On Pulling Punches from the Pulpit

Casting broad generalizations about the state of American Catholicism is a hazardous business.  Yet from where I sit in the pew, pulpits are experiencing the phenomena of Sherlock Holmes’ hound that doesn’t bark.  More specifically, I am getting a sinking feeling that in this age of ideological political partisanship, bishops and priests are succumbing to excessive self-censorship and are failing to educate their parishioners on the fundamental tenets of the faith, and how politics can be informed by that faith.  As Pope Francis noted in a daily homily, “A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself, so that those who govern can govern.”  Far too many bishops, priests, and deacons seem to shy away from homilies about how Catholicism can inform public policy debates.

Those of us who fill the pews each and every Sunday Mass and holy days of obligation are a minority of Catholics.  The Pew Forum recently surveyed and found that only about 24 percent of U.S. Catholics in 2012 attended weekly Mass, down from about 47 percent in 1974.  As one of the minority of Catholics who do attend weekly Mass with my family, over the past two years I cannot recall ever hearing a priest give a homily on “religious liberty,” “same-sex marriage,” or “abortion,” and rarely have I even heard a priest mention one of these “hot button” topics in passing.  Nor have I heard a pointed or passing rebuke of high profile American politicians who claim to be Catholic but who support public policies that violate Church teachings.

I hope my experience only reflects merely local or regional shortcomings and not a Church-wide phenomenon.  Given the beliefs of American Catholics on major ethical issues of the day, however, I suspect that it is illustrative of a national problem and failure.  Authoritative and expert polling from the Pew Forum paints a grim picture.  About half of American Catholics in 2012 support same-sex marriage, and half say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.  When so many Catholics hold beliefs in direct opposition to Church teachings on issues of grave sin, the teachers clearly are failing their parishioners.

Some clergy might say that they “don’t want to be partisan” by taking sides in political debates.   The elephant lingering in the room here is that the Church cannot be seen as partisan or taking sides in political fights lest it jeopardize its “non-profit” and tax-exempt status in the United States.  A cynic might point out the added incentive to keep parishioners content with only “happy talk” and “feel good” homilies to keep weekly attendance and collections up.

But bishops and priests do have to take sides on issues just as they, and we laity, have to choose between Mammon and God.  They have a duty to warn us about same-sex marriage, for example, no matter how many gay or lesbian friends, colleagues, acquaintances we may have, or public personalities for whom we care about, whose company and council we enjoy, whose labor, expertise, and good works we respect and admire.  They have to argue head-on that the notion of a marriage between man and man or a woman and a woman does not make any sense through reason or faith.

God and Natural Law will not change no matter how many legislatures—state or federal—pass laws saying that they do.  If bishops and priests run away from their duty to educate from the pulpit, legislatures will just keep steamrolling God-fearing citizens with laws that in essence say that marriage can be anything and everything.  As the nuclear family falls apart so too does the societal foundations of our nation-state.  Bishops and priests have the responsibility to teach their parishioners that we all have a Christian responsibility to speak out in opposition to the fashionable teachings of our secular elites that threaten our civil liberties and challenge our religious values. If we do not resist, the time will come, if it is not already here, when anyone who voices public opposition or even disbelieve of “same-sex marriage” will be found guilty of a “hate crime.”

There are clergy who allow partisan politics to excessively and dangerously circumscribe what they teach their flock.  It can no longer be said that the Catholic Church is the Democratic Party at prayer. The growing divisions between the Church and the Democratic Party should stir Church leaders into action rather than silence. The mere fact that Church agencies continue to receive government funds and contracts even during the Obama Administration is no justification for acquiescence. The Democratic Party has taken same-sex marriage and abortion as core issues of its political agenda and barely hides its disdain and contempt of those who oppose these positions for religious reasons.  Many bishops and priests are slow to recognize the deep chasm that separates Catholicism from the contemporary Democratic Party.

Homilists should imitate the frankness and simplicity of the greatest saints. These great saints, moreover, may have moved in elite political circles of their times, but were certainly not of the elite.  Today’s bishops or even cardinals sitting down at tables to break bread with those opposed to Church teachings is certainly consistent with Christ in the Gospels speaking with Roman soldiers, tax collectors, and women of ill repute.  But when today’s Church leaders publicly cooperate with so-called Catholic politicians—and refrain from any type of public rebuke much less withhold the sacraments from them—they sew confusion among their flock.

There is a reason why Christ in the Gospels refers to us as sheep.  Sheep are lovely animals, but they are not very cleaver and neither are we.  We need to be taught and taught repeatedly lest we wander off from the flock, which by no accident Catholics are doing in droves today.  Even for those who stay “Catholic” they obviously do not know or fully accept the faith when they gush with admiration for President Obama.  One recalls the spectacle of hero worship for President Obama when he received an honorary degree from the nation’s premier Catholic university Notre Dame in 2009, save for a small heroic few who demonstrated against the president being honored.  Faithful Catholics would refuse to honor and admire the first siting president to make a public speech to Planned Parenthood and have the audacity at the end of his speech to ask God to bless the organization.

Clergy do not serve the faith courageously when they refuse to give their flock concrete and specific examples of politicians and policies that oppose Church teachings. Some cardinals, bishops, and priests, to be sure, speak out against such politicians but an effective defense requires a united and consistent effort by the entire Church. If the sheep wander from the flock and endanger others by enticing them to do likewise, good shepherds have the obligation to correct the wandering sheep.

Critiques of Democratic politicians can be balanced with sharp rebukes of Republican Catholics.  Republican New Jersey governor, and presidential hopeful, Chris Christie, for example appears to be leaning in the same direction as Democrats on social issues by publicly declaring that homosexuality is not a sin.  Paul Ryan too positioned himself as gay-friendly during and after the presidential election of 2012. Many Republicans—including Catholic ones—are likely to go this politically attractive route too as the Republican Party is increasingly characterized as extremist by the press due to the maneuverings of its Tea Party faction.

If bishops and priests continue to “pull their punches” in their homilies and public statements, the sheep will simply go on their merry way believing that all is well in the Republic, that religious liberty is not under attack because it is enshrined in our Constitution, and that there is no moral objection to supporting politicians who promote public policies contrary to the faith.  The 50 percent of American Catholics who voted for President Obama in 2012 can go right on adoring him and like-minded Democrats because they never hear anyone telling them during Sunday Mass that their policies are in direct opposition to Catholicism. After years of failed catechesis, many of these Catholics no longer even attend Mass and are thus less likely to receive the Church’s message. To help reverse this disastrous spiral of ecclesiastical decline, Church leaders must teach forthrightly and in full the Gospel message to those Catholic citizens who are still willing to listen.

Editor’s note: The image above is a detail from “Sermon on the Mount” painted by Henrik Olrik.

Richard L. Russell


Richard L. Russell is Non-Resident Senior Fellow for Strategic Studies at the Center for the National Interest. A Catholic convert, Russell holds a Ph.D. in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia and specializes in foreign policy and international security. He is the author of three books: Sharpening Strategic Intelligence (Cambridge University Press); Weapons Proliferation and War in the Greater Middle East (Routledge); and, George F. Kennan’s Strategic Thought (Praeger). Follow him on Twitter @DrRLRussell.

  • James

    How come when American Catholics write about being involved in politics, it’s always about abortion and gay marriage and rarely about the social teachings of the Church, rights of migrants, or just war theory?

    Pope Francis does want Catholics to be involved in politics, but his politics are quite different than what this article advocates.

    • AcceptingReality

      Well, maybe it’s because more people die in abortion every year than in any other injustice.

      Why is it that those enamored with Church’s social teachings so frequently support candidates who support abortion. Why is it that the Social Justice crowd routinely ignores the Church’s clear teaching on socialism?

      • James

        The United States is a two party system. While parties have been replaced in history, the system will always be a two party system.

        US Catholics have a choice between a secular party and a Protestant party. There is no Catholic party. Supporting either party involves compromise. Some get so involved in politics, they are practically secular. Others get so involved in politics that their social and political attitudes are virtually indistinguishable from Evangelical Protestants.

        So, who are the Catholics who voted for Obama? The only ones who were even close to being “enamored” of him were black, which is an entirely different issue. The polls show that many of Obama’s Catholic supporters were Latino. I suspect Obama’s Catholic supporters simply found his Republican opponents more distasteful.

        • Adam__Baum

          “the system will always be a two party system.”

          By what form of divination do you make that pronouncement?

          “The only ones who were even close to being “enamored” of him were black”

          As a group, people of African descent voted for Obama by something like a 90-10 margin. Even though it isn’t factually true that Obama is “the first African-American” President, since ghe’s biracial, he identifies himself as black. I submit to you that if even 70% percent of the “white vote” went to McLame or Rombot, the howls of invidious racism would have been defeaning.

          There were a lot of groups that voted for Obama in lesser proportions, but by majorities, so in that respect you are correct.

          All shared one or more of the following attributes: naivete, group-think, dependency or rent-seeking.

          • James

            “By what form of divination do you make that pronouncement?”

            By that mysterious and magical discipline called “mathematics”.


            • Adam__Baum

              Do you understand the difference between math and sociology?
              Or know the difference between a tendency and an invariable direct result?

              Google “scientism”, “James1225”.

        • Deacon Ed Peitler

          Do the words “fifty five million” mean anything to you?

          • James

            I’ll repeat:

            As for abortion, criminalizing abortion does not make it go away. Abortion is illegal in Argentina. Yet it still happens.

            Prohibition didn’t stop drunkenness, nor has the War on Drugs stopped narcotics use. The solution to the abortion problem is not a political one.

            • Art Deco

              All laws are imperfectly enforced (and the Argentine state is the western world’s most comical). Were anyone to take your statement to its logical conclusion, we’d have to throw the penal code out. Think up another excuse.

        • TopoftheMountain

          “So, who are the Catholics who voted for Obama? The only ones who were even close to being “enamored” of him were black, which is an entirely different issue….”
          So, how do you explain my five grown children, Irish-Catholics, all graduates of a Catholic University who are in the “enamored” crowd? I’m not sure they still are but we don’t talk about it.
          Before the 2008 election, facts about candidate Obama truly shocked me. Not only was he stridently pro-abortion, he voted no to a Illinois legislative proposal to allow medical assistance for an aborted infant who survived an abortion. Just put the baby in the dirty linen hamper and let nature take its course. Obama said the mother wanted an abortion and that’s what she should get.
          When I learned this I was compelled to write an email to my children and say that given these facts, no one could vote for Obama and call themselves a Catholic.
          The email message was polite but strong. There was never any “I won’t love you anymore unless you do as I say…”
          Since that day not one of them will interact with me in any way if it involves politics. Dead silence. Maybe our priests have experienced similar situations and are not courageous enough
          to continue to speak God’s truth and not that of the secular culture.

          • Art Deco

            I hesitate to say anything about your children. You know them, I do not. I will wager there are perhaps three phenomena there:

            1. Conventionality within peer group.
            2. Consumer branding and preference.
            3. An unwillingness to think coherently on matters in which an emotional investment has been made.

            I have seen this, up close and personal, with 1st degree relations.

            One thing that gets me is that all five of your children are not making sense. There should be at least one who critiques the remainder.

    • Darren Szwajkowski

      Not completely true. I do agree about the rights of migrants and just war theory but that was not the point of the article. Where have you been reading about Pope Francis? The New York Times, the Washington Post? All of those newspapers are no longer independent. Most of the articles are just AP regurgitation. Read Pope Francis’ actual transcripts. And Pope Francis does not deal with politics. He deals with Truth. Branding Pope Francis with politics is an injustice to our Holy Father. Btw, dealing with the social teachings of the Church. WE need to implement the social teachings of the Church and not worry how our government is doing it. Ever heard of subsidiarity? Do things at the local level otherwise there will just be a bloated bureaucracy which is exactly what we have. We do need a new political paradigm. A Catholic Paradigm. Reforming the Republican or Democratic Partys are a lost cause. If Catholics don’t come together and implement a complete moral and social structure within THEMSELVES then the US will no longer be what the Founding Fathers established. Where Communism failed in the USSR, it has slowly and diabolically integrated in the US so far. What did USSR stand for? Union of Soviet SOCIALISTS Republic. There are inherent evils and there are things that are not inherently evil. Abortion is an inherent evil. Contraception is an inherent evil. I would argue the allowance of all this stuff has contributed to the wrongs that have come about in “social” issues. But abortion and same sex attraction is a social issue. Everything is a “social” issue when it comes down to it.

      • Adam__Baum

        “rights of migrants”

        There’s a difference between a gues and a tresspasser. Guests come through the front door, invited, in broad daylight. Tresspassers don’t.
        I’ve always been taught that rights come with responsibilities. I’ve yet to hear anything about the responsibilities of the invading aliens.

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          The Latin word for “foreigner,” “peregrinus” (literally “traveller”) was only coined around 200 BC, after the Second Punic War. Conservatives, like Cato the Censor did not see the need for it; Latin already had two words for foreigners: “hostis” and “servus,” “enemy” and “slave.”

    • Art Deco

      ‘Migrants’ not in a possession of a proper visa have the right to a hearing (with the aid of an interpreter) in front of a federal justice of the peace before they serve their sixty day sentence; the state as their captor is obligated to provide them with a wholesome and simple diet while in detention (heavy on bulgar wheat), with soap and water, with a toilet, and with the attention of medical personnel; the state is then obligated to escort them to the border (or to the harbor or the air port) and dispatch them across.

      As for ‘just war’, was the Korean War just? If not, peace-and-justice Catholics, can you drop the mask and stop pretending you are not just reflexive advocates for a series of enemies (or pacifists)?

      As for the ‘social teachings’, I would be happy to see some peace-and-justice Catholic delineate how they are meant to be operationalized in a systematic way. Usually, we get the bishop conference staff line on one or another of the haphazard mess of federal and state welfare programs. (The last attempt to which I was witness had someone arguing that free pricing ought to be replaced with the sublime judgment of the Milwaukee City Council).

  • AcceptingReality

    Dr. Russell, thank you so much for this article! This sentiment needs to be continually voiced because the problem is not local to your parish. It is widespread. More often than not homilies are circumscribed by political allegiances. During the 2012 election season our pastor distanced himself and the parish staff from pro-lifers handing out a list of the “Five Non-negotialbles” outside the church before Mass. Questionable homilies with veiled left wing social agenda messages are all to frequent. Only twice in the last several years have I heard anything remotely in line with Catholic moral teaching come from a pulpit. Once I was traveling and heard a homily about the importance of the Right to Life Movement. The word “abortion” was used several times. On another occasion a priest visiting our parish planted a subliminal message into a homily on marriage when he used the phrase, “…..between one man and one woman.”

    The fact is that somehow, at least half of Mass going Catholics have gotten the impression that you don’t have to believe what the Church teaches to be a Catholic in good standing.

  • Don

    A very fine article. Faithful Catholics who actually stick their necks out professionally too frequently find themselves nearly abandoned by the Church that urged them to act. The 24% of church going Catholics will dwindle further if the clergy, and bishops in particular, continue to keep their heads down.

  • NE-Catholic

    In the “Catholic” Northeast – a lack of homilies on the ‘hot button’ topics of homosexuality, same-sex marriage, religious freedom, etc. is practically mandatory – a prayer about ‘respect for life’ from natural conception to natural end – is okay if mentioned at 6 to 8 week intervals. No priest will ever mention the pro-abortion stance of ANY Democrat, especially ones that are special pals of the bishop/cardinal (as happens in NH, MA, NY, etc.) Homilies against ‘clinging to old beliefs’ and ‘fearing change’ are permitted especially when they are coincident with remarks by a pro-abortion candidate for the presidency. No objection to open borders or means testing of ANY social program is permitted. Needless to say, endorsement of any conservative position from the pulpit is never allowed. – I’ve never seen nor heard about that quote from the Pope, or ‘Francis’ as our local press identifies him. Did he whisper it to himself?

    • James

      In the Deep South, they hardly talk about anything else!

      • Adam__Baum

        “I’ve heard more than my share of homilies about sexual issues too.”
        Unless you are the first man to conquer his concupiscience, you aren’t yet full.

        • James

          I am free of any and all temptations to participate in homosexual activities, much less marry someone of the same sex. As are the overwhelming majority of people in the congregation.

          I’m not sure what good more homilies on this subject will do me.

          As for everything else, I don’t think “more homilies” is the answer.

          • Adam__Baum

            Well then perhaps you should ask the pastor to address a few other sins, say pornography (which by the way is pretty common, but under reported, because the gap between say the SI swimsuit issue and “other publications” is closing, rapidly. even as it migrates to the net). onanism, fornication and adultery.
            Are you free of “any and all temptations” for those sins too?

        • Micha_Elyi

          Oh, but James has heard more than his share. I’m not getting any from my pastor. Or bishop. So I conclude that James’s pastor has been taking my share. Hmmpf!

          • slainte

            If I may ask, does your nom de plume refer to Michael the Archangel?

    • slainte

      The ability of a priest to speak from the pulpit on issues of morality is often directly linked to the ideological mindset of the monsignor, bishop, or cardinal who establishes the parameters of preaching within the respective parish or diocese.
      If the “boss” is a radical liberal, then the priests who otherwise might teach traditional morality may be constrained from acting. The correction and change must start from the top. Parishioners have a greater ability to influence the process by prevailing upon the upper level clerics than does a local parish priest.

  • LarryCicero

    Two weeks ago, at my parish, the homily was about parish finances. Then the announcements at the end of mass contained another homily about the financial report. Then it was announced that the following week there would be a request for everyone to pledge and make a commitment to the parish. Last week, I chose to return to my old parish, where the report was in the bulletin, where it belongs. They have far less money and are in greater need of my commitment. The author is not alone in questioning the blandness of many homilies and the refusal to throw punches. The “base” like in a political party is often taken for granted. I think the failure to address social issues is not so much a fear of losing tax exempt status as it is fear of losing the cafeteria catholics. And I wonder how many priests are voting democrat as well. Maybe the answer to priests who prefer to be liked is to pull financial support, and vote with your feet as well.

    • Adam__Baum

      “I think the failure to address social issues is not so much a fear of losing tax exempt status as it is fear of losing the cafeteria catholics. ”

      Just as the Church shouldn’t be just another NGO, it shouldn’t be a a pufferfish, inflating its size with the empty air of the indifferent and unengaged.

      • LarryCicero

        They had the kids in religious education classes(public school kids) go to a reconciliation/ examination of conscience service last week. I said to the director that these kids will go to confession tonight and not go to mass on Friday-All Saints Day, and need to go again to confession on Saturday. My two kids were the only two kids at the evening mass. Mass in the morning was too late and conflicted with school. This week at RE class I gave the kids a quote from the book of Wisdom, from Sunday’s mass- not one kid recognized it. Tithing and attendance would be a good subject at Christmas and Easter. As an old pastor once said at an Easter Mass- “We are here fifty-two weeks of the year.” He was not a popular guy.

        • Patsy Koenig

          He was popular with God.

    • slainte

      If the practice of tithing were to be embraced by all Catholics, the need for parishes to repeatedly request more money from the laity would be substantially alleviated.
      Costs and routine expenses continue to increase for all parishes and must be paid. It is thus incumbent on those Catholics who can afford to remit more to do so.
      The $1. that we deposited into the collection basket when we were children thirty or forty years ago is no longer sufficient.

      • Adam__Baum

        “If the practice of tithing were to be embraced by all Catholics”

        I would love to tithe, but Fed WH, State WH, FICA and some other strangers seem to have priority claims on my income.

        “It is thus incumbent on those Catholics who can afford to remit more to do so.”

        Affordability is a function of magnatude and security. Nobody has security anymore.

        • slainte

          God has the best claim to First Fruits, not Uncle Sam. I know 10 percent assessed on gross income is a significant commitment, but God rewards those who tithe.
          Mormons tithe and do quote well financially. In fact, many attribute their enhanced well being to tithing.

          • LarryCicero

            The point is that you will never hear a priest argue for the unjust burden of high taxes.

            • slainte

              Catholic priests should proclaim from the pulpit the truth echoed from revolutionary war times that the power to tax is the power to destroy.
              While reasonable levels of taxation may be necessary to meet certain public needs and to fund legitimate governmental obligations, excessive taxation imposed by any level of government constitutes a grave injustice perpetrated against a largely powerless citizenry.
              Cognizant of the source, Catholic bishops should thus decline the use of government monies to fund Catholic social justice initiatives, particularly when those funds are generated through the imposition of unjust and oppressive tax schemes which demoralize the family by compelling both mother and father to work outside the home to replace family income lost to taxation.
              Further, on a theological level, bishops who utilize government funding as a quick fix to address the very complex and multi-dimensional issue of poverty deny individual Catholics the charism of engaging in corporal works of mercy to assist their neighbors locally. As our salvation depends not only on Grace, but also Works, the bishops should be acutely aware how the unintended consequences of their present policies impede the salvation of souls.
              I verily wish that bishops would relinquish their fraternal links with politicians. Enough with Al Smith dinners and politico-clerical cronyism.

              • LarryCicero

                If 10% is enough for God, it should be enough for government.

                • Adam__Baum

                  Hey, God just gives you life, government gives you a cellphone.

                • TheodoreSeeber

                  The government owns the money supply. Taxes are 100% with rebates. This will be true as long as Article I Section 10 of the US Constitution remains in force.

              • Adam__Baum

                “the power to tax is the power to destroy. ”

                I’m still waiting for the usual suspects to promote a new doctrine, “the divine right of the IRS”

                • LarryCicero

                  King O proclaimed “You didn’t build that.” The implication being you could not have done it without government, not without God.

                  • slainte

                    Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D, Mass) expressed a similar sentiment in 2011 while on the campaign trail, to wit, “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own”.

                    She then proceeded to elaborate further regarding this claim….see link.


                    • Adam__Baum

                      See what I mean about Harvard Lawyers?

                    • slainte

                      Erroneous Ideology is at issue, not the university or the profession.
                      Nice try though.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      I’m sorry but Harvard (to be fair, the entire place) is the font of Erroneous Ideology, and 6 of 9 current SCOTUS justices are Harvard. (Shouldn’t they at least split 5-4 with Yale?)

                      Other associated notables: Barack Obama, Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (“three generations od idiots are enough”), Stephen Breyer, Susan Estrich, Michael Dukakis, Cass Sunstein (of the noxious “Nudge” fame), Anthony Kennedy, Harry Blackmun, David Souter, Ronal Dworkin, Felix Frankfurter, Erwin Chemerinsky..Susan Estrich, Nadine Strossen, MIchael Kinsley…

                      And the lead article of the current HLR:


                      So my question is what is that produces such graduates with such regularity? Do they have a problem with intellectual diversity in recruitment or is it an iron echo chamber.

                    • slainte

                      I think most students attend Ivy League schools for the prestige factor; the personal relationships with others of equal or greater intellect which, over time, becomes remunerative professional relationships; and for the opportunities which are more readily available in the work place upon graduation.
                      I do not think students are necessarily drawn to these institutions to maximize and refine their exposure to a secular liberal ideology. Although acceptance and affirmation of this ideology appears to be the price of admission for acceptance among elite powerbrokers.
                      I suspect if being Catholic offered significant financial and power opportunities, many would abandon secular liberalism and return to the pews post haste.
                      More interesting to me, though, is whether a logical evolutionary nexus exists between the Calvinist seeds that gave rise to these universities and the present day flowering of secular liberalism/post modernism which has superceded reformational protestantism.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      “I suspect if being Catholic offered significant financial and power
                      opportunities, many would abandon secular liberalism and return to the
                      pews post haste.”

                      You mean really return, not be Catholic the way Biden, Pelosi & Christie are, right?

                    • slainte

                      Those who come to the Catholic Church for financial or power opportunities will find a treasure whose value will be self evident only to the most enlightened. The others will hastily flee in search of earthly baubles.
                      I can’t opine on the personhood of the politicians as I don’t know what is in their hearts. To the extent they advance their careers by advocating positions contrary to Catholicism and biblical teachings, their actions are emphatically wrong. Catholic voters should take note and decline to vote for them.
                      If Harvard was founded as a college to train preachers and educate protestant laity in the English Calvinist Puritan tradition, and that theology has now evolved into a theology of secular liberalism, then should a Catholic really be surprised if his child graduates having absorded this new faith and then, through his actions, reflect its practices?
                      How many are willing to set aside the prestige and relationship opportunities made available through an Ivy League affiliation to attend a traditional Catholic college where a child’s faith will (hopefully) be enhanced, but his CV may not gleam with the patina of the Ivies?
                      The theology/ideology of Secular Liberalism is present at Harvard, and at some notable Catholic universities. I think its more helpful to condemn the ideology, not the college or its graduates.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      “I can’t opine on the personhood of the politicians as I don’t know what is in their hearts.”

                      I have it on good authority “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

                    • Micha_Elyi

                      Q. Does a logical evolutionary nexus exist between Calvinism present day secular

                      A. Yes. As further evidence I offer the evolution of Puritans into Congregationalists, Transcendentalists and Unitarian Universalists.

                    • slainte

                      Progress occurs through time because each movement contains within it the seeds of its own destruction. Thesis, Anti-thesis, Chaos, Change/Progress…….. Hegelian Dialectic.
                      If the change does not occur quickly enough, manufacture a crisis, be prepared to administer the ensuing disorientation/chaos, then propose a pre-planned solution that alleviates the chaos by shifting the movement or the culture in a pre-planned direction that prior ot the crisis would not have been accepted or tolerated.
                      I believe this trend is at work in protestantism and the culture. But what about the Catholic Church as holder of the Truth?

                    • Blah Blaah

                      Took the answer right out of my mouth, Micha_Elyi. I trace that development in American literature classes every year. It’s a straight, unwavering line. You can already see the seeds of Unitarianism when you read Ben Franklin (the deist, who gave himself the rule, ‘Imitate Jesus and Socrates’). He’d have been right on board with the Unitarians of the next generation, for example.

                    • Eamonn McKeown

                      re. the Harvard Law Review article you link to, I blame Eminem, or maybe Al Jolson, or our first black president Bill, or Harvard’s very own first native-American professor. It takes brains to be as stupid as Ms. Leong. She takes some straightforward assertions and puts it all on the back of the white devil – oops. Who the hell uses “Marxian ” frameworks today?…ok, i’ll stop, just as I stopped reading her article half-way through.

              • Bedarz Iliaci

                But why is the citizenry powerless?
                Isn’t this a republic?
                And isn’t 2nd Amendment usually argued for as the defense against State tyranny?
                Then why should people feel powerless and oppressed?

                • Adam__Baum

                  You are not being controlled with instruments of violence, yet.
                  The progressive project has been fueled by money. The Sixteenth Amendment, made you a “residual claimant” on the benefits of your own efforts and industry.

                • TheodoreSeeber

                  Republic is just another name for confidence game.

                  • Art Deco

                    I’ll tell the Venetians you have a message for them. The Hanseatic League as well.

                    • TheodoreSeeber

                      And what happened with their empires?

              • TheodoreSeeber

                Americanism and Libertarianism is opposed to Catholicism. One truly cannot serve God and Mammon. Having said that, I sure wish for a return of the Philadelphia Nun’s Loophole, and a pledge by all Catholic Libertarians to take advantage of it. Maybe if we did that, then taxes would truly become unnecessary.

                • slainte

                  Catholicism has traditionally overcome pagan civilizations and built upon the remnants of those lost civilizations. The Roman Pantheon (Temple to All Gods) was reclaimed, sanctified, and renamed “Santa Maria Rotonda”. The Egyptial obelisk situated in the Vatican now carries upon its apex the Crucifix of Our Lord. The fall of Rome gave rise to the advent of Christendom throughout Europe and the world. Truth conquers all.
                  Mr. Seeber, you and I are members of the Church formed by Our Lord which has prevailed for over 2,000 years. Be comforted by Bl. John Paul’s words….Be not afraid.

              • Blah Blaah

                Yes, yes, YES! What you are saying here needs to be in a full-blown article, not just a comment. Absolutely the Church needs to refuse to take any money from the government. But your point about it being unjust to take government funds when they come from oppressive taxes is something I hadn’t thought of before.

                I’m right with you in believing that if the Catholic Church TRUSTED GOD to provide, Catholics would step up and volunteer, donate, support our charities.

                Let me comment on tithing, though. I was led by a long process (including regular encounters with a homeless man battling cancer) to embrace tithing. It was hard for me, because I was brought up to believe that money=security; money=self-worth; money=power and control over your life.

                But I found that as soon as I had worked myself up to committing ten percent, off the top, from any money that came into my hands, remarkably, I’ve NEVER been short of money since then. On the one hand, my priorities changed. I just lost my attachment to ‘stuff’. My ‘needs’ – which were really ‘wants’ – dwindled. On the other hand, there were times when I gave more than 10%, more than 20% because God put someone really needy before me. I worried if I’d make it to the end of the month. And then, out of the blue, a windfall would carry me through to the next paycheck.

                I live in Central Europe, in an economy that has done really well pulling itself out of the morass of communism. I don’t earn enough to pay taxes back home in the US. So by the standards of most readers here, I’m very definitely ‘poor.’ But I tithe, and I never, ever want for anything. Not only do I no longer have trouble getting to the end of the month, I can donate 20% of my salary to charity (one way or another; not necessarily the parish collection) and still have money left over at the end of the month. My attitude now is, ‘This is God’s money. Ten percent to him off the top, plenty left for me, and from what’s left over – wait and see, because he may show me someone who needs it.’ And it’s a JOY to give, to feel that God has trusted me with this money and is using me as his hands, his heart, to help someone who is crying out for financial help.

                Take that leap of faith and start tithing, and just watch God provide. Your joy will increase, and he will not leave you wanting.

                Now if only our Bishops would take the leap of faith and believe that God provides, instead of looking to Uncle Sam, it would be amazing.

          • Adam__Baum

            It’s too bad the Episcopacy doesn’t share your view on priority of claims.

            They’ve yet to see a government program whose exitence or expansion they don’t seem to favor, and don’t seem to understand that economic poverty isn’t impecuniousness, it’s far more complex, often related to bad choices and is not only not mitigated, but ossified by the existence of an unconditional and unending government check.

          • Micha_Elyi

            Bad news. Our bishops assigned what is God’s to Caesar.

            Try again.

        • Miles Eggimann

          God will not be outdone in generosity…doing 10% on gross is definitely a leap of faith, but I earn under $100K, and although I live modestly with decade-plus old cars and a small house, I send three girls to Catholic school ($5K+ per annum) and still tithe, and God has answered by making it possible to do so and still provide for my family such that we’re not hurting. Pray on it, I entreat you – re-read Matthew 6:25-27…Jesus is trustworthy!

        • Miles Eggimann

          A final thought on the issue of tithing: witness the noble example of the Catholic Diocese of Wichita, KS, where the legitimate call by the Church for Her members to provide vigorously for Her support is responded to so generously so that Catholic education, pre-12, is offered FREE OF CHARGE to members of that diocese. If Catholics across this land behaved the same way, we wouldn’t be saddled with the frightful woes being wrought by the current rise of atheistic Leftism…mostly because such a fulsome response to the call of the Church for Her members to support her materially would indicate such a vibrant faith that 75+ million Catholic voters would not tolerate Pelosis, Bidens and Obamas, and these vibrantly faithful Catholics wouldn’t be contracepting and aborting their progeny, so there would be FAR MORE than 75 million of us.

    • Art Deco

      Two weeks ago, at my parish, the homily was about parish finances.

      After Mass, hit him hard and high.

      • LarryCicero

        I’ll just take my ball and go home.

        • Adam__Baum

          I prefer fraternal rebuke. You can’t complain about priests who beat around the bush, if you just take your toys and go home.

          • LarryCicero


            • slainte

              Fraternal rebuke respectfully communicated is appropriate.

              • LarryCicero

                I have done so in the past, in writing, and once had my letter read after all the masses. But it is not always easy to encourage one to not be lukewarm respectfully.

                • Adam__Baum

                  “I have done so in the past, in writing, and once had my letter read after all the masses.”
                  Context is everything. How was it read?

                  • LarryCicero

                    After mass, during the announcements. He did not disclose who wrote it, but said because the person who wrote it had the guts to sign it, unlike most letters of criticism he received, that he felt compelled to read it. I attended mass at another parish that week and did not hear him read it. I was told about it from another parishioner. When I told him I wrote the letter his face lit up with a big smile. But I remained “anonymous” and that was a good thing.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      That seems respectful.

      • Micha_Elyi

        I too have a pastor who repeatedly talks about parish finances at mass.

        But what about a homily on moral opposition to abortion? Euthanasia? Culture of Death? Freedom of Religion? Same-sex sham marriage? The responsibilities of those God entrusts with the vocation of the laity to act in public life, including voting, with a well-formed conscience? Oh well, maybe the day I attended mass at another parish was the day my pastor covered all that in his homily. Or not.

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  • JM Cabaniss

    It is a mistake to believe that one cannot address moral issues without raising corresponding political issues as well. I have often heard activist Catholics claim that Jesus was a political radical when in fact, while some of his teachings were certainly radical, he was indifferent to their political implications, and this is the attitude our clergy ought to adopt.

    It is sufficient (not to mention necessary) for a priest to present church teaching on homosexual behavior, contraception, abortion, etc. while it is neither necessary nor (generally) appropriate for him to suggest which bills we should support or which politicians we should oppose. Polling data showing that Catholics are virtually indistinguishable from everyone else on these issues is all the evidence one needs to demonstrate the complete failure of the catechesis Catholics have been receiving.

    Once a year the readings include the teaching that “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” The response at the time was “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” and many turned away. Apparently the lesson that many will turn away if the teachings are difficult has been taken to heart by too many of our bishops and priests.

  • HV Observer

    A very large part of the problem is that pastors are obliged to preach about the readings of the Sunday, and nothing else.

    If you can’t make an obvious connection between, say, the dangers of pornography, and whatever was in the assigned readings, then that sermon against porn is not going to be preached.

    Unless we get a definite order from Rome saying, “Preach about moral issues, they don’t have to be connected to the readings of the day,” then you’re going to have this problem.

    • Art Deco

      If they are meticulous, they preach on the day’s readings. It is often difficult to detect a train of thought in their preaching, much less anything but a tangential relationship to the day’s readings. Liberal protestant ministers are worse, of course.

      They can address topical questions through an insert in the bulletin.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      That only applies to the homily at mass.

      A preacher can select any text he pleases at Vespers or other evening devotions, like Rosary, Sermon and Benediction.

    • Adam__Baum

      “pastors are obliged to preach about the readings of the Sunday, and nothing else.”
      Is that a matter of canon law?

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    Here is a list of the titles of the sermons in the first of eight volume of Newman’s Parochial and Plain Sermons. All of them are topics a modern preacher could profitably address, but seldom does

    Holiness Necessary for Future Blessedness

    The Immortality of the Soul

    Knowledge of God’s Will without Obedience

    Secret Faults

    Self-Denial the Test of Religious Earnestness

    The Spiritual Mind

    Sins of Ignorance and Weakness

    God’s Commandments not Grievous

    The Religious Use of Excited Feelings

    Profession without Practice

    Profession without Hypocrisy

    Profession without Ostentation

    Promising without Doing

    Religious Emotion

    Religious Faith Rational

    The Christian Mysteries

    The Self-Wise Enquirer

    Obedience the Remedy for Religious Perplexity

    Times of Private Prayer

    Forms of Private Prayer

    The Resurrection of the Body

    Witnesses of the Resurrection

    Christian Reverence

    The Religion of the Day

    Scripture a Record of Human Sorrow

    Christian Manhood

    • slainte

      One wonders whether Bl. Newman would have been as prolific a preacher had he not been Anglican first, before his conversion to Catholicism, as the latter tradition places greater emphasis on the sacrament of Holy Eucharist than on gospel interpretation through homilies.

      • Micha_Elyi

        The mass has two parts, the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. It is – to coin a phrase – a seamless garment. Yet most priests and bishops appear a bit unfamiliar with an important portion of the former, its homily..

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        Bossuet, Bourdaloue and Massillon in the 17th century all produced formidable collections of sermons that are viewed as classics of French literature. Even Voltaire kept a copy of Massillon’s Lenten Conferences ( Grand Carême) on his bedside table.

        In the 19th century, Lacordaire published a considerable number.

        It is the practice of extempore preaching that has ended such publcations

  • jacobhalo

    Mr Russell, of course, you are referring to the novus ordo missae. Since I started to attend the EF of the mass about 8 years ago, I have heard sermons on the hot button issues. We just had a sermon on homosexuality. We have also had sermons on abortion. Our pastor said that he can’t understand how people call themselves Catholics and don’t adhere to some of the teachings of the church. He asked, would a Catholic tell Jesus that he didn’t believe in some of his teachings.
    The poll which says only 24% of Catholics attend Sunday mass, we have an attendance rate of over 95% at the Latin mass at our parish, with a ton of young people. We have 10 to 15 altar severs every Sunday. The hot button issues have not driven anyone away, in fact, they have drawn people in.

  • Jim

    I live in the Denver Archdiocese and I have to say that our priests and bishop have spoken on all of these topics, and I must say they do so frequently. I am blessed to have such good and faithful priests and bishops.

  • Mugger Malcolmridge

    Sorry, but most “Catholics” who do not attend Mass at least weekly, are not Catholics.

    • Adam__Baum

      That is the best pseudonym on here.

      • stephen

        Not bad yerself.

  • DrDave

    A few months ago, in my last parish, a visiting priest would regular teach the church teachings on the issues we were facing. He pulled no punches, and new people would complain. They did, and he has been forbidden, with the bishop’s approval at least, to return to that parish. The complaint most heard — “Who is he to tell me what to think about these issues.”

    • John200

      That reaction is so sad. Properly cast by a comedy writer, it would be hilarious.

      But I am not laughing.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    “Sheep are lovely animals, but they are not very cleaver and neither are we.”

    And they’re not very clever either.

    • John200

      The sheep will learn all about the cleaver when it comes time to get us some fresh mutton.

      It won’t do them any good, but they’ll learn.

  • Bill

    I attend mass both Sunday and daily. Almost every homily I have heard in the past 30 years by dozens of priests in dozens of cities has been a very general and vague “love and forgive your neighbor.”

  • Nana Mary

    Living in Virginia, where such speech would have helped our vote for Governor and the principles the conservative candidate espoused, I hope this is widely read by the bishops and priests, especially before they meet in a week or so. If they fear losing IRS benefits, or if they fear losing Catholic liberals/Democrats, they seem to be worshiping a different God, according to my evangelical friends.

    BTW, these same principled Christians might be willing to convert and replace those with less high ideals IF our Church would stand for what we say we do–they have told me so. Wouldn’t it be just like Europe in the Reformation and the new Catholics in Mexico?!

    Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

  • Peter

    There’s an old saying if you sleep with dogs you wake up with fleas. The Church has been accepting financial support for its charitable purposes from both state and the federal government since the 1960’s. It’s hard to criticize the one who pays the bills.
    I have not heard a sermon on abortion for 15 years. I have never heard a sermon calling into question politicians who pretend to be Catholics and vote in diametrical opposition to Church teachings. Nor have priests mentioned sin and the devil. I even had one priest tell me that a former bishop of our diocese spent way to much time on abortion and contraception back in the 70’s. The implication is that preaching is what caused the wholesale defection from the Church in our area.
    The running theme seems to be that Jesus loves every human and all we be saved no matter what they do.

  • margaret Allain

    Sadly many priests I know who preach the truth ‘in season and out’, are often censored by their Bishops for failing to be pastoral….

  • B. Mueller

    Our Lady said back in the 1970s something like that the sermons are “banal and worthless”. It has not improved at all. In fact I recall the constant ‘God loves you’ it doesn’t matter what you do, behave, or dress as a horrid distortion of truth. People get it though after a while and just quit going to Mass with such inconceivable falsity. Is this the basis for the New Evangelization?

  • Miles Eggimann

    Moral issues have been subsumed into the world of partisan politics, particularly those “pelvic” issues where the Church does (and always HAS) taught in no uncertain terms – although as Mr. Russell discusses, you might not know it if you attend most of America’s Catholic parishes. Modern voices in league with the enemy desperately want us to believe that it’s the other way round, but we know better – and our shepherds whose mandate includes the responsibility to teach, proclaim, remonstrate and encourage from the ambo with clarity and courage at each and every Mass MUST redouble the vigor with which they carry out this most profoundly important aspect of the Catholic priestly ministry.