In a May 10, 2004 letter to Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, 48 pro-abortion “Catholic” politicians, including the ever-puerile Nancy Pelosi, wrote, “If Catholic legislators are scorned and held out for ridicule by Church leaders on the basis of a single issue, the Church will lose strong advocates on a wide range of issues that relate to the core of important Catholic social teaching.”
This infamous letter came to mind in light of the current debates over “health care reform” and the seeming lack of proper instruction by some Catholic bishops in their communications with these pro-abortion “Catholics” and other supposedly Catholic public figures. If one examines statements such as Pelosi’s recent erroneous claims or the statements in this 2004 letter, it is obvious that something has gone awry in such individuals’ thought process.
Or maybe it hasn’t. At the time the letter was made public, Dr. Jeffrey Mirus was quick to point out that
this message from 48 Catholic Democrats in the U.S. Congress is a classic case of political obfuscation by those who see nothing beyond politics and believe in nothing that transcends politics. They seem not to understand that if the Church is to bear any sort of credible public witness, she must begin by protecting her own members from the confusion caused by the public scandals of her politically wayward children. And she must end by doing everything in her power to save these same children’s wayward souls.
It seems unlikely that that these politicians are simply ignorant about the fact that, through their support of aborting children, in a sense they are already separated from the Church by their very actions. While one could also suggest that they are either unaware of the reasons why they should be refused Holy Communion until they repent of their sinful support of abortion, or that they have no clue that abortion is an act of murder and thus intrinsically evil, these possibilities are even more unlikely.
Whatever explanation is given for the persistent pomposity of such wayward public figures, the fact is that our nation’s Catholic bishops have a solemn obligation to instruct the wayward, not only for their own good but for the good of the Catholics entrusted to the bishops' care who are negatively affected by the insolence paraded before them, especially when it is accompanied by silence from the pulpit about what is—and is not—consonant with Catholic behavior and teaching.
The wayward “Catholic” elected official who is denied such education is not going to benefit in any way from the silence, but rather is going to further jeopardize his or her soul while continuing to create scandal that can and does drive many away from the Catholic Church. Every ordained Catholic priest (which includes bishops), knows that admonishing a public sinner instructs him/her in what it means to be faithful versus what it means to be separated from the faithful. Saint Paul makes this point in his teaching to the Corinthians: “Everyone is to recollect himself before eating this bread and drinking this cup; because a person who eats and drinks without recognizing the Body is eating and drink his own condemnation” (1 Cor. 11:28–30).
Whether the wayward “Catholic” in question is aware of this is really not the issue, but rather whether the Church’s teaching is publicly stated and reinforced with action, because that is what is needed. The lack of such definitive leadership on the part of many (but certainly not all) bishops is taking a tremendous toll on the faithful.
Many rank-and-file Catholics are appalled by many bishops’ apparent unwillingness to publicly repudiate these pro-abortion “Catholic” public figures, and thus many of them wind up disgusted with the Church. This too is a tragedy that must and can be averted, if only the courage is mustered to publicly clarify what it means to be a faithful, practicing Catholic.
As the Diocese of Baker, Oregon’s Bishop Robert Vasa recently pointed out, “Failing to name error because of some kind of fear of offending the person in error is neither compassion nor charity. Confronting or challenging the error or evil of another is never easy yet it must be done.”
There’s something else afoot in disobedient “Catholic” public figures’ recent shenanigans that many bishops may not have noticed: a brand of anti-Catholicism that is especially toxic because it is bubbling up from the very people who claim they are “faithful” Catholics but simply disagree with a few Church teachings here and there.
While this argument may sound downright silly, it appears to be the way culture-of-death Catholics are playing their hand. Deal Hudson pointed out that pro-abortion “Catholic” members of Congress are the very ones leading the charge to ensure that “health care reform” is passed into law with abortion funding as a key component.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. These pro-abortion Catholics are aware of the Obama agenda, which is totally focused on cost cutting rather than affirming life. So the Forbes report that most insurance companies would rather pay for an abortion than a live birth plays right into their ghoulish goal of preserving taxpayer funding for abortions and, in fact, increasing them. The numbers make the case for those who wish to carry on with the status quo in matters of protecting the human person versus killing him. Add to all this the fact that some allege that Obama has been dealing behind the scenes with insurance companies from the very beginning, even though he disparages them in public.
The scenario is not a pretty one for the Catholic hierarchy, but it is a problem of such great proportions that it must be addressed publicly, quickly and resoundingly. The reasons why such actions cannot wait are made more than painfully clear by Rev. Michael Orsi in “Fourth-stage anti-Catholicism,” published in the current issue of Homiletic & Pastoral Review. He addresses such grave concerns as the possibility of conscience protection laws being eliminated and the state doing its utmost to manipulate and control the Church, as it recently attempted to do in Connecticut. After outlining these examples he writes,
The Second Vatican Council challenged Catholics to act as “leaven in the dough,” providing a moral presence—an evangelizing witness to the truth concerning human life and living through good citizenship and personal example—that could both inform and reform society. It was by such methods that the early Christians converted the Roman world from paganism.
But society, as it is today—a moral/political milieu that seems increasingly to presage an explicitly anti-Christian ‘new world order’—is clearly not hospitable to such leavening, no matter how civil or restrained. … If the Church insists on this evangelizing witness, in opposition to the mores of modern, secular society, then society’s call is Delenda est ecclesia—the Church must be destroyed.
Father Orsi makes it clear that the best tacticians in the effort to silence the Church or simply render her irrelevant are and will be those “Catholics” who dissent from her teaching and do so diligently and persistently.
The only appropriate response to this fourth-stage cancerous malady infecting many Catholics today is a public, courageous, consistent, insistent declaration by Catholic bishops that rings with truth, clarity and principle. Among Father Orsi’s list of recommendations are these:
• “Catholics must get more involved in the political process. Pastors must make the faithful aware of these current legislative attempts to destroy the Church in America.”
• “Catholic politicians must be called to task if they support legislation that implicitly or explicitly attempts to undermine the Church or its teachings.”
• “Difficult as it may be, any individual threatened with a loss of job for refusing to take part in morally illicit acts must be willing to suffer the consequences—to the point of heroism. Pastors should instruct them in the acts of the martyrs. As Jesus asked, what good is it to gain the whole world and lose one’s soul?”
• “Catholic attorneys should make themselves available, pro bono, to defend fellow Catholics from unjust discrimination and job loss because of their conscientious beliefs.”
• “Catholics involved in the media need to alert the Catholic community about impending legislation or gov¬ernment action designed to curtail or destroy the Church’s divine right to hierarchical governance and freedom to evangelize (it was quick and concerted action on the part of Catholic leaders and believers that sidetracked the anti-Church bill in Connecticut).”
I agree with Father Orsi’s assessment that the Church is undoubtedly under attack, her leadership is being intentionally humiliated into silence by the media and, most tragically, the silence is resounding at this crucial time in the Church’s history.
He concludes as only he can: “The enemy stands at the gates, and in some cases is already within.”
There is no doubt that action is needed now. Pray for all of our bishops, respectfully communicate your concerns to your bishop and your priests, and be a stalwart defender of the faith in every aspect of your daily life, both publicly and privately.
The alternative is unthinkable.