Fraudulent Catholics?

May 12, 2011 at 11:25 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Two of our grandkids (and their parents) live out in western Massachusetts, in a village called Warren, near Springfield. One weekend when we were there I went to Mass at a church the next village over.

It was a pretty amazing experience. Almost everything about the liturgy, except that it was in English, could have taken place in my childhood parish in the 1950s: they even said the prayers at the end of Mass that we used to say before Vatican II, in which, among other things, we prayed to St. Michael the Archangel.

The most stunning part of my one and only visit to that church, however, was a poster in the lobby titled “Fraudulent Catholics,” with the names and photos of sixteen politicians, all Democrats, who had voted for some kind of legislation related to reproductive choice. The ones I remember are John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi–Pelosi whom some consider the most successful Speaker of the House in fifty years for getting the first real expansion of health care passed since the Johnson administration.

Let me be clear: I  can understand disagreeing over political questions. Even claiming that certain actions are against the teachings of the church. The term “fraudulent Catholics” strikes me as a little over the top, though. Besides which, if theses men and women aren’t real Catholics, why should they care what the St.-Michael-lovers out near Sturbridge think?

This brings me to two other Catholics, Speaker of the House John Boehner and Congressman Paul Ryan, who are working like maniacs to do away with the social safety net that US Catholics, including our bishops and politicians, did a lot to get put into place. After all, Catholic immigrants throughout US history have comprised a good percentage of the poor; in some ways, the New Deal was the expansion of the kind of aid  Catholic parishes, Sisters, and machine politicians gave immigrant Catholics before World War II.

As you perhaps know, a group of Catholic professors and leaders have sent a public letter to John Boehner on the occasion of his addressing the graduates at the Catholic University of America, pointing out to him that the budget cuts he advocates in Medicare and Medicaid and other social programs are contrary to Catholic social teaching. I’m delighted that they did this, and proud of them for not descending into the kind of vilification that that poster out in western Massachusetts does.

I wonder, though, whether the current batch of Catholic bishops will show the kind of directness regarding the evisceration of the social safety net that they have shown on the subject of abortion. If Ryan’s proposal to block-grant Medicaid really does pass, thus cutting back massively, for example,on funds that extend nursing home care  for incapacitated elderly Americans whose savings are exhausted, will Ryan’s bishop deny him communion? Or is sex the only thing that merits unambiguous episcopal action?

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