Among the more amusing things that I have seen over the weekend, the current tussle between the Blue Party and the Catholic Church has been both entertaining - and telling.
To those that do not necessarily follow tales of religious woe, the Catholic Conference of bishops has created a document which suggests that public officials who are Catholic be denied the rite of communion if they support particular policies (in this case, abortion). Their intent is that this policy would impact all public officials, up to and including the current Incumbent. In response, a number of Blue Congress folk - about 60 - have written a letter of protest back to the bishop's conference.
To be clear, I have no particular dog in this fight. I am not Catholic and neither do I vote Blue. But I am a Christian, and so the point and counterpoint are very interesting.
If you are a Catholic - as I understand it, please correct me if knowledgeable - communion is a very important thing indeed and to be denied communion is one of the most unfortunate and undesirable positions to be in as it is the means of salvation for Catholics. So, for those of us not Catholic, this is much more than a simple "No participation for you today". It is literally a matter of spiritual life and death.
The Catholic side is pretty straight forward: We are against abortion. It is in pretty much all of our documents. You, serving incumbent public officials, support the policy and are also a practicing Catholics. If you present yourself as Catholic, you should not hold this policy and the one mechanism we have as the Church to correct you in this matter is the denial of Communion (in the Catholic Understanding).
The Blue side is as clear. In their letter, they denote they are doing many of the things that the Catholic church calls upon them to do to support life. Because of that and because of the serious nature of communion, the Church should realize that overall the Incumbent is doing God's will and as such, they should not make this a political matter.
(A side note to this is a letter by a Congress folk from California, who (as a Catholic) also notes that he believes both and as such, should have the freedom of conscience to do so. He also notes that the Catholic church is bleeding people; could it be due to policies like this?)
The point of today's meditation is not abortion per se and not politics and not the Catholic Church. So as a courtesy to all, let us focus on the main issue.
The main issue is man's desire to form religion to fit themselves.
The Catholic Church is no stranger to disagreements with the political authorities. Ask Henry the II of England how that worked out for him, or Henry the VIII or Henry the IV (Holy Roman Emperor, who stood out in the snow).
I have Catholic friends - Uisdean Ruadh is the greatest of them, but I have met a number throughout my life and through this blog (Juvat at Chant du Depart and Ed at Riverbend Journal come to mind). Theirs is a long and holy tradition. They are reasonable human beings (unlike the Catholic Ogres of myth one often hears of these days). And with that tradition, comes acceptance of certain positions.
But in our bold new age, we the individual now dictate to the Church what is its policy.
The odd thing is, these individuals have a choice: simply no longer belong to an organization that does not reflect your beliefs. Happens all the time - good heavens, it is one of the reasons that The Reformation (and Counter Reformation) happened in the first place. The last time I checked Ye Olde Calendar (hold on, checking again....) it was the 21st Century. There is no requirement to be a member of a particular church, or really of any religious institution at all - we no longer keep rolls of membership that are reported to the government. And certainly given today's..."eclectic" mix of Christianity, one can sure find a version to suit one's taste and beliefs. (Or, if you want to stay with an almost Catholic tradition, go with the Anglicans. They are pretty close.)
But that is just it. The individual should not have to do this. The institution should bend.
This is unique in our society, of course. In virtually every other venue, in every other way, the individual is being is being asked to bend to the collective (keep focused, we are not running down discussion rabbit holes). It is only here, in what can only be considered one of the deepest and most personal of things, religious beliefs and morality, that the institution is being forced to bend to the will of the individual.
Does the Catholic Church have issues? Sure. Like every other institution, they have issues. Theirs are just more public now. But let us not pretend that other organizations do not, be they religious or political.
Either one as a Christian believes in God as He has presented Himself or one should not believe in Him at all (paraphrasing C.S. Lewis). Starchy sweet versions of Christianity with no consequences, no remission of sin, no repentance, and no forgiveness are simply not the Christianity of The Bible as passed down from the Apostles (a correct saying whether one is Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, or Non-denominational). It becomes...well, it becomes what passes for a great deal of Christianity today: spiritualism in a bland sort of loving Deity that pretty much always results in a happy ending, who has no expectations of us except "Be nice" and exists for us to self-actualize.
As I have said, I am not a Catholic and so do not have a full perspective of my Catholic friends. But I do have a perspective of Christian, and I simply have to ask the counter-question: If the Catholic Church is losing members (as, in fact, most U.S. denominations are), is that due to the fact that Church (all of them) are terribly wrong in such matters or because, as the Church has come to reflect society, there is no longer any difference between society and the Church?
"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavour, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men." - Matthew 5:13
(Post Script: The argument has been raised that the Bishops did not make the same requirement of other serving Presidents. In all fairness, there have been no other Catholic presidents than JFK. The Bishops have made other statements, but as those presidents were not Catholic, there was no other actions to be taken).
(Post-Post Script: A favour: the point of the post is not to rail on incumbents or parties or Catholics. Stay in the guardrails, please).