Last week, the Republican Party celebrated a victory in the states of Virginia and New Jersey. They were quick to characterize these wins as a “referendum” on the policies of President Obama. However, a different chain of events played out in New York’s 23rd Congressional District, where the story was a bit more peculiar.
Dede Scozzafava, the Republican Party’s candidate for the House of Representatives was perceived as too dangerously liberal by some prominent members of the Party, including Sarah Palin and Gov. Tim Pawlenty among others, for her pro-choice stance and support for gay-marriage. Thus, some Republicans, such as the ones mentioned above and other conservative organizations (The National Organization for Marriage, The Susan B. Anthony List) endorsed Doug Hoffman, a member of the Conservative Party, as a far more suitable candidate for the Seat. All of these actions made it appear that currently there’s a litmus test for being a viable Republican candidate, and if all the noted qualifications are not met, one is hopelessly out of the running. This of course was the case with Mrs. Scozzafava, and ultimately, she dropped out of the race and ended up endorsing the Democratic candidate Bill Owens as she bowed out. Bill Owens would go on to win the election in territory where a Democrat had not won since the late nineteenth century.
So what exactly does all of this say? On the one hand, the Republican Party is trying to update their image. In New Jersey and Virginia both of the gubernatorial candidates were moderates who ran not on social issues but fiscal policies. So, there is a movement of individuals within the Party who realize that in order to win elections the only focus can’t continue to be on opposition to abortion and gay-marriage. Yet, there is another portion of the Party who resists this assertion and thinks that conservative “family values” define the essence of the Party. Thus, we see the signal that in some circles, if one doesn’t subscribe to these values one doesn’t meet the tenets for being considered a member and should quit trying to represent the Party.
Which path the Republican Party decides to take will only be made apparent with time.
Still, doesn’t this phenomenon of “purging” in order to create a purer, more fundamentally sound institution seem familiar?
When the “visitation” of American women religious was announced by the Vatican it was described as being an initiative to assess the “quality of life” of these communities and to discover why their influx of new vocations had diminished so drastically during the past few decades. Even after this official definition had been given, broad underlying suspicions disseminated from all corners of the Church on what this act really meant. Essentially, their worst suspicions were confirmed last week when Cardinal Franc Rode (the man responsible for initiating the “visitation”); the prefect of the Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, said that concerns about “a certain feminist spirit” prevalent among certain women religious played a part in the decision to carry out the visitation. By “feminist spirit” he of course means sisters such as Sr. Joan Chittister, Sr. Catherine Johnson, and numerous others who have contended that the traditional proposed grounds for the ordination of women are ungrounded and simply unbiblical. Also included in this category of misguided feminism are of course those who fight for the just and equal treatment of homosexual individuals and most recently sisters who support those women who, after probing their consciences, have made the decision to terminate a pregnancy (as was the case most recently with a sister in Illinois).
So is the intention of the Vatican to simply antagonize these women and throw them out of communion with the Church if they don’t subscribe to their rigid ideology of what it means to be Catholic?
In the very same week the Vatican made clear its set of norms for receiving disaffected Anglicans into communion with the Catholic Church in the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus, thus making it clear that those who are opposed to the ordination of women and the equal rights of homosexuals are welcomed with open arms.
All of this sounds like partisan politics as usual to me…