change, and some things don't.
In the summer
of 1963, a friend of mine -- she was just 11 at the time -- drove
with her family to visit her sister, who had married and moved
away to Birmingham, Ala. Stopping for gas in a small Alabama town
on a Sunday morning, her father asked where they could find the
local Catholic church.
just shrugged and said, "We don't have any of them here."
finished gassing up, pulled out of the station -- and less than
two blocks away, they passed the local Catholic church.
my age remember the '60s in the South as a time of intense struggle
for civil rights. Along with pervasive racial discrimination,
Southern culture often harbored a suspicion of Catholics, Jews
and other minorities. Catholics were few and scattered. In the
Deep South, like Alabama, being Catholic often meant being locked
out of political and social leadership.
of the old South is gone. Cities like Atlanta and Raleigh-Durham
are major cosmopolitan centers. Time, social reform and migration
have transformed the economy along with the political system.
The South today is a tribute both to the courage of civil rights
activists 40 years ago, and to the goodness of the people of the
most of the time, want to do the right thing. And when they change,
they also change the world they inhabit, which is one of the reasons
why the Archdiocese of Atlanta can now draw thousands of enthusiastic
Catholic participants to its Eucharistic Congress each year in
a state where Catholics were once second-class citizens. It also
explains how a practicing Catholic, William H. Pryor, can become
Alabama's attorney general -- something that was close to inconceivable
just four decades ago.
met Mr. Pryor, but his political life is a matter of public record.
He has served the State of Alabama with distinction, enforcing
its laws and court decisions fairly and consistently. This is
why President Bush nominated him to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court
of Appeals, and why the Senate Judiciary Committee approved him
last Wednesday for consideration by the full Senate.
committee debate on Pryor was ugly, and the vote to advance his
nomination split exactly along party lines. Why? Because Mr. Pryor
believes that Catholic teaching about the sanctity of life is
true; that the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision
was a poorly reasoned mistake; and that abortion is wrong in all
cases, even rape and incest. As a result, Americans were treated
to the bizarre spectacle of non-Catholic Senators Orrin Hatch
and Jeff Sessions defending Mr. Pryor's constitutionally protected
religious rights to Mr. Pryor's critics, including Senator Richard
Durbin, an "abortion-rights" Catholic.
to Senator Durbin (as reported by EWTN), "Many Catholics who oppose
abortion personally do not believe the laws of the land should
prohibit abortion for all others in extreme cases involving rape,
incest and the life and the health of the mother." This kind of
propaganda makes the abortion lobby proud, but it should humiliate
any serious Catholic. At a minimum, Catholic members of Congress
like Senator Durbin should actually read and pray over the "Catechism
of the Catholic Church" and the encyclical "Evangelium
Vitae" before they explain the Catholic faith to anyone.
even try doing something about their "personal opposition"
to abortion by supporting competent pro-life judicial appointments.
Otherwise, they simply prove what many people already believe
-- that a new kind of religious discrimination is very welcome
at the Capitol, even among elected officials who claim to be Catholic.
change, and some things don't. The bias against "papism" is alive
and well in America. It just has a different address. But at least
some people in Alabama now know where the local Catholic church
is -- and where she stands -- even if some people in Washington