The resignation of Pope Benedict has given the largely agnostic mainstream media another opportunity to try to impose its politically correct agenda on the Roman Catholic Church. The ink was hardly dry on the papal resignation when headlines began to speculate (urge) whether the next pope should be Black or Hispanic. The articles – all from different writers but all from the same brand of journalism – intimated that after an unending series of white popes it was time for a person of color to head the Church. This cardinal from Africa and that cardinal from South America were recognized and elevated by the press not because they demonstrated any particulars qualities that may lend themselves to leading the nearly 1.2 Billion worldwide Catholics but simply because they were Black or Hispanic and, after all, wasn’t it their turn.
In doing so, the press managed to denigrate both the men that they mentioned – all of whom have strong credentials as Catholic scholars and prelates – and the Catholics whom they serve – all of whom have spiritual needs in lieu of political ones. However, it served their purpose because it gives the mainstream media a chance to run out their favorite gun – racism – whenever it suits their purpose. But that idle speculation has a very short cycle and even shorter if you can’t get anyone in the Church to bite.
The next media pivot was to speculate as to whether an American might be considered as pope. Most of the speculation centered on New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley. But in short order, the mainstream media diminished their chances for the same reason – an alleged fear that an American pope would be too beholden to America’s role in international affairs rather than a more global view. This is an amusing twist on the old concern that John F. Kennedy may be too beholden to the Pope to be president. (It’s strange that the same mainstream media would never think to suggest that a cardinal from say Brazil might be beholden to Brazils views or that a cardinal from Ghana might be unduly influenced by the views of Ghana – apparently that affliction of nationalism is only suffered by Americans.)
Underlying all of these idle speculations is the mainstream media’s fascination with “modernizing” the Roman Catholic Church. For them, “modernization” means elevating women to the priesthood, allowing priests to marry, embracing homosexuality including homosexual marriages, accepting abortion on demand and euthanasia, and sublimating other teachings of the Church to an evolving liberal agenda. But that is not the role of the Church. The Church is responsible for the spiritual guidance of its members and that takes precedent over the temporal musings of the press and even some of its disaffected priests and nuns.
In a sermon this last week a visiting priest offered the analogy of a boat approaching shore when the tide shifts. It can sail no closer because the tide is stronger than the wind and therefore the sailors throw the anchor towards shore, let it set and then beginning pulling on the anchor rope. The distance between the boat and the shore narrows and an argument breaks out as to whether the sailors have pulled the shore closer to the boat or the boat closer to the shore. In this case, the shore is the eternal Church and the boat is modern society. The secular media would have us drawing the shore closer to the boat whereas reality for the Church is to bring the boat closer to the shore.
Be that as it may, the secular media is probably closer to the truth about the remote likelihood of an American pope but for entirely different reasons. It is not the fear of an American pope promoting the interests of the United States; rather it is the fear that an American pope may promote the effects of the American Catholic Church’s dalliance with liberalism at the expense of the Church’s historical and traditional teachings.
In the aftermath of Vatican II there became a greater focus on the temporal mission of the Church – caring for the poor, the sick and the handicapped. In pursuit of those goals, the clergy of the American Catholic Church found common cause with those in pursuit of similar goals in the name of liberalism. But it is that “common cause” that has created the problem the American Catholic Church now faces.
First, the Church found that liberalism gave it greater access to money. An increasing amount of government funds were available for pursuit of social welfare and healthcare programs. As the Church grew its social welfare and healthcare programs with the aid of government it became more dependent on those government funds, and, as always, along with increasing government funds always comes increasing government control. Soon it was government goals rather than Church goals that became the governing principles. The Church leadership was required to rationalize that which it would not have otherwise done in order to preserve the flow of government money and its participation in the social welfare and healthcare agenda.
Second , the Church found that liberalism is run by Liberals. There is a difference folks. Just as there is a difference between communism and Communists, there is a difference between liberalism and Liberals. Actually, it is the same difference. Liberals demand an adherence to every principle they enunciate – even as those principles change. (This is not a point at which Conservatives should feel smug because many in their movement demand the same unquestioning adherence.) In the early days that was fine because liberalism gravitated towards the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, the environmental movement and the social justice movement. All of those fit within the teachings of the Church. But then the teachings of the Church and liberalism began to diverge. The priorities of Liberals began to focus on abortion on demand, euthanasia, homosexual rights, contraception on demand and without parental consent, and the exploitation of sexuality.
And with Liberals it is never sufficient that their positions be tolerated; they must be mandated by law and paid for by taxpayer dollars. Now the Church finds that qualifications for government funds come with demands for Catholic institutions to allow abortions, surgical sterilization, and soon doctor assisted suicide. Catholic institutions are forced to provide insurance to their employees that includes coverage for abortions and contraception under Obamacare. And changes in anti-discrimination laws are forcing Catholic institutions to recognize and accommodate gay marriages.
And the American Catholic Church’s response to the increasing intrusion of Liberal political dogma into the requirements imposed on the Church is relative silence. Oh sure, on some given Sunday each year, the clergy dutifully reminds the faithful in oh so neutral language about the Church’s continuing opposition to abortion, but never once defines for the faithful a course of action that would actually nullify Roe v. Wade – the genesis and touchstone of today’s abortion on demand. This is in marked contrast with the pronouncements of the Vatican and the last two popes. As I noted in a previous column:
“There are two critical elements to the Church’s position on politicians and abortion. First, the faithful may not support those who advocate abortion, euthanasia, and embryonic stem cell research. There is a consistency in these positions – opposition to the taking of innocent human life. Second, that there is not proportionality in the Church’s opposition to these. In other words, there is not a balancing of a politician’s position on other matters of human rights – these are absolutes.
“The Church has stated its position on any number of moral and human rights issues from war to the death penalty, from poverty to the protection of the environment, and from pornography to chastity. But what the Church has not endorsed is that there is any moral equivalency between these matters and the taking of innocent life.”
Those words are seldom heard in the pronouncements of the American Catholic clergy. And what is never heard is the very simple solution to the problem of abortion on demand. Taxpayer funded abortion on demand has become the litmus test for holding statewide or national office as a Democrat. More than half of American Catholic voters consistently vote for Democrat candidates, including President Barack Obama whose positions on abortion on demand are so extreme that he once sponsored and was the sole vote in favor of a bill in Illinois that would permit a doctor to kill a child born alive in the process of an abortion. Abortion on demand exits because of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade – a finding based on a penumbra of rights not actually contained in the Constitution but presumed to exist by the justices of the Supreme Court. The only way that abortion on demand will be changed is for a new Supreme Court to reverse that decision and to note that the Constitution is, in fact, silent on the issue of abortion and, therefore, it is left to the states to decide. And that new Supreme Court can only be formed by a president who refuses to make support of abortion on demand a litmus for nomination to the court and a majority of United States Senators who refuse to deny confirmation solely because a nominee refuses to support abortion on demand.
Both of these changes can only be accomplished by doing precisely what the Vatican and the last two popes have said – Catholic voters may not support candidates who advocate for abortion on demand. The Catholic clergy is not stupid. In fact, the Jesuit and Holy Cross orders are among the most educated men in America. They know precisely what must be done and they refuse to do it. Worse yet, they provide a virtual embrace of the politicians supporting abortion on demand with such acts as inviting Mr. Obama to speak at Notre Dame (Holy Cross) and President Bill Clinton at Georgetown (Jesuit).
It is this ambiguity on critical Catholic doctrine that gives rise to the hesitancy of the College of Cardinals to seriously entertain an American as the next pope. The College of Cardinals is mindful of Edmund Burke’s admonition:
“All this is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. “
The leaders of the American Catholic Church should likewise take note.
P.S. The author is a imperfect but practicing Catholic