CSotD: Abba

Sorry for anyone who came here expecting a Swedish pop group.

“Abba” is Aramaic for father, with a touch of both affection and respect. We’ll get into the Biblical aspect in a minute, but, first, a salute to Edison Lee (KFS) for rising above the usual Father’s Day cartoon, or, more specifically, daring to break the Bumstead Rule.

I used to recommend (and still would) an exercise for students that they imagine they are aliens who sent a space probe to Earth that could only bring back one thing, and that the thing it brought back was the comics page from their local paper. What would you make of our society?

One thing you’d learn about Earth is that fathers are bumbling nitwits. That’s the Bumstead Rule, and, while there are only a few old dinosaurs who still depict women as repeatedly overdrawing their checking account and wrecking the car, fathers are still shown to be as incapable and useless as ever, even on Father’s Day.


And I’ll also give Prickly City (AMS) credit for a nice approach, even though I think this is the first inkling we’ve had that Carmen even has parents.

Besides, Scott Stantis is a consistently pro-life Catholic — against both abortion and the death penalty — which provides a segue to our second use of “abba.”

Jesus preached that we should address God as “Abba,” and, in Matthew, that we trust him to be a loving father.


Ed Hall addresses the vote of US Conference of Catholic Bishops to deny communion to Joe Biden because he is pro-choice. I like his take, and I recommend this Washington Post analysis of the story, which I hope won’t lead you to a paywall.

But let me start this conversation by pointing out that every American has the right to an opinion on this, including an opinion on whether targeting people by their political affiliations calls the Church’s tax-exempt status into question.

However, just as those of us who are not racial minorities need to avoid crossing the line in opinionating on issues faced by those of us who are, so, too, if you’re not Catholic, you should probably throttle it back a little on this one.

But, as a former altar boy and officer in my local Catholic Youth Organization as well as a Notre Dame graduate, this recovering Catholic has standing, so jump in and hang on.

I’ll start by noting that the term “recovering Catholic,” while sarcastic, is nonetheless accurate. As noted here before, I had a professor who insisted you could no more be ex-Catholic than you could be ex-Irish or ex-Italian, and he was right: You don’t have to embrace it, but you can’t escape it.


In a 1984 speech at Notre Dame, then-New York Governor Mario Cuomo famously addressed the issue of being an observant, pro-life Roman Catholic and a politician in a nation with Freedom of Religion. This is the nub of his speech, but the whole thing is worth reading.


Predictably, there was a backlash, though you might call it “frontlash,” since, as reported in the South Bend Tribune, the pickets were out before he spoke, while the most adamant criticism in the student paper came the day before he’d said anything.

However, the Trib also reported that, though there was a smattering of boos, he got a standing ovation from the capacity crowd and one complaint that surfaced in the student paper was that the speech should have been held in a larger venue, since many students had to watch from outside on a large screen TV.


The heart of the controversy is here: Thomas Nast has been condemned for his anti-Catholic cartoons, and I’m particularly fond, in a perverse way, of this 1872 attack on NY gubernatorial candidate Francis Kernan, because it typifies the “Home Rule is Rome Rule” attitude that Know-Nothings and the Klan have also espoused.

I’m sorry that the Overseas Press Club has removed Nast’s name from its award for best cartoonist. As I used to tell students, Nast hurt my people, but I have to admit that he was one of the most brilliant cartoonists in history and, wherever he is today, I hope he’s nice and warm.

Especially since the US Conference of Catholic Bishops seems determined to prove him right.


It’s not like they have the overwhelming support of Catholics in this matter. The Pew Research Center shows that, overall, 56% of Catholics are pro-choice, which, I would reiterate, does not mean they approve of abortion, only that they approve of letting people sort out their theology on their own.


Paul Fell aptly depicts the bishops’ position, trailing behind a congregation that is going its own way despite their attempt at imposing their views.


Which, again, the Pew Research Center shows to be in keeping with Cuomo, though this may have shifted ever-so-slightly, since the poll was taken before the bishops’ statement.

The heart of the matter is the teaching that there is no salvation outside the Church, encapsulated by Joyce in Stephen Dedalus, who did not believe, yet refused to pray at his dying mother’s bedside because it would be sacrilegious.

He’s hardly alone. There are any number of “Cafeteria Catholics” who take what they like and reject what they don’t, not simply on choice but on divorce, on pre-marital sex, on birth control and on the death penalty, and I’m not the first person to observe that the bishops are not telling priests to refuse communion based on those doctrines.

I guess they’re “Cafeteria Bishops.”

As said, this is an internal matter, albeit one with political ramifications.

And I have no patience for anti-clericalism. I’ve known too many good priests and nuns, and it’s not up to them anyway.

You’re either on the bus or you’re off the bus. Either you accept the principle of obedience to authority or you can interpret Scripture according to your own conscience, but that latter choice makes you a protestant if not formally a Protestant.

Besides, if the bishops can defy the Pope, why can’t you?


If every Catholic who defied the Church on birth control got up and walked out, the clergy could play jai alai in the empty cathedrals.

But, hey, it’s your soul. When it comes to that, we all are pro-choice.

You tell me it’s the institution
Well, you know
You better free your mind instead


2 thoughts on “CSotD: Abba

  1. As a Jew, I am actually not prepared to back off on this. While I could say I don’t have a dog in this fight, a look at the history of what happens when the Catholic Church attempts to hold sway over civil authorities by withholding sacraments suggests otherwise. Cuomo got it right; this isn’t just about whether Biden gets to take communion, it’s about whether the freedom of non-Catholics to practice (and, as you note, Catholics to not practice) their religions is going to remain part of the fabric of American society.

  2. That’s the part I said everyone was entitled to debate.

    It’s the internal dealings of the Church that should be approached with caution by non-Catholics. I say that mostly because it too often descends into stereotypes, anti-clericalism and militant atheism, none of which advance the conversation.

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