An Unholy Alliance: American Conservatives and the Vatican

I have had it up to here with the media frenzy over the Papal death-and-succession, and can only be relieved that the Conclave only lasted two days (to the disappointment of news crews, no doubt – hang around in Rome and wait for a chimney to smoke? Tough job.)

Though I’m glad it’s over, I’m not at all happy with the results of this “election” – in which only 110 or so of the world’s one billion Catholics had a vote, and women were completely disenfranchised. Catholicism is definitely not for me but, out of respect for my many Catholic friends (some of whom read this newsletter), I will leave that topic alone. I’d only start foaming at the mouth anyway…

I’m not Catholic, so what any Pope says or does shouldn’t matter to me anyway, right? Well, as Richard Cohen of The Washington Post points out, it’s not only Catholics who are affected by Catholic dogma:

“…There are other areas… where John Paul II’s teachings affected non-Catholics. I am referring now to his implacable opposition to birth control – not just abortion, mind you, but the mere use of condoms…

It is the underdeveloped world where birth control is most needed. It is there, where medical services are the most meager, that the AIDS pandemic poses its greatest threat and where condom use is the cheapest and most effective preventative measure. The pope counseled abstinence, a wholly unrealistic piece of advice…” (Indeed, if abstinence was easy for the average human being to achieve, the Catholic Church might not face the severe shortage of priests that it currently does.)

Opposition to birth control is also a Bush administration policy with devastating effects on non-Americans: the US government refuses to fund development agencies or projects where family planning includes so much as a mention of abortion, in spite of the fact that abortion is legal in America. Where American conservatives cannot impose their will by law in America, they are doing it by budget policy in other countries. Catholic dogma lends “moral” support to this stance, and Ratzinger, like Wojtyla before him, will no doubt continue to do so very vocally.

Ratzinger’s virulent anti-gay stance will also reinforce American conservatives in their homophobia. However, the Church’s opposition to the death penalty (and the Iraq war) will be conveniently ignored. Politics and religion make strange bedfellows.

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