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Thursday, November 18, 2010

I found this article on the WaPo's new "On Faith" column. Normally, I read this column because I hate it and it makes me insane. For some reason, I need that in my day; that anger, that cleansing self-flagellation of reading things that make me furious. But this article this time? I agreed.

It's written by a Jesuit, and is extremely critical of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The article is clear on their partisanship:

This year, as president of the bishops' conference, he [Cardinal Francis George] led the attack on President Obama's healthcare bill, which he claims will fund abortions even though the Catholic Health Association disagrees.
The conservative tilt of the bishops' conference was shown even more clearly by the election for vice president. After two votes, the final runoff was between the two most conservative candidates of the eight bishops on the ballot: Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, who wants to ban pro-choice politicians from Communion, and Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, chair of the bishops' committee on the defense of marriage--the committee assigned to fight gay marriage. [emphasis added by me]
Now, none of this is particularly remarkable; gee, go figure, the Catholic Church is weighing heavily into our trumped-up "culture wars." Nothing really new there. But the article ends with the real point by this Jesuit, and it's the one that really got me going:
What is most remarkable about this meeting is that it took place in the middle of the most devastating economic downturn since the Great Depression, and the bishops said nothing about it. It was as if they did not know that almost 10 percent of their parishioners are unemployed, that the new Congress is going to take aim at programs helping the poor and that now is the time to speak out for social justice. Their silence was deafening.
There. It. Is. When it comes time for the Catholic Church's leadership to show their true colors on social justice issues, they don't. They stick with gays and abortion.

Tone deaf as ever, it saddens me that Catholic enrollment is up 1.94%. I'm not sad for the church (I rarely attend) per se, I'm sad because that means that this is a reflection of the priorities of parishoners. With 1% of the U.S. holding not only 34% of the U.S.'s wealth but also a wealth that is more than the bottom 90% of our population as an aggregate, with the gap between rich and poor widening, and with more people being forced from their homes and in need of and pa Hackett still only care about gays and abortions.

Or is it just that they find a spiritual home in the Catholic Church, whose leaders are simply tone-deaf to their parishoners' real needs?

Or...are the poor not going to mass because, amidst homilies on abortion, biblical literalism and gays, does the church really offer them nothing?


Bob 12:40 PM  

People vote against their self interest instead voting on issues of gays and abortion. Don't you think those same people will attend a chuirch that opreaches against their interests?

Smitty 4:56 PM  

Not so much preaches *against* as just not preaches about them at all.

Monk-in-Training 6:18 AM  

Good morning Smitty,
I wanted to respond to your post before I got busy with my morning prayers, once that happens my day fills up! :)

It is my humble opinion that for the last several years an element of American Christianity as been very closely associated with a narrow political platform, and transforming itself into something barely recognizable as historically Christian. What has our Faith become? What do those outside the Church see us as?

Somehow something has changed in American Christianity. We no longer believe in the gentle Shepherd from Nazareth, we have put our faith in politics, guns and bombs rather than Jesus, Who told the Jews to love those "godless" Romans who occupied their land, turn the other cheek and walk more than the occupier's law required. When was the last time you heard a call to post the Beatitudes on a courthouse wall? No, we want Law and we want to mix it with our National Pride. As Pastor Paul Grabill says 'It ain’t deception if it ain’t seductive." I am very fearful that holy Mother Church has been seduced by wealth and power, and consumed with lust for more.

I do not think Christians should exit from politics, quite the opposite, but when did it become OK to not act like Christians when we operate in the political world? How is it that we Christians can be on board with lying about an opponent, using fear, racial stereotyping, and arrogance, knowingly making untrue accusations, forwarding emails that smear our opposition, all with the idea of forwarding the Kingdom? Whatever happened to humility and not bearing false witness? Is it OK, just because the opposition does it? Do you tell your kids they can do it just because their playmates do?

While being totally consumed with gays and abortions, we have forgotten those prisoners in our own gulags, those who hunger, are cold, and the thirsty world looking for Grace. Politics has stripped compassion from the Church, and we have given up our soul, our birthright for a meal next to the President. I would love to see those Princes of the Church leave their warm Episcopal Palaces and join me with my friends in the cold and rain under bridges looking for those who have no one to care for them. That would rock their Church!!

We have lost our way on a sea of scarlet sin, and have no one to blame but ourselves. How, and in what way will any amount of Law or Politics roll back the effects of the Fall? How can anyone use hate to climb the rungs of power and might and call it Gospel living? No matter what, that is NOT the Gospel.

I am sorry for this sermon/rant, but it is hard for me to see my ragged, poor Master served by these glittering politicians in ecclesiastical clothing, and I know I have to be aware of my own sin and failures, for they are many.

Almighty and most merciful God, we remember before You all poor and neglected persons whom it would be easy for us to forget: the homeless and the destitute, the old and the sick, and all who have none to care for them. Help us to heal those who are broken in body or spirit, and to turn their sorrow into joy. Grant this, Father, for the love of Your Son, Who for our sake became poor, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

steves 7:44 AM  

MIT, you raise some excellent points and there is a lot to respond to in your post. Before I get to that, I also find it sad that poverty was ignored at the expense of issues like abortion. Abortion is not a deal breaker for me, but I can understand that it is a very important issue to some. I don't expect it to be ignored, but it shouldn't be the only issue or the most important issue.

Personally, I don't think either party does a great job of relating to Christians. The GOP makes promises that it rarely keeps and paints themselves as being pro-family and wholesome. They fall terribly short on all these fronts. Many Democrats act insulting towards Christians, ignore them, or otherwise make assumptions as to what they believe.

Smitty 10:19 AM  

I don't think either party does a great job of relating to Christians

You're right, Steve, they don't. But my point is that the leaders of the Christian Church, not the secular leaders' embracing or ignoring of Christianity, but the church leadership themselves, have clearly aligned themselves with one party, and in that alignment, have ignored their own mandates, or prioritized some over others to the detriment of their own parishoners.

Thus, while I do agree that our civic leaders have abandoned or twisted faith, my point is about what the church itself has done to its own faith.

Monk-in-Training 11:37 AM  

my point is about what the church itself has done to its own faith.

This is the core of what I meant to say, and I think the story of St. Lawrence fits here.

Seems the Romans were going to execute him, but waited for him to produce the Church's treasure. When they again demanded to see the Church's treasure, St. Lawrence opened the doors of the judgment hall, and showed them a large crowd of people - blind, crippled, poor, and in the eyes of the Empire, worthless.

Lawrence was horribly martyred for this.

Now it is the Church who ignores her poorest children for the sake of political expediency and power. This discussion hurts me deeply, but it needs to be discussed and Mother Church needs to hear it.

May the Christ Who loves with a wounded Heart, open our hearts to love.

steves 2:59 PM  

Smitty, you are correct and I certainly am not giving them a pass. I just think the democrats could make grounds with many Christians.

Smitty 8:47 PM  

I just think the democrats could make grounds with many Christians.

Agreed, but church leadership has not exactly made it look like Dems would even have a chance.

Streak 11:40 AM  

Late to the conversation, but let me just suggest that for many conservatives, abortion is simply an excuse. I am not saying they are for it, but they are not serious about it. It simply allows them to side with more selfish conservative political goals with some kind of moral cover.

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