Who Speaks for the Church?

Catholic Dems Letter
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For a remarkable example of overplaying your hand, not to mention sheer audacity, behold the letter by 60 Catholic Democrats to the U.S. bishops.

It is a surreal document. Reading it leaves one with mouth slightly open, staring and blinking at the page. In asserting its signers’ unrestricted right to advance abortion as “proud” Catholic Democrats “of the living Catholic tradition,” it quotes none other than Pope John Paul II, who preached the Culture of Life and described abortion as murder, as well as the Second Vatican Council. It boldly lectures the bishops on Catholic teaching and “the real nature of the true Church.” 

“We solemnly urge you to not move forward and deny this most holy of all sacraments,” states the letter, before instructing the shepherds: “We remind you that the Second Vatican Council renewed emphasis on the Eucharist as the central focus, especially in the Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy.”

Good thing the bishops have these pro-choice Catholic politicians to remind them of Vatican II teaching on the Eucharist and Liturgy, eh?

It’s fitting that the 60 signers began by describing themselves as “proud.” Good choice there. The letter is an act of pride.

Talk about overplaying your hand. A few weeks ago, these pro-choice Catholic Democrat politicians had liberal Catholics nationwide doing their bidding. A sort of foam-at-the-mouth lobby of liberal Catholics were launching petition drives at besieged Archbishop Joseph Naumann, who chairs the bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities. They wailed about alleged “double standards” because the bishops supposedly didn’t strongly enough disapprove of Donald Trump on, say, immigration. 

Of course, it doesn’t take a canon lawyer to figure out that, uh, Donald Trump wasn’t Catholic and, um, Joe Biden is. “Because President Biden is Catholic, it presents a unique problem for us,” Bishop Naumann tried to explain, charitably adding:It can create confusion…. How can [Biden] say he’s a devout Catholic and he’s doing these things that are contrary to the church’s teaching?”

That explanation, easily understandable to a third-grade CCD class, didn’t appear to satisfy liberal Catholics. Like Indians circling the wagons, like a mob with torches and pitchforks, they were not to be mollified. Nancy Pelosi calls the right to an abortion “sacred ground to me.” She’s typical of far too many pro-choice Catholics. Few issues so animate them. They are like modern-day crusaders defending the sacred realm: the progressive castle that is Roe v. Wade

They went full force after Naumann, after Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, after any Church official in their way. And then, they got the added assistance of a confusing Vatican statement, aided and abetted by a predictably egregious piece in their beloved New York Times suggesting that Pope Francis and the Vatican were on their side on the question of whether Joe Biden and his pro-choice Catholic allies in Congress should be denied the Eucharist. 

So, the world was going their way, or so it seemed to them. They had the bishops on the defensive, as evident from the varying debates at the most recent USCCB gathering. But like little kids in a room full of toys pouting that they have nothing to play with, they threw a temper tantrum and demanded more. That’s what this letter is. No, actually, it’s worse. The letter to the bishops is a direct challenge to their authority. It is a direct challenge to the Church’s shepherds over who interprets Church law.

And in that sense, the document is not only ill-advised but shockingly audacious and arrogant. It’s hard to believe they had the effrontery to compose it. 

But so they have, and in a way, that’s not surprising. After all, if one surveys the extraordinary breadth of destructive actions to advance abortion by Catholic Democrats decade after decade, with no one stopping them, then their hubris is no surprise.

At the head of the list is Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who has been in Congress for 30 years, consistently reelected by the people of Connecticut. She’s a radical’s radical. An appreciative NARAL annually awards her a perfect 100% abortion score, which she feels absolutely should not be held against her as she approaches the altar week after week to accept the Body of Christ. When it comes to the unborn, DeLauro’s Church cannot count on her, but NARAL can.

Being a radical’s radical on abortion, DeLauro likely didn’t flinch in signing her name first.

“There, let the king read that!” John Hancock uttered in signing the Declaration of Independence. One can imagine Rosa saying, “There, let the bishops read that!”

Of course, it’s not just Rosa. The list of signers is a who’s who of the Catholic Democrats who have so radicalized the party that you could count on one hand the number of pro-life Democrats in Congress today. 

Among the signers, few have reacted as presumptuously as Senator Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016. The Virginia Catholic has gone so far as to lecture the bishops to not be so “contrary to the Gospel” and “narrow” in their understanding of fitness to receive the Real Presence. “I am most concerned by the bishops’ flirtation with redefining the meaning of the sacrament itself,” warned a self-righteous Kaine.

The platform for Kaine’s redefinition of Catholic dogma was, predictably, the National Catholic Reporter. From that perch, Kaine unto himself proffered a “theology of Communion.” 

Yes, it is getting that bad. This is what happens when pro-choice Catholic politicians go consistently unchecked day after day. They are emboldened to higher levels of recklessness. In fact, forty years ago, the two major parties were split on abortion, with even Ted Kennedy once pro-life, and with Joe Biden for over 40 years supporting the Hyde Amendment. But now, literally almost every Democrat in the House and Senate and White House is pro-choice, including the Catholics among them and the Catholic president. What has happened to the Democratic Party on the abortion issue is staggering. 

Thus, in having their way promoting abortion without impediments, with voters greenlighting and rewarding their alarming activism, it’s no wonder that these Catholic Democrats feel they can have their way with their bishops, too. 

I don’t like to use crass imagery, but when a Protestant friend of mine described this letter to me as a “giant middle finger” by these Catholic politicians to their bishops, I didn’t push back. The gesture really does seem that profane.

What’s next, a smirking Biden barking at a grinning Nancy Pelosi and Tim Kaine, “Bring me Cordileone’s head on a platter?”

Speaking of which, where does this place the bishops?

Well, that’s the irony. These sanctimonious pro-choice Catholics are forcing the bishops into defending canon law. They’ve thrown down the gauntlet.

Pelosi said as much weeks ago, telling a reporter who asked whether she believed she could be denied the Eucharist: “I think I can use my own judgment on that.”

That was mild compared to the crassest response of all. That award goes to Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), who denounced the bishops as “partisan hypocrites” and taunted them: “Next time I go to Church, I dare you to deny me Communion.”

Wow. Can you imagine?

Well, Lieu’s and Pelosi’s colleagues are effectively saying the same with their letter to the bishops. 

“How dare they?” one can almost imagine even Cardinal Cupich saying.

“How stupid are they?” one can almost see San Diego’s Bishop McElroy muttering in frustration.

Sono pazzi?” (“Are they crazy?”) one can almost picture Pope Francis asking a Vatican aide.

What they are is foolish and arrogant. Decades heaped upon decades of toxic, soul-darkening, conscience-coarsening, almost crazed if not deranged support for practically every form of abortion-advancing legislation has so poisoned their minds and attitudes that they now believe they can speak for their Church.

This means that the bishops have now been forced to answer a crucial question for America and for the world, namely: Who speaks for the Church? The bishops or pro-choice Catholic Democrat politicians? Will the bishops be patsies and pawns to Catholic Democrat legislators in Washington, D.C.?

I guess we will soon get an answer.

[Photo: Rep. Ted Lieu, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Tim Kaine, Rep. Rosa DeLauro]

By

Paul Kengor is Professor of Political Science at Grove City College, executive director of the Center for Vision and Values. He is the author, most recently, of The Devil and Karl Marx (TAN Books, 2020).

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