So you may recall that a while back I wrote about how the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops…or, rather, a group of hardliners within it…was calling for a Church-wide policy by which any Pro-Choice politician would be denied communion. Which, by the way, should read “President Biden will be denied communion.” He was the real target. No one else.
The whole thing had, of course, almost nothing to do with abortion, and everything to do with power. The Bishops were taking a side in American politics, and that was Trump’s side, even though the Former Guy was never mentioned by name.
Bishop Coo Coo Clock
I wrote, too, a little later, on how the Vatican was not happy with those of its American Bishops who were signing up with the Deplorables. Rome sent a pretty strong letter to them saying basically, in polite but quite unmistakable language, “watch it, you morons.”
Well, the morons in question didn’t heed the storm warnings and, indeed, tried to pen just such a policy statement. And, just as the Vatican had tried to tell them, it was a public relations nightmare. Democrats everywhere saw (correctly) that this was a deliberate and targeted attack on them personally. Liberal and moderate Catholics hit the roof. Progressives started talking about taxing the churches.
And…no surprise here…the Bishops backed down. They weren’t too graceful about it. But they did it.(1)
I wish I could say that this will be the end of the matter, but of course, it won’t. The hardliners are still there. They’ll try again. And, who knows? Maybe next time, they’ll succeed.
But, I’m guessing that win or lose, these bishops and their supporters have done the American church real damage. They have demonstrated just how removed they are from the vast majority of Americans, and, in fact, from American Catholics. The reality is that many Americans are, indeed, pro-Life, but just as many (maybe far more) are uncomfortable with extremely political churches—whether Catholic, or Protestant, or Other.
And, now, the American people have evidence that the American church, as it is defined by these men, is political to a fearsome degree.
They may not forget that.
Two quick asides. First, my wife, Martha, pointed out to me a very eloquent piece written by a priest shortly after the Council made its ill-fated diktat about political communion. John D. Whitney, a Jesuit priest based on the West Coast, wrote a stinging rebuke of the Bishops that he posted to Facebook. Among other things, he said:
I want to write a longer piece about those bishops who seek to keep some from the table of Christ, but for now I will say this: it is not your table (nor mine). Bishops, priests, etc. are neither the hosts nor the bouncers nor the ones who wrote the guest list. The Eucharist is the resurrected body of Christ given for the life of the world. Jesus Christ is the one who invites the guests (“all you who labor”); he is the host of those who come; he is the setter of the table; and he is the feast which is shared (“Take this, all of you. . .this is my body, this is my blood”). We are guests at the meal, and sometimes (by his calling) servers. So stay in your lane, please. The wait staff doesn’t get to exclude those who want to come. If you don’t like the company Christ calls (and, admittedly, it is a rag tag bunch of sinners, one and all), it’s you who need to leave the table, not them.(2)
That is powerful. And very true.
Second, if you want to get some idea of just how far removed the Bishops are from their parishioners, check out the article “Catholic bishops trying to weaponize Communion are alienating their own flock,” by Joe Garofoli, in the San Francisco Chronicle. In it, Garofoli notes, “According to a 2016 survey noted by the National Catholic Reporter, 88% of the bishops are non-Hispanic white men and their average age is 65 years old. While most say they spend an hour a day consuming the news, many live in what Los Angeles pediatric specialist and Catholic bioethics expert Patrick Whelan calls "an information silo." Half say they watch Fox News; only 4% tune into MSNBC.”(3)
Or, consider just the president the Conference of Bishops, José Horacio Gómez. He is Hispanic—he was born and raised in Mexico—so that gives him a claim to diversity. But, he is 69 years old, got part of his education in late Francoist Spain, and is a member of Opus Dei, an ultra-Right and extremely controversial organization within the Catholic Church. He is, thus, light-years distant from the concerns of American Catholics in general, and liberal or moderate…or even center Right…Catholics in particular. (4)
He is, in other words, not the man to lead the American Church at a time when Americans, as a group, are struggling with the whole concept of religion. And, frankly, that is a very bad thing, indeed.
Oh, and forgive me a moment of personal vitriol, but, Bishop Gómez doesn’t even look the part. I’m told that while he is absolutely certain of his God-given right to absolute authority…
He has all the personal magnetism of a constipated gerbil.
Sorry, but it had to be said.
Until next time…
Onward and Upward.
Copyright©2021 Michael Jay Tucker
1. See: “US Catholic Bishops vow no 'national policy on withholding communion from politicians’” by Cameron Jenkins, The Hill, 06/26/21 08:57 AM EDT, https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/560363-us-catholic-bishops-vow-no-national-policy-on-withholding-communion?rl=1, and “US Bishops: No vote on banning politicians from receiving the Eucharist,” Vatican News, https://www.vaticannews.va/en/church/news/2021-06/usccb-plenary-document-eucharist.html