Monday, May 17, 2004

No Thank You, Andrew Sullivan

TIME magazine gives Andrew Sullivan a soapbox for that ole-time Catholic-bashing.
The title alone, "Showdown at the Communion rail" lets you know TIME knows nothing about the modern Church.

My jaw was open--then clenched--with the first paragraph:
It has — amazingly — been 44 years since a Catholic ran for the presidency of the U.S. under a major-party banner. And how things have changed. In 1960 John F. Kennedy had to convince Americans that he was not too Catholic to be President. In 2004 John F. Kerry has to convince the Catholic bishops that he is not too American.

Sullivan then goes on to try and prove his bigotry is more Ivy League than Ku Klux Klan--you know, grounded in sophistry rather than real belief in anything:
By "too American," I mean in the sense that religious faith is a personal matter, that it can be sealed off from public life, that it doesn't dictate political views on any one issue or another. But on the issue of abortion, that is exactly what some in the Catholic hierarchy and conservative grass roots seek to challenge. These orthodox Catholics believe that no public official can be openly Catholic and support the right to a legal abortion, which the church regards as a moral evil of the highest order. The distinction between someone's private view on the morality of abortion and his or her public stance about its legality is a distinction without a difference, they argue. Until now, that has been simply a rhetorical assertion — and certainly one well within the rights and duties of the bishops. But in the past few years, accelerating fast in recent weeks, orthodox forces have been demanding more stringent action — that pro-choice politicians be not simply publicly reprimanded but barred from receiving Holy Communion, the central, unifying act of Catholic worship.

Wrong. The Church teaches that our faith in Christ alters how we do everything in life--that is why the Church urges us to reflect on the lives of the saints, and assigns saints as patrons of lawyers, soldiers, television, travel, etc. An auto mechanic who goes to Mass every morning before cheating his customers is not a good Catholic. The same holds true for politicians who promote immoral acts and worse, seduce good Catholics into believing immorality is compatible with a life in Christ.

Sullivan blames 'orthodox forces' (does he really believe his point of view is heterodox?) for pushing this policy to the top of the agenda. He should also blame the boldness of Catholic politicians over the past decade. In 1996 Bob Dornan and Loretta Sanchez, both Catholic, battled each other for a Congressional district by holding rallies in church parking lots after Mass, and issuing flyers adorned with the Virgin Mary. Politicians like Gray Davis proclaim themselves Catholic and pro-choice, then tell the bishop not to lecture them on the practice of their faith. And now Sen. Kerry goes so far as to declare that Vatican II and Pope Paul XXIII [sic] prohibit the Church from instructing any Catholic as to the morality of abortion.

Sullivan argues, again incorrectly:
It is one thing for the church to preach what it believes — the sanctity of unborn human life. It is another thing to use the sacraments of the church to enforce political uniformity on the matter. How many of us Catholics are completely worthy every Sunday of receiving what we believe to be the body and blood of Jesus? The church understands this and has long left it up to the individual to wrestle with his or her conscience as to whether going to Communion is appropriate.

The Church continues to preach that the Eucharist cannot be taken by people in a state of mortal sin. It has left that examination of conscience up to the communicant. However, we see a national situation arising where some communicants are not undertaking this examination of conscience, and worse, encouraging other Catholics to abandon it as unnecessary and 'unAmerican'.

The bishops are debating whether to accept a national, uniform policy of excommunication of pro-choice politicians. Excommunication is not a new idea, not even in the American Church, although uncommon. However they decide, Catholics should prepare ourselves to accept their decision for the good of the Church. There is a lot to be said for a cautious approach. Excommunication of the powerful can be a farcical revolving door. The bishops will have to work deftly to balance an true encouragement to obedience, with Christ's willingness to forgive "seventy times seventy". However, inaction has permitted erosion of respect for life, respect for the Eucharist, and respect for the authority of the magestrium. Something must be done.
And if Catholics like Sullivan and Kerry continue to undermine the authority of American bishops to resolve an American problem, it is more and more likely that something will be imposed on Americans by the Holy See--and that would be regrettable for the Church in America.

2 comments:

Jeff Miller said...

I also noticed that "Showdown at the Communion rail" just doesn't describe modern Catholic Churches.

But the whole idea of showdown is just not true. If pro-abortion Catholic politician knew that they would not receive Communion they would not go. It is not like they are going to go up and just stand there complaining.

The Yell said...

Sadly, I think a few would march to the altar to protest the policy.