The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date: January 23, 2004
Your Catholic Voice breaks from Christian right, seeks to remove stereotypes
Theres a sense of regret, of time wasted, in Keith Fourniers voice. For nearly two decades he has been an integral part of unsuccessful efforts to take Catholic social teaching into the U.S. political debate.
Now, with Your Catholic Voice, a grassroots political and policy organization that offers Catholics the vehicle to be actively involved in shaping their government, Fournier believes hes found a vehicle that will energize those who unapologetically seek to promote a framework for building an authentically just society.
In the mid-1990s, Fournier led the Christian Coalitions Catholic Alliance, an effort to unite evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants with Catholic conservatives. Several U.S. bishops, fearful that American Catholics would confuse the bishops positions with that of the alliance, publicly distanced themselves from the group. Other critics spoke more forcefully, calling the Catholic Alliance an attempt by the Rev. Pat Robertsons conservative Christian Coalition to co-opt Catholic teaching.
Today, in addition to his duties as a permanent deacon of the Richmond, Va., diocese and practicing lawyer, 49-year-old Fournier heads the foundation that supports Your Catholic Voice. The difference between the current effort and previous attempts is clear, said Fournier.
Weve seen failure after failure from a lot of well-intended people who confused their conservative political ideology with Christianity, Fournier told NCR. Your Catholic Voice, in contrast to its forerunners, is not about liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, said Fournier. Catholic is the noun. Were looking to break those stereotypes because we dont think they help. Theyre shrill and theyre narrow and they dont work. Raymond Flynn, former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican and former mayor of Boston, is president of Your Catholic Voice.
In a recent essay -- Requiem for the Religious Right -- Fournier offered this example: I remember one day when I took exception to a conservative icons claim that the Second Amendment [protecting the right to bear arms] secured what he called the first freedom. I insisted that the first freedom was not owning a gun but rather religious freedom and that the first right was the right to life. You would have thought I had blasphemed. He apparently felt that the right to own a gun was on the same level as the right to life. I further upset him when I said that good Christians could come down on either side of the gun issue, but never on the dignity of every human life from conception to natural death.
It is the groups fourth pillar -- solidarity with the poor and needy -- that most concretely separates Your Catholic Voices efforts from those of its forerunners. Fournier specifically cited Matthew 25, outlining a Christians obligation to visit the sick and imprisoned and feed the hungry. I for one am tired of conservative movements who have lost a part of the Gospel, said Fournier.
Which is not to say that Your Catholic Voice will be mistaken for a liberal movement anytime soon. The groups first significant effort is an electronic petition urging lawmakers to oppose same-sex marriage. And Fournier recently praised LaCrosse, Wis., Bishop Raymond Burke for denying Communion to pro-choice legislators in his diocese. Burke is soon to be installed as archbishop of St. Louis. ( See related story.)
-- Joe Feuerherd
National Catholic Reporter, January 23, 2004
|Copyright © The
National Catholic Reporter Publishing Company, 115 E. Armour Blvd.,
Kansas City, MO 64111
All rights reserved.
TEL: 816-531-0538 FAX: 1-816-968-2280 Send comments about this Web site to: email@example.com