Pontifications

Pontifications


Politics as Sacrament: WaPo story on the Church

posted by David Gibson

The title of my piece in Sunday’s “Outlook” section of the Washington Post is “Who Is a Real Catholic?” and it is already garnering some tough comments in reaction. That may be because in pointing to the assimilation/engagement trend in American Catholicism, I point to the Catholic right as having substituted right-wing political strategies as the baseline threshold for being a good Catholic, where once a true Catholic culture and understanding of faith served that role.

My lede:

All you need to know to diagnose the state of the Catholic Church in America today is that Pope Benedict XVI — who has a knack for ticking off Muslims and Jews — spent the past week wandering the Middle East, yet Catholics here barely noticed. They were too busy fighting over Barack Obama’s appearance as commencement speaker at Notre Dame or arguing about the fate of a popular Miami priest known as “Father Oprah,” who was caught on camera sharing a seaside embrace with his girlfriend.

Check it out here. Let me know what you think. I’ll also be having a live web Q&A at 11am ET Monday on the story and the Obama at Notre Dame aftermath.



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ron chandonia

posted May 16, 2009 at 2:53 pm


When Deacon Greg Kandra linked to the article earlier today, I offered the response below:
Like the Washington Post itself, Gibson enjoys pretending to be above the fray, but his references to First Things as a “theocon journal” and to Obama shill Doug Kmiec as a “conservative Catholic legal scholar” make his own allegiances sadly evident.
The idea that the “historic self-definition” of the Catholic Church is “the biggest of tents” is absurd. When Gibson himself entered the Church, he declared, “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.” Those teachings are codified in the Catechism, which clearly states that unborn human life is to be respected and protected in law.
Following the lead of their secular counterparts, cultural elitists like Gibon have a problem with that. It is hardly “sectarian” to call such a compromise with the Culture of Death what it actually is: “disloyalty to the faith.”



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Clifton Carl

posted May 16, 2009 at 5:03 pm


Ron,
Is it “disloyalty to the faith” or is it more like “apostacy in place”? Is it that some are trying, consciously or unconsciously, to remake the Church in their own human image?
“The noble type of man feels himself to be the determiner of values, he does not need to be approved of, he judges ‘what harms me is harmful in itself’, he knows himself to be that which in general first accords honour to things, he creates values.” – Neitzsche, Beyond Good and Evil 260



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tmac

posted May 16, 2009 at 7:04 pm


Excellent article Mr. Gibson and one that I’m in complete agreement with.



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Tim

posted May 16, 2009 at 7:08 pm


Unfortunately, David, the tone of “discussion” with the Church mirrors the tone of of “discussion” in the country: shrill, hateful, and truly unchristian. Benedict XV’s 95-year-old quote is as appropriate today as it was then. We’re devouring our own. Rather than trying to find common ground, and disagreeing without being disagreeable, Catholics are involved in a public shouting match that does nothing to advance either side. I’m old enough to remember praying at Mass in Latin with the priest facing away from the people; the Sisters of the Resurrection, a strict Polish Order, teaching us songs of patriotism and social justice, from the “Star Spangled Banner” to “If I Had a Hammer;” priests and nuns working soup kitchens and marching for integration; and now the debate over who’s truly Catholic. Ut’s the culture war with an ecclesial twist and it will just drive more people not from their faith, but from their Church.



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Clifton Carl

posted May 16, 2009 at 7:55 pm


Oh by the way Mr. Gibson.
Your article in the Washington Post was one of the very very few which attempted to tackle (other than in a superficial way) what is at the heart of the conflict. Sincere kudos for that.
Even though you’re wrong. We don’t need a bigger tent, we need to spread the Gospel and get everyone back under the tent we share with a billion other Catholics. Back under that universal church.
But go ahead and lobby, and maybe in a couple of hundred years some synod or other will change course on abortion. If things haven’t swung the other way in the civil arena first.



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Your Name

posted May 16, 2009 at 8:04 pm


The questions on Monday and beyond will be’ Is criminalizing abortion the only valid Catholic response?” If you are pro-life but suggest that criminalizing abortion is neither possible/probable are you to be condemned as pro-choice?
Do bishops have the expertise/training to advocate that criminalizing behavior is the only moral/efficacious way be insure that Gospel values are promulgated in a pluralistic culture?? I suggest that the clerical abuse cover-up and the refusal to allow the abuse to be criminalized gives too many bishops a credibilty gap that will not be overcome. I suggest bishops initiate a full court press on family support for women who have un-wanted pregnancies. Families are the core transmitters of Gospel values.. not schools/colleges/universities… even parishes.. As a grandparent I have little faith that the civil law will be the conduit for my grandchildren’s future behavior.



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Clifton Carl

posted May 16, 2009 at 9:01 pm


Your name,
It is up to you and your fellow citizens to take what you know is right and translate that into civil action – electoral or direct.
Just do it. We stopped nuclear power plant construction for 30 years with a little bit of direct action (and some help from Three Mile Island).



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Meredith Gould

posted May 16, 2009 at 9:25 pm


As ever, I remain prayerfully grateful for all the ways you contribute to reasoned discourse and offset the embarrassing craziness that seems to have seized Roman Catholics in the United States.



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Nancy N.

posted May 17, 2009 at 12:22 am


As a political and theological progressive, what most offends me about Orthodox Catholics is their eagerness to urge me from the Body of Christ. They do not seek to persuade me or influence me but merely to purge me. On their own ternm they do not care for my soul. I love the church, even when it disappoints me, it is my hoem and family. I would no sooner abandon it thAn my biological family. Family members rebuke those whom they consider transgressors but they do not exile them.



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NY

posted May 17, 2009 at 1:10 am


David, when will you take responsibility for your contribution to the current polemical climate? You include a wonderful 95 year old quote from Benedict XV .”to appease dissension and strife”. But could you not have just as easily quoted from Benedict XVI’s talks in the US or the recent letter to bishops where he expresses his heartfelt desire for unity in the church?
You rightfully lament the current situation in Catholic America and accuse the faithful of unnecessarily focusing on the ND controversy (which you have written extensively about) and a priest sex scandal . . . and follow with your only comment about the pope’s historic and poignant trip to the Holy Land . . . “Pope Benedict XVI — who has a knack for ticking off Muslims and Jews . . . ”
What the church needs right now is not sarcasm, cynicism and judgement but a leader who points us to higher things. This is what we have in Benedict XVI. He has created a treasure trove of writing that inspires hope, and emphasizes the beauty and joy that are found in an encounter with Christ. He has helped many, (including me), convert their hearts and deepen their faith.
Thus, it is painful to consistently see your lack of objectivity and charity where this pope is concerned. Your inability to acknowledge his gifts while trivializing and politicizing his every move is very painful and frustrating to observe for those of us who have been deeply touched and enlightened by his humility and his spiritual insight.
You occupy a privileged place in the world of social communication. You have a wonderful opportunity to help heal divisions and promote understanding while being a critical observer.
So rather than contributing to the negativity and ignorance of our time, I implore you to use your God-given talents to help build up our broken and wounded community.
Please.



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Cindy

posted May 17, 2009 at 8:40 am


David – I think your article in the Washington Post was very thoughtful and well done. Your exposition of our interfaith division was helpful to me.
Growing up Catholic in the Southern Bible Belt I have always “felt,” more than understood, the generalized notion that there was a difference in our Christianities. As I got older I identified it as “more forgiving” – to be Catholic was to be part of a Christian group that was more forgiving.
That is certainly not my felt or understood position today. At least not in the public (blogosphere) discourse. When I read the comments on Catholic sites (yours, Amy Welborn’s, The Deacon’s Bench, etc) there is a vitriolic hatred that emerges that I have rarely seen in real, Catholic life. And I can only imagine it must be what is experienced in the locales that have executed martyrs. Fortunately for me, I have a large protective buffer in my 3D life that keeps me from being to close to such intolerance, such hatred, such judgment and such enmity.
But I never, until the past few years, have associated these things with the Catholic Church. Now they are the daily staple in the diet if a Catholic goes on the web to read up on current events.
I have grown stronger in my faith. It is my prayer that more and more people form communities of loving, Christian education and study the Catechism under the guidance of a truly holy Pastor. And in so doing, they will feel the heat of politics recede, and the embrace of Christ’s love will once again touch them.
I am very fortunate to have a wonderful pastor in our small parish. He truly shepherds his flock, by being accessible, by answering questions, by keeping it simple, by encouraging (and modeling) love for everyone. So I feel the tolerance and acceptance, and know that I am indeed Pro-Life and a “good Catholic” even when it is shouted from rooftops by anonymous people who have never met me that I am all kinds of unsavory things – and most especially that I am not a Catholic.
Instead, I have a daily presence in my life in the human form of my Pastor, and in the persons of my fellow parishioners that there is room for me at the Table of the Lord.
And, I feel the same way when I read your articles.
So, thanks.



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adriano

posted May 17, 2009 at 11:08 am


Do you wanna see a real catholic???
See the video of father Norman,arrested today.
His crime?
Fighting peacefully against abortion at a catholic university.



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Michael Gonyea

posted May 17, 2009 at 11:47 am


Orthodox Catholics have every right to express their opinions even in forceful and argumentative ways. What they do not have the right to do is decide who is a Catholic and who is not. The best quote in your piece was “There is no need of adding any qualifying terms to the profession of Catholicism,” Benedict XV concluded. “It is quite enough for each one to proclaim ‘Christian is my name and Catholic my surname.'” The Church dogmas and doctrines are clear and unwavering, but the question of who is and is not Catholic must be answered individually.



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Your Name

posted May 17, 2009 at 9:26 pm


I REMEMBER THAT WHEN I FILLED OUT ONE OF MY RESUME FEW YEARS BACK
TO A JOB EMPLOYMENT CAN’T REMEMBER WHEN AND WHERE,I HAVE BEEN CONFUSED
WHAT TO WRITE DOWN WHEN THE PAPER ASKING WHAT IS YOUR RELIGION,AND AT
THAT TIME I WAS IN THE COURSE OF MY LIFE TO THINK ABOUT GROWING MORE
INTO FAITH SO ORIGINALLY,I WAS A CATHOLIC,I WROTE IN THE PAPER CATHOLIC,THEN I RETHINK AGAIN KNOWING I AM ATTENDING OR LEARNING BIBLE
STUDIES AND I PUT IT BESIDE IT CHRISTIAN.THAT IS A FIT ANSWER TO THE COMMENTS ABOVE AS IT HAPPENED TO ME TRUE TO LIFE.SOMETIMES,IN LIFE,WHILE YOU WERE BABY,IT IS NEVER A CHOICE TO BE BAPTIZED IN A CHURCH YOUR PARENTS HAVE BAPTIZED YOU,OBVIOUSLY,WE WERE BABIES AND OUR
FOLKS WERE OUR ROLE MODEL.WHEN WE GROW OLDER,IT IS OUR CHOICE OR NO TO HOLD ON TO THE WAY OUR PARENTS HAVE RAISED US IN CERTAIN AREA OF OUR LIVES,BUT WHEN I HAVE READ ANOTHER PASSAGE IN THE BIBLE SAYING THAT JESUS CAME NOT TO BRING PEACE IN THE WORLD BUT HE BROUGHT SWORD,AND THAT FATHERS WILL FIGHT AGAINST THEIR OWN SON,MOTHERS AGAINST DAUGHTERS,DAUGHTERS AGAINST MOTHER IN LAWS…THESE WORDS ARE THE VERY WORDS OF JESUS AS HIS WAY TO BRING OUT THE TRUTH IN THE
DECLARATION OF INDIVIDUAL’S FAITH.THIS IS MY COMMENT TO THIS POST.



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Dan

posted May 17, 2009 at 9:38 pm


“Luther-like dignity”
Are you joking? Cutie made a promise to God and to the Church that he broke. He’s a coward and a hypocrite who got caught. If he really fell in love, then he should have left the priesthood.
While I disagree with nearly every conclusion you reach, I do think that you accurately point to the main problem- our bishops have lost all credibility. They have massively failed us through their lack of orthodox catechesis and their evil acts during the abuse scandals. Collegiality has failed, what we need is not more rebellion from confused Catholics, we need action from Rome that is long overdue.



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Carl

posted May 18, 2009 at 11:50 am


When did the Catholic Church become a division of Fox News? Is that what we want?
The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. -John Kenneth Galbraith, economist (1908-2006)



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