Three Ways to Betray Jesus, Excommunication and the Power of Elections

Historically and scripturally there have been two ways that most people betray Jesus:

1. The St Peter and all the apostles except John Way. This is the deny-Him-under-duress, run-away-from-threats-and-then-repent-later method of betrayal. I would wager that in some form or another every single one of us has done a bit of this. I know I have. I’ve hemmed and hawed; ducked and covered, trying to keep all my old friends from my life Before Christ. Trouble was, they all found out. Eventually. And I ended up taking down a big dose of shame along with the grief of losing them. You can’t hide your love of Christ from your BC friends; at least not forever.

2. The Judas Iscariot way. This involves betraying Him for money or gain and then, when you realize that what you got is not anywhere near as good as what you paid for it, you just hang in there and don’t go back to say you’re sorry. No repentance, no homecoming, no fatted calf for you; just the stale bread of exile from God for life.

Those are the two ways that most people have gone about betraying their Savior. But there is a third way.

This third way has usually been reserved for kings and popes and other powerful folk; people who bathed in and drank from the hubris cup morning and night. Henry VIII is one of history’s most famous practitioners of this method of God betrayal. It isn’t all that complicated intellectually. All it requires is an ego and sense of entitlement that will allow you to tell God that He’s wrong and you’re right, announce this to the whole wide world and stick with it right down to the gates of your own eternal damnation.

This particular form of hubris-powered Jesus betrayal has been around since Christianity made its way out of the Catacombs and into the halls of power. What is different today is not the method or the thinking that goes into it, but how widespread and universal it has become.

Telling God to sit down and do as He’s told was once the province of powerful men made mad by over-privileged existences. Now, it appears that it’s the chant and cant of millions. These people hold God and not themselves to task for human depravity. They claim that wretched sinfulness of every stripe is, in fact, a positive good. They feed their children and old people to the flames of their self-succor and then berate God when anyone tries to tell them this is wrong.

Last, but certainly not least, are those who refuse to leave the Churches they despise, who will not walk away from the pretense of “following” a God they say needs their tutelage. First among these are the Catholic politicians who attend mass, take communion and then go out and vote for, support and sponsor every new trend in killing, immorality and social unwinding around.

Most people are blind to the “normal” folks who flaunt God in their daily lives, but they zone in on these politicians. It outrages and enrages them to see photos of an elected official who is well-known to support abortion, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, war and torture walk up to the head of the communion line and accept the host.

They rail at the Church for not “doing something” about it. It it very popular in certain circles to call for this or that politician to be summarily excommunicated for his or her support for things that are 180 degrees off Church teaching. In fact, one of the sorrier spectacles of every campaign season is various political groups pointing fingers at each other’s “sins.”

Many people get white-hot angry with the bishops because they don’t drum these obvious miscreants out of the Church. They want them, if not burned at the stake, at least escorted to the church doors and told not to come back.

There are days when I get worked up over some of the things I see and feel like joining them. But it never lasts long. The reason is simple. It isn’t my job to kick people out of the Church. What’s more, I don’t want that job. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m just grateful they let me in.

The latest kerfluffle has been over Governor Cuomo of New York and his over-the-top legislative advocacy for abortion at all times, for any reason. This evidently follows quick on the heels of his support for gay marriage. In spite of all this, the governor continues to attend mass and take communion.

My personal reaction is that he’s a fraud and a phony every time he goes to mass. He appears to think that his personal moral understanding is superior to 2,000 years of Christian teaching and morality. My reaction to that is, fine on him. If he doesn’t believe that the Catholic Church teaches Truth and he has no intention of even attempting to follow the teachings of the Gospels as interpreted by that Church, that’s his call.

But, if that’s what he believes, I don’t see any honesty at all in going to mass and taking communion.

I have to be careful here, because my own sins are ever before me when I write things like this. Can I — can any of us — withstand the judgement I am meting out here? I sin. I do things I hope nobody ever finds out. I am not God’s best work. I assume that everyone reading this falls into the same sinful basket.

That’s why we need Jesus. It’s why we need the Church. It’s why our own understanding of right and wrong will always lead us down a destructive path if we adhere to it too closely. That is what, I think, has happened to Governor Cuomo. He’s been following his own understanding, and that has led him to advocating terrible things.

It always does, you know. Always. Every time. For each of us.

The only way to follow Christ is to actually follow Christ. The single best way I know to do that is to simply stop all the yammering and just accept that the Catholic Church really is the Church and that all you have to do is follow its teachings. When you fail in this — as you will — go to confession, get cleaned up and start over.

We have quite a number of politicians out there who basically spit raspberries at Christ by defying serious moral teachings concerning the sanctity of human life and the sacrament of marriage (among other things) and then showing up at mass to take communion as if they were a bunch of nuns. We have an even larger number of Catholics who endanger their own souls by focusing on these sins of other people and letting their anger make them bitter and vicious.

My personal solution for this one is really quite simple. I don’t have to decide if these political birds will be excommunicated or not. In fact, I can’t make that decision. It’s just not my job. I don’t have the power to keep them out of church. And I don’t want that power. Do. Not. Want. It.

On the other hand, as an American citizen, I have the power to work and vote to keep them out of office. Maybe that’s where those of us in the laity should focus our energies. If I lived in New York, I think that working to help Governor Cuomo find a new vocation as a private citizen would be my focus; that, and praying for his soul.

What I wouldn’t do is berate my bishop or cardinal. I’d just let them do their jobs. After all, if they mess up, they’ve got someone a lot more important than me that they have to answer to, and in the final analysis, they — along with Governor Cuomo and you and me — will do exactly that.

  • Peg

    Excellent points Rebecca.

    I don’t like the scandal they cause but blustering about can cause scandal too. If we get puffed up on this site we can give poor example and harm those who are seeking.

    I just experienced this and now I can empathize a bit with what you endure regularly. While being called judgmental I endured name calling and character attacks. My Christianity was disparaged while being told the others behavior was perfect. Not much you can do with that. When pride rules it’s like we are right there with the lash inflicting those stripes by which He healed us. Thanks for keeping it real

  • FW Ken

    Berate the hierarchy, no, but its wise to remember that as Ted Kennedy pointed out, his problem with abortion was the bishop’s problem until the bishop brought it to him. Or words to that effect. Which its not to say that pro-life politicians are worse sinners than me. They aren’t, but they call sin virtue, and as public figures, they have a platform to project their views.

    There is another story about a governor of New York, Carey, I think. He was pushing the pro-choice position, but when the bishop called and told him to abstain from Communion, he was faced with a choice, and pulled back from his politics. That was real Christian charity on the part of that bishop.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Good point Ken. What I was trying to say is that this Bishops are the ones who make the decision about whether or not to excommunicate someone, not me. It sounds as if the bishop who dealt with Governor Carey was doing his job.

      I’m not in any way trying to excuse pro abortion politicians, btw.

  • FW Ken

    I know you weren’t, Rebecca, and I failed to make my point, which is that I believe the bishops hold the key to this thing. That isn’t a criticism, but a hope.

    And daily, I should always remember to give thanks God didn’t call me to the hierarchy!

  • Fabio P.Barbieri

    I don’t agree. I think that the laity is not excused from passing judgment about those among them who give obvious and powerful scandal. Sure, we are all sinners. But not all of us abuse the Church, revolt against its teachings, and nonetheless use their supposed membership of it for personal advantage. Above all, not all of us take Communion while in this state. I don’t remember who it was who said it, but it is worth thinking about this: “The person who takes Holy Communion while in a state of deadly sin is guilty of murder in the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is a worse desecration than taking the Host and trampling it under foot. And if we don’t cry out in protest at this, we are accomplices. Not all prophets or saints were bishops or priests; and thank God for that. Without the eyes of conscientious laymen on them, what would Bishops do?

  • Peg


    St. Paul said it in 1 Corinthians Chapter 11. I agree with you that we as lay Catholics have rights and responsibilities to protect and defend out faith and church…hopefully it will be done with great care for the danger to another’s soul in these situations.

    But I also think Renecca’s other point should not be glossed over. It is not our job to judge who is wheat and chaff and who should be separated from the threshing floor. We can speak up charitably where and when it’s appropriate for the good of souls. For me the Sean Hannity’s and Laura Ingrahams give another type of scandal with their pride. This can keep people from the truth of Christ.

    Look how Rebecca was attacked with her Christmas column. She was told she wasn’t a catholic and to leave the church. There is no evidence that she is even violating church teachings. It was disgraceful.

    We have so much to stand up for these days that we should keep both points in mind and act charitably moving forward.

  • Dave

    I think with the politicians it is the public scandal that leads to calls for their excommunication. And I have to say, even though I understand the other side of the argument, that I agree. After all, if the high and mighty are allowed to get away with flagrantly disregarding and trampling all over Catholic teaching, and still are seen attending Mass and receiving Communion, apparently in good standing, then everyone else is going to see that and conclude that it’s really not that important, and certainly not critical, that they maintain agreement with the Church’s teaching which is supposedly protected by the Holy Spirit.

    I don’t go petitioning the bishops for this – that’s their job, and if they don’t do it, they must have a reason (I hope it’s a good one) – but I do believe that it has done a lot of damage to the Church over the years, just like the Bishops not mounting a defense of Humanae Vitae, etc. If the Bishops won’t stand up for the truth, then their flock will conclude that it’s not all that important.

  • Peg

    Thanks Dave,

    I don’t want to give a wrong impression about the politicians. I do agree with your points and feel that their betrayal is so severe that it might warrant some type of rebuke from the bishops. Coming from a liberal democratic background it took me awhile to see this but the more I understand the truth of Christ’s teachings and the great gifts he has given us in these sacraments, the madder I get when I see it flaunted by the Guiliani’s and Pelosi’s.

    Maybe there are some creative ways we can call them out charitably to respect Our Lord, His church, his chosen leaders and his body and blood.

    Thanks for sharing your good points.

  • Terry

    Dear Rebecca,
    I admire the wisdom and balance demonstrated in this post. To the degree that a Catholic politician is causing scandal through support of positions contrary to Church teaching, I think a lay person is within their rights to write a respectful letter to their bishop explaining their concern, send a copy to the politician then get on with the hard part. Pray and fast for that politician. Ask their guardian angel to turn that person’s heart toward God and the truth.

    God bless you and thank you for your service.

    In Christ,

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Actually, I have no problem with that at all. However, some people have allowed themselves to be so overawed by the evils committed by these politicians that it’s become an obsession. They become vicious toward the bishops and, I would guess, allow their zeal to defend His name to separate them from Christ. (Interesting, how the devil can use ANYTHING to do that.)

  • Manny

    This was a really good piece Rebecca. Here’s the problem though. Gov Cuomo is my governor and in NYS there is something like a six to one Democrat over Republican majority. Cuomo, and politicians like him, get their audacity because they can get away with it. The Democratic Party has gone wholesale into the pro-abort side. Of the Federal level positions, I would estimate that it’s about a 95% or more pro-abort position. And it’s gotten worse. There was a time when Bill Clinton at least acknowledged that abortion should be rare, or at least in the ideal. Or Pat Moynihan speaking out that partial birth abortion was infanticide. Obama has supported letting babbies who survive aboirtion to die, and now they are coming out with expanding abortions, if that were even possible. The problem is inherent in the Deomcratic Party, a party which by the way boo-ed God at their convention. No matter what I do, Cuomo is going to get re-elected. I’ve tacitedly supported pro-life Democrats, even though I don’t like their other positions. Somehow the Democratic has to change from within or they have to get punished for being pro-death.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I agree with everything you said Manny. I would add that it is essential to the future of our country — and the only way we will ever resolve roe v wade — for BOTH parties to have a strong pro life voice. One party alone can not do it. In fact, when it’s one party, they tend to treat the pro life issue like … well … the way they’ve been treating it.

  • Erin Pascal

    Thank you for sharing such an eye-opening post. Something to really ponder upon.
    Being a faithful and true Christian in this modern world is becoming harder and harder. With our natural tendency to err, it can be a really great challenge to follow the virtuous life that Christ has lived. May we all receive God’s guidance for every decision that we make in life–especially the leaders of our country.

  • SteveP

    Thank you. You have given me much to think over this week. Peace be with you.

  • Iris Celeste

    Unfortunately, the problem is this, when people take communion “unworthily,” Christ cannot remain in them, but Christ has entered them and now there is a “cleaned” soul with no occupant… “So the demon finds seven others and returns…” Some of the most evil people in history have been Catholic.

    Iris Celeste

  • Jessica Hoff

    This is a superb piece, Rebecca, and one to make us all think.