After controversy, U.S. Catholic bishops say there will be “no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians” https://t.co/pe5nWaiUvV
— The Washington Post (@washingtonpost) June 25, 2021
I was raised ‘in the Church’, although I walked out of mine after parochial high-school graduation and never looked back. But anyone who’s read any European history knows that, going back as far as we have records, there has been tension between the upper ranks of The Hierarchy and the mere priests (not to mention parishioners) at the bottom of the pyramid…
Days after a vote that triggered a tsunami of Catholic debate about Communion and politics, leading U.S. Catholic bishops working on an upcoming document about the sacrament are now de-emphasizing direct confrontation with President Biden or other Catholic politicians who support abortion rights…
During the three-day meeting of the U.S. bishops and in its aftermath, the bishops made conflicting statements about the document’s intention.
The idea for the document came from a committee the USCCB created after the November election in order to deal with the “problem” of Biden and his abortion policy, and what some bishops see as a confusing scandal for other Catholics watching the country’s most prominent member of their faith.
During the meeting many bishops said Biden was exacerbating what many faith leaders see as an already big problem: Most U.S. Catholics, polls show, don’t attend Mass weekly and don’t believe in the supernatural aspect of Communion. But many other bishops pushed back to say there shouldn’t be a special emphasis on abortion and politicians, and such a document would politicize the sacrament…
Bishop Shawn McKnight, of Jefferson City, Mo., who had argued during the USCCB meeting against going ahead with the document, Friday said the Q&A was a good sign. The “needle shifted a little bit,” he said, away from a document aimed at a national policy and restrictions.
He also noted that Rhoades said there will be regional meetings of bishops this year in order to get more feedback…
Shorthand, as I cynically see it: Right now, there is a noisy activist minority of “traditional” Catholics (tradcaths) who would very much like to return to a pre-Vatican-Council-II era, when bishops could simply order priests to order their parishioners to stay in line. Most of these tradcaths are old enough to remember and regret the “loss” of the simple pieties and required memorization of the Baltimore Catechism, which was quietly dropped in my Bronx parochial school in 1965. But there’s also plenty of younger activists, quite a few of them converts (and some of them prominent media pundits), who want a Church with rigor — one where Good People get to boss around the Weak People who don’t have standards, such as making a public show of their piety before the world and its heathens.
While heterosexual marriages ‘blessed’ with plenty of children are the gold standard of this philosophy (no premarital sex, no ‘confusing’ sexualities, no birth control), for day-to-day purposes, attendance at weekly Mass and taking communion serve as a marker. Obviously, it annoys them most bitterly that President Biden actually does show up just about every week, despite his busy schedule, not to mention football Sundays, out-of-parish vacations, etc. He’s a prominent rebuke to their argument that public performance is the one and only guarantee of spiritual worth. Unlike so many modern American Catholics, he’s there in the pew and the Eucharist line, and yet still all too open to sinful non-Churchly social changes!
In their dreams, the tradcaths (backed by a real Pope, a hardcore dude like Benedict who didn’t mind telling off the liberals and kicking out nonconformists) would take over the global Mother Church and institute a glorious age of fewer, but purer, Catholics. Were this ever to happen (odds are against it, IMO), a great many professing American Catholics would very soon withdraw themselves, and their tithing, mostly to easily available community alternatives (the Episcopalians and Universal Unitarians, for instance)… but some parishes would, following preexisting history, simply declare their independence. Losing the funding would be bad enough — last I looked, the American Catholic Church was providing an outsized portion of global Church support — but another Great Schism would reduce the Mother Church to a shell of its current status. Which Pope Francis, not being an idiot, has no intention of permitting. But such a ‘purification’ would be just fine with the tradcaths, who are sure that this shell would give the Ross Douthats and Liz Bruenigs and every little local parish pest more power and status, as God intended. (If this reminds anyone of the current ‘purification’ battle within the Republican Party, well, yeah.)
Pope Francis and his defenders still have enough control, at the moment, to yank the professional priestly tradcaths back into line. But while they may have lost this particular battle (maybe), the skirmishes will continue.
67% of U.S. Catholics said yes Biden should receive communion; 29% said no.
“This put the majority of bishops not only on the extreme end of Catholic opinion generally but also at the far end of Catholic opinion *even within the GOP*.”
— Eric Wolfson (@EricWolfson) June 27, 2021