Sidney Blumenthal has written an article about the White House exploitation of the divisions in the Roman Catholic Church. The article is entitled, "Politics in red robes" and is published in the Guardian. Here's how he starts off:
President Bush, a militant evangelical Protestant, has lowered the American flag to half-staff for the first time at the death of a pope. Also for the first time, a US president will attend a papal funeral. Bush's political rhetoric is deliberately inflected with Catholic theological phrases, in particular "the culture of life", words he used to justify his interference in the case of Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged woman, the removal of whose feeding tube was upheld 19 times by state and federal courts.
In the 2004 election, Bush's campaign helped organise the attack on John Kerry's Catholic authenticity by conservative bishops who threatened to deny him communion. Inside the White House, policy and personnel are coordinated in line with rightwing Catholicism. Not only are issues like international population control, reproductive health and women's rights vetted, but so are appointments.
Since the accession of Pope John Paul II, the conservative mobilisation within the American church has been a microcosmic version of the ascendancy of the conservative movement in the country generally. As the authority of the Vatican was marshalled on behalf of the conservatives, the Republican right adopted its position as its own in order to capture Catholic votes. Now the social agendas of conservative Catholics and Republicans are indistinguishable.
Do read the whole article. Blumenthal mentions the conservative undermining of the saintly and progressive Cardinal Bernadin shortly before his untimely death. I was a great admirer of Bernadin and he is sorely missed. Bernadin taught the concept of "the seamless garment" of life which sees capital punishment and war as evils equal to abortion and that the person who is truly pro-life will not participate in any of them. He worked to build consensus and was a supporter of openness and dialogue. He was not autocratic or authoritarian. We could well wish for more like Bernadin although I have little hope that prelates like him will be appointed given the current world-wide religious climate.