Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Trouble With Rudy

The legendary William F. Buckley is not nearly as prolific or potent a writer as he used to be. Relatively speaking of course. He still does pretty good for a soon-to-be eighty-two-year-old fellow. And every once in a while, he still hits the nail square on its head as he does in this piece on Rudy Giuliani & Catholicism at National Review Online:

Ah, but that doesn't work. Because the kind of godlessness expressed by a failure to live a life of charity, sustained by faith and hope, is, unhappily, pretty unnoticeable. Everyone excepting the saints is, under such scrutiny, "un-Christian." But a failure to attend church on Sunday is, by Catholic standards, contumacious, an ostentatious rejection of a formal obligation. It is the equivalent of an observant Jew biting into a piece of pork. Penitence, if genuine, can minister to any infraction of the faith. But to violate systematically the Commandment that says, "Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy," is systematically to reject one's faith.

There are other problems, in the matter of Mr. Giuliani. One's sense of things is that the religious communities are understanding in the matter of failed marriages (the divorce rate in the United States has been estimated at about fifty percent), but those who aspire to lead are quite reasonably examined more closely, and in the matter of Mr. Giuliani, there is the second and then the third wife, with ugly consequences involving children and living quarters.

Which is to say that a candidate holding out his affiliation with a religious body as a reason to presume harmonious values with other voters of the same faith has to prepare for a likelihood of resentment among coreligionists if he appears lax in the practice of his faith. Members of a club can be relaxed about the member who does not pay his dues. But there is the risk there of continued neglect gradually understood as disloyalty. The way things work in modern times, under modern pressures, more people's attention is attracted by defiance of a protocol than by inconsistent attention given to it. The guest who neglectfully fails to bow when the queen enters the room is not especially conspicuous, but becomes so if it crosses the mind of others that he is challenging the legitimacy of the sovereign, rather than merely to being absent-minded about protocols.

This is the root of my problems with Giuliani. The fact that he's personally pro-choice isn't as critical as his stated commitment to appoint the type of judges who would likely overturn Roe v Wade. That's really where the only power of the president to make a difference on abortion lies.

But the fact that he's a kinda, sorta, not-really most of time Catholic is troubling. A candidate's religious faith is never--with a few possible exceptions--going to be the primary force driving my voting decision. However, a candidate who takes such a wishy-washy approach and openly flaunts the values and conventions of his religion is someone that I will have a difficult time generating much enthusiasm for. Frankly, I think it would be easier for me to support Giuliani if he had left the Church entirely--for whatever silly, selfish, or serious reason--rather than his present path of nominally identifying himself as Catholic while willfully ignoring the precepts of the faith.

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