Diluting our faith
By Paul A. Barra
In her zeal to evangelize and to be ecumenical, the Catholic Church may be diluting her message of faithfulness. The tenets of our faith are gradually being eroded by the fecklessness of pastors and bishops in the face of cultural opposition. Because we want so desperately to be an inclusive church, we are sliding toward heresies of omission.
When was the last time your priest gave a homily on the evil of abortion? One told me that when he tried parishioners walked out of church. So he didn’t try again. Killing newly developing human beings for the convenience of some adults is the single biggest threat to morality—because the embryonic or fetal life is innocent and because the number killed annually is staggering—in our nation, yet we don’t often hear about it from our spiritual leaders. Don’t even ask about the Church’s position on artificial birth control. No priest wants to talk about it. They artfully ignore the magisterium in their role as teachers of the faith. The very reason many of us are Catholic is the authority the Church was given by Jesus Christ, yet many who act in His name are ignoring it. We’ll be electing our own pastors from our congregations before long.
During this political season, my parish issued a bulletin insert from the South Carolina Catholic Conference which outlined the issues facing voters this year. It also mentioned that “every issue is not equal” and that “issues directly affecting human lives, such as abortion and euthanasia, are fundamental and demand serious consideration.” It pointedly does not say: “Don’t vote for pro-choice candidates.” Please don’t tell me either about the political discourse restrictions on tax-exempt organizations; sometimes it seems we are the only religion listening to the IRS about that.
In Wisconsin, a friend of mine visited a parish that handed out “A 2016 election Pope Francis voters guide” issued by a coalition of ten reputedly Catholic groups including Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, Conference of Major Superiors of Men, Franciscan Action Network and Pax Christi. The format led with a quote from the Holy Father and then an explanation of it from an American citizen’s perspective. At the end of each section it gave “Questions to consider when reading about or listening to candidates.” After the Sacred Gift of Life section it suggests we ask: 1. “how does each candidate talk about preventing mass shootings and gun violence in our streets? and 2. what alternatives to abortion and euthanasia does each candidate discuss, such as assistance and support to expectant mothers, in particular those who are low-income?” These are good questions to ask as far as they go, but why wouldn’t we ask a candidate if he or she is pro-life? Or, what is your stance on late term abortions? That really separates the sheep from the goats.
A bona-fide Catholic cannot vote, in good conscience, for a politician who is not pro-life. And it doesn’t matter if he claims to be personally pro-life but is willing to accept and defend his party’s pro-choice platform. Our priests should be telling us this, and we should be telling our politicians. When Senator Tim Kaine accepted the nomination for vice-president, I wrote him a letter encouraging him to man up and stick to his moral principles. I asked him to give Catholics the opportunity to vote for him by coming out against the culture of death. I did the same to Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi when she became speaker of the House. Neither replied, by the way.
All Catholics can do this, but the least you can do is refuse to vote for someone who promotes the indiscriminate killing of human life in the womb. It’s our basic moral obligation. And it’s the obligation of the Church to advise her members of their obligation as faithful Catholics. If you think that it’s okay to use abortion as just another means of birth control, you are not a faithful Catholic. Why would you want to be a member of a faith community if you don’t believe what it teaches?
The institutional Catholic Church is too concerned with numbers, in my estimation, and too concerned with getting along with others. Even Ireland, a formerly Catholic country, now allows legal abortions. One can chart the fall in mass attendance worldwide as a correlation to the rise of permissive abortion laws. We Catholics assist in that fall every time we vote for a pro-choice candidate for public office. And our dioceses are complicit in their collective failure to speak out. Encourage your priest to exercise the courage of his convictions.