Monday, June 21, 2021


In a past article, I discussed how the reaction of American Catholics to the USCCB voting to draft a document about the Eucharist showed a deep and dangerous situation that needs correction. I likened the backlash against disciplining public sinners to an iceberg. However, as the backlash grows, it has also revealed what a vocal portion of the non-Catholic United States population thinks about the Catholic Church: they hate us when we say that certain things are evil, and actions have consequences. They take advantage of this backlash to claim that the Catholics of the world agree with them and try to silence the Church. If we would just be silent on these evils and be a charitable NGO instead, the world would have no problem with us. 


The problem is, we cannot just be a philanthropic organization if we are to be faithful to Christ and His Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). We are sent to instruct the world on what we need to do if we would be saved (cf. Acts 2:37-40). If we refuse to do that, we will be held accountable for those who fall into damnation from our silence (Ezekiel 3:17-21).


It is true that Pope Francis has stressed mercy and compassion in how the Church reaches out to sinners. There is nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, some people misinterpret Pope Francis and his calls for mercy and compassion by assuming that people can come to communion if they “feel called” without repentance or changing their behavior. That is not and never was any part of his call for mercy.


It is also true that, in Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis stressed that we cannot assume mortal sin without determining if all the conditions (grave matter, full knowledge, free consent) are present. And, in the context of divorce and remarriage, there are situations where the knowledge or consent might be lacking. But we are not talking about people who were badly instructed or coerced into a situation where they cannot escape an invalid marriage. We are talking about Catholic lawmakers who say they will not follow their Church’s teaching against legalizing and expanding abortion as a “right.” Since the Church has made clear that abortion is grave sin and politicians are obliged to oppose it, canon 916 requires those in grave sin to not “receive the body of the Lord without previous sacramental confession” does apply. And those who are “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion” (canon 915). So, the Church in America needs to address this issue. Those Catholic lawmakers who do work to protect and expand the evil of abortion must be corrected. 


Among the bishops, the disagreement is over how to handle this matter. Since we must not commit rash judgment, we must not impute bad will to the bishops we disagree with. That can be hard when one has passionate feelings on what we should or should not do, but sometimes being a Catholic is difficult because we must be willing to put God’s will above our own. American Catholics often resent and rebel against teachings we disagree with, praising or condemning the Popes and bishops depending on whether what they say line up with their views. Both sides downplay their own rebellion with special pleading, while being rigorous towards those they disagree with, even though they are guilty of the same thing.


So, while the bishops might legitimately have different views on how we should best approach those who know what the Church teaches and refuse to change, we cannot use that difference as an excuse to defend those we politically favor who do wrong. The Church in America needs—as the Ladaria Letter reminds us—to unite around the teachings of the Church and come to a common understanding on how to respond to those who refuse to follow these teachings.


Our part is to stop judging rashly. If someone calls the ~73% of the bishops who voted in favor of drafting a document “defying the Pope,” they have rashly judged. If someone accuses the ~24% who voted against drafting the document “pro-abortion” or “pro-Democrat” they have rashly judged.


The document has not been drafted yet and will not involve President Biden when it is drafted§. Acting against pro-abortion politicians in one’s own diocese is already permissible. The anger over national policy is months—possibly years—premature.


The iceberg of Catholic factionalism and dissent needs to be broken. Catholics need to relearn obedience to the Magisterium and charity towards those they disagree with.  If we can do that, we can break the iceberg that threatens the mission of the Church. If we will not, then we are merely part of the iceberg of rebellion.




(†) I have encountered people who deny they have factional leanings, but I can only ask, “Is that really true?” Whether we are aware of it or not, all of us are tempted to give one side a “pass” when we either fear the opponent more or favor our side. Justice forbids us to act that way, however.


(‡) Only 50%+1 is necessary to begin drafting such a document. However, approval for a national policy (which may or may not be included in the final draft submitted to Rome) either has to be unanimous or 2/3 and approved by Rome.


(§) Canon 1405 restricts judging a Catholic head of state to the Pope.

No comments:

Post a Comment