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tantrum.jpegVarious people have been trying to figure out why various conservative Catholic bishops and associated lay eminences seem to have gone off their meds since the election. Writing in Slate, Melinda Henneberger puts it down to anxieties over the Freedom of Choice Act, a piece of legislation beloved of the pro-choice left that would (presumably) roll back all abortion restrictions to the day after Roe v. Wade. Barack Obama, perhaps in full pander mode, once told Planned Parenthood he would sign it if it ever came to his desk. Joe Feuerherd of the National Catholic Reporter contends that it’ll never happen, and ubiquitous Catholic blogger David Gibson agrees, claiming that FOCA is nothing more than a politically useful red herring for the conservatives.
Well, OK, but does that mean all the hysteria is just for show? As in Cardinal Stafford’s invocation of an imminent Gethsemane? Or George Weigel’s denunciation of Catholic “tribal” voting as “immoral” and “stupid”? Steve Waldman usefully points out that Catholic voting has shifted back and forth between the parties, thereby indicating that it is actually based on something other than ancient habit. One might also contemplate in particular all those relatively recently arrived Latino Catholics, whose overwhelming preference for the Democratic Party is not old enough to be considered tribal.
So what’s really up? I’d say it is some combination of disappointed hopes–oh, for that one additional Supreme Court justice!–and a sense that their church is sliding away from them. It’s all well and good to tell yourself that you don’t want all those Cafeteria Catholics, until you realize that just about all your folks are in the cafeteria. The idea of slimming down The Church to a small remnant of the faithful lacks appeal when you actually start thinking about what that would mean. In short, the rage of the bishops seems like nothing so much as the rage of the impotent.