First of all, there are bishops who support Gore. As cowardly as Roger Clemens, they won’t even reveal themselves publicly. But some bishops believe that the Democratic Party is the true political church outside of which there is no secular salvation. It is those bishops who have been responsible for populating the cement palace with political leftists, theological dissenters, and liturgical revolutionaries. The bishops who support Gore are in the vanguard of an effort to promote, as Pope Leo XIII warned in Testem Benevolentiae in 1899, “a Church in America which is different from that which exists in the rest of the world.” No, there is no wonder at all that there are bishops who support Al Gore, and who are all too happy to have an uncritical interview with him circulate through the auspices of the Catholic News Service.

Similarly, Novak’s belief that the bishops have an “irrational” fear of losing their tax-exempt status is simply wrong. True, there are some bishops who understand the prophetic nature of the life issue but who lack the apostolic courage to run the risk of losing a status that could, if they desired to challenge the matter in court, be established as an inherent right protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. And even if the argument I outlined on this matter in The Wanderer nearly eight years ago (and included in my book Christ in the Voting Booth) wound up being rejected by the positivists who serve in our legal system, a bishop has to understand that there is no blandishment offered by the state that justifies his remaining silent about the promotion of evil under the cover of law by those who aspire to hold elected office in a democratic republic. The Apostles weren’t concerned about losing any benefits offered by the Roman Empire. They were willing to lose everything — including their lives — to bear witness to the truth.

But there are a number of bishops who use the threat of losing their vaunted tax-exempt status quite deliberately as a cover to remain silent about the life issue in the realm of electoral politics. Those bishops don’t believe that abortion is the most pressing moral issue of the day. They — and many of the priests under their direct supervision and control — talk about poverty and welfare and “social justice” in purely naturalistic terms having nothing to do with the true social teaching of the Church, trying to convince Catholics in the pew that we cannot be “single issue voters.” The tax-exempt status is a convenient tool that they use to denigrate the overriding importance of the restoration of legal protection for the innocent unborn.

Indeed, it is that cynical alliance with the forces of death that has led very well-meaning people into thinking that we have to accept whoever it is the Republican Party runs as candidates, even if such candidates are effectively no different from the Democrats being touted as acceptable by leftists within the Church. Many pro-life Catholics, eager to defeat the Democrats, resort to the same spinning tactics employed by the Left. And the loser in all of that is truth itself.

There is no salvation in partisan politics. The forum of electoral politics provides us with a vehicle by which we can speak to the primacy of the Divine positive law and the natural law over us men and our civil societies. The more Catholics spin reality to fit the statists of the Democratic Party or the careerists in the Republican Party, the more the most pressing moral issue of the day will continue to be subordinated to the interests of career politicians, who believe that we exist to enable them to win office as an end in and of itself. We must see the truth clearly for what it is, and then be willing to trust in the power of the graces won for us by our Lord on Calvary to plant the seeds for a day when Catholics will no longer enable the statists or the careerists but will vote only for candidates committed to a land where Christ is honored as King and his true Church is recognized as the one, legitimate arbiter on matters of fundamental justice.

Not possible? It is no less possible than what happened in the First Millennium, when the seeds planted by the Apostles and their successors resulted in the glory of Christendom, where faith informed and directed culture. No matter how small we are in number, our decision to choose as rulers those who are committed totally to objective justice founded in truth will help plough the ground for a day when we will indeed have rulers who, like St. Louis, King of France, know that they must rule according to the mind of Christ and not according to the exigencies of this passing world.

Consider the words of Pope Pius XI in Quas Primas, issued in 1925:
We firmly hope, however, that the Feast of the Kingship of Christ, which in the future will be yearly observed, may hasten the return of society to our loving Savior. It would be the duty of Catholics to do all they can to bring about this happy result. Many of these, however, have neither the station in society nor the authority which belong to those who bear the torch of truth. This state of things may perhaps be attributed to a certain slowness and timidity in good people, who are reluctant to engage in conflict or oppose but a weak resistance, thus the enemies of the Church become bolder in their attacks. But if the faithful were generally to understand that it behooves them ever to fight courageously under the banner of Christ their King, then, fired with apostolic zeal, they would strive to win over to their Lord those hearts that are bitter and estranged from Him, and would valiantly defend His rights.

We must love the good more than we fear the evil. We must trust in the power of our Lord’s truth more than we do in our own cleverness to hide the truth and spin reality. For when we do the latter, we can only accomplish short-term goals that wind up retarding — not advancing — the cause of objective justice founded in the splendor of Truth Incarnate.
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