The announcement last week by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, meeting in Baltimore, that it would make no judgment about the laity’s position on social issues such as abortion was a wise one. In other words, President Joe Biden and other politicians supporting pro-choice would not face prohibition from taking communion from the Roman Catholic Church for views considered sacred and inviolate.
News accounts of the conference revealed there was bountiful prayer and acceptance of the Holy Eucharist as a unifying sacrament, not a flash point of discord.
My reaction is two-fold: So, what? And overreaching conservative bishops hellbent in June to punish Biden had little choice after the President confessed after meeting with Pope Francis in October that the Holy Father considered him a ‘good Catholic.’
As I wrote in June when the group of conservative bishops signaled it might vote to forbid Biden, a weekly churchgoer, from taking the Holy Eucharist, I was appalled. But not entirely surprised. The Catholic Church has an unrealistically elevated view of itself at a time when attendance at its weekly services is down appreciably.
Its bow to modernity is limited. To some, such deference is sacrilegious. To me, the church’s staunch positions on social issues are ridiculous.
Parishioners are disgusted with the church’s rigid views about abortion, gay marriages and women priests. Add to this alienation the widespread sexual abuse by priests and the church’s efforts to cover up this despicable behavior—and you have a dysfunctional church facing a bankruptcy of decency.
This roiling mix of opinions also includes distrust and dislike of Pope Francis by conservative bishops. The Pope prefers to concentrate on conditions of the poor, racism and a disastrous future affected by inattention to climate change and global warming.
His opponents reside mostly in the United States. That too is not entirely bewildering. Perhaps the divides in Roman Catholicism reflect the political schisms in our country. The potential politicization of the sacrament of Eucharist exemplifies a divisive stance that a more reasonable approach nullified.
When I commented five months ago, a reader wrote that I did not understand or appreciate Catholic doctrine and rules. He is right. With its worldwide reach and awesome religious power, I respect the Roman Catholic Church. I listen to a Pope speak before thousands and thousands of devoted followers and marvel at his power to influence socioeconomic issues.
World leaders yearn for an audience at the Vatican as if it were a blessing from a revered figure. The optics are invaluable to leaders of the Free World. The Pope symbolizes ultimate moral authority.
However, I view the focus by U. S. bishops on abortion and gay marriage a sad waste of time. While I realize that the life of every person, even when unborn, is a premise above all else in Christianity, as defined by the Catholic Church—regardless of a woman’s choice—it strikes me as unfairly strict and unforgiving. The unwillingness to view the love between people of the same gender as real and genuine is inexcusable, if not hurtful.
My opinions will be unwelcomed by many readers. Their beliefs are heartfelt, ingrained in their souls. Yet, the mindset that Catholic politicians must accept unquestionably Church doctrine and apply it to their political decision-making ignores reality. Calls from the pulpit for strict allegiance to pro-life dictums sorely weaken the credibility of the Roman Catholic Church.
Pope Francis said, “This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.”
These simple words evoke a forgiving, open-minded church, one that does not require politicians to espouse ideas that adhere to Catholic doctrine. Unity and forgiveness represent the best attributes of the Roman Catholic Church, as well as every house of worship. Politics surely is part of the earthly realm; it belongs in the noisy public arena.