Pro-Life: From Liberal Catholics to Conservative Protestants

Who are the folks who stand outside of family-planning clinics these days, warning young women that some planning services are nothing but the cruelest form of murder? As historian Daniel Williams argues in a recent article in the journal Religions, the “pro-life” movement shifted from its early roots as a socially liberal Catholic cause to a politically conservative Protestant one.

Is this kind of thing inherently "conservative?"

Is this kind of thing inherently “conservative?”

For those of us interested in the historical development of America’s culture wars, Williams’s article is a must-read. As he explains, in 1972 the first generation of pro-lifers pulled from the civil-rights and anti-war wing of liberalism. At the time, Williams argues, “it seemed unthinkable that anyone would equate the pro-life cause with political conservatism.”

What happened?

As anyone with a pulse is well aware, these days the pro-life movement is firmly in the hands of culturally and politically conservative evangelicals.

Williams argues that pro-life Catholicism had its roots in the 1930s. Back then, Catholic intellectuals and activists often tied their theological arguments against abortion to the dominant New Deal liberalism of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

After Vatican II’s liberalizing reforms in the early 1960s, liberal Catholics forged even tighter bonds between liberal Catholicism and secular Great-Society anti-poverty programs. As Williams recounts, anti-racist liberals tied new abortion laws to genocide against African Americans.

Around the time of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, liberals began shifting their thinking. Instead of an issue of the rights of an oppressed and voiceless minority, abortion became a question of women’s rights.

On the conservative side, anti-abortion activism lost its connection to anti-war and anti-poverty campaigns. It lost its overwhelming connection to liberal Catholicism. Instead, it became wrapped in the Protestant-dominated language of “family values,” Williams writes.

For many of us who follow culture-war politics, it can come as a shock to read Williams’s re-creation of recent evangelical history. Even up to and during the early 1970s, many conservative evangelical organizations and intellectuals did not take a recognizably pro-life position.

Everyone interested in the full story should check out Williams’s article as well as his other work. It serves as a reminder that the seemingly hard-and-fast positions of our culture-war trenches have actually shifted dramatically over the years.

And for many of us, it prompts important questions:

  • Does pro-life seem inherently “conservative?”
    • Why?
  • Do some SAGLRROILYBYGTH who consider themselves “liberal” also consider themselves “pro-life?”
    • Why?
  • If you are “pro-life” and conservative, do you think the two go together?
  • Would it be possible these days to be a real pro-life liberal?
  • Is there something different about Catholic pro-lifers vs. Protestant ones?

A Trip to a Catholic-School Science Fair

Science Fairs are great.  At their best, they allow students some freedom to experiment and learn on their own.  At their worst, they still provide hilarious examples of wacky adolescent science.  Recently, we saw a field report from the National Center for Science Education blog.  Peter Hess asked the question: What passes for “science” at a Catholic science fair?

In these pages, we’ve eagerly read reports from the field as science mavens visit various sorts of science fairs.  P.Z. Myers has argued that creationist students actively use science fairs to subvert the mind-numbing mental boundaries imposed by creationism.  Greg Laden visited a creationist homeschool science fair and found that some of the science was not bad.  At least not much worse, Laden thought, than the crappy science on display at non-creationist science fairs.

Cutting-edge science from a non-religious science fair...

Cutting-edge science from a non-religious science fair…

Hess found to his great relief that his kids’ Catholic school promoted mainstream science, without adulteration from theology.  Students came up with ambitious projects, such as measuring the distraction levels posed by cell phones and texting.

How distracted are drivers? This kid was not looking to the Bible for answers...

How distracted are drivers? This kid was not looking to the Bible for answers…

Hess also talked with some of the teachers.  Those teachers, too, did not see any conflict between Catholicism and teaching mainstream science in their classes.  One teacher offered an opinion that echoed the view of the late Stephen Jay Gould.  As middle-school teacher Joseph Nagel told Hess,

I sometimes consider science to be the constant investigation of the external world, a quest to analyze and understand the physical world, exclusive of human experience.  Religion I see as the eternal internal investigation, a search to explore and understand what lies within and between us, an examination of the human experience.  If science is our understanding of the world, religion is our understanding of us.  Maybe science is the ‘how’ and religion is the ‘why.’

Of course, different Catholic schools might have different approaches.  But my experience matches up closely with that of Hess.  I taught for a decade in Catholic schools in Milwaukee.  Though we sometimes had arguments about the novels we’d teach or the theology we’d teach, there was never any glimmer of controversy over the science we’d teach.

In fact, at least one of our science teachers also taught biology (or was it chemistry?) at a local public, secular community college.  When I asked him if he taught science differently at our Catholic school, he responded just as did the teachers Hess talked to: “Why would I?”

 

Can Christian Colleges Say the R-Word?

Do conservative Christians encourage rape?  It’s a difficult thing to talk about, but it is a question these days at the center of discussions about conservatism, Christianity and higher education.  Most recently, blogger Samantha Field related the stories of students at Pensacola Christian College who had been punished by the school after suffering sexual assaults.  The accusations have attracted enough attention that PCC has felt obliged to make a public denial.  The school said it has been “harassed and victimized” by these accusations.  PCC, the school insisted, has always acted in accordance with the law.

This is not only an issue at Pensacola Christian College.  As journalist Kiera Feldman argued in a recent New Republic article, a similar culture of institutional arrogance prevails at Patrick Henry College.  And Bob Jones University has gone back and forth with its efforts to examine its own culture.  More broadly, Billy Graham’s grandson attracted attention a few months back for asking if evangelical Protestants had a worse record of dealing with sex abuse than did the Catholic Church.

These are difficult questions to ask.  For an earlier post about this issue, I’ve been called insensitive (fair, and I apologize again), ignorant (sometimes fair, sometimes unfair) and guilty of condoning or excusing cover-ups (utterly unfair).  What I asked was whether or not these accusations of institutional misconduct rely on stereotyped assumptions about conservative evangelical Protestants.  In other words, is there something specifically about the religion of these schools that is somehow to blame?  Or is it an institutional culture at these conservative schools that blames victims and excuses criminals?  Is there something about the Christian nature of these schools that promotes and excuses rape?  Or is this a question of institutional mismanagement?  Finally, we have to ask, is this whole thing somehow more aggravated at these schools than it is at secular or pluralist schools?

After reading more about these cases, it seems the attitude toward rape of school leaders really is wrapped up intimately with their institutional tradition, and maybe even with their theological tradition.  It seems this is more than just another case of fundamentalist-bashing.  In the past, I have defended young-earth creationists against accusations that they are guilty of criminal abuse.  I’ve chided secular journalists—with whom I’m generally sympathetic—for misrepresenting the claims of young earth creationists.  These cases from conservative colleges seemed to me, at first, to represent similar sorts of knee-jerk anti-fundamentalist stereotyping.  I didn’t try to cast doubt on the sincerity of the victims, to be clear, but I did ask whether the accusations against the schools unfairly tied belief in an inerrant Bible to cases of institutional misconduct.

I do not come from a conservative evangelical or fundamentalist background.  But for a living, I study conservative educational activism, especially the educational thinking of conservative Protestants in the United States.  I’m aware of the history of American fundamentalism, including the ways theology has been profoundly combined with hierarchical gender notions.  As I wrote in my 1920s book and as Margaret Bendroth argued in hers, in its early decades American fundamentalism relied on notions of male dominance and female submissiveness.

We know that all colleges these days are struggling with proper ways to handle sexual assault cases.  The charges against schools such as Patrick Henry College, Pensacola Christian College, and Bob Jones University suggest that the campus culture at these conservative schools makes that difficult task much harder.  It seems the fundamentalist culture of these schools has intensified the already brutal culture on many secular college campuses.

This does not mean that every fundamentalist condones sexual assault, of course.  This does not even mean that every student, faculty member, or administrator of these schools agrees with the overall school culture.  Nor can we even say with confidence that this culture is somehow a necessary outgrowth of the theology of the schools, rather than primarily a question of hierarchical, closed-off, inflexible administrative structure.  But it does seem that the dominant atmosphere of these schools needs to share blame in this aggravated culture of condoning and excusing sexual assault.

The best comparison, it seems to me, is the atrocious record of the Catholic Church with its recent sex-abuse scandals.  No one says that every Catholic—let alone every Catholic priest—is part of this scandal.  Nor do we even say with confidence that this is something caused directly by the theology of the Catholic Church.  And we can of course point out that far more non-Catholics committed sex abuse than did Catholic priests.  But such objections miss the point.  There was something profoundly wrong with the way the power structure of the church handled those cases.  It seems there’s a similar connection here between institutional structure and moral accountability.

Those few who might use these cases to suggest that Christianity as a whole is a rape-centered religion are just as wrong as they have ever been.  And we must remember that there is a wide variety in conservative evangelical colleges.  A culture that dominates at BJU, PHC, or PCC will be very different from the culture at other evangelical schools such as Wheaton.  But even remembering those important caveats, there is something deeply troubling with the institutional power structure in these fundamentalist schools.

What will colleges do to respond?  As I’ve argued elsewhere, these schools rely on their reputation as havens of religious orthodoxy in a secularized society.  As the first Bob Jones insisted when he founded Bob Jones College in the 1920s,

Fathers and mothers who place their sons and daughters in our institution can go to sleep at night with no haunting fear that some skeptical teacher will steal the faith of their precious children.

Today’s school leaders, no less than the founders, must be able to say confidently that students will be theologically and physically safe.  How can they reassure parents and future students that they have responded to these accusations?

Is the Common Core Un-American? Professor Deneen Says Yes

What should conservatives do with the new Common Core Learning Standards?

Trash them, demands Notre Dame political theorist Patrick Deneen.  In doing so, Deneen makes some fishy assertions about the educational imaginations of our Founding Fathers.

As ILYBYGTH readers are well aware, there is no unified “conservative” position on the Common Core.  Some smart conservatives hate them.  Other smart conservatives hold their noses and endorse them.

Professor Deneen signed on to the recent letter against the standards to the US Catholic Bishops.  Deneen and other prominent Catholic intellectuals voiced their dismay at the intellectual, political, and spiritual implications of the new standards.

In his recent essay in The American Conservative, Deneen spells out in more detail his objections.

The standards, Deneen warns, represent a monstrous over-emphasis on only two of the five main purposes of education.  The standards push schools to focus only on basic facts and logic. They ignore the formation of good citizens with character and a sense of wonder.

In this case, according to Professor Deneen, two-fifths of a loaf is worse than none at all. These standards, he argues, are not simply a good attempt at a difficult task.  Rather, they are fundamentally flawed, since they are based on a “dessicated and debased conception of what a human being is.”

So far, so good.  But Professor Deneen argues that this sort of common educational standard violates the best American traditions, and this doesn’t seem to fit the historical record.

The good professor is a mighty smart guy, well versed in the political thought of our founders.  So I have a hard time sussing out what he means by the following:

Because humans in their social and political communities are various, it was understood by our Founders that the way that these educational purposes to be achieved would be various, and so the commitment to local control of education was not born of a resignation in the absence of a strong central government, but a positive embrace of variety and multiplicity.

I’m no expert in early America, but that just ain’t so.  Prominent founders such as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Benjamin Rush all pushed for greater systematization and centralization of schooling.  Each of them hoped to organize a chaotic network of educational opportunities into a more coherent centralized system of schooling.

Perhaps none of these founders would have wanted a single system for all of the states, as the Common Core standards hope for.  But each of these founders, at least, would have applauded the attempt to make education less happenstance and more predictable.

I understand Professor Deneen’s disgust at the lopsided nature of the Common Core State Standards, even if I don’t agree with it.  But I don’t see the basis for his claims that this sort of effort violates the spirits of the Founders.  On the contrary, this sort of rationalization and systematization is just the kind of thing those big-idea men would have drooled over.

 

Catholics against the Common Core

Don’t do it, a group of Catholic academics advised their bishops recently.  Don’t let Catholic schools follow the new Common Core Learning Standards.

As with everything Catholic, the signatories of this letter were a diverse bunch.

They were led by Notre Dame’s Gerard Bradley and included prominent conservatives such as Anthony Esolen, Robert George, and Patrick Deneen.  Also signing on was Lehigh University’s intelligent-design black sheep, Michael Behe.

Why did this group want to keep the new standards out of Catholic schools?

For one thing, they argued the new focus on nonfiction threatens to water down the rich cultural heritage of Catholic schooling.  “Common Core,” the letter charges,

shortchanges the central goals of all sound education and surely those of Catholic education: to grow in the virtues necessary to know, love, and serve the Lord, to mature into a responsible, flourishing adult, and to contribute as a citizen to the process of responsible democratic self-government. . . . Perhaps a truck-driver needs no acquaintance with Paradise Lost to do his or her day’s work.  But everyone is better off knowing Shakespeare and Euclidean geometry, and everyone is capable of it.

But there is more at stake than just a profound, moral education.  Bradley’s letter worries that future new standards will directly contradict the specifically religious values at the heart of the Catholic faith.  As the letter put it,

In science, the new standards are likely to take for granted, and inculcate students into a materialist metaphysics that is incompatible with the spiritual realities—soul, conceptual thought, values, free choice, God—which Catholic faith presupposes.  We fear, too, that the history standards will promote the easy moral relativism, tinged with a pervasive anti-religious bias, that is commonplace in collegiate history departments today.

As Richard Perez-Pena noted in the New York Times, the letter-writers do not represent the entirety of Catholic opinion.  Sister John Mary Fleming, executive director for Catholic education at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said she viewed the new standards as an opportunity, not a threat.  And Sister M. Paul McCaughey, superintendent of Chicago’s Catholic schools, agreed that Catholic schools must maintain their high educational standards, but did not see the standards as a problem.

 

 

Bullies, Schools, Homosexuality, and the Confederate Flag

Who is a school bully?  Can it be a teacher who disciplines students for wearing Confederate flags or for denouncing homosexuality?

That is the question conservative commentator Anthony Esolen asks today on The Public Discourse.

Esolen, Professor of English at Providence College, considers a recent case from Michigan.

In this compellingly tangled case of homosexuality, history, religion, and education, a teacher hoped to fight anti-homosexual attitudes among his students.  This teacher participated in a school event in which teachers and students wore t-shirts opposing anti-gay bullying.  The teacher showed his class a video about anti-gay bullying, then engaged in a discussion about it.  During the discussion, the teacher noticed that one student wore a Confederate-flag belt buckle.  The teacher ordered the student to remove the buckle.  When another student asked about the obvious contradiction between the student’s right to wear the buckle and the teacher’s right to wear the t-shirt, the discussion exploded.  The teacher eventually disciplined both students, one for the buckle, and one for insisting that his Catholic faith forced him to disapprove of homosexuality.

Esolen brings up these snarled issues in all their complexity.  Does a Catholic student have a right to disapprove of homosexuality?  Does a teacher have a duty to discipline dissenting students?  Can a student wear offensive belt buckles or t-shirts?  What ideas are too offensive to be protected in schools?

Also, importantly, Esolen considers whether an economics teacher should be engaged in these sorts of pedagogical discussions.  If teachers are, as Esolen argues, “a group of tutors hired by a group of parents,” shouldn’t those teachers respect parents’ beliefs more rigorously?

Being Gay at a Catholic College

Is gay okay the Catholic way?

Religion writer Michael O’Loughlin recently surveyed the experiences of gay students at a variety of Catholic colleges.  The answer, maybe not surprisingly, is that different schools do things differently.

At Chicago’s DePaul University, O’Loughlin found, students can minor in LGBTQ Studies. Students and faculty are out and supportive.

Other schools, such as Washington DC’s Catholic University, have a more mixed record.  Students are gay, O’Loughlin reported, and that’s only sort of okay.

One constant, at Catholic universities as across American culture, is rapid change.

O’Loughlin returned after just a handful of years to his alma mater, St. Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.  When he attended, gay students kept their sexual identity private. Now, the school itself has initiated programs to make all students, explicitly including homosexual students, feel welcomed, loved, and guided.

As some of the comments on O’Loughlin’s essay proved, not all Catholics are okay with this trend.  As “JP” noted,

Can one imagine a group of Catholic adulterers or thieves organizing at a Catholic college in order for their “voice to be heard”? Homosexual acts as well as larceny or adultery are still considered Mortal Sins by the RCC.

Catholic schools are not alone in their struggles with this issue.  As we noted a while back, Brandon Ambrosino shared his experiences with faith and sexuality at the conservative evangelical flagship school, Liberty University.  Just as Catholic colleges have had a range of responses to the issues of student homosexuality, so folks at conservative Protestant schools  have had surprisingly mixed reactions as well.

 

“All I write about is Jesus:” the Case for a Conservative Kerouac

This morning at the American Conservative Robert Dean Lurie makes the case for including Jack Kerouac in the canon of culturally conservative authors.

As Lurie acknowledges, Kerouac’s rambling, drug-, jazz-, sex-, and booze-fueled writing does not usually bring this to mind.  Yet Lurie insists Kerouac is “up for grabs ideologically.”  Kerouac, Lurie writes,

“did indeed go on to lead a wild existence filled with alcohol, drugs, and perpetual shiftlessness; he fled from monogamy as from leprosy. Yet one cannot grasp the soul of Kerouac unless one understands his fundamentally traditional core. He never wished to foment a revolution. He did not desire to change America; he intended to document, celebrate, and, in the end, eulogize it.”

Image Source: Feuilleton, by John Coulthart

I admit I’ve never been a fan.  Years spent teaching English to bright and talented high-schoolers caused me to resent the influence of On the Road.  Too many young people seemed to lean on this book, among others, as proof that writing and thinking did not need to be disciplined or systematic.  More than that, the book always seemed to be too careful and planned in its spontaneity.  A tantrum, not a rebellion.

Lurie argues that we’ll never understand Kerouac if we stop at this surface impression.  The theme of Catholicism permeates Kerouac’s work, yet many readers miss it entirely.  As Lurie notes,

“The influence [of Catholicism] is so obvious and so pervasive, in fact, that Kerouac became justifiably incensed when Ted Berrigan of the Paris Review asked during a 1968 interview, ‘How come you never write about Jesus?’ Kerouac’s reply: ‘I’ve never written about Jesus? … You’re an insane phony … All I write about is Jesus.'”

In the end, Lurie concludes, Kerouac stood out among his Beat colleagues:

“Allen Ginsberg, the poet visionary, pined for utopia and spiritual revolution. William S. Burroughs, the outlaw libertarian, pined for anarchy and gay liberation. Neal Cassady, the exiled cowboy, pined for girls and cars. Jack Kerouac, the mystic, pined for God and home.”

In the News: Paul Ryan and a WASP-free White House

Governor Romney’s announcement of Paul Ryan as his Vice-Presidential running mate has been heralded by some conservatives as a triumph.  Ryan is known for his commitment to restricting abortion and defending traditional families.  He is also the GOP’s leading voice for budget-cutting, even to the point of earning some censure from Catholic leaders.   But the pick has been seen as a play to conservatives, or, as we say here at ILYBYGTH, to voters from Fundamentalist America.

One unusual aspect of Romney’s decision is that it guarantees a WASP-free White House for at least four more years.  Of course, there’s nothing new about a WASP-free White House.  Barack Obama is African American Protestant, while Joe Biden is Catholic.  But no matter who wins in November, with LDS (Morman) Romney and staunchly Catholic Ryan, there will be no White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant in this race.

This matters for a couple of reasons.  First, it shows the way Fundamentalist America is changing.  Sixty years ago, asking conservatives to line up behind a non-Protestant candidate was political suicide.  In 1928 and nearly in 1960, it was tricky even for the Democrats to run a Catholic candidate.  These days, many different types of conservatives celebrate the Romney-Ryan ticket.  Ryan is seen as the “conservative” choice, not the “Catholic” choice.  Just as with the Protestant-free US Supreme Court, the fact that conservatives don’t seem to care about the non-WASPiness of this election tells us something about the changing nature of American culture.

It would be easy to be cynical about this.  We could attack Fundamentalist America for being hypocritical.  Here is how this argument would go: conservatives demand respect for “traditional values,” but they don’t ever clarify what those values are.  Since such things change within even one lifetime, the defense of “traditional values” is meaningless.  What last year’s traditionalist defends as a necessary part of American life, next year’s traditionalist insists was never part of traditionalist thinking.  In this case, traditionalist conservatives could be taken to task for shifting their “traditional values” without ever admitting it.  Sixty years ago, Catholics and LDS members were seen by many as outsiders, owing loyalty to a foreign potentate, in the case of Catholics.

A more sympathetic interpretation, however, is that this change from WASP to a more big-tent conservatism shows the healthy ways Fundamentalist America can change.  Fundamentalist America, in this line of thinking, is not the dinosaur it is made out to be.  It is a dynamic, thoughtful, fully contemporary way to be American.  As American culture broadens to welcome former outsiders such as Catholics and African Americans, so too does Fundamentalist America.

Transubstantiation: Faith, Science, and the Public Square

“Catholics are crazy.”

Why don’t we hear people saying that?  Richard Dawkins accused anyone disbelieving evolution of being “ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).” Does he accuse Catholics of the same thing?  Or why don’t we hear skeptics comparing the Catholic liturgy to a Flying Spaghetti Monster?

After all, one of the central features of Catholic liturgical tradition and theology is at least as radically anti-science as any kind of young-earth creationism.  But nobody seems to mind.

For purposes of full disclosure, I must note: I’m a big fan of Catholicism.  As the saying goes, ‘Some of my best friends . . .”  But even close friends must acknowledge the elephant at the altar, the rigid anti-science that lurks uncomfortably at the heart of the Catholic Eucharist.

We’re talking here about the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation.  In Catholic doctrine, when a priest completes a special ceremony over bread and wine, the bread and wine are literally transformed into the body and blood of Christ.  Not symbolically, but substantially changed.  Of course, to all outward appearances, the bread and wine maintain their accidental attributes.  The senses, and even the most careful scientific detection, will see/hear/taste them only as bread or wine.  But in substance they have been transformed into the Real Presence, the living body and blood of the Christ.  I’m no theologian, and I invite correction on this subject, but as I understand the doctrine, the substance changes while the accidental outward properties do not.  Thus, for example, my body has two hands.  But the substance of my body does not change if I cut off one hand.  It is still my body, though the accidental properties change.  With the bread and wine, the substance transforms into the actual substance of blood and flesh.  But the accidental properties remain the same.  It will not taste like blood or flesh.  (If it did, I imagine this issue might be a little more controversial.)  It will continue to have all the outward appearances, down to the microscopic level, of bread and wine.  Yet it will not be.

This is a profoundly antiscientific notion at the heart of Catholic belief.  Instead of believing in the clear evidence of their senses, Catholics are supposed to believe that they are eating and drinking real flesh and real blood.  This notion is at least as antiscientific as more controversial doctrines such as young-earth creationism.  After all, creationists are not asked to disbelieve their own senses.  They are not required to contest the scientific measurements of things.  Instead, young-earth creationists are told that they have a superior science worked out, a true science that accords with the version of creation described in the Bible.  Catholics, on the other hand, officially believe that bread tastes like bread, smells like bread, looks like bread, has all the chemical properties of bread, and yet is not bread.  That must be difficult to swallow, pardon the pun.  Yet we don’t hear any complaints against it or attacks upon it from skeptics and anti-fundamentalists.  Why not?

There are two obvious reasons.  First, this doctrine doesn’t impinge on the public sphere the way creationism does.  After all, if it somehow mattered what public schools taught about the nature of bread, wine, and liturgical practice, then we could expect the notion of transubstantiation to become more controversial.  When the nature of the substance of the Eucharist was part of a public debate, as in the time of Martin Luther, then the doctrine of transubstantiation was indeed intensely controversial.  These days, in subjects such as contraception and abortion, where Catholic doctrine impacts public policy, we do hear a great deal about the nature of Catholic belief.  Since the doctrine of transubstantiation remains important only within the religion itself, skeptics may feel no need to challenge its inherent antiscientific nature.  After all, much religious belief is antiscientific.

Second, even many Catholics don’t embrace this doctrine enthusiastically or aggressively.  Catholics are not forced to defend the anti-science of transubstantiation the way creationists are forced to defend their Bible-based anti-science.  Catholics are assumed to agree with this foundational theological premise, but they are not put in a position to defend it publicly.  Allow me to give one example.  At the Catholic Church I attend, during harsh flu seasons parishioners are asked not to drink from the communal chalice if they have symptoms.  That makes great scientific sense, but little liturgical sense.  If the wine had actually been transformed into the substance of Christ’s blood, it doesn’t seem right that the H1N1 virus could attach itself.  Perhaps a Catholic apologist would reply that such things as viruses are only part of the “accidental” features of the wine.  The point here, though, is that to many Catholic parishioners, at least at my church, the transubstantiated blood is still regarded as very similar to wine.

So are Catholics crazy?  Do they cling to anti-scientific notions?  Does the core belief of Catholicism mean that ideas taken on nothing but faith must trump all evidence of the senses?  And if so, why don’t anti-fundamentalists seem to mind?