Monday, May 13, 2019

Limiting the Voice of the Church

I was reading a back issue of First Things the other day and came across a curious claim by the author of the essay. This claim was that the Church ought not to speak on every issue that comes along, but should instead limit herself to speaking about crucial issues (such as sexual morality and abortion).

The reason I found this curious was the issues the author thought the Church should hold back on were also issues that the Church has always spoken about: the obligation to aid the poor. It made me reflect though. Catholics have fallen far when they reduce part of the Church teaching (the part at odds with their politics) to “political opinions.”

The teaching of Pope Francis and the bishops today on care for the homeless, the migrant is no different from his predecessors. Rather we overlook the fact that his predecessors spoke on these topics just like we forget that Pope Francis speaks on the moral issues. For example, St. John Paul II said in a June 2, 2000 homily:

Unfortunately, we still encounter in the world a closed-minded attitude and even one of rejection, due to unjustified fears and concern for one’s own interests alone. These forms of discrimination are incompatible with belonging to Christ and to the Church. Indeed, the Christian community is called to spread in the world the leaven of brotherhood, of that fellowship of differences which we can also experience at our meeting today.

If the Pope said this today, we’d have people accusing him of speaking out against today”s American policy in the Middle East or Mexico with people cheering or denouncing him. But he was speaking at a jubilee of migrant and immigrant peoples almost 20 years ago, when our political landscape was different. But with almost 20 years separating the two Popes, the concern of the Church is the same: self-interest and fear is leading Christians to avoid the Christian need to care for those in need. When we say “the Pope should stay out of politics,” we are effectively trying to silence the Church from speaking out on our moral obligation.

It goes the other way too. When the Church speaks out on sexual morality and the right to life, we hear others saying they’re political (or, my personal eyeroll favorite, “getting played” by politicians) even though the Church has always spoken on these things. Just like certain Catholics ignored or accused St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI of being political when they spoke out on social justice, other Catholics ignore Pope Francis when he condemns abortion, same sex “marriage,” and “gender theory.” Thus, the Popes we like are earnest and the ones we dislike are “political.”

But none of these Popes are “being political.” They’re speaking on issues that can affect our souls. Trying to silence the Popes from “being political” is actually trying to silence the Popes from saying what we need—but don’t want—to hear.

1 comment:

  1. So true. And then we miss out on what we may most need to hear.

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