Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Church & Politics: An Unenviable Position

"No one can serve two masters." ~Matthew 6:24

The Church has always done politics. Many times it's damned if you do and damned if you don't for Church leaders who do the politicking. This is especially true for dioceses and the local parishes who deal with a politically assorted, sometimes affluent and progressive laity that it does not want to alienate. It does this by adopting a passive or inclusive attitude towards Catholics who publicly, in some way, labor to oppose Church teachings. But how much "politics" can the Church do without sacrificing the authenticity of the teachings it has been handed down from Jesus Christ and the Apostles? First and foremost, for the purposes of this post, the type of Church politics that I'm focusing on is the propensity of Church leaders to fail (or feebly enforce) Church teachings on social issues such as abortion with Catholic lawmakers who promote, or at the very least defend, this so-called choice (it can be any social issue). How many times have we seen a Cardinal mingle with powerful Catholics who are diametrically apposed to Catholic social teachings? Many of these liberal Catholics donate large sums of money to their diocese, and the bishops and archbishops overseeing those diocese don't want to rub them the wrong way by insisting they get their act together. At the same time, these same Church officials are under pressure from vigilant, conservative Catholics to enforce Church teachings, even at the risk of distancing progressive Catholic benefactors. This inclusiveness doesn't always have to be for financial reasons. I sincerely believe that some bishops and pastors WANT to be liked so badly that they are in complete opposition of showing disapproval or lack of support for any groups that enjoy secular approbation.

Take St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in New York. For years a group of gay and lesbian parishioners from Xavier has been marching in New York's gay parade with a banner proudly displaying their Catholic affiliation. The pastor of the church, Father Joe Constantino, is fully aware of this custom and has been supportive of this group's presence in the gay parade. Then Archbishop Timothy Dolan got wind of what was going on and barred the group from carrying the St. Francis Xavier Banner in the gay pride march. Needless to say, Father Constantino was quite disconcerted when the Archbishop handed his decision. But what were Father Constantino's motivation behind the support for this group? Was he trying to be inclusive? Did he just want to be liked by all his parishioners in the hope of keeping the Church full on Sundays? I certainly would be appalled by the idea of barring gays and lesbians from entering the Church and denying access to pray before our icons or from from receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, so to that extent, inclusiveness is a moral must. However, I do find Fr. Constantino's motives in this situation highly suspect.

The above recapitulation is just one example out of Lord knows how many better ones I can submit. But clearly, some of our Church leaders are obeying two masters when it comes to enforcing the Church's position on social issues. They are trying to be Catholic and on the other hand they want to be popular with specific demographics.

Here's another example. The pro-abort politicians, how many of these have been denied communion? Very few, to my knowledge. As a matter of fact, the Church's upper echelon has dismissed any and all requests from more faithful Catholic laity to refuse communion to any politician who supports the destruction on an unborn child. They simply don't want to alienate the politically powerful, who often times is very wealthy, and lose the benefits of having someone of that status in their Catholic camp.

Instead of condemning clergy like Father Constantino and other Church leaders, the first sentiment that strikes me when I read of their situation is how unenvious it must be to be in their position. They have a progressive component in the Church tugging at them who want to be accepted and feel they can contribute to the Church both financially and through their presence. And, on the other hand, their is a traditionalist constituent inside the Church who insist that our priests adhere to and enforce the teachings of the Magisterium. To the clergy who feel they are caught in the middle, to you I simply say you can't serve two masters.


Andrea said...

It is very concerning. Speaking of allowing these kinds of things to go on, check out this Vegas blog:

Shirley said...

Theirs is an unenviable job, but first and foremost they must adhere to the Magisterium. It's time to stop bending the rules for the rich and powerful. If ordinary Catholics stop going to church because of a priest standing up for what is right, then they need to examine their own conscience as to which master they are following, this issue isn't just about priests, it's all of us. We need to support the priests who stand up for the teachings of our faith.

Terry Nelson said...

Very good Tom - it seems to often end up being a Catch 22 situation.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Tom: You nailed it, true inclusiveness in The Church is allowing EVERYONE the opportunity to repent, confess, seek absolution and receive Communion in the appropriate state. Inclusiveness does not mean tolerating unrepetent sin.