We knew liberals wouldn’t like Archbishop Chaput’s important speech in Houston.
They never disappoint.
The blog Mirror of Justice found a comment by Paul Baumann, the editor of the liberal leaning Commonweal, on Commonweal’s blog under an entry by Fr. Joseph Komonchak.
The editor of Commonweal comes out swinging against Archbp. Chaput and tries to defend JFK’s error in Houston.
I’ll give you signposts along the way, but Baumann has three arguments.
The first point begins with the first paragraph and ends with "So it seems clear to me that Chaput’s reading of the speech is anachronistic at best."
The second ends, "let alone fellow Christians."
The third begins thereafter and ends, " to lay the blame at Kennedy’s door."
The last part just connects JFK with Commonweal through Cogley… which let’s the agenda out of its bag.
Let’s together read Baumann’s comment closely and try to follow his logic with my emphases and comments.
Commonweal’s Paul Baumann on Archbishop’s Chaput’s Houston Speech
[Several comments on the speech here, including this by Paul Baumann, editor of Commonweal:]
I attended the Fordham conference on Kennedy’s speech, and remember well Shaun Casey’s rebuttal to those, such as Chaput, [author of ] who insist that the speech was an effort to “privatize” religion. “After the [Kennedy] speech there was a question-and-answer period,” Casey said, “The transcript of the Q&A session is actually three times as long as the speech itself. The exchanges there, in particular, I think helped knock down the argument that somehow Kennedy was declaring his Catholicism to be purely private, and hence irrelevant. He embraces his Catholicism. He says he’s not renouncing his church. At the very end, he said, ‘I don’t think I made any converts to my church in the process of this meeting, but I don’t repudiate my faith.’”
So [THEREFORE!] it seems clear to me [Oh yah?] that Chaput’s reading of the speech is anachronistic at best. [No one has said JFK "repudiated" his Catholic faith. Chaput didn't say that. This is a canard. Chaput said that JFK was "wrong" to do what he did. The flaw in Baumann's logic is this: Baumann read's Casey's statement as if it proves that Chaput's statement is anachronistic. Baumann's doesn't quote JFK. He quotes CASEY. And therefore Baumann is "sure"? And we are just supposed to believe him? Ask yourself how Baumann get's to this certaintly. B would have us believe that JFK did the opposite of what Chaput says just because Casey says so, but Baumann quotes nothing of substance. So, it can't be clear to anyone else. That ends Baumann's first argument. Thus the second begins...] Chaput’s talk is also studded with provocative but vague declarations about the false faith of others: [Hereafter follow snippets...] “It’s a form of lying,” “They’re not optional,” “I wonder if we’ve ever had fewer of them who can coherently explain how their faith informs their work, or who event feel obligated to try,” “Too many live their faith as if it were a private idiosyncrasy—the kind that they’ll never allow to become a public nuisance. And too many just don’t really believe.” This doesn’t strike me as the kind of language one uses when trying to persuade those who might disagree with you, let alone fellow Christians. [Baumann says Chaput makes "vague" allegations. Do we not remember the absurd but clear declarations made in public by such figures as Speaker Pelosi and then-Senator Biden? Patrick Kennedy? Very recently again Archbp. Niederauer corrected Pelosi. Many US bishops have made public statements in clear terms. Is Chaput being "vague"? Chaput was very clear in Houston that he was talking about the abortion issue. There is a point at which bishops must shift from trying to correct the politician (persuade) to warning the faithful about their errors. Baumann paints what Chaput said about the faith of politicians as "vague". Chaput wasn't vague, though we grant him the "provocative". Chaput did not go to Houston to try to persuade the likes of Nancy Pelosi and her ilk (she is just the most prominent). He went there to show that they are the fruits of the 50 year old JFK Tree. Chaput was not trying to persuade so much as point out that these so-called Catholics in public life are not acting in accord with their Catholic faith. That is probably what Baumann objects to. That ends Baumann's second argument. Thus begins the third...] In any event, Chaput fails to make a plausible case that Kennedy’s speech “profoundly undermined the place not just of Catholics, but of all religious believers, in America’s public life and political conversation.” Even if you accept the notion that religious believers have been marginalize in this way—which I don’t—it’s quite a stretch to lay the blame at Kennedy’s door. [Mormons and Jews and Catholics are in Congress, but they are not allowed to bring confessional perspectives into their words or deeds. In the sense that there are religious people in the public square, Baumann is right: they haven't be marginalized. He is wrong in the sense that action on the basis of religion has in fact been marginalized. Let them go to temple or church on Sunday. Fine. The fruit of the JFK Tree is that the religious beliefs and motivations of religious people have been marginalized. That's what is not allowed. Perhaps Baumann thinks it is acceptable that Catholics set aside the Church's teaching on abortion on and that it is perfectly harmonious for Catholic politicians to vote in favor of abortion. I don't know. But if that is the case, then I understand why Baumann can think that Catholics haven't been marginalized: just look at Pelosi! Chaput is saying that there is a different sense of how to be a Catholic in political life. We cannot be cafeteria Catholics or park our Catholicism at the door of the church. Finally, is it such a stretch to connect what is going on today with what JFK did 50 years ago? I don't think so. The speech took on a life of its own, resonating down though decades. It was one of the most important speeches of JFK's career and many refer to it today. Wonks immediately connected Mitt Romney with JFK during the last presidential campaign. It comes up all the time with there is a question of conflict of religious faith and public role. So, is it really such a stretch? JFK's Houston Speech is part of the American political psyche.]
As many contributors to this blog know, long-time Commonweal columnist John Cogley was an important adviser to Kennedy and a speechwriter Ted Sorenson for the Houston address. Cogley concluded his 1973 book “Catholic America” as follows: “While Catholicism can coexist very well with separation of church and state, its best representatives will always refuse to separate religion and life. And that makes all the difference.”
Baumann’s logic is pretty bad.
But you can see that Chaput has gotten under the skin of the liberals.
It has taken a while, but they are starting react.
There is probably a John Courtney Murray/JFK axis here in the liberal mind.
Remember our context: Liberals are going bananas about a perceived assault on their version of Vatican II. They are losing control of the narrative.
Liberals have flipped out about what is happening with the Church’s liturgy, of course. They see that deeper connections are being made with tradition. They think this is an attack on Vatican II.
When Archbishop Chaput gives a speech in Houston about the fruits of the 50 Year Old JFK Tree, they are going to hear an attack on… what? What they think Vatican II taught on religious liberty.
Think about this.
First: Consider how wrong liberals are about inculturation and liturgy.
Now imagine how wrong they are about religious liberty.
When you watch liberals getting upset about Chaput’s speech in Houston, ask yourself why.