I’ve come to the reluctant conclusion that the USA is great in spite of itself. Romney is obviously sane but unlikeable because of his inability to express empathy with ordinary Americans (whatever that means in a country the size of the USA). Santorum is the kind of person of faith that the rest of us fear because he gives sensible believers a bad name.

The positive note is, of course, that neither has a hope of beating Obama, who must be lighting candles to whatever God he believes in – and let’s not even go there, conspiracy theorists!.


From the editor’s desk

Kennedy doctrine still stands

3 March 2012

The contest between an ultra-conservative ultra-Catholic on the one hand and a billionaire venture capitalist Mormon on the other is one of the most intriguing spectacles American politics has offered the world for some time. For instance, Democrats in Michigan campaigned for Republican Rick Santorum in the presidential primary elections, in the hope of maximising the damage his candidacy is doing to the party’s main contender, Mitt Romney.

Mr Santorum’s Catholic credentials seem so far to have helped him win over hard-core conservative Evangelicals, where once they would have objected. But they may have trouble swallowing his repudiation of the “Kennedy doctrine” of the first Catholic president – that as a prospective Catholic incumbent of the White House, he believed in the absolute separation of Church and State, and so in practice he would not take orders from the Vatican.

The Kennedy doctrine made him “want to throw up”, said Mr Santorum, who went on to give it an extreme construction far beyond what John F. Kennedy ever intended. President Kennedy, addressing Protestant church leaders, had been answering the charge that as a Catholic he would have divided loyalties and hence was unfit for office.

Mr Santorum applies his own uncompromising version of Catholic teaching to many of the hot-button moral issues in America. He represents the reductio ad absurdum of some questionable, unexamined assumptions in this area. For instance, he opposes the sale of contraceptives, wants homosexual acts recriminalised and the same done for all abortion. He is also against offering a college education to all sections of American society, an idea he denounced as “snobbery”. But it is his rigid views on the relationship between church teaching and the criminal law which are likely to harm his cause most.

Mr Santorum can claim to be doing just what the bishops wanted, for instance, when they demanded that Catholic legis­lators throw out the Obama health-care reforms because they deemed them contrary to Catholic teaching, or when some ­bishops told Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004 that he was not fit to receive Holy Communion because he was insufficiently opposed to abortion. This gave the impression that the bishops were trying to pull Catholic politicians’ strings.

Their justification came from the 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae: “In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to … vote for it.” In Mr Santorum’s view, it seems, Catholic politicians must share in the guilt of every immoral act that they have not actually voted to make a criminal offence.

Yet the framing of the criminal law calls par excellence for the exercise of prudential judgement, after honest debate as to what best serves human dignity and the common good. Speaking in Westminster Hall in 2010, Pope Benedict asked where moral norms were to come from, and declared: “The role of religion in political debate is not so much to supply these norms – still less to propose concrete political solutions which would lie altogether outside the competence of religion – but rather to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles.”

This analysis fully vindicates the Church’s participation in the public square. Mr Santorum’s approach, however, would rapidly discredit it.

via The Tablet – Kennedy doctrine still stands.