Cardinal Dolan’s Speech to USCCB General Assembly

This is Cardinal Dolan’s address to the Fall USCCB General Assembly. I’m going to put the entire address here for you to read it. I will add one spoiler: There’s talk about bringing back meatless Fridays. How would you feel about that if it happens?

Here’s the address, from the USCCB website.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York,
president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

Address given at the USCCB General Assembly Fall meeting on November 12, 2012.

My brother bishops,

Yes, we have “a lot on our plate” as we commence our meeting, urgent issues very worthy of our solicitude as pastors — the suffering in vast areas not far from here caused by the Hurricane of two weeks ago, the imperative to the New Evangelization, the invitation offered by the Year of Faith, and our continued dialogue, engagement, and prophetic challenge to our culture over urgent issues such as the protection of human life, the defense of marriage, the promotion of human dignity in the lives of the poor, the immigrant, those in danger from war and persecution throughout the world, and our continued efforts to defend our first and most cherished freedom — all issues calling for our renewed and enthusiastic commitment.

But I stand before you this morning to say simply: first things first. We gather as disciples of, as friends of, as believers in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, “the Way, the Truth and the Life,” who exhorted us to “seek first the Kingdom of God.”

We cannot engage culture unless we let Him first engage us; we cannot dialogue with others unless we first dialogue with Him; we cannot challenge unless we first let Him challenge us.

The Venerable Servant of God, Fulton J. Sheen, once commented, “The first word of Jesus in the Gospel was ‘come’; the last word of Jesus was ‘go’.”

Fifty years ago, on October 11, 1962, Blessed John XXIII courageously convened the Second Vatican Council “the greatest concern of which,” he insisted, “is that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine should be guarded and taught more efficaciously.”(Allocution on the occasion of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, Gaudet mater ecclesia).

We gather for our plenary assembly in our nation’s premiere see, at the close of the XIII Ordinary General Synod of Bishops, still near the beginning of the Year of Faith. Both occasions have the same origin, the same goal expressed by Blessed John XXIII: the effective transmission of the faith for the transformation of the world.

A year ago we began our visits ad limina Petri et Pauli. I know you join me in expressing deep gratitude for the extraordinary affection, warmth and fraternal care with which our Holy Father welcomed us.

But Pope Benedict did not stop with his gracious hospitality. No. He also gave us plenty of fatherly advice — for our ministry as pastors of the Church and our personal role in the New Evangelization.

Here’s an especially striking example from his first ad limina address: “Evangelization,” the Successor of St. Peter noted, “. . . appears not simply a task to be undertaken ad extrawe ourselves are the first to need re-evangelization. As with all spiritual crises, whether of individuals or communities, we know that the ultimate answer can only be born of a searching, critical and ongoing self-assessment and conversion in the light of Christ’s truth.”

As we bishops at the just concluded Synod of Bishops confessed in our closing message:

“We, however, should never think that the new evangelization does not concern us as Bishops personally. In these days voices among the Bishops were raised to recall that the Church must first of all heed the Word before she can evangelize the world. The invitation to evangelize becomes a call to conversion.”

“We Bishops firmly believe that we must convert ourselves first to the power of Jesus Christ who alone can make all things new, above all our poor existence. With humility we must recognize that the poverty and weaknesses of Jesus’ disciples, especially us, his ministers, weigh on the credibility of the mission. We are certainly aware – we bishops first of all – that we can never really be equal to the Lord’s calling and mandate to proclaim His Gospel to the nations. We… do not hesitate to recognize our personal sins. We are, however, also convinced that the Lord’s Spirit is capable of renewing His Church and rendering her garment resplendent if we let Him mold us.” (Final Message of the Synod of Bishops to the People of God, October 28, 2012)

The New Evangelization reminds us that the very agents of evangelization – you and me — will never achieve that abundant harvest Blessed John XXIII described unless we are willing and eager to first be evangelized themselves. Only those themselves first evangelized can then evangelize. As St. Bernard put it so well, “If you want to be a channel, you must first be a reservoir.”

I would suggest this morning that this reservoir of our lives and ministry, when it comes especially to the New Evangelization, must first be filled with the spirit of interior conversion born of our own renewal. That’s the way we become channels of a truly effective transformation of the world, through our own witness of a penitential heart, and our own full embrace of the Sacrament of Penance.

II.

“To believers also the Church must ever preach faith and penance,” declared the council fathers in the very first of the documents to appear, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. (SC, n. 9)

To be sure, the sacraments of initiation – - Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist – - charge, challenge, and equip the agents of evangelization. Without those sacraments, we remain isolated, unredeemed, timid and unfed.

But, the Sacrament of Reconciliation evangelizes the evangelizers, as it brings us sacramentally into contact with Jesus, who calls us to conversion of heart, and allows us to answer his invitation to repentance — a repentance from within that can then transform the world without.

What an irony that despite the call of the Second Vatican Council for a renewal of the Sacrament of Penance, what we got instead was its near disappearance.

We became very good in the years following the Council in calling for the reform of structures, systems, institutions, and people other than ourselves.That, too, is important; it can transform our society and world. But did we fail along the way to realize that in no way can the New Evangelization be reduced to a program, a process, or a call to structural reform; that it is first and foremost a deeply personal conversion within? “The Kingdom of God is within,” as Jesus taught.

The premier answer to the question “What’s wrong with the world?” “what’s wrong with the church?” is not politics, the economy, secularism, sectarianism, globalization or global warming . . .none of these, as significant as they are. As Chesterton wrote, “The answer to the question ‘What’s wrong with the world?’ is just two words:’I am,’”

I am! Admitting that leads to conversion of heart and repentance, the marrow of the Gospel-invitation. I remember the insightful words of a holy priest well known to many of us from his long apostolate to priests and seminarians in Rome, Monsignor Charles Elmer, wondering aloud from time to time if, following the close of the Council, we had sadly become a Church that forgot how to kneel.If we want the New Evangelization to work, it starts on our knees.

Remember a few years back, when Cardinal Cahal Daly led us in our June retreat? Speaking somberly of the Church in his home country, he observed, “The Church in Ireland is in the dirt on her knees.” Then he paused, and concluded, “Maybe that’s where the Church is at her best.”

We kneel in the Sacrament of Penance because we are profoundly sorry for our faults and our sins, serious obstacles to the New Evangelization. But then we stand forgiven, resolute to return to the work entrusted to us – as evangelizers of the Gospel of Mercy.

I recall a conversation about a year ago with one of our brother bishops, newly ordained, attending his first plenary assembly. I asked his impressions of the meeting. “Well organized, informative, enjoyable,” he replied, but he went on to observe that it was one moment in particular that had the greatest impact on him. It was during our closing Holy Hour, as he entered the large room next to the chapel, to see dozens and dozens of bishops lined up to approach the Sacrament of Penance. This new Bishop told me that he felt that moment had more of an influence upon him than anything else at the meeting.

Who can forget the prophetic words of repentance from Blessed John Paul II, during the Great Jubilee, as he expressed contrition – publically and repeatedly – for the sins of the past? He mentioned the shame of the slave trade, the horrors of the holocaust, the death and destruction wrought by the crusades, the injustices of the conquest of the new world, and the violence of religious wars, to name only a few.

I remember during the celebration of the 50thInternational Eucharistic Congress in Ireland last June, when Cardinal Marc Ouellet, the Papal Legate, expressed this so forcefully as he spoke on behalf of the Holy Father at the penitential shrine of St. Patrick’s Purgatory: “I come here with the specific intention of seeking forgiveness, from God and from the victims, for the grave sin of sexual abuse of children by clerics. . . In the name of the Church, I apologize once again to the victims, some of which I have met here in Lough Derg.”

And so it turns to us, my brothers. How will we make the Year of Faith a time to renew the Sacrament of Penance, in our own loves and in the lives of our beloved people whom we serve? Once again, we will later this week approach the Sacrament of Penance.

And we’ll have the opportunity during this meeting to approve a simple pastoral invitation to all our faithful to join us in renewing our appreciation for and use of the Sacrament. We will “Keep the Light On” during the upcoming Advent Season!

The work of our Conference during the coming year includes reflections on re-embracing Friday as a particular day of penance, including the possible re-institution of abstinence on all Fridays of the year, not just during Lent. Our pastoral plan offers numerous resources for catechesis on the Sacrament of Penance, and the manifold graces that come to us from the frequent use of confession. Next June we will gather in a special assembly as brother bishops to pray and reflect on the mission entrusted to us by the Church, including our witness to personal conversion in Jesus Christ, and so to the New Evangelization.

We work at giving our people good examples of humble, repentant pastors, aware of our own personal and corporate sins, constantly responding to the call of Jesus to interior conversion. Remember the Curé of Ars? When a concerned group of his worried supporters came to him with a stinging protest letter from a number of parishioners, demanding the bishop to remove John Vianney as their curé, claiming he was a sinner, ignorant, and awkward, St. John Vianney took the letter, read it carefully … and signed the petition!

III.

As I began my talk this morning, my brothers, so I would like to end it, with Blessed John XXIII.

It was the Sunday angelus of October 28, 1962.The message the Holy Father delivered on that bright Roman afternoon never even mentions the phrase New Evangelization.But it strikes right at the heart of the mission entrusted to each of us as shepherds.

“I feel something touching my spirit that leads to serenity,” Good Pope John remarked. “The word of the Gospel is not silent.It resonates from one end of the world to the other, and finds the way of the heart. Dangers and sorrows, human prudence and wisdom, everything needs to dissolve into a song of love, into a renewed invitation, pleading all to desire and wish for the establishment of the Kingdom of Christ. A kingdom of truth and life; a kingdom of holiness and grace; a kingdom of justice, love and peace.”

How could we not see it alive in those holy men and women of every time and place, the heroic evangelizers of our faith, including most recently St. Kateri Tekakwitha and St. Marianne Cope?

We have beheld it in the Church’s unrelenting corporal and spiritual works of mercy, in the heroic witness of persecuted Christians, in the Church’s defense of unborn human life, the care of our elders and the terminally ill, advocacy for the unemployed, those in poverty, our immigrant brothers and sisters, victims of terror and violence throughout our world, of all faiths and creeds, and in our defense of religious freedom, marriage and family.

And, I have suggested today, that as we “come and go” in response to the invitation of Jesus, we begin with the Sacrament of Penance.This is the sacrament of the New Evangelization, for as Pope Benedict reminds us, “We cannot speak about the new evangelization without a sincere desire to conversion.” (Homily for the Opening of the XIII Ordinary General Synod of Bishops).

With this as my presidential address, I know I risk the criticism. I can hear it now: “With all the controversies and urgent matters for the Church, Dolan spoke of conversion of heart through the Sacrament of Penance. Can you believe it?”

To which I reply, “You better believe it!”

First things first!

Cardinal Dolan’s Letter to Obama

I thought you might want to read the full text of Cardinal Dolan’s letter of congratulations to President Obama on his re-election to the office of President of the United States of America.

The letter says:

Dear President Obama,
In my capacity as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I write to express my congratulations on your re-election as President of the United States.  The people of our country have again entrusted you with a great responsibility.  The Catholic Bishops of the United States offer our prayers that God will give you strength and wisdom to meet the difficult challenges that face America.
In particular, we pray that you will exercise your office to pursue the common good, especially in care of the most vulnerable among us, including the unborn, the poor, and the immigrant.  We will continue to stand in defense of life, marriage, and our first, most cherished liberty, religious freedom.  We pray, too, that you will help restore a sense of civility to the public order, so our public conversations may be imbued with respect and charity toward everyone.
May God bless you and Vice President Biden as you prepare for your second term in service to our country and its citizens.

Sincerely yours,

 

Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York
President United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Politics, Religion and Lilies That Fester

To Dolan or not to Dolan? That was the question.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan and his offer to pray the Benediction at the two political conventions were all the news a few weeks ago.

It seems that he offered to pray at both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. The Republicans, who are sharper tacks all around when it comes to currying religious political favor, answered with an immediate yes and then used their publicity machine to spread the word.

They made the most of the fact that Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the head of all the bishops in these United States, was going to dip his vote-getting toe into their little pond. In their glee over what they obviously wanted to play into a de facto endorsement by the Catholic Church, they did everything but put out press releases saying, “We bagged the big guy!”

The Democrats, on the other hand, dissed the good Cardinal and his attempt at bi-partisan even-handedness by not even bothering to reply when he offered to pray the benediction at their convention. Their message, which was equally loud and clear, was “We don’t need no traditional Christians.”

It would have stayed like that if the Republican publicity machine hadn’t set off a mini-firestorm with its announcements. It looked, as the Rs intended, like Cardinal Dolan was playing favorties between the two political parties. Gloating Republicans slapped him on the metaphorical back while outraged Dems denounced him for being a partisan political hack.

Forced to defend himself, he explained that he had offered to pray at both conventions, and the Republicans had accepted his offer. The Democrats, on the other hand, had not even acknowledged it.

The officials who run the Democratic Party evidently had their heads stuck so far up their own militant secularism that it took them a couple of days to figure out that this wasn’t the big vote-getter they had originally believed. This gave time for the whole thing to become the church-state fight du jour.

Cardinal Dolan, and through him the Catholic Church, became one of the many bones of contention that allow the two political parties to chew on one another in their never-ending quest to get to 51% of the electoral vote.

After a few days of dealing with public indignation over this bit of hubris, the Ds evidently decided that maybe one itty bitty prayer wouldn’t compromise them all that much. Cardinal Dolan and his benediction were a pill they would swallow.

The two political parties want slightly different things from the Church. The Republicans want control of the Church’s moral voice so that they can use that voice to win elections. The Democrats, who have given up on using the Church’s moral voice, want to silence the Church, and, as much as possible, strip it of all its ministries.

Both parties want to bend the Church to their purpose and their will. The Republicans want to do this by patronizing the Church. The Democrats by attacking it. The result in both instances would be to slice and dice the Church down to an equally voiceless political carcass to be fed on and ignored.

That is precisely what the Rs and the Ds have done to every other denomination who has worked with either one of them. The so-called liberal Christian denominations and the so-called “evangelical” or “conservative” denominations have both carved up the Gospels to suit their politics. We expect certain denominations to give us a hatched up phony Gospel supporting corporatism, and the economic rape of the American people. We know that certain other denominations are going to come blaring in with their truncated Gospel supporting abortion on demand and same-sex marriage.

We expect it. We know it’s coming. And truth be told, this weary wariness of what are obviously bogus claims to holiness on the part of these denominational-leaders-political-operatives is a big part of what is driving the ugly secularism that is developing in this country. We just don’t believe these guys are speaking for anybody but themselves.

These religious leaders have so destroyed the Gospels on which they stand in order to fit in with their political crowd that they are useless and shorn. They don’t have a moral and prophetic voice left.

The only denomination I’ve seen that has stood against this, the only voice that has refused to edit the gospels down to a political convenience in the name of getting their boy elected is the Catholic Church.

My great fear is that the pressures of fighting these fights against the out-of-control secularism and social nihilism that are tearing at our society will erode the Catholic Church’s determination to stay clear of politics and follow the Gospels. I am afraid that the Church will allow itself to become another bite of power in the maw of these two political parties. I dread the day on which the Catholic Church’s moral and prophetic voice is cast before political swine. I dread it to my core; not only for my Church, but for my country.

I hope and pray that I will never hear the American Bishops endorse a political candidate or a political party. As a Democrat, the way my party treated Cardinal Dolan disgusted me. If I had any remaining ability to be ashamed of my party, I would be ashamed of them. If I was a Republican, I would be equally ashamed of them, for different reasons.

I have seen the way that Republican office-holders treat the religious leaders who pushed to get them elected once they are in office. I have also seen those same religious leaders cow-tow to the elected officials and back down on the very moral issues that they say prompted them to be politically involved in the first place. It is an ugly and disillusioning thing to have to watch.

I don’t know how to be cynical enough about both these two political parties. I try, but my cynicism just can’t keep up with them.

I am not cynical about my Church. I go to mass and touch Jesus in the Eucharist and I am healed. There’s no way to be cynical about that.

I understand that the bishops are trying their best to defend the Church in what is an unprecedented attack in the HHS Mandate. I understand how grave this is. I also know, sadly, that both parties want the Mandate, each for their own reasons.

The Mandate helped the Republicans bag the big guy. It is probably why more and more Catholics are switching from Democrat to Republican. I think it is why the Democrats rudely ignored Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s generous offer to pray at their convention. Both parties are playing to their base, and right now their lead violin is the Catholic Church.

The only church that the politicians I know still respect at all is the Catholic Church. I think there are two reasons for this. First, the Catholic Church is big. It represents millions of votes. Second, neither party has succeeded in getting the Church to edit the Gospels to suit their politics. The Catholic Church still calls both parties to task when they violate the teachings of Christ. The same Pope who refuses to bend the Church’s 2,000-year-old teaching on the sanctity of human life also refuses to support neo-con goals of corporate dominance and the endless wars of empire. I don’t know of any other church that does this.

There’s an old saying in politics; keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. The Church is the enemy of both the Democrats and the Republicans for the simple reason that it has, at least until now, refused to be co-opted by either of them. Politicians want to control, to co-opt groups and organizations and turn their purposes to the politician’s use. That is what the Republicans have succeeded in doing with a large number of denominations and what they are currently trying to do with the Catholic Church.

If they can’t control and co-opt, then politicians try to strip the person or group of power and influence so that they can’t give them any trouble in the future. It’s the classic “you’re either with me or against me” scenario played out in terms of budget items, regulations and laws. That is what the Democrats are trying to do to the Catholic Church right now. They have, as their Republican counter-parts have, managed to co-opt a large number of denominations; to get them to interpret the Gospels in ways that favor Democratic party goals. But they’ve given up on ever being able to turn the Catholic Church to their purposes.

Enter the HHS Mandate, the refusals to give grants to Church organizations who won’t refer for abortion and all the other ugliness we’ve seen and will continue to see.

The bottom line here is that neither political party is anybody’s friend. Nobody’s. Not yours. Not mine. And certainly not any church that preaches and teaches the Gospels of Christ.

Do we need the Church to step up and be the prophetic voice of God in our society? Oh my, yes we do. We need them more now than ever before.

But the very fact that we need them so badly is a reflection of what choppy water they are going to encounter as they do this. Our culture is trapped in a downward spiral. It is disassembling itself morally, spiritually and economically. Only the truth of the Gospels can equip the American people to save themselves from themselves. We need revival, but we will never get it from anyone less than a true follower of Jesus Christ.

Politics and politicians have to be engaged. We live in a democracy, which makes involvement in politics our duty as well as our right. But our god must be God, not our political parties.

Too many good people have been led astray  by bad shepherds who have taken the R or the D for their god, and have taught us to do the same. These religious leaders have become false prophets and failed shepherds who lead the flock astray. They are like Shakespeare’s lilies, who, when they fester, stink far worse than weeds. One failed religious leader does more damage than many militant secularists.

My humble suggestions to the bishops, and any other religious leader who is thinking about involving themselves in politics, are these:

1. Never, never, never compromise the Gospels of Christ for any political party. Call the Republicans out on their economic policies and blast away at the Democrats for their attacks on the sanctity of human life and marriage. Don’t compromise the gospels for these birds. Please.

2. Be prepared to be disliked, pandered to and, if the pandering fails, accused and abused. The world does not like real Christians. It never has.

3. Let the laity be the ones to slug it out in the political trenches, but arm us with good teaching and absolute fidelity to Christ so that we may do it well. Teach us. Lead us. Inspire us.

The Catholic Church is the only effective moral and prophetic voice left in this country. My plea to Cardinal Dolan and all the bishops is please, don’t allow my Church to become another religious political pawn.

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Cardinal Dolan Explains Catholic Opposition to the HHS Mandate

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Cardinal Timothy Dolan gave a brief interview a few months ago concerning the HHS Mandate. The YouTube video above contains the entire interview. The lawsuits it refers to were filed at that time by many Catholic organizations around the country in opposition to the mandate.

I think we are fortunate to have someone like Cardinal Dolan who is willing and able to engage the public at this critical time in our history. The way he conducts himself in this interview does us proud. He provides us with one of the few examples we have right now of how to oppose an issue with civility and courtesy.

Religious freedom hangs in the balance in America. It is absolutely imperative that we turn this mandate back.

The fight isn’t just for the Catholic Church, or even for people of faith. It is for every American, even those who support the mandate. If the government continues down this path of attacking religious freedom, then the rights of all Americans are endangered.

Ironically, those who, in their zeal to attack Christianity, oppose religious freedom and the rights of individual conscience, are just as much at danger as the rest of us. A government which attacks its own Constitutional guarantees of religious freedom will not hesitate to attack them. The precedents they are seeking to establish in order to attack the exercise of religion can and almost certainly will, if they are allowed to stand, be turned against them on some day in the future.

That is because the precedents have to do with the power of government to overreach the Constitutional boundaries which have held it in check for over 200 hundred years. If a government can force religious institutions to bow to itself in the manner the HHS Mandate would do, then that government is verging on tyranny.

I say that because the right to believe and to act on that belief are the core freedoms that any individual possesses. If the institutions through which we express and act on this belief can be attacked, then that goes to the heart of the freedom itself. The practice of ignoring the actual wording of the First Amendment to justify this only works because our educational system has left people ignorant of what the Constitution actually says.

This is the First Amendment. Read it and cherish it. It is under attack from our own government.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

For more information about the HHS Mandate, go here.

Religion, Politics and Lilies The Fester

To Dolan or not to Dolan? That was the question.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan and his offer to pray the Benediction at the two political conventions were all the news a few weeks ago.

It seems that he offered to pray at both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. The Republicans, who are sharper tacks all around when it comes to currying religious political favor, answered with an immediate yes and then used their publicity machine to spread the word.

They made the most of the fact that Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the head of all the bishops in these United States, was going to dip his vote-getting toe into their little pond. In their glee over what they obviously wanted to play into a de facto endorsement by the Catholic Church, they did everything but put out press releases saying, “We bagged the big guy!”

The Democrats, on the other hand, dissed the good Cardinal and his attempt at bi-partisan even-handedness by not even bothering to reply when he offered to pray the benediction at their convention. Their message, which was equally loud and clear, was “We don’t need no traditional Christians.”

It would have stayed like that if the Republican publicity machine hadn’t set off a mini-firestorm with its announcements. It looked, as the Rs intended, like Cardinal Dolan was playing favorties between the two political parties. Gloating Republicans slapped him on the metaphorical back while outraged Dems denounced him for being a partisan political hack.

Forced to defend himself, he explained that he had offered to pray at both conventions, and the Republicans had accepted his offer. The Democrats, on the other hand, had not even acknowledged it.

The officials who run the Democratic Party evidently had their heads stuck so far up their own militant secularism that it took them a couple of days to figure out that this wasn’t the big vote-getter they had originally believed. This gave time for the whole thing to become the church-state fight du jour.

Cardinal Dolan, and through him the Catholic Church, became one of the many bones of contention that allow the two political parties to chew on one another in their never-ending quest to get to 51% of the electoral vote.

After a few days of dealing with public indignation over this bit of hubris, the Ds evidently decided that maybe one itty bitty prayer wouldn’t compromise them all that much. Cardinal Dolan and his benediction were a pill they would swallow.

The two political parties want slightly different things from the Church. The Republicans want control of the Church’s moral voice so that they can use that voice to win elections. The Democrats, who have given up on using the Church’s moral voice, wants to silence the Church, and, as much as possible, strip it of all its ministries.

Both parties want to bend the Church to their purpose and their will. The Republicans want to do this by patronizing the Church. The Democrats by attacking it. The result in both instances would be to slice and dice the Church down to an equally voiceless political carcass to be fed on and ignored.

That is precisely what the Rs and the Ds have done to every other denomination who has worked with either one of them. The so-called liberal Christian denominations and the so-called “evangelical” or “conservative” denominations have both carved up the Gospels to suit their politics. We expect certain denominations to give us a hatched up phony Gospel supporting corporatism, and the economic rape of the American people. We know that certain other denominations are going to come blaring in with their truncated Gospel supporting abortion on demand and same-sex marriage.

We expect it. We know it’s coming. And truth be told, this weary wariness of what are obviously bogus claims to holiness on the part of these denominational-leaders-political-operatives is a big part of what is driving the ugly secularism that is developing in this country. We just don’t believe these guys are speaking for anybody but themselves.

These religious leaders have so destroyed the Gospels on which they stand in order to fit in with their political crowd that they are useless and shorn. They don’t have a moral and prophetic voice left.

The only denomination I’ve seen that has stood against this, the only voice that has refused to edit the gospels down to a political convenience in the name of getting their boy elected is the Catholic Church.

My great fear is that the pressures of fighting these fights against the out-of-control secularism and social nihilism that are tearing at our society, will erode the Catholic Church’s determination to stay clear of politics and follow the Gospels. I am afraid that the Church will allow itself to become another bite of power in the maw of these two political parties. I dread the day on which the Catholic Church’s moral and prophetic voice is cast before political swine. I dread it to my core; not only for my Church, but for my country.

I hope and pray that I will never hear the American Bishops endorse a political candidate or a political party. As a Democrat, the way my party treated Cardinal Dolan disgusted me. If I had any remaining ability to be ashamed of my party, I would be ashamed of them. If I was a Republican, I would be equally ashamed of them, just for different reasons.

I have seen the way that Republican office-holders treat the religious leaders who pushed to get them elected once they are in office. I have also seen those same religious leaders cow-tow to the elected officials and back down on the very moral issues that they say prompted them to be politically involved in the first place. It is an ugly and disillusioning thing to have to watch.

I don’t know how to be cynical enough about both these two political parties. I try, but my cynicism just can’t keep up with them.

I am not cynical about my Church. I go to mass and touch Jesus in the Eucharist and I am healed. There’s no way to be cynical about that.

I understand that the bishops are trying their best to defend the Church in what is an unprecedented attack in the HHS Mandate. I understand how grave this is. I also know, sadly, that both parties want the Mandate, each for their own reasons.

The Mandate helped the Republicans bag the big guy. It is probably why more and more Catholics are switching from Democrat to Republican. I think it is why the Democrats rudely ignored Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s generous offer to pray at their convention. Both parties are playing to their base, and right now their lead violin is the Catholic Church.

The only church that the politicians I know still respect at all is the Catholic Church. I think there are two reasons for this. First, the Catholic Church is big. It represents millions of votes. Second, neither party has succeeded in getting the Church to edit the Gospels to suit their politics. The Catholic Church still calls both parties to task when they violate the teachings of Christ. The same Pope who refuses to bend the Church’s 2,000-year-old teaching on the sanctity of human life also refuses to support neo-con goals of corporate dominance and the endless wars of empire. I don’t know of any other church that does this.

There’s an old saying in politics; keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. The Church is the enemy of both the Democrats and the Republicans for the simple reason that it has, at least until now, refused to be co-opted by either of them. Politicians want to control, to co-opt groups and organizations and turn their purposes to the politician’s use. That is what the Republicans have succeeded in doing with a large number of denominations and what they are currently trying to do with the Catholic Church.

If they can’t control and co-opt, then politicians try to strip the person or group of power and influence so that they can’t give them any trouble in the future. It’s the classic “you’re either with me or against me” scenario played out in terms of budget items, regulations and laws. That is what the Democrats are trying to do to the Catholic Church right now. They have, as their Republican counter-parts have, managed to co-opt a large number of denominations; to get them to interpret the Gospels in ways that favor Democratic party goals. But they’ve given up on ever being able to turn the Catholic Church to their purposes.

Enter the HHS Mandate, the refusals to give grants to Church organizations who won’t refer for abortion and all the other ugliness we’ve seen and will continue to see.

The bottom line here is that neither political party is anybody’s friend. Nobody’s. Not yours. Not mine. And certainly not any church that preaches and teaches the Gospels of Christ.

Do we need the Church to step up and be the prophetic voice of God in our society? Oh my, yes we do. We need them more now than ever before.

But the very fact that we need them so badly is a reflection of what choppy water they are going to encounter as they do this. Our culture is trapped in a downward spiral. It is disassembling itself morally, spiritually and economically. Only the truth of the Gospels can equip the American people to save themselves from themselves. We need revival, but we will never get it from anyone less than a true follower of Jesus Christ.

Politics and politicians have to be engaged. We live in a democracy, which makes involvement in politics our duty as well as our right. But our god must be God, not our political parties.

Too many good people have been led astray  by bad shepherds who have taken the R or the D for their god, and have taught us to do the same. These religious leaders have become false prophets and failed shepherds who led the flock astray. They are like Shakespeare lilies, who, when they fester, stink far worse than weeds. One failed religious leader does more damage than many militant secularists.

My humble suggestions to the bishops, and any other religious leader who is thinking about involving themselves in politics, are these:

1. Never, never, never compromise the Gospels of Christ for any political party. Call the Republicans out on their economic policies and blast away at the Democrats for their attacks on the sanctity of human life and marriage. Don’t compromise the gospels for these birds. Please.

2. Be prepared to be disliked, pandered to and, if the pandering fails, accused and abused. The world does not like real Christians. It never has.

3. Let the laity be the ones to slug it out in the political trenches, but arm us with good teaching and absolute fidelity to Christ so that we may do it well. Teach us. Lead us. Inspire us.

The Catholic Church is the only effective moral and prophetic voice left in this country. My plea to Cardinal Dolan and all the bishops is don’t allow it to become another religious political pawn.

 

 

Democrats to Dolan: No Equal-Time Praying at Our Convention

President Obama has evidently refused to allow Cardinal Timothy Dolan to offer the benediction at the Democratic National Convention. According to the New York Post

“Dolan — considered the top Catholic official in the nation, as head of the Archdiocese of New York and president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops — tipped off Democrats a few weeks ago that he had agreed to deliver the prime-time benediction at the Republican convention in Tampa next week, Dolan’s spokesman Joseph Zwilling told The Post.

“He wanted to make sure that they knew that this was not a partisan act on his part and that he would be just as happy and grateful to accept an invitation from the Democrats as he would to have received one from the Republicans,” said Zwilling.

“He has not been contacted by them” since, he added”

The story goes on to add that a “senior Obama campaign official” says that a “high-ranking” Catholic will be at the Democratic convention but that they couldn’t say who because “the person hasn’t got their plane ticket.”

Now that’s a new one.

They “can’t say” who because the person “hasn’t gotten their plane ticket.”

Does that make sense to somebody? It doesn’t make any sense to me.

Its sounds like they’re calling around to find a “high-ranking” Catholic to shove into the schedule. They may be talking to someone about coming. But I doubt if it’s firm, or at least it wasn’t when this story was written. I’m guessing that’s the reason the “senior campaign official” can’t say who’s coming. They don’t know for sure. 

The idea that you can’t announce an engagement because someone hasn’t gotten their plane ticket doesn’t make sense. At least not to me.

The bottom line here is that President Obama’s campaign blew this. Cardinal Dolan appears to be bending over backwards to be even-handed and non-partisan. He’s taken a couple of hits from the more quarrelsome members of his extended flock for doing this.

But the President, or at least his staff, appears to be determined to make it clear that they are at war with the Church. The whole attitude of this administration toward traditional Christians in general and Catholics in particular just keeps rolling downhill. This is another example. 

Meanwhile the Republicans have gone a courtin’. They’ve zeroed the Catholic vote and intend to bring it home. 

The question (and it’s a real one folks) is if they get the Catholic vote, do they have any intentions of actually following through with more than talk? Patronizing Catholics is only better than attacking them as a matter of degree. 

Does anybody besides me remember the big stand-off a few months ago over extending the debt limit? It was the President vs the Republican House, playing chicken with the budget and the government. The Republicans held out for tax cuts for corporations and, in the end, they won. The corporations got their tax cuts and the rest of us got to see our government continue running.

My question: If Republicans are so opposed to the HHS Mandate, why didn’t they bargain for an end to it back then?

It’s simple, really. All they had to do was lay aside their eternal fealty to corporate greed for one fight and insist that the President back down on the HHS Mandate to get his debt extension. President Obama would have had no choice. He would have had to give in. If the Republicans are so opposed to the HHS Mandate, why didn’t they do something about it when doing something would have been so do-able?

If they had, the whole thing would be history by now.

I think the reason they didn’t is because they wanted the HHS Mandate to go into effect so they could use it for a campaign issue. That doesn’t change the fact that the Obama Administration promulgated that regulation or that Democrats in the Senate voted to keep it. It just means that once again the American people are being played like a violin by both these political parties. They both wanted the HHS Mandate to go into effect because they both benefitted from it. 

All I’m saying is that I hope that Republican voters realize that campaign rhetoric is cheap.  I hope they demand that their party starts walking their talk when it comes to values and social issues such as this one.

As for this ham-handed refusal to allow the Cardinal to give an equal-time prayer at the Democratic Convention and what it says about the party’s current attitude toward believers, I think it speaks for itself. 

Democrats to Dolan Redux: Well, All Right …

I have no way to know for sure. But I am guessing that the Democrats got smart this weekend and decided to put an end to the Dolan Prayer Fight in what was about the tenth round.

After being roasted and toasted for ignoring the Cardinal’s offer to pray at their convention, the Dems have announced that they are, indeed, going to allow equal-time praying when they gather to officially nominate President Obama as their 2012 candidate for President.

Smart move, btw. No point in handing the other guy a knife, especially when you know he knows so very well how to use it.

What this means is that we will have matching Dolans offering up equal time prayers at each of the party conventions.

The Dems are also planning to have “Nuns on a Bus” Sister Simone Campbell, the head of NETWORK, a sister’s political advocacy group, speak at their convention.

I predict that both parties will be unmoved by the praying and exhorting from these two Catholic leaders. I expect the Republicans to continue liquidating the American economy to hand the proceeds to multinational corporations and the Democrats to keep on with their never-met-an-abortion-we-don’t-like, same-sex-marriage war on the sanctity of human life and traditional values.

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