I am Proud of the Bishops

I am proud of the way that the United States Catholic Bishops have handled the HHS Mandate.

If the various blogs, Facebook comments and internet rants I’ve read are any indication, I would guess that the bishops have been and are subjected to a continuous dose of what amounts to verbal abuse. I wouldn’t be surprised if the USCCB and each of the various bishops has their own Crazy People File. If they do, I’m sure it bulges with emails and letters that would, as my grandmother used to say, “curl your hair.”

I don’t know how this behavior got started, but it seems that a large number of Catholics are everlastingly irate with the bishops because they won’t sufficiently hate whoever it is the Catholic in question feels deserves hating. Personally, I respect the bishops for sticking with the entire gospel of Christ.

What I love best about the Catholic Church’s approach to politics is that it has steadfastly refused to be the moral apologist for either right or left wing nutso politics, but has instead insisted that the whole of the faith be adhered to and followed. In today’s political world, that takes guts. It can and does get you attacked and slandered. However, it is the only way to be part of the political debate and follow Christ.

One of the most important facets of leadership is that you have to lead. You cannot just parade around under the halo of your own self-importance and take positions of pragmatic cowardice. What this means to people who are in positions of Christian leadership is that they are required, REQUIRED, to follow Christ, even when it puts them at odds with the powers that be. That often means that they have to do things that, in the world’s way of thinking, are just plain stupid.

In my own position as an elected official I’ve had to cast votes, make speeches and take stands that were moronic by smart politician standards. I’ve been forced to call the lightning down on my own head over and again by putting myself out there in the face of angry advocates with blood in their eyes. I’ve had to go against my own political party one day, and then turn around and oppose the other political party the next.

I’m not the brightest bulb in the firmament, but I am smart enough to know that, from a political standpoint, what I am doing is stupid. I sometimes joke with my friends that I’ve been called to be a fool for Christ. After years of getting kicked around, I’ve come to accept it. Jesus didn’t call us to follow the world. He called us to follow Him.

We have a saying in Oklahoma politics: “jump out in front of that lynch mob and turn it into a parade.” That’s a colorful way of describing the fine art of getting in front of popular opinion and pretending to “lead” the mob where it wants to go. The most sophisticated application of this principle in today’s politics is the egregious practice of using polls and focus groups to determine what party positions should be and what the puppet people political parties run for office should say they believe.

This kind of flim-flam political campaigning has become the way the smart folks do it. The reason is that it nearly always works. The flim-flammers get elected. This  is not leadership. It’s craven callous manipulation of the electorate to gain power by any means.

It is also something that a Christian leader may never do. Christian leadership, like all leadership, requires you to lead. But Christian leadership has the added requirement that before you lead, you must first follow. In this way, Christian leadership is not so much a matter of being a good leader, as it is being a good follower. Christian leadership must first and always be predicated on following Jesus. It doesn’t matter if your leadership is as a bishop, or a politician, a corporate head, a shop foreman, parents raising a family, or as a young person among your friends. If you are a Christian, your leadership must be lived within the confines of the gospels of Christ.

This means following both the Ten Commandments, AND the Sermon on the Mount, not some truncated half-Christianity that has been trimmed to fit your political party or life situation. It means following Jesus first, then adding whatever particular wisdom or skills you might bring to the situation on top of that.

Which is why I am so proud of the American bishops. The politically smart thing, the easy, cheap thing to do would have been to kiss Caesar’s ring and accept this mandate. Other bishops in other countries have done this with similar mandates just recently. They acceded to the government, took the money, and refused to lead their flocks for Christ. To their everlasting honor, the American bishops dug in and decided to fight.

They are fighting in a Christian way. Not by slandering individuals, but by standing up for the right of the Church to live its teachings. They aren’t trying to destroy people, including the people who are trying so hard to batten down the Church. The United States bishops are leading in a positive way. Their fight is a fight for religious freedom and that is what they are talking about.

I am proud of the way that the United States Catholic Bishops have handled the HHS Mandate. Proud to follow their leadership.

  • http://lonelypilgrim.com Paul Pilgrim

    I am proud of the stand you’re taking, too, as well as the bishops. The anger and backlash I’ve seen against the bishops through this and other issues makes me sad — and rather than battling back in anger, I just wish people could see that for the bishops, for all faithful Catholics, it’s not about sexual ethics or dictating the Church’s mores to women or even about contraception per se. That just happens to be the ground the battle has fallen on. It’s about religious freedom, our freedom to practice our faith as we believe. It’s unfortunate, but probably inevitable, that this conflagration should occur with such a sensitive, hot-button issue.

    • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

      Excellent observations! Thank you Paul.

  • http:s.com//mcdermottfootcare.wordpress.com McDermott Footcare

    from http://8kidsandabusiness.wordpress.com Another great post, Rebecca. Here in Canada, I want our Ontario Catholic Bishops to read this and be ashamed at how they caved to the Ontario government’s mandate that all Catholic schools now have to teach homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle and have Gay Student Associations in Catholic schools. Caesar’s ring has definitely been kissed.

    • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

      I am aware of what happened in Ontario. I have no words.

  • http://nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com neenergyobserver

    I have to go but, real quick, I’ll be back later. I greatly admire the bishops , and you also, for their and your leadership. Great post.

    • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you my friend.

      • http://nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com neenergyobserver

        To continue.

        “It is also something that a Christian leader may never do. Christian leadership, like all leadership, requires you to lead. But Christian leadership has the added requirement that before you lead, you must first follow. In this way, Christian leadership is not so much a matter of being a good leader, as it is being a good follower. Christian leadership must first and always be predicated on following Jesus. It doesn’t matter if your leadership is as a bishop, or a politician,…”

        That’s as good a definition of REAL leadership as I’ve ever read. The aforementioned lynch mob doesn’t need a leader. If there is one there the lynching won’t happen, the type of so-called leader that would lead a lynch mob is a coward. Leadership requires an objective, whether it’s the Kingdom of Heaven, improved profitability, or victory in battle, without leadership none of the above will happen.

        Leadership also requires getting people to willingly do things that are uncomfortable, and I would bet that a lot of your collegues whatever they say, actually admire you, I certainly do.

        The Air Force used to put it this way:
        First: The Mission
        Second: Your People
        Third: Yourself.

    • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

      These are such great thoughts! You really should develop them into a full post.
      “The aforementioned lynch mob doesn’t need a leader. If there is one there the lynching won’t happen,”
      “The Air Force used to put it this way:
      First: The Mission
      Second: Your People
      Third: Yourself.”

      Great stuff!

      • http://nebraskaenergyobserver.wordpress.com neenergyobserver

        Thank you.

        The Air Force one is one that I often use both as a summary and to myself, sounds easy but, as you know, it’s not.

        The lynch mob is a wholly new thought that you provoked, although I remember a similar scene in a western that I can’t quite remember the name of, hopefully I will soon, it would make a good post.

  • http://ackans.wordpress.com Mr. V.

    Rebecca, thanks for posting this. I agree, I have been very pleased with the stand our bishops have made. I’m also pleased that Notre Dame has taken a stand on the issue as well. I think it’s going to be a hard battle, and it’s going to take the involvement of a large sector of society to get things done, but I think a great step has been taken.

    • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

      I agree.

  • http://danielundem.wordpress.com Daniel Undem

    For the first time in my life I wish I lived in Oklahoma as opposed to Minnesota. Thank you for being willing to stand up for what is right rather than caving in to the crowd. I too am proud of the United States Bishops for their leadership and unwillingness to cave on this issue.

    • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you Daniel!

  • http://ageesconsulting.wordpress.org Richard

    Thanks for your stand, Rebecca. We need more states(wo)men like you who are willing to take a stand for what is right regardless of what the crowd says and fewer politicians who blow in the wind of the latest poll. Thanks, too, for stopping by my site and the like.

    • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you Richard!

  • http://sylvietheolog.wordpress.com sylvietheolog

    Thanks for your appreciation of my post on the Mysteries of the Rosary and Covetousness.
    I particularly like this present post on the firm standing of the bishops against HHS mandate. Your comments on leadership remind me of a paragraph from Orthodoxy by Chesterton that I posted on my blog under the title The Wild Truth (sylvietheolog dot wordpress dot com). I think you would like it.
    I wish we had a few politicians like you here in Canada. We may have some but not in my Province I think.
    Keep up your very good work.

    • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you Sylvie. I’ll read the post you mention.

  • http://atimeandaseason.wordpress.com Sarah

    I’m not a Catholic Christian, but I stand with the Catholic Church against the HHS mandate.Thanks for this post.

    • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you Sarah! The HHS Mandate is a harbinger of what is coming for all Christians of every denomination. It is an attack on the whole concept of religious freedom.

  • http://pussywillowpress.wordpress.com pussywillowpress

    Wow, I wish I could vote for you!
    (wrong state, unfortunately)
    But I *can* pray for you!
    I pray routinely for our political leaders, so you’re covered there, but I’ve just added three Hail Marys & the Litany of St. Thomas More (http://www.wf-f.org/Litany-ThosMore.html) specifically for you :). (I don’t need to ask if you need them–you’re in the line of fire!)

    And welcome to the Church–glad to have you! My prince and I spent several years hosting RCIA (once we finally found resources to learn our own faith!) and are always encouraged to see the fire Jesus came to set (Lk 12:49) “catch” :).

    May your tribe increase!

    • http://publiccatholic.wordpress.com Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you so much; for the prayers (Yes. I do need them.) and for the heartening message.

  • http://biltrix.wordpress.com Biltrix

    Thank you so much for posting this Rebecca. The bishops need our support for all they’ve been doing to fight the HHS Mandate. Meanwhile certain groups I won’t name have decided that their God-given mission to deride them for not delivering results up to their own standards. Catholics should not be sowing seeds of division among Catholics right now, or at anytime for that matter. In recent years the Catholic bishops in this country have really stepped up to the plate in promoting sound moral and social teaching in defense of human dignity. We need to stand behind them, not attack them. God bless Cardinal Dolan for his leadership and courage during these challenging times.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you. From what I’ve seen, a lot of the attacks on the bishops have come from people who want the Church to follow the “teachings” of their political party, rather than the other way around. A lot of these people appear to be angry with the bishops for not giving them a pass on their favorite social sin.

  • http://jessicahof.wordpress.com/ JessicaHof

    Great post Rebecca. You do that very hard thing, which is to retain the Truth of Catholic teaching whilst applying it to real politics in a way which does not dilute it for the sake of power. Now all we need are a few dozen more and you’ll be motoring :)

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thank you Jessica.

  • Jay McNally

    I am posting to this only because I saw this linked to on Facebook. I never heard of you until 10 minutes ago and just read the “about” in the blog heading and see you are long-time pro-lifer. Congrats on your work for life and your many accomplishments in promoting the Culture of Life.
    Regarding this post, it appears that you are horribly misinformed about the US bishops. You might investigate how the mandate came about: The bishops did it, and were warned about it. A few bullet points here:
    1 — ObamaCare passed only because the US bishops have endorsed “universal health care” for decades. They lobbied hard for HillaryCare 20 years ago and have been at it constantly every since, and are still at it. Many correctly predicted that ObamaCare would lead to the greatest expansion of abortion in the US so far, and to outright persecution of Christians. The bishops have ignored the advices of countless thousands of genuine pro-life leaders around the country for the last 25 years against national health care. Rick Santorum said it best: The bishops deserve what they are getting! Look up Santorum’s quote on YouTube.
    The USCCB still supports ObamaCare (only minus the mandate) and made a big point of saying in a press release that the bishops had no opinion about the lawsuit two months ago in the Supreme Court. The bishops, thus, have no regard whatsoever for the many negatives of ObamaCare: the taxes, rationing of care it mandates, the many violations of several parts of the US Constitution, etc.
    2 — You are flat-out wrong to suggest that the USCCB or the bishops are following either the Gospel of Church teaching in their politics. Quite often the bishops put their money and resources squarely in support of the Culture of Death, and this is very well documented. Surely, you must be aware of the Reform CCHD movement, which has documented quite well that the CCHD regularly funds groups that are specifically pro-abortion and that work to promote stances contrary to Church teaching.
    3 — I recommend that you do some reading about the left-wing radicalism that has been at the heart of the Catholic Church in the US since even before the USCCB was founded.
    One of the more thoughtful articles about this is from Catholic World Report, which hardly would fall in the category of “nutsos” or your “Crazy People File.” This author notes that the bishops have been determined leftists since the 60s. He writes that some of their statements “contained disturbing moral guidance that, far from transmitting the faith, actually posed dangers to it.”
    Another thoughtful article appeared in National Review in which the author, a professor at Hillsdale, lays out the bishops decades-long slide into socialism. He said the formed a “pact with the devil” many decades ago.
    4 – And finally, I don’t know what it is like in Oklahoma, but out here in Michigan, there are lots of faithful Catholics who are exhausted and tired of fighting their own Church over grave issues like advocacy for abortion in parishes. If they even respond, our bishops figuratively spit on our faces when we complain. Only a month or so ago here in the Archdiocese of Detroit the archbishop was allowing a priest run advertisements on the biggest radio station in the state to endorse a pro-abortion candidate for Congress. Repeated inquires and complaints to the archbishop were ignored, and the ads went on for several more days. The ads finally ended, but only after pro-lifers got the media involved to ask the archbishop what was going on.
    This kind of think goes on all the time in Detroit, and probably in most other dioceses. You think bishops are subjected to “verbal abuse,” while we think they have earned every bit of blunt straight talk from the laity due to their breathtaking secrecy, arrogance, double-dealing, duplicity and outright dissent. If most of them worked in businesses where relationships with customers were a factor in their annual job reviews, Most of would have been fired their first year on the job.
    Fr. John Hardon, SJ, worked with many pro-life apostolates for many years and urged pro-lifers to fight with all their strength both against the secular culture and against wayward bishops. He worked all over the US and was especially familiar with the situation in Chicago. He used to say the “hierarchy is the most corrupt” in history He died in 2000. Fr. Hardon is now being considered for canonization in the Vatican. He used to say that the thought the USCCB should simply be shut down.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Jay, this is more like a blog post than a comment. You raise too many issues for this limited venue. Please trim any future comments down to one point.

      I will say that nothing like what you are describing has ever happened here in Oklahoma. My Archbishop is a wonderful spiritual leader, as was his predecessor.

      As for your comments concerning the Affordable Health Care Act, it seems as if you are confusing your personal position on the subject of health care as a whole with the bishops’ position on this particular piece of legislation. I do not agree with your statement that the bishops are why the Affordable Health Care Act became law. I think that is an inaccurate statement.

      I do not believe that the bishops “put their money in support of the culture of death.” If it weren’t for the Catholic Church, there would not have been any push back against Roe v Wade. Other churches were quiescent. The Church is still the only voice that I know of that speaks for the rights of all people, from conception to natural death.

      As for the comments of former Senator Santorum and Fr Hardon, I am unaware of them and wouldn’t care if I was. Assuming this hasn’t been taken out of context and they really intended what they said to mean what your comments seem to imply, well, they are entitled to their opinion.

      I support the bishops.

  • Kathleen

    Thank you for a post on a topic we seldom see. Gratitude toward the leaders of the Church.

    I am glad I subscribed recently. You are giving us a service.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Kathleen, thank YOU for brightening my day.

      • Kathleen

        : ] You’re welcome!

  • http://jscafenette.com Manny

    Yes I agree. They’ve done an excellent job.