If You're Catholic, Mass Mailers Want You

Article excerpt

Like a quarter of a million other Catholics, I last week received my Catholic Alliance Congressional Scorecard and membership appeal sponsored by the Christian Coalition.

I resented the Christian Coalition's manipulative use of words from John Paul II, an exhortation to change one's life "according to the light of the gospel." The quote clearly aims to suggest that papal authority is at once the inspired source and support for the political recommendations of the Catholic Alliance.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The alliance targets "big government," "militant homosexuals" and "radical feminists" as the root of our nation's ills. NCR has already pointed out the blatant fear-mongering at the heart of this platform (Nov. 3). Beyond this, the alliance endorses the so-called American way: free enterprise, economic individualism, government deregulation, and so on. Their "social programs" clearly aim to get more people in line with the capitalist economic agenda (make them be productive, earn their own way, contribute to the tax base, and so on) or get them out of the way (lock them up, get them off "our" streets) so they won't bother law-abiding, taxpaying citizens.

But John Paul II -- in concert with the past 100 years of church teaching -- is far more critical of capitalism and its social and economic implications than he is of "big government, militant homosexuals and radical feminist" combined!

The alliance's "Congressional Scorecard" practically screams at us that, in this war, Republicans are the good guys, Democrats the enemy. Why identify our representatives only by political affiliation? Why not say how all the Catholics voted? But that might reveal diversity among Catholic politicians, and that would weaken the mob appeal of a simple, monolithic Catholic position on the myriad issues being considered. Worse still, from the Christian Coalition's point of view, it might reveal how few Catholics are among the elected power elite.

The Catholic Alliance is not interested in our thinking truly Catholic. It wants to lead us through a door marked "Catholic" to their vision of the promised land. What they want is our Republican vote. A more apt title would be the Catholic Republican Alliance.

About two days later, I received my personal "National Survey of ACTIVE Catholics" from the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights. My hopes rose. "Here's the Catholic rebuttal to the distorted CA message," I thought. My hopes rose further to see the endorsements of the cardinal archbishops of the four major metropolitan sees, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Boston.

In their 12-question survey, the Catholic League questions media accuracy in portraying "church doctrine" and the views and practices of "the church and its members." It betrays a bias in the voices it quotes to represent the Catholic faith and its members' beliefs and practices. In particular, it complains that the media distort truth by including "nonpracticing" Catholics in their polls and by headlining the views of "radical fringe groups," thereby making them appear more significant than they are.

This raises the philosophical problem: Whose voice counts as representative of a group? Since not all voices can be heard, some form of representation must occur. Thus, the church has its ordained, ex officio spokespersons, sociology its statistical methods, ethnographers their verbatim narratives. …