As I sipped on my morning coffee today, I located three website addresses among many which all support the statistics I’ve read, that there is a connection between the church’s leadership and either peace and restoration, or the opposite, the violence we’ve experience and witnessed throughout Trump’s presidency and beyond. Written by faith publishers themselves, I read accounts of active peace and service with decreases in domestic violence and decreases in other types of violence. I am especially impressed with progressive branches like the United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, Faithful America, and my biased favorites, the Jesuits of the Catholic Church and Pope Francis. And sadly on the opposite, I read about increases in rape, religious justification for violence on January 6th, violent increases towards racial minorities and LBGTQIA+ people, and increased political violence in general, all sadly fueled by right-winged religious fascism.
Rhetoric and political involvement of the church do indeed play a significant role in the political climate of a country which is why I strongly believe in the separation of church and state. However, I support peacefully applying moral values to public life, only at the will of the people, not by force. Since I’m Catholic, I think it’s fair to pay particular attention to the role the US Catholic Bishops have played on our political climate, both positive and negative.
In all three of these web links below, American Magazine (Catholic Jesuit), The National Catholic Register, and Catholic contributor Julie Nichols for Faith-on-View (whoops, that’s me) all speak of increased levels of violence and the connection to the Church. There are many more Catholic publications who speak of similar topics. What really caught my attention in the National Catholic Register article is the obsession some (not all) conservative US Catholic Bishops have with contraception, abortion, and sexuality. Even Pope Francis mentions this problem on more than one occasion. This obsession has extended to the point of dangerously ignoring, discounting, and even discrediting other critical life issues listed by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and against the collective whole of their consensus, even to the point of ushering in fascism. The obsession with abortion lead to politically weaponizing the Eucharist and even justifying violence on January 6th. These are only a few examples. I recognize the Catholic Church’s teaching on contraception, abortion, and sexuality but not at all costs of the Church’s other teachings while disregarding other human lives and humanity issues.
What some conservative Catholic Bishops (not all) may seem to misunderstand is how their rhetoric affects parish priests, the laity, and how the laity conducts themselves in public life, including behavior of the Church over time. I’ve personally spoken with hundreds of Catholics who either left their parishes or moved to more progressive parishes during COVID. Many of these moves were due to clergyman who are obsessed with contraception, abortion, and sexuality to the point ignoring, discounting, and even discrediting other critical life issues as I stated above. There can be a complete disregard for human life and dignity of marginalized groups outside the womb and Catholic Social teaching which are central to the Gospel and Catholic life while using three of the Church’s teachings to wrongly justify other evils.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica and The Washington Monthly, I summarized these primary traits of fascism.
1. Sources and capitalizes on economic woes and anxieties
2. Shifts political blame on to scapegoat groups like minority groups, the Democrats,
immigrants, and other groups while taking away blame from where it belongs, on the leadership
3. Propagates extreme nationalism going hand-in-hand with racism and militarism
4. Forces a melding of church and state when there should be a separation
5. Subjugates of women and promotes sexism
6. Shows a disdain for human rights, especially LBGTQIA+ people but tries to preserve rights of the elite
7. Obsesses with crime and punishment
8. Identifies enemies as a unifying cause for political action
9. Disdains intellectualism, science, history, and the arts
10. Controls of different types of media, including books
11. Supports rampant cronyism and government corruption
12. Attempts to control elections, like through voter suppression
The main reason I mention all of this is, the younger generation is watching. The broader public is watching, and the world is watching. The Church can no longer afford scandals of any sort. If the Church doesn’t move to a position of unconditional love which is reflective of Christ’s love, how can the Church redeem herself ? I watch with great enthusiasm to see if the parts of the Church will pull through and repent of her involvement with religious fascism. Sometimes I have too much faith in man and the Church when it should be in Christ.