America is witnessing a Catholic identity meltdown and there have been a series of explanations for this over the course of the past several months. I am not talking about faithful Catholics who love their faith and their Church. I am specifically referring to those who insist on defining their religious identity as Catholic, while backing away from, or passionately supporting, the act of abortion. Such people, whether they realize it or not, and I believe they do, are sending mixed messages to Americans about what it truly means to be Catholic.
Most recently, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, Colorado, addressed the problem of pro-abortion Catholics in public life. He told a reporter
I don't know if it's because we've let it go on for such a long time and haven't challenged it before now, but this attitude of being comfortable with being pro-choice and Catholic at the same time seems to be deeply set in the lives of these folks.
Perhaps, but I think the problem is far deeper than what we might initially want to believe.
History teaches us that there is a simple explanation for this current problem, which is not really that current and frankly, not really that difficult to analyze. A few examples, beginning with one historical figure that perhaps set the tone for what the archbishop is describing as a "very bad period of catechesis" may shed light on the dilemma.
A biographical tribute to Margaret Sanger, founder of the American Birth Control League, which later became the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, describes her as a young woman who had herself baptized into the Catholic Church at the age of 13.
Though her dalliance with Catholic identity was apparently short lived, the very idea that she was a Catholic and was raised by a devoutly Catholic mother should give us pause to wonder about her obvious obdurate change in direction. What happened to this woman who ultimately took it upon herself to attack the very Church she once joined?
Angela Franz wrote a marvelously well documented article that focused on Sanger and she tells her readers
Sanger's elitist bigotry was the motivation for her birth control advocacy. Looked at as a whole, Sanger's writings, speeches, and organizational connections with the eugenics movement all served the end of controlling the "unfit" – those determined by Sanger to be unable to manage their own childbearing behavior. What Sanger promulgated was an ethic of control.
In other words, Sanger became a god unto herself, capable of judging individuals who should and should not be part of the human race. Sanger rejected God. Sanger rejected love. Sanger rejected truth.
Moving into our own era, we find a Catholic commentator from MSNBC by the name of Chris Matthews. Geoffrey Dickens of NewsBusters paid very close attention to what Matthews had to say about those of us who oppose the nomination of pro-abortion Catholic Kathleen Sebelius, current governor of Kansas. Dickens wrote
On Monday night's Hardball, Chris Matthews feared KS Governor Kathleen Sebelius, in her nomination fight to head HHS, would be a target of "the terrorism of the, of the anti-abortion people." Then perhaps realizing he called all pro-lifers terrorists, Matthews feebly attempted to amend the statement, as he tried to clarify, "I mean verbal terrorism."
Thanks to Jill Stanek who remains the pro-life movement's number one blogger, you can listen to the mind-boggling Matthews yourself.
What I find curious about Matthews, who like Sanger, attempts to find problems with the "Catholic position" wherever he turns, is that he appears to be far more concerned about those of us who find factual fault with Sebelius than those who are fawning all over her even at the expense of their previous pro-life credentials.
I am speaking of Senator Sam Brownback, Catholic and a Kansan, who issued a joint statement with Kansas Senator Pat Roberts stating
Congratulations to Governor Sebelius on being nominated to be the Secretary of Health and Human Services…. It's an honor for the State of Kansas to have an elected official appointed to the president's cabinet. We are hopeful Governor Sebelius will be a voice for Kansas and rural America at the Department. We look forward to working with her on issues important to the state including a National Cancer Institute Designation at the University of Kansas Cancer Center.
Pardon me while I become a verbal terrorist once again so that I can point out to you that nobody forced Senator Brownback to issue a statement, regardless of political protocol! Perhaps I am being politically naïve, but so what! I am a Catholic who honestly believes that those in public office who are Catholic need to put their faith ahead of their protocol.
For as American Life League's Katie Walker pointed out in a statement given to Politico's Ben Smith, "Brownback's support for Sebelius doesn't undercut pro-lifers one bit. It certainly undercuts Brownback's credibility, not to mention the victims of abortion."
That is precisely my point. Whether it is a frontal attack on the Catholic Church and her teachings, or a public example of putting politics before principle, Matthews and his ilk are being crass. The message America is getting is that Catholics can pretty much do or say whatever they want, flaunt it in public, and then receive the body and blood of Christ in Holy Communion, without batting an eye or receiving a reprimand from a bishop, priest or deacon.
And you wonder why the Church is facing an identity meltdown in America? I think there is an answer in all this that does not come from me, but from a profoundly holy priest, Father Alfonso Galvez, SICP whose writing was excerpted in the winter 2009 edition of the magazine, Latin Mass.
Turning one's back on the truth is, therefore, nothing less than turning one's back on God… If the Truth is God, and God is Love, rejection of the truth is rejection of love. So no matter what anyone may say, contempt for the truth is not so much a matter of the understanding as something to do with the option of the will. Truth is not rejected because one fails to see it, but rather because one does not want it….
It is not surprising, therefore, that man becomes a liar as soon as he turns his back on God.
This is indeed the problem the Catholic Church is facing today. This is the reason why we hope that Archbishop Chaput and each of his fellow bishops will begin firmly addressing the scandal that is being created in the Church today by those who are "comfortable" with the murder of preborn children while continuing to call themselves Catholic.