He is smart. He is conservative. (He is handsome, too, but that’s for another time.) So what’s the problem with talk-radio superstar Sean Hannity? Why am I driving around shouting at the radio and punching his phone number into my cell phone?
It’s the Catholic Church. Hannity wants to talk about the Church and public policy, but he isn’t up to snuff on his theology. It’s maddening. I’m gnawing my knuckles.
Half the hot news stories in the past year touched on matters of Catholic theology. (Yes, I know: There is a lot of messy stuff in the Church, but that is because people do not follow the teachings – the message is valid, the practitioners are often weak. That’s another column, too.) We have had the sex scandal. We’ve had endless rounds of talking heads debate “just war theory.”
Did the pope condemn the war in Iraq as “unjust?” (For the record – no, he did not.) We had Bishop Weigand of Sacramento advise politicians, including California Gov. Gray Davis, that you are not a Catholic in good standing if you support abortion. Now, we have that slobbering pack of the usual jackals after Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa.
During his “Hannitization” broadcast on Thursday, Sean laid out the controversy over Sen. Santorum with clarity. The senator commented on the Texas laws concerning sodomy. He said if the courts found a right to privacy and applied it as an absolute, across the board “right,” then other forms of “privacy” would be pushed – bigamy, polygamy and incest. Santorum raised a vital issue: At what point do we draw a line between personal freedom and the destruction of our family-based society?
The homosexual lobby shrieked. They accused the senator of equating them with gross forms of immorality. They demanded that Republicans discipline Santorum for his “discriminatory” remarks. They want Santorum unhorsed before 2008.
Sean said, “I’ve read the transcript and that is not what Santorum said.” Sean deftly pointed out that the senator made a constitutional point, had not actually lumped gays in the same category as bigamists, but had logically noted that by extension, such broadly interpreted privacy laws would soon cover – well, you name it.
Hannity then quoted Santorum’s response when he was challenged about his “discriminatory” attack on homosexuals. The senator said, “I have no problem with homosexuality. I have a problem with homosexual acts.” So far, so good, Sean is accurate.
But, here it comes. Santorum is Catholic. Hannity is Catholic. Hannity thinks he understands where Sen. Santorum finds his distinction between homosexuality (a condition) and homosexual activity. Hannity correctly points out that the Catholic Church makes that same distinction, a “hate the sin but love the sinner” distinction. And Sean holds – justly so – that senators have a right to religious convictions. If the folks of Pennsylvania are uncomfortable with Santorum’s convictions, they can address their worries at the polls.
However, Sean doesn’t see it the way Santorum sees it. After all, if you are a homosexual, homosexual acts are what you do, thus the distinction seems moot. Sean parses the idea of sin. Well, hey, you know, the Church also says pre-marital sex is a sin (true). That’s soft-headed, but Hannity is entitled to his opinion even when it is not in conformity with the teachings of his faith. Next Sean claims that the Church has slacked up a bit on its teaching, adopted a “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy on homosexuality. Now Hannity is sliding off center.
I’m jabbing at my phone. No, no, no. We can’t let this get by. Hannity identifies himself as a Catholic, and now he tells the listening public that the Church has mellowed out on homosexuality. Lots of Sean’s fans will take that as gospel. He’s wrong, but they will think he knows what he is talking about (because he usually does).
A caller beats me to it. The caller is polite and he knows more than Hannity in this case. “Sean, you’re making me crazy,” the caller laughs. “Take a look at the Catholic Catechism, number 2357: It says ‘homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.’”
Amazingly, Hannity – the publicly acknowledged Catholic Hannity – asks “What catechism is that?” Now, I’m crazy too. Jab, jab at the phone. Again the caller is on the money, “THE Catechism.” But Sean isn’t interested. Sean dismissed the Catechism because, he says, he has consulted theologians on this matter and they say something different. This is dangerous.
The issue of legitimizing homosexuality necessarily attacks our social fabric. Strong voices against codifying homosexual “rights” are the Catholic Church and lay Catholics, like Santorum, in public life. No theologian can blunt what the Church teaches on this issue. (The Church teaches that discrimination against homosexual persons is wrong, but that homosexual acts are immoral. The same principle applies to kleptomaniacs – it is not a sin to have the temptation, only to steal. We cannot marginalize groups of people for their weakness, but we must denounce wrong deeds. It is an important distinction.)
The caller is good, but not good enough to convince Hannity that theologians do not matter. I can’t get through on the Hannitization lines, so here it is Sean – my 99 percent Hero Talk King – here it is: Forget theologians. They are just like competing talking heads – some are right, some are wrong. Theologians do not trump the Catechism. Theologians, like politicians, come in left and right, wishful thinkers and socialist tinkerers.
If anyone is a Catholic in a profession that catapults him or her into the public arena, they will need more training than an altar boy. Get to know the Catechism. Keep it on your desk. The Vatican regularly yanks on theologians who tend to wander off the edge – but many slide over anyway. You can’t trust them. Get a Catechism of the Catholic Church if you plan to publicly discuss what the Church says.
(In the Catholic Church there is a place where the buck stops. But that is not on any theologian’s desk. In Islam, for instance, a mullah can make a proclamation that the Koran demands jihad against the West, and another equally insistent Islamic theologian proclaims that Islam means “peace.” There is no arbiter for Islam. No one can appeal to a definitive teaching on Islam – it is up for grabs. But in the Catholic Church it is the Magisterium that sifts 2,000 years of Catholic teaching and applies it to the particular challenges of each generation. That teaching is found in the Catechism.)
(Theologians may disagree with those definitive teachings – they have free will. But their opinions are of no interest to me as a Catholic. I want authenticity, otherwise why bother?)
Why does any of this matter to non-Catholics? It is crucial because the news and the teachings of the Catholic Church will continue to converge. Other faiths will also speak out, but for better or worse, the Vatican has an international voice. Politicians and world leaders must wrestle with the great moral questions of our day. Ahead are public policy debates over cloning, euthanasia, sex-trafficking laws, family laws, homosexual unions and adoptions, parental rights and, most ominously for religious freedom, the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.
Already in a Dutch court, a homosexual group tried to bring suit against Pope John Paul II for denouncing homosexual acts as offensive to families. Do you think that they would have done that if the Church had a “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy?
Last week in Geneva, the international homosexual lobby convinced European nations to introduce a resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Commission. The resolution asks “all states to promote and protect the human rights of all persons regardless of their sexual orientation.” The resolution calls on “treaty monitoring bodies” to give “due attention” to violations. The lobbying group seeks protection for sexual orientation and “expression.”
Sen. Santorum, the Catholic Church and others who defend marriage and family against a militant agenda of homosexual “rights” and “marriages” had best speak up soon, before their right to free speech earns a free ticket to an international court on a charge of human-rights violation.
Call Hannity today – let’s get the word out.
Mary Jo Anderson writes for Crisis magazine and contributes frequently to WorldNetDaily.