The Vatican's Chief Astronomer (yes, they have one - I've written about him before) has made the Church's position on "intelligent design" even clearer: it's bogus and should be kept out of the classroom. Where does that leave the unholy alliance between Religious Protestants and those ultra-conservative Catholics who mix politics and religion?
A number of these politicized Catholics, including Antonin Scalia and many of the Church's US archbishops, reportedly belong to the strange right-wing sect known as "Opus Dei" - as does the new Pope. This group and their conservative allies have shown a marked tendency to intervene in politics - for example, by threatening to deny communion to John Kerry and other US politicians over the abortion issue. They show no such moral clarity over the Iraq war or the death penalty, both of which their church also strongly oppose.
When my pioneer-stock Protestant grandfather married my European Catholic grandmother nearly a century ago, most of his fellow churchmen would cross the street rather than pass a Catholic on the sidewalk. This vicious anti-Catholic bigotry on the Religious Right lasted until the the Jerry Falwells and Dr. Dobsons of the world realized that a marriage of convenience could be founded between ultraconservative Catholics and their own interest groups, over issues like abortion and censorship. After all, how important are centuries of bigotry when we have Spongebob Squarepants to suppress?
Let's be clear: I have my issues with the Church - plenty of them. The scapegoating of gay clergy for the sins of the leadership in covering up child molestation is just the latest in a long list. But on this one, as on Iraq and the death penalty, the soundness of their position is pretty unassailable. Where does this leave these rightwingers who abuse their faith for political gain? They are quick to condemn pro-choice believers as "cafeteria Catholics," but what are they?
That's a rhetorical question, of course. "What they are" is hypocrites and political hacks. They can find justification for their political positions in neither Church nor Christ, but that ain't stoppin' them. Many, like Rick Santorum, will modify their position on "ID" in the classroom but otherwise struggle to hold the coalition together. As for the others, where will they and their evangelical fanatic friends go now to push their nutty creationist scheme? Oh, right -- there's always Kansas.