It is easy to get caught up (and burned out) by the ceaseless banter of the political blogosphere. Now augmented with Twitter feeds, the partisan operatives have never had more ways to waste their time and annoy the rest of us trying to get on with our lives.
However, despite (or perhaps because of) this unending white noise, the commentariat is missing underlying trends that are in fact breaking through the fog of partisan warfare.
I speak of course of the coming Catholic storm that is about to fall on the Obama reelection campaign.
It is easy for lapsed or hypocritical Catholics (like Nancy Pelosi) to downplay the effect of the HHS mandate that religious organizations be compelled to pay for abortion-inducing drugs. For many of the political insiders, birth-control is a no-brainer and among the hipster crowd, treating condoms like priest repellent is an old and pathetic joke.
What they miss is not just the substance of the debate – religious freedom – but also the betrayal of Catholic leaders that led up to it. The Bishops wanted to give Obama the benefit of the doubt. They met with him, were charmed by him, and wanted him to do well. Indeed, they love the notion of universal health care and more social spending – this is why so many Catholics ignore the Democrats’ total dedication to abortion and instead focus on the “social justice” component of their platform to justify their vote.
But the mask has fallen. Obama and his allies have revealed that they cannot be trusted. They have no use for the Church, even as an ally. The state must rule all, and if private charities go away, well so much the better.
It is now a matter of survival.
Though it has gotten little attention, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has released a letter that reads much like an ultimatum.
While some observers have noted the call for a “Fortnight of Freedom” from June 21 to July 4, the key phrase seems to me to be this one:
It is a sobering thing to contemplate our government enacting an unjust law. An unjust law cannot be obeyed. In the face of an unjust law, an accommodation is not to be sought, especially by resorting to equivocal words and deceptive practices. If we face today the prospect of unjust laws, then Catholics in America, in solidarity with our fellow citizens, must have the courage not to obey them. No American desires this. No Catholic welcomes it. But if it should fall upon us, we must discharge it as a duty of citizenship and an obligation of faith.
It is essential to understand the distinction between conscientious objection and an unjust law. Conscientious objection permits some relief to those who object to a just law for reasons of conscience—conscription being the most well-known example. An unjust law is "no law at all." It cannot be obeyed, and therefore one does not seek relief from it, but rather its repeal. [Emphasis added]
Civil disobedience is nothing new – the activist left has made a cottage industry of it. The difference is when the normally non-demonstrative population engages in it.
It should be noted that if Obamacare is overturned in June, much of this storm may blow over – but the damage has already been done. The reprieve will not have come from an administration seeking to right its wrongs but from a court that defied it.
While the Obama campaign strategists may think they are being clever trying to pit women vs men, young vs old and secular against religious, they are actually diminishing their coalition and enraging their former allies. The issue now is the very survival of the Catholic Church itself – and indeed all religious organizations.
The clouds are gathering, and Catholics across the nation are looking for the break in the pall - like the one the Roman Emperor Constantine saw at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.
This battle decided not just the fate of the Empire, but also whether it would be Christian or Pagan.
It is said that on the eve of the battle, Constantine had a dream, in which he saw the clouds part and a cross appeared in the heavens with these words: In hoc signo vinces - in this sign you will conquer. Accordingly, he ordered his legions to repaint their shields with the Chi-Rho - the Monogram of Christ.
Constantine was victorious, and under his patronage, Christianity became the dominant religion of the Empire.
Curiously, the battle will have its 1,800th anniversary on October 28, 2012.