Friday 19 January 2018

Tim Stanley: No American president has ever picked a fight with the Catholic Church. What is Barack Obama thinking?

N0 Democratic president ever picked a fight with the Catholic Church in quite the way that Barack Obama has. One of the first things that Jimmy Carter did when he came into office was to scrap federal funding for abortions, while most Democratic office holders have recognised the "freedom of conscience" provision that permits doctors and nurses to refuse to participate in terminations. Even Bill Clinton – the "sex president" – supported some limits on partial birth abortion and made a vague play about "favouring life."

The Democrats stuck to the freedom of conscience line because they never wanted to upset one of their biggest allies in the historic fight for social reform – the Catholic Church. Since the 1960s, the US Church has embraced a variety of Social Gospel that prioritises filling stomachs over saving souls. Its liberalism has progressed to the point where some churches are barely even Catholic anymore. In Los Angeles, the only semi-orthodox Catholic church is the one surrounded by barbed wire on Mel Gibson’s estate. The house of worship that I attend, just off Sunset, enforces hand holding during the liturgy and boasts “a welcoming atmosphere for LGBTQ youth.” The two are presumably synonymous.

Yet Obama’s attempt to force Catholic employees to provide contraception coverage in employee healthcare plans has united the entire Church establishment – Left and Right – against him. And this is the establishment that garlanded him with honours three years ago at Notre Dame University, despite his aggressive support for abortion.

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