August 18, 2012 by P. J. Toscano
Mormon Mitt Romney and Catholic Paul Ryan share far more religious ideas than at first might be supposed. These commonalities lurk beneath disparate religious vocabularies:
- Mormons hold allegiance to the Prophet; Catholics, to the Pope.
- Mormons have apostles and general authorities; Catholics, cardinals and the Curia.
- Mormons control Utah State; Catholics, Vatican State.
- Mormons have stakes; Catholics, dioceses.
- Mormons have stake presidents; Catholics, bishops.
- Mormons have temples, Catholics, cathedrals.
- Mormons confess their sins to their local bishop; Catholics, to their parish priest.
- Mormons attend sacrament meetings; Catholics, Mass.
- Mormons take the sacrament; Catholics, the Eucharist.
- Mormons bear their testimonies; Catholics confess their faith.
- Mormons listen to talks; Catholics, to sermons.
- Mormons believe in a celestial kingdom, two lesser heavens, and an outer darkness; Catholics believe in one heaven, a purgatory (perhaps), and a hell.
- Mormons find the word of God in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine & Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and to a lesser degree general authority conference talks; Catholics find God’s word in the Bible, papal encyclicals, and the creedal decrees of some synods and pre- and post-ecumenical councils.
- Mormons have a lay priesthood that excludes women; Catholics, a professional clergy that also excludes women.
- Mormons have temple sealings; Catholics, wedding Masses.
- Mormons have Brigham Young University; Catholics, Notre Dame.
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is something of a remake in the New World of the One Holy Roman Catholic Apostolic Church of the Old World, except that the Mormon ecclesia has stripped away all the rites, liturgy, vestments, music, art, and traditions of the Catholic ecclesia and has replaced them with symbolic austerity and a lingering anxiety, not with the violence of the Crusades or the persecution of Galileo, but with the now disavowed 19th century Mormon practice of polygamy.
- Both Churches are heartily misogynistic, homophobic, homo-social, and hierarchical. Both are in whole or partial denial of their spiritually abusive practices, past and present. Both traffic in religious kitsch and appalling sentimentality. Both claim to be the one and only true Christian Church. Both trace their authority back to the first apostles. Both countenance and promulgate profound corruptions of the teachings of Jesus.
Religiously, Romney and Ryan have a lot in common that should be troubling to Americans. On the surface, it would appear that Romney’s Mormonism might pose the greater concern. This is so because most American Catholics, like Ryan, ignore or seriously restrict the papal claim to infallibility, which means that Ryan is not likely to place his allegiance to Pope over his allegiance to country. However, though most true-believing Mormons, like Romney, publicly affirm that their Prophet is fallible, in practice they treat him as utterly infallible, not only on major questions of theology and morals but on petty matters as well. Faithful Mormons slavishly obey even the slightest suggestion of their Prophet as if his words came from the mouth of God on Sinai.
Since Mitt Romney has made temple covenants to put his loyalty to the “Kingdom of God” (the Mormon ecclesiastical and corporate institutions) above all other loyalties—including, arguably, any constitutional oath–Americans could very well conclude these covenants disqualify him from public office. Such a conclusion might be dismissible as merely academic if the Church which holds Romney’s allegiance had a history of liberality, diversity, openness, and non-intrusiveness. But this is decidedly not the case. The LDS Church is as controlling an ecclesiastical institution as can be found in contemporary Western Culture. It has rules that dictate what its members may drink (no coffee or non-herbal tea), or wear (no immodest clothing, body piercings, tattoos, beards, goatees, or heavy make-up), or speak (no foul or inappropriate language), or hear (no listening to unorthodox Mormon voices), or watch (no “R” rated movies let alone soft or hard pornography), or read (no critiques of the Church or its policies, even if obviously wrong), or with whom or when members associate (no Sabbath-breaking, no public inappropriate displays of affection, no dating before a certain birthdate, no sympathetic contact with Mormon apostates, no attendance at unapproved religious meetings). Latter-day Saints are prohibited from smoking, masturbating, or fornicating (either together or in series); they are discouraged from postponing marriage to complete one’s education, from marrying outside the temple or outside one’s race or faith, and from abortion as birth control.
While admonishing Church members to obey such rules, Church leaders either avoid entirely or make only weak and infrequent denunciations of war, genocide, violence, greed, exploitation of the environment, misogyny, or invidious discrimination by class, race, sex, gender, or sexual attraction. The LDS Church regularly encourages its members to strain at gnats and swallow camels. It insists that members subordinate their judgment to the judgment of Church leaders in a wide and intrusive range of matters from the ridiculous to the sublime.
Should, therefore, Americans be worried that Ryan and especially Romney might subordinate his political judgment to dictates of Pope or Prophet? I think not. Each of these candidates is far too elitist, narcissistic, and un-self-critical to obey religious leaders: (1) elitist because Romney is in the top 1% of wealthy Americans and is the scion of one of Mormonism’s most respected families while Ryan is the darling of the Republican leadership and the vocal exponent of the economy of greed; (2) narcissistic because Romney accepts his American, Mormon, family and class exceptionalism as if he earned it while Ryan uncritically accepts as inspirational the literary detritus of ultra-narcissist Ayn Rand; and (3) un-self-critical because both men are too dense to see that (contrary to the propaganda of Milton Friedman) their reliance on Frederich August von Hayek’s brilliant deconstruction of social engineering applies not only to governments of the left that control corporations but to governments of the right that are controlled by corporations.
No, Americans needn’t worry that Romney or Ryan might take orders from Prophet or Pope. They should be very worried that these two will assuredly saturate the federal executive branch with an insufferable marinade of patriarchy, jingoism, sentimentality, egocentricity, opacity of mind, and idiotic ideology that will doubtlessly betray the promises of the American Experiment and push the country’s diverse and amnesiac electorate further into American fascism, to whose precipice the nation was brought with such staggering efficiency by the last two Republicans to insinuate themselves into the highest executive offices of our crippled Republic.