Wry observation

John Allen once again gets to the kernel, though I'd prefer he leave his smug observations in the rest of the article to himself:

It’s impossible not to notice that there are at least two clear political objectives to be served by revealing Tobin’s disciplinary act now:

• It’s reminder that the bishops don’t speak for a unified Catholic bloc when it comes to abortion policy. The political translation is that a legislator doesn’t have to worry about losing all 67 million Catholic votes in America if they don’t back the bishops’ line.
• It creates a PR headache for the bishops, because it shifts the terms of debate from the merits of the pro-life argument to the bishops’ tactics in suppressing dissent. In a culture that prizes tolerance, anything that makes an institution look intolerant usually hurts its image, and therefore its political effectiveness.

All this comes at a time when the bishops are on something of a roll, politically speaking. Most observers credit them with making significant contributions towards passage of the Stupack Amendment in the House, barring new federal health initiatives from funding abortion. More broadly, the bishops can take some credit for President Obama’s public evolution on the issue. On the campaign trail Obama vowed to sign the Freedom of Choice Act, but in office he’s pledged to make health care reform ‘abortion neutral,’ and he promised Pope Benedict XVI last July to work to bring down the abortion rate.

For those on the pro-choice side, all of this is obviously a bit unsettling.

Comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable, John. If it works for other areas of Catholic social teaching, it works here too.

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