This past weekend, presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama announced that Senator Joe Biden of Delaware would be his running mate. One of the things being touted about Biden is that he is Irish-Catholic.
I don’t know if this is a harking back to the good ol‘ JFK days for Dems, or if it is an attempt to paint the Obama–Biden ticket as more mainstream. In any event, as most real Catholics know, there is a big difference between calling yourself something and actually being that which you label yourself.
In recent decades the concept of the ‘cafeteria catholic’ has emerged. This means that you do some things, like attend Mass, take Communion, send your kids to Catholic schools, and so on, but that you don’t follow Church teachings on certain issues.
Those certain issues are different for each person, each gets to select whatever part of the faith they want, and discard whatever part of the faith that they do not want. Thus the idea of it being like a cafeteria, you get to pick and choose from available items, ideas, positions, rulings.
Problem is, we as the faithful flock do not get to make or interpret Church doctrine or spiritual matters. In most instances, the Church Fathers, especially the Pope, rule on and interpret matters of the faith, and pass along how we should approach these situations.
One of the strongest positions that the Church holds is that of being pro-life. For politicians who call themselves Catholic but who want to present themselves as politically liberal, this often means breaking from the Church on this issue. These pols publicly announce that they are pro-choice, meaning that they support a woman’s decision to pursue an abortion if she so wishes.
This is, of course, the wrong position to take. All Catholic politicians should be taking positions such as that taken by Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, who is liberal on most all issues, but who is pro-life in that area.
Casey recognizes that this is not only a political litmus test, it is a true moral one as well, and one that he will not sacrifice on the political altar. Nor has he needed to, as he defeated a popular and seasoned opponent in Republican Rick Santorum to win election to the U.S. Senate last year despite being one of the few Democrats with the courage to take a pro-life position.
Now the leading Dems are coming under fire from Church leaders for their public positions. The Archbishop of Washington D.C. has come out against Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who stated that the history of the Church does not show that it is always against abortion. Archbishop Donald Wuerl responds that the Church teaching has not changed in 2,000 years and that Pelosi is simply incorrect.
The Dems then named Biden as their Veep nominee, a man who calls himself Catholic but who supports abortion and claims similarly that the Church position has changed over the millenia.
Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, in whose city the Dems are hosting their nominating convention this week, in response stated: “I presume that his integrity will lead him to refrain from presenting himself for communion, if he supports a false ‘right’ to abortion.”
The fact is that if you are going to call yourself Catholic, then you should try to follow the teachings of the Church as much as possible. You should certainly never bend your morals for political considerations, in effect selling out your soul for your elected position.
If you don’t want to obey the rules, then leave the Church. There is always some church out there that has similarly bent their morality to that which you are seeking.
Being a Catholic isn’t always easy. As Tom Hanks said in the film ‘A League of Their Own’ regarding baseball: “It’s not supposed to be easy. If it was easy, everyone would do it. It’s the ‘hard’ that makes it great.”