In case any doubts lingered, in his latest announcements about disposition of 2022 Regular session bills Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards officially confirmed, when it comes to matters of public policy, his status as a “cafeteria Catholic” who puts political expediency ahead of giving witness to actual faith.
That term refers to someone who calls himself Catholic yet picks and chooses which parts of his faith to which to adhere. It’s widely considered that it’s tough for a practicing Catholic not to act this way; for example, despite the Church’s teaching that any contraceptive method not natural (except in extraordinary circumstances) violates God’s law, one poll a few years back revealed only 8 percent of people who identified as Catholics deemed artificial birth control as morally objectionable.
It’s not for anybody to cast scarlet letters on others to castigate them on their supposed infidelities to their religious beliefs; that’s reserved to God and His mercy to offenders is endless in any event. People have enough trouble looking out for their own souls and, beyond bearing witness to their faith as best they can, have no time left over to intrude uninvited into others’ lives over such matters.
But when a public figure on multiple occasions proclaims his policy-making stems from his faith, then he becomes fair game for criticism when his policy-making reflects sanctimony against that faith. And Edwards did just that with remarks over SB 342.
That new law essentially consolidates state law to become triggered if, as seems inevitable next week, federal jurisprudence changes to let states regulate abortion. The law prohibits abortion, but doesn’t define it as involving cases of saving the life of the mother or an unborn child, treating a spontaneous miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, or removing a medically futile child.
As much as possible during his political career, Edwards has used an opposition to abortion as a badge of honor. On the campaign trail he cited a decision by he and his wife for her to carry a special needs child to birth, resisting advice to abort, as well as in the midst of a tough reelection campaign in 2019 playing up his decision to sign one of the now-consolidated bills banning abortion with a detection of a fetal heartbeat, containing similar exceptions, which he claimed was derived from “My Catholic Christian faith.” As well, he has signed several other pro-life bills while in office.
There were indications that this staunchly pro-life image wasn’t quite what it seemed. Most prominently, in 2006 when Edwards dipped his toe in the waters of a congressional run before he gained election to the state House of Representatives, on a web site where candidates could express their views he carelessly wrote that abortion is “the freedom of choice, between the appropriate parties and their higher power.” During the 2015 campaign, he tried unsuccessfully to force the site into removing that information.
All of this came in the context of presenting himself as a social conservative as part of the Democrat playbook for winning elections to obscure a ruthlessly liberal set of attitudes on economic issues. As he no longer can run again for governor, that façade has started to crumble, most visibly with his opposition to a recent law that disallows scholastic and collegiate athletes of one sex to compete in sports designated as only for the other sex which he hypocritically termed “mean-spirited” – even as sports governing bodies increasingly endorse the ethos behind the law and Edwards’ implicit agreement with children being allowed to take life-altering hormonal drugs and undergo surgery to alter their natural-born sex runs counter to the overwhelming opinion of the Church’s religious and lay leaders.
However, he explicitly rejected Catholicism’s Catechism when he expressed bitterness at signing SB 342. He wrote, “This does not belie my belief that there should be an exception to the prohibition on abortion for victims of rape and incest. However, vetoing Senate Bill 342 would not accomplish that end. In fact, vetoing Senate Bill 342 would leave fewer exceptions in place than if the bill becomes law and would further confuse whether pregnancy begins at fertilization or implantation.”
This directly contradicts the Catechism, which makes no such exceptions for rape or incest in doctrine. (It also prohibits embryo use for medical purposes, including vaccine research, something Edwards failed to defend in the state’s response to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.) So, apparently his “Catholic Christian faith” in his political duties is merely a faith of convenience invoked when it can be used to support his ideological predispositions and discarded when inconvenient to these.
You can’t have it both ways. If you truly are sincere in living your faith in your life, and if a politician in discharging your office’s duties it is held out as part of that, unless you retain absolute fidelity to that faith then you cannot make the claim that this faith guides you (as Democrat House Speaker Nancy Pelosi consistently has demonstrated). You don’t get to pick and choose aspects of your articulated faith to follow and then allege you adhere that faith’s tenets, because in some cases you don’t and publicly so.
In the private sphere, for Edwards to believe he acts in accordance with his faith is unimpeachable by others and beyond their purview. Yet when he deliberately introduces into the public sphere as a means by which to attain political goals a selective interpretation incompatible with its express doctrines the faith he claims, that behavior politicizes and cheapens it into a political stunt and makes him a craven and pitiable figure.