Toward the Next Great Divorce
By: Stephen Phelan
Good luck catching Katie Couric talking about the “staunch Baptist” who finally came around to supporting sex education for third-graders. Only slightly more common are mainstream media types who talk about how this or that political leader, “a devout Jew,” finally saw the light and came around to the Left’s position on some social policy issue.
Yet there are flocks of sincere-looking talking heads willing to assure us that the congressman who just passionately endorsed “gay marriage” is a “staunch” or “devout” Catholic.
Why is this? Why is it that only Catholics’ supposed sincerity about their faith is worthy of comment when the media reports said Catholic’s position on some issue?
There are probably several reasons for this odd phenomenon, but one in particular calls for special attention in today’s social and political climate: The marauding secularists of the media and the rest of the Left actually crave the moral authority of the very institution they are trying to destroy.
This is why President Obama and others of the secular Left, with the help of far too many fake Catholics, now openly strive to divide the Church in America. Besides democracy itself, the one institution that stands between them and far left utopia is the Catholic Church. This is why the Church must be turned against itself, confused, and brought to heel. Sadly, they are doing so with great efficiency and success as of late.
Case in point: No serious person, Right or Left, believes Nancy Pelosi when she claims devotion to her faith as her reasoning for supporting liberal policies and legislation. But everyone knows why she says it.
One of the many ironies here is that the very Magisterium that Pelosi and other fake Catholics find so inconvenient to their worldview is positively tepid in cracking down on heretics compared to the Magisterium of the Left. When Joe Lieberman, a staunch progressive from Connecticut, dared to oppose his party on the Iraq War, he was mercilessly attacked from the Left, and even had to leave the party to run for reelection. He was essentially excommunicated.
And consider how consistent pro-life Democrats are treated by the Left, from Pennsylvania’s devoutly liberal but pro-life Bob Casey being denied even the ability to address the Democratic convention in 1992 to the few recent pro-life holdouts on Obamacare. Bart Stupak flirted with excommunication from the Left for opposing health care reform, but ultimately sided with his party against the Church. And yet, he remains a Catholic in good standing.
Faithful Catholics could only wish that their doctrine were so rigorously, if not so viciously, enforced. We know that Catholic teaching by its very nature seeks to persuade, not to impose. Taken to heart and mind, it becomes an organic expression of the Faith, a welcome guide rather than a set of laws forced upon reluctant believers. But at least we admit that we have a Magisterium, just as we admit our consternation when public figures consistently flout Church teaching and suffer no serious consequences from that same authority/Magisterium for doing so.
The secular Left, however, admits no such thing. True believers of the Left utterly lack this self-awareness. Not only would they deny that they have a Magisterium, or even a body of teachings from which the faithful may not dissent, they even deny that absolute obeisance is required to be a member of the faith, er… party.
Yet there stands the Catholic Church, in meek and peaceful opposition to the secular Leftist/fake Catholic zeitgeist. That antiquated, hegemonic, paternalistic… Church(!) dares to continue to reach out to and reason with those who only seek its acquiescence or destruction.
As the mainstream media declares yet again, and in ever more strident and frustrated tones, the irrelevance of the Catholic Church, they accidentally affirm its true relevance. The Church’s teaching authority, both loathed and envied by the Left, is essential to its unity, and is the natural legacy of the Church founded by Christ upon the Rock that was Peter.
To be sure, this does not mean that the Church is somehow more at home on the political Right. Any agreement between the Church and the modern American Right is accidental, as is any apparent agreement with the Left. The Church rightly dictates no political program, even if it is often dishonestly portrayed as doing so. Further, not every position of the Left is anti-Catholic. Cap-and-Trade, for example, is terrible economics justified by specious “science,” but it isn’t necessarily anti-Catholic. The difference, however, between the Church’s relationship with Left and Right is that there is not currently any major organized force on the Right trying to divide and conquer the Church, as there is on the Left. History tells us this could change at any moment.
Still, one might ask why the Catholic Church is singled out for such aggressive attention. Why not Christianity as a whole, or even certain Protestant denominations? After all, aren’t conservative evangelicals also a thorn in the side of those who want “gay marriage,” valueless sex education, and other radical policies to be realized?
The faithful Catholics I know are proud to fight next to their Protestant brethren in the culture wars, and enjoy the occasions of unity and dialogue that these battles afford. We tend to have much greater respect for those who love and live their faith consistently, even if we disagree about important things, than we have for those who only claim their faith when it is politically expedient.
But why should Obama and company seek to divide denominations that were themselves born of division? If a church is conceived in protest, then it will, as we have seen throughout the centuries, continue to divide itself. That battle has already been won by the one who wants to see Christ’s children divided and fighting among themselves. If you want unity, you have to return to the source; and if you want to cause division, you attack the source.
This is why Obama enlists the help of fake Catholics, and of universities who seek communion with secular powers more than they do with the Church that created them. He does so precisely because of their claim to the Catholic Faith.
This is also why the current ambiguity of Catholic identity in the public square is, to use an overused term, unsustainable. Obama’s Notre Dame speech, Pelosi’s multiple idiotic affronts to Catholic teaching, the health care debacle—these and other troubling events indicate that the moment when Catholics will actually have to make a choice about where they stand is rapidly approaching.
Many more Catholics each day realize that the next Great Divorce in the Church is inevitable—the divorce between those who think their faith is essentially a “go-along-to-get-along” proposition, and those who know that, even after a period of affluence and apparent harmony, the Faith never had anything to do with merely getting along. As Deal Hudson and other Catholic writers are increasingly arguing, the state is poised to force this decision upon the massive Catholic middle who haven’t yet chosen a side.
Students of Catholic history know that great expansions of the Church always follow its great oppressions, as it is purified by fire—sometimes literally. This is a time of both great instability and great hope. It’s a great time to be Catholic.