Friday 13th December 2019

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An Indelicate Daydream

July 20, 2019 Frontpage No Comments

By CHRISTOPHER MANION

Over the past three years we’ve reported how America’s bishops have begrudgingly acknowledged President Trump’s phenomenal pro-life initiatives while opposing him on virtually everything else. From immigration and health care to global warming and foreign aid, they’ve opposed him.
Today we focus on that “everything else” — what we might call “prudential” politics, addressing social and political issues on which Catholics can, and often do, disagree — often quite strongly.
To sharpen that focus we’ll daydream a little. Let’s assume that our wayward shepherds woke up tomorrow, fired their USCCB and chancery “Social Justice” bureaucracies, and became blazing pioneers for individual responsibility, lower taxes, enforcement of the law, patriotism, and a free market economy.
OK, you might ask, “Who’d notice?”
Let’s not quibble: Yes, we know they’ve made themselves irrelevant and that most folks pay them no mind. Those that do might view them with scorn, if not outright contempt, because of their perpetual scandals. Put that sad truth aside for a moment.
Let’s assume that it matters. Because it does. In this space, we have criticized the bishops’ politics on two levels. First, their clericalism. Their endless intrusion into the prudential political process constitutes a violation of Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church adopted by the Second Vatican Council. There we learn that the realm of practical social and political action is reserved for the laity, “by reason of the knowledge, competence or outstanding ability which they may enjoy” (n. 37).
By definition, there is no “dogmatic” position on the Church on any prudential issue on which good Catholics can disagree. Hence, those particulars are “off limits” to clericalists. Period.
Every Catholic, whatever his political views, has the right and the duty to condemn that breach of Church law, not only because of its deleterious consequences, which we have frequently discussed here, but because it is wrong per se.
Enough said. Let’s turn to the second level that our daydream will address today.
Note that we’re realists. We’re won’t suspend belief and imagine the bishops coming to their senses and retreating from the lay territory they’ve invaded. That’s asking too much. We’re assuming that they’d remain just as political as they are now, which is very political. As their former chief lobbyist has explained, a major faction of our bishops, including “key authorities in Rome . . . regards the Church as a platform for political interests.” Our daydream will dwell on the specifics of that platform.
Our experience tells us that today’s bishops attack conservatives for being bigots, selfish, racists, xenophobes, and creatures of greed and injustice. They disagree, officially and loudly, with a broad array of “conservative” positions.
Good. Now let’s imagine: What would happen if tomorrow our shepherds started attacking the left instead of us?

Dream On . . .

Imagine our bishops boldly going on the attack.
“You’re stoking envy, racism, and violence,” they would charge the left. “You have miseducated two generations of captive students by the millions in schools that have become little more than training grounds for snowflakes. Catholic colleges and universities have become ideology factories, as well as sexual playpens full of thought police. You want Big Brother to invade every aspect of family and community life. You’ve made global warming a goddess and the government a god.
“You have hollowed out the values and virtues that have made America great, the safest and most benevolent country for Catholics in the world. You are power-hungry, unproductive, and insufferably arrogant.”
Breathtaking, indeed. But hang in there, daydreamer, and let’s consider some specifics. What if our bishops suddenly supported the administration’s efforts to restore law and order on our southern border? What if they closed their federally funded NGOs that encourage illegal aliens to risk the dangerous journey north? What if they condemned the Coyote trafficking gangs instead of enjoying the quiet partnership which they share now? What if their NGOs hired all Republicans, instead of all Democrats?
And then imagine them endorsing tax cuts, supporting economic growth, condemning the Communists in Cuba and Venezuela, branding global warming as a fraud, championing nationwide concealed carry, opposing sanctuary cities, and declaring Obamacare a fraud. Would we be happier with the bishops if they agreed with all our political views?
If they opposed socialize medicine, instead of endorsing it for 100 years? If they supported the rule of law instead of encouraging lawbreakers by the millions? If they championed the family instead of advocating higher taxes and bigger government? If they’d blast the Social Justice Warriors instead of haranguing conservatives?
We’d be tempted to gasp in amazement and say, “Wow! Now they’re on our side!”
But wait. Should we really stand up and cheer? If bishops start advocating our own political preferences instead of those of the left, should we suddenly spring to their defense? Should we erase our past criticisms, wipe the slate clean, and join our bishops in mocking the left?
If our answer is “yes,” then we lose. We’ve lost our bearings. We’ve lost our anchor. We’ve lost our sense of proportion and the hierarchy of goods and our understanding of distinctions.
In fact, we’d be adopting a position equivalent to that of today’s politicized bishops themselves.

Daydreaming A Nightmare

Let’s turn the mirror the other way. Assume that you are a pro-sodomy, left-wing internationalist. You agree with everything Pope Francis is doing politically to undercut Christendom and the West. You hate capitalism. You don’t just want socialism, you want chaos and collapse. You don’t want the truth, you want constant lies and deflection and ambiguity.
OK so you think the bishops are doing a great job. Politically, that is — on every issue that isn’t fundamentally tied to magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church, the bishops agree with you.
Now, viewing them from your comfortable left-wing, perverse, and corrupted perch, assume that America’s bishops suddenly reversed themselves 180 degrees. Surprise! Their new political agenda is just as vigorous as it was in the past, but now you and your fellow leftists are the enemy.
OK, leftist ideologue. Will you support the bishops now? Or will you attack them mercilessly because they oppose not only your political agenda, but your immoral pro-abortion, pro-LGBT agenda? Yes, the bishops have always “opposed” that, but you’ve been willing to forgive them, since they’re usually silent about it anyway.
Support them or attack them? The answer is pretty simple. As Lenin put it, anything that furthers the revolution is ethical. So leftists would mercilessly assail any bishop who abandoned them, just as they cheer those who support them today.
Now: Should traditional orthodox Catholics do the same? Should we let the hierarchy’s politics determine our friends and our foes?
Consider: Today we support them and pray for them and encourage them to do their jobs, in spite of their dereliction of duty and, frankly, their corruption and crimes. We do so because they are the successors of the apostles.
But all Catholics are duty-bound to do that. We’re talking here only about our political agenda. If our bishops embraced our politics, would we pray for them more fervently, would we support them more strongly, would we go to bat for them more publicly?
Let’s face it: If we’d be willing to support our bishops more strongly if they’d only change their political agenda to conform to ours, we are not good Catholics. We’re not Catholics first, we’re politicians first. We’ve got to think about this, not because it’s going to happen — we’re daydreaming here.
We have to pray about it, pray for our bishops, and recognize what salvation is all about.

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