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POLITICS/ The relationship between the Bible and public life

February Wed 22, 2012

(Infophoto)  (Infophoto)

Sooner or later we have to face the consequences of our actions - or, as the saying goes, the chickens will come home to roost.

Last week the public image of the Catholic Church in the United States was a farm invaded by chickens coming home. I have in mind the fruits of the kind of Catholic education received by many of the current Catholic leaders that seems to be unable to respond to the confrontation with modern American secularism.

Consider the dispute that arose this week about remarks by former Pennsylvania Senator and current Catholic Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, concerning President Obama's claim to be a Christian. In a TV interview last Sunday, Santorum said that he did not question Obama's faith. He does believe that Obama is a Christian. It seems that what bothers him is that the President's policies are "not based on the Bible.

I wonder how Santorum understands the Catholic view of the relation between faith, the Bible, and public policy. It is strange to hear such a remark by a practicing Catholic. The Bible for us is not the Koran. It is the Word of God, interpreted by the Church's Magisterium, reflecting and validating the recognition of Christ's presence by the people of God as the One who is the Incarnate origin, purpose, and destiny of creation.

It seems to me that according to Santorum, instead of being guided by the Bible in his policies, Obama has substituted for it a "phony theology" unrecognized by most Americans. This phony theology shows itself, stated Santorum, in Obama's world view, in the way he addresses our problems. This, he says, is different from the way most Americans face national and international problems, and try to solve them.

Santorum has correctly detected a change taking place in American life, but he lacks the Catholic education that would have shown him how to identify it. Many other prominent Catholics in government, business, and media have the same lack.

And so does President Obama. Just think what he could contribute to a dialogue on, say, Christianity and the current American view of freedom, or conscience, or religious liberty.

Obama is, I think, the new man being created by modern American secularism, a kind of nihilism which doesn't throw away Bibles, but welcomes many interpretations of it and of other "sacred books" in order to enrich the cultural panorama with a diversity that serves as a bulwark against absolutist claims.

Actually, this is a view of many of the Catholics in Obama's intellectual circles who know no other way but to split faith from public life, abandoning the former to the realm of subjective opinion or moralistic fundamentalism, and the latter to the dictatorship of relativism.

Obama went to a Catholic grade school, but it was too early to study Catholic social doctrine, and in any case it is not taught as an integral part of a Catholic school curriculum. Maybe now Santorum and Obama will meet in the farm.



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