THE TABLET THE I NTERNATIONAL CATHOLIC WEEKLY
Founded in 1840
KENNEDY DOCTRINE STILL STANDS
The contest between an ultra-conservative ultraCatholic on the one hand and a billionaire venture capitalist Mormon on the other is one of the most intriguing spectacles American politics has offered the world for some time. For instance, Democrats in Michigan campaigned for Republican Rick Santorum in the presidential primary elections, in the hope of maximising the damage his candidacy is doing to the party’s main contender, Mitt Romney. Mr Santorum’s Catholic credentials seem so far to have helped him win over hard-core conservative Evangelicals, where once they would have objected. But they may have trouble swallowing his repudiation of the “Kennedy doctrine” of the first Catholic president – that as a prospective Catholic incumbent of the White House, he believed in the absolute separation of Church and State, and so in practice he would not take orders from the Vatican.
The Kennedy doctrine made him “want to throw up”, said Mr Santorum, who went on to give it an extreme construction far beyond what John F. Kennedy ever intended. President Kennedy, addressing Protestant church leaders, had been answering the charge that as a Catholic he would have divided loyalties and hence was unfit for office. Mr Santorum applies his own uncompromising version of Catholic teaching to many of the hot-button moral issues in America. He represents the reductio ad absurdum of some questionable, unexamined assumptions in this area. For instance, he opposes the sale of contraceptives, wants homosexual acts recriminalised and the same done for all abortion. He is also against offering a college education to all sections of American society, an idea he denounced as “snobbery”. But it is his rigid views on the relationship between church teaching and the criminal law which are likely to harm his cause most. Mr Santorum can claim to be doing just what the bishops wanted, for instance, when they demanded that Catholic legislators throw out the Obama health-care reforms because they deemed them contrary to Catholic teaching, or when some bishops told Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004 that he was not fit to receive Holy Communion because he was insufficiently opposed to abortion. This gave the impression that the bishops were trying to pull Catholic politicians’ strings.
Their justification came from the 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae: “In the case of an intrinsically unjust law, such as a law permitting abortion or euthanasia, it is therefore never licit to … vote for it.” In Mr Santorum’s view, it seems, Catholic politicians must share in the guilt of every immoral act that they have not actually voted to make a criminal offence.
Yet the framing of the criminal law calls par excellence for the exercise of prudential judgement, after honest debate as to what best serves human dignity and the common good. Speaking in Westminster Hall in 2010, Pope Benedict asked where moral norms were to come from, and declared: “The role of religion in political debate is not so much to supply these norms – still less to propose concrete political solutions which would lie altogether outside the competence of religion – but rather to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles.”
This analysis fully vindicates the Church’s participation in the public square. Mr Santorum’s approach, however, would rapidly discredit it.
A FAILURE OF CARE
While the typical care home for the infirm and elderly no doubt does an adequate job at a purely material level, many of them also leave a great deal to be desired when it comes to the quality of human engagement.
As a joint report by agencies concerned in the running of hospitals and residential care explained this week, it is too easy to fail to offer compassion and respect and instead treat elderly people like a commodity, and an inconvenient one at that.
disrespectful, even contemptuous. Banishing them will require a change of culture. But new regulations as to how old people may or may not be addressed could miss the point, if the culture itself does not change. That is well recognised in the report, which even suggests nursing and ancillary staff should be told they are in the wrong profession if they cannot display genuine compassion. Exactly how compassion is to be taught is not explained. However, compassion is an aspect of the virtue of charity – caritas. Virtues can be learned, and they improve with practice and good example.
The Patients’ Association, while welcoming the report as a step forward, said it was continually contacted by friends and family of people in institutional care who complained of them being “left without adequate pain relief, not being helped to eat and drink or … left to lie in their own faeces because a nurse says she is too busy to help them to the toilet”. What mattered, the association said, was how the report’s recommendations were implemented. Lack of respect and compassion among those dealing with elderly people is a recurring theme also in NHS hospitals. A case has been made out that the professionalisation of nursing, and the move a decade ago to all-graduate entry, has taken the heart out of it.
The vocational spirit of Florence Nightingale, who derived many of her ideas about nursing from the nuns she worked with in the Crimea, has given way to a technocratic and utilitarian approach that can easily overlook the humanity of the people concerned. Institutional habits like calling all old people “Dear” or “Love” are often – but not invariably – deeply
The ethos of an institutional culture has to be seamless. This is where the report is right, however, to point to the crucial factor of leadership. Enormous responsibility falls on senior nursing staff to lead by example, so that bad practice stands out as going against the grain. It is true that the staff of residential homes are not well paid, perhaps because the job does not require much technical skill. But care homes are often run on an economic knife-edge, routinely overcharging those who pay their own way in order to subsidise those whose care is inadequately funded by the local authority.
The Government has begun all-party consultations in the wake of the Dilnot report last summer, which proposed big changes in the way residential care is paid for in England and Wales. Relief from the financial pressure homes are under should translate into better terms for staff, rather than simply more profits for the proprietors. Staff treated with respect are more likely to treat those they are responsible for in a similar way.
2 | THE TABLET | 3 March 2012 COLUMNS
5 CATHERINE P E P I NSTER
‘Marriage is the ideal. But that reflects the triumph of optimism over experience’
1 1 LAURENCE FREEMAN
‘We must remember what it is always easier to forget’
1 6 PARISH PRACTICE 1 7 NOTEBOOK 1 8 L ETTERS 1 9 THE L I V I NG S P I R I T 2 0 PUZZLES
2 1 CHRISTOPHER HOWSE
The Arch-Conjuror of England: John Dee Glyn Parry
J ON M . SWEENEY God’s Jury: the Inquisition and the making of the modern world Cullen Murphy
CLARISSA BURDEN Hope: a tragedy Shalom Auslander
LUCY L E THBRIDGE Titanic Lives: migrants and millionaires, conmen and crew Richard Davenport-Hines
2 5 F EATURE
Laura Gascoigne Jeremy Deller
THEATRE Mark Lawson The Recruiting Officer and Masterclass
T E L EV I S I ON John Morrish Proud and Prejudiced
OPERA Robert Thicknesse The Death of Klinghoffer
3 MARCH 2 0 1 2
COVER STORY 4 Sin cities Alessandro Speciale
Relations between the Church and the Vietnamese Government have improved, but a recent visitor found religious freedom scarce
6 Lessons from across the Rhine Maurice Glasman
After the crisis in capitalism, the solution might be found in the people-centred politics of the common good as practised in Germany
6 Free will demands a free market Philip Booth
The main goal of Catholic Social Teaching is the promotion of the dignity of the human person
9 Energy of Lent John Studzinski
As well as praying, fasting and giving alms, the faithful can take the opportunity of the Lenten season to recharge their spiritual batteries
1 0 Fear of the dark Mark Vernon
The affair between Carl Jung and his patient Sabina Spielrein led the therapist to develop his thoughts on religion and spirituality
1 2 First find the finger on the trigger Mark Sedgwick
A leading specialist on Islam argues that terrorism will not be stopped by banning beliefs held by a non-violent majority
1 2 What makes radicals turn violent? Marat Shterin
Research in Russia has shown how rival groups can turn peaceful new movements into breeding grounds for hatred
1 5 Prayer beyond words Sally Read
The second of our Lenten meditations reflects on Mark’s account of the Transfiguration, the gospel for the second Sunday of the season
2 8 THE CHURCH I N THE WORLD
IVF doctors and scientists ‘motivated by greed’, says Pope 3 1 L ETTER FROM ROME 3 2 NEWS FROM BRITAIN AND I RELAND
Number of seminarians at new high
COVER ILLUSTRATION: MARIA CORTE
3 March 2012 | THE TABLET | 3