The Catholic Church and her miraculous history of withstanding assaults from within and without is always a source of inspiration for me. Starting with Judas Iscariot himself, there have always been insiders who mouthed platitudes or behaved in certain ways while plotting against the very essence of what it means to be Catholic. Iscariot did, after all, betray Christ for a mere 30 pieces of silver.
Clearly most disgruntled Catholics today are not using money in attempts to destroy the Church; they are using deceptive rhetoric, powerful positions and the ability to dissent from Church teaching to confuse, confound and misinform those who do not understand what is at stake. Those who fall victim to such watered down theology may have been baptized Catholic, but if it ends there, what else can one expect. And this debilitating condition among Catholics spreads to those who are not Catholic.
Non-Catholics are getting so many different impressions of what is acceptable for Catholics that they don't see the value in calling one's self Catholic in the first place. That's how the devil works. Yes, the devil. The seeds of confusion, sown by the father of lies, (Evangelium Vitae 53) are at the core of the Catholic identity crisis today.
The results of a recent Gallup poll are a very good example of Catholics who are either confused or hopelessly lost. Perhaps the Gallup report escaped you, but U. S. News and World Report's blog is the place to go for the details. The headline reads: "Gallup Poll: Catholics the Same or More Liberal Than Others on Moral Issues."
These few words encapsulate the "Catholic problem." There is a notion among members of the media, political organizations, Catholic institutions of higher learning and even a few bishops that those age-old laws known as the Ten Commandments, handed down by God to Moses, which form the basis for Catholic moral teaching, are suggestions, not really commandments at all.
According to Gallup, 40 percent of Catholics believe that abortion is acceptable. I guess Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Joseph Biden, among others, can attest to that! However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
2258 "Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being."
Among Catholics, this should be a teaching that is as clear as crystal, but sadly this is not the case. If it were, some of the problems facing Catholics today would not be confronting us at every turn. Whether it's Notre Dame's invitation to President Obama or Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius and her nomination to Secretary of Health and Human Services, there would be a seamless attitude among Catholics on matters of fundamental truth that would put them squarely at odds with individuals or institutions who are striving to undermine the Church from within. At the same time, among those dissident Catholics like Sebelius, there would be a mass exodus from the Church due to a logical realization that no one can be Catholic and at the same time support abortion, or for that matter contraception, homosexuality or in vitro fertilization.
Not so! Today, rather than clarity and pride in all things Catholic, there is dilution of what it means to be Catholic and an obvious hesitation on the part of those who lead the Church to throw down the gauntlet and demand of Catholics adherence to Church teaching.
On the subject of Obama and the "honorary degree" from Notre Dame, one would have hoped that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops would have come down hard on the administration of Notre Dame. The USCCB should make it clear that either Notre Dame rescind the invitation, or remove the word "Catholic" from any description of this football bastion that might have actually been genuinely Catholic at some point.
But no, the USCCB has been eerily silent. Strange, isn't it that Cardinal Francis George, president of the USCCB, met with President Obama on March 17 to discuss matters of mutual concern? One suspects that this meeting may have taken the edge off any thought of trouncing Notre Dame. Perhaps civility appeals to powerful cardinals and bishops, even when souls are at risk.
And then there is the Sebelius flap and the spin that one reporter, Julia Duin put on it in her recent report for the Washington Times. In her report it states
A spokesman for Archbishop Wuerl said church officials in Washington would act in accordance with the admonition from Kansas City. A church official in Washington said the admonition does not prohibit priests from serving Mrs. Sebelius if she does present herself …
This is incorrect. The subject of the "admonition" is Catholic Church law, Canon 915 to be specific.
This is a law of the Church and is not a matter of debate or opinion, regardless of what many priests and bishops may suggest. When a Catholic public figure unapologetically supports abortion, that Catholic is in violation of the Code of Canon Law. Canon 915 makes clear that those who "obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Communion."
This means that no ordained priest, deacon or Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion should give the sacrament to Sebelius.
Lest we forget, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, advised the American Catholic bishops five years ago, in 2004, in his memo "Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion,"
5. Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person's formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church's teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.
6. When "these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible," and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, "the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it" (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration "Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics" , nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgment on the person's subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person's public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin."
What the Ratzinger memo states is abundantly clear, and lacks even a suggestion of confusion. But how many bishops acted on this memo? Well, my guess is less than ten!
So when Gallup tells us that 40 percent of Catholics surveyed feel that abortion is acceptable, I say there are plenty of reasons why, and frankly, none of them are wholesome, much less holy. But they all have a common denominator— moral relativism. The failure of those who teach Catholics what it means to be Catholic is obvious. The failure to separate good and evil, truth and falsehood is at the core of the Gallup Poll results. That poll should have shaken every Catholic bishop in this country. I pray it did. But in the meantime …
It's time for Catholics who love their Church and all of her teachings to stand up and proclaim it. It's time for those who don't to either take a refresher course on Catholic teaching or find a new church. Enough already!