In the latest round of the struggle for political license over Catholicism, Democrats, including my Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, have prepared a “Catholic Voting Scorecard” designed to demonstrate that when one integrates candidates’ stances on issues, from DOMA to child tax credit refunds, on which the US Conference of Catholic Bishops has taken stances, Democrats are better Catholics. Personally, I’d rather see John Kerry et al articulating the kind of Catholics they are and the policies that dictates (“My personal faith and political conviction demand that we mean what we say when we promise that no child is left behind”) than touting their fidelity to the policy proscriptions of the Conference of Bishops (“I’m 74% faithful!”). But this scorecard seems worth it, if nothing else, only for having elicited this tragically ironic condemnation:

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said both the bishops and the Democrats are confusing means with motives. “Many of the issues they’re talking about really have nothing to do with actual Catholic teaching or religion,” he said. “It is interpretation of economic policy.”

As I’ve alluded to before, the modern permutation of religion in political discourse into apologetics for social conservatism and the hollowing out of the economic justice which is central to all faiths is a deeply cynical and tragic abuse of the tradition. Where Jesus preached that the meek shall inherit the earth, Congressman King insists that whether the poor will have a share of the wealth of this nation is a matter of interpretation. This reminds me of nothing so much as last summer’s declaration by the Council of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations that “the budget is not a Jewish issue.”

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