The question that agitates the Catholic Church: who is a good Catholic?

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October 29, President BidenJoe BidenVideo of violence removed from Representative Gosar’s account after backlash Federal judge dismisses Trump’s efforts to block Jan 6 documents Expected price increases raise political stakes for Biden MORE held a 75-minute meeting with Pope FrancisPope Francis Pope condemns ‘despicable’ assassination attempt in Iraq Pope insists on dialogue instead of war in Ethiopia What we can learn from two great popes MORE. The two heads of state discussed the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in poor countries, the plight of refugees and the climate crisis. But their meeting was also purely pastoral. The Pope blessed Biden’s rosary and assured America’s second Catholic President that he was “a good Catholic.” This resonated with devotee Biden, who keeps a photo of Pope Francis prominently in the Oval Office and regularly attends Catholic mass.

But since the election of Joe Biden, American Catholic bishops have been anything but reassuring about Biden’s state of pardon. On the day of the inauguration, Archbishop José Gomez, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), issued a scathing indictment: “Our new president has pledged to continue certain policies that advance moral evils and threaten life and dignity in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage and gender.

Immediately, a divisive debate began as to whether Biden should show up for Holy Communion. At the USCCB meeting in June, several bishops proposed that Biden, along with other pro-choice Catholic politicians, be turned away from the altar.

Pope Francis has made his point clear. Returning from a trip to Slovenia in September, the Pope said emphatically: “I have not refused Communion to anyone! At their October meeting, the Pope told Biden he should continue to receive Communion, prompting EWTN commentator Raymond Arroyo to Tweeter that the pope’s statement “goes against his own American bishops on this (and canon law)”. The Bishop of Rhode Island Thomas Tobin was particularly caustic: “Where are the John the Baptist who will face the Herods of our time?

As the bishops meet this month to once again address the subject, a draft document does not mention Biden or abortion. Instead, he calls on Catholics to understand that Holy Communion is the spiritual and physical bond with Jesus Christ. Transubstantiation – that is, the conversion of bread and wine during Mass into the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ – is a principle of the church that few Catholics understand or believe. In a 2019 Pew Research poll, 69% of Catholics said bread and wine on the altar is “symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ; Only 31 percent believed they were the real body and blood of Jesus. It should be a teaching moment.

But the constant insistence of some bishops to deny Holy Communion to pro-choice Catholic politicians raises a fundamental question: who is a good Catholic? Is a Catholic who supported Biden in 2020 (including this columnist) a good Catholic? Is he a Catholic supporter of Donald trumpDonald Trump Federal Judge Rejects Trump’s Efforts to Block Jan.6 Documents Sununu’s Exit Highlights GOP’s Uncertain Path to Senate Majority Trump Endorses Idaho Lt. govt. against the head of the GOP in place MORE a good Catholic? Is a married gay Catholic school teacher a good Catholic?

Pope Francis has implicitly answered these questions. In 2013, responding to a question about homosexuals, the Pope said: “If a person is gay, seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?

Most Catholics agree. According to a 2021 Pew Research Center poll, 67% of American Catholics believe those who disagree with the church’s teaching on abortion should receive Communion; as for homosexuality, a sexual orientation that the church has described as “objectively disordered”, the number in favor of communion for those who disagree with the teaching of the church stands at 78 percent; for those who oppose the church’s position on the death penalty, it is 79%; and for those who disagree with the church on immigration, it’s 87 percent.

The question “Who is a good Catholic?” Has rocked the church since its inception. Human beings are creatures of comfort and we like to surround ourselves with like-minded people. Today, some bishops are looking for a more homogeneous, culturally conservative and smaller church made up of “good Catholics”. Conservative Catholic scholar George Weigel aspires to an “all-inclusive Catholicism” whose uniform nature creates the exclusivity that some bishops so desire.

But the Catholic Church was never designed to turn its faithful into creatures of comfort. The New Testament records that when Jesus said that whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood “remain in me and I in him,” many of his disciples growled and walked away, leaving Jesus to ask his remaining apostles, “You do not don’t want to go too, do you? Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Catholics should be uncomfortable with politicians who defend the right to abortion, or with leaders who think separating immigrant children from their parents is good public policy, or with governors who support the death penalty . Indeed, it is when the Catholic Church makes people uncomfortable – and causes them to think – instead of reacting reflexively from their partisan political inclinations that the Church fully engages hearts and minds. of the faithful.

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend once wrote that instead of engaging the faithful, the Catholic Church “builds walls to keep the world from threatening and invading out, rather than moving ever wider around the world. who desperately needs our help. ” By becoming creatures of comfort in culture wars, bishops have failed to engage the faithful on issues of social justice. Archbishop José Gomez describes the social justice movements which gained momentum after the murder of George Floyd as “pseudo-religions, even replacements and rivals of traditional Christian beliefs”. Br Bryan Massingale, a prominent American Catholic theologian at Fordham University, replied: “[M]Most black Catholics I know defend Black Lives Matter precisely because of our belief in the universal human dignity of all people as images of God.

Rather than seeking the comfort of like-minded Catholics, the church should welcome dialogue on all theological and social justice issues. The decisions Catholic voters make should be difficult, not easy. Comfortable Catholicism appeals to many, but committed Catholicism should sting the conscience. Instead of asking who is a good Catholic, the question should be, “How can I be a better Catholic?” “

John Kenneth White is professor of politics at the Catholic University of America. His latest book is called “What Happened to the Republican Party?” In 2020, he was co-chair of Catholics for Biden.



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