American Catholicism's Pact with the Devil

Interesting article by Paul A. Rahe, at brings up a number of points as background to the recent HHS controversy. The two points that interest me are:

(1) The first point falls into the basic area of what it means to be a Christian. Is it better for a Catholic to make voluntary contributions to charity to support the poor or is it better to have the government take money from one group and give to another. Have we strayed from what “charity” is supposed to mean?

From the referenced article:
“[L]eaders of the American Catholic Church fell prey to a conceit that had long before ensnared a great many mainstream Protestants in the United States – the notion that public provision is somehow akin to charity – and so they fostered state paternalism and undermined what they professed to teach: that charity is an individual responsibility and that it is appropriate that the laity join together under the leadership of the Church to alleviate the suffering of the poor. In its place, they helped establish the Machiavellian principle that underpins modern liberalism – the notion that it is our Christian duty to confiscate other people’s money and redistribute it.”

(2) The second point deals with confusing non-negotiable beliefs of our faith (being pro-life and against abortion) with other beliefs dealing with social justice.

"[T]he Roman Catholic Church in the United States has lost much of its moral authority. It has done so largely because it has subordinated its teaching of Catholic moral doctrine to its ambitions regarding an expansion of the administrative entitlements state. In 1973, when the Supreme Court made its decision in Roe v. Wade, had the bishops, priests, and nuns screamed bloody murder and declared war, as they have recently done, the decision would have been reversed. Instead, under the leadership of Joseph Bernadin, the Cardinal-Archbishop of Chicago, they asserted that the social teaching of the Church was a “seamless garment,” and they treated abortion as one concern among many. "

I disagree with his assertion that the US leadership of the Catholic Church believes there is a “Christian duty to confiscate other people’s money and redistribute it.”

I also disagree with his opinion that Roe v. Wade could have been overturned by the sort protest which greeted the recent Obama decision regarding contraception and insurance. Overturning a Supreme Court decision can’t be done by political pressure. However, an executive branch decision can be reversed by political pressure.

Rush Limbaugh spent 2 hours on the Rahe article on his radio show today. I was inspired to search it out and read it for myself.

I claim the promise that the Holy Spirit will abide with the Church until the Jesus comes again. Otherwise, I would be full of anxiety and grief for the state of the American Church.

BTW Spare me the snarky comments that Rush Limbaugh is “low-brow” or a “Hate-monger” or whatever.

Interesting suggestions. I would have liked to see some documentation that supports some of his claims, especially regarding the opinions of the hierarchy in the 1930s.

I disagree with both premises. The Church neither endorses state sponsored charity as a means to redistribute wealth. Nor did the Church have any way of reversing Roe -vs Wade when it was decided. Even if it did object, there was no way to reverse the decision. It was not up to popular debate and it was not up to a vote.

The other thing is, no one had any idea how much damage Roe vs Wade would cause to pro-life. I don’t think the pro-life movement really took hold until well after the decision was made, and after many abortions were made. On 20-20 hindsight, yes the Church and all Catholics and reasonable Christians should have screamed bloody murder at the decision to allow abortions to be legal. BUT even that would not have reversed the decision. There is no oversight of the supreme court. Only the court can reverse it’s own decisions.

I thought that a constitutional amendment, though difficult to enact, can reverse the court’s decisions? Obviously hindsight is 20-20, but would it have been possible for the Church to have mobilized the faithful to support a constitutional amendment back in the 1970’s? :confused:

I don’t think the hierarchy has ever supported forced redistribution of wealth and charity through force. He needs to look up what charity means.

That’s not entirely accurate, as the argument goes.

  1. Many Catholic Bishops strongly supported passage of the Affordable Care Act, before it was discovered to be an anti-life, pro-contraceptive piece of legislation.

  2. Also, you seem to have underscored Rahe’s point on charity. Charity, as stated above, is an individual responsibility, it can never be satisfied by lobbying for increased government spending on social welfare programs.

In other words, you won’t be able to stand before God on the Day of Judgement and say “Well Father, Lord, I didn’t charitably donate my time or money to the poor, but I did pay my taxes to Uncle Sam, and as you know, the US government spends a LOT of money on the poor!”

While I won’t speculate on how pervasive the problem is among the hierarchy, that important distinction seems to have been lost on several leaders in the American arm of the Catholic Church.

Exceedingly weak arguments in the article.

The problem is he is right to a degree. Cardinal Bernadin was not a bright light for Catholics at all. The U.S Bishops were achingly silent as a body on the issue of abortion right after Roe v. Wade. Many downplayed the issue and did what we see many Catholics today doing and voiced that it was just “one of many issues…”. In other words social programs outweigh babies lives. I think its important that we realize just how off course the Catholic Church in America was for a time, so we can be aware of where we should be running from.

On the other side of the argument Protestants do not have any leg to stand on themselves as far as their leadership goes. Most of the major Protestant denominations changed their teachings on abortion after Roe v. Wade and supported abortion to some degree. At least the Catholic teaching was only muddled and not support. I can say I don’t take any pride in that fact though.

On the issue of social justice he is right in many respects and many in the Church have lost sight of what true charity is. Our leadership today though should give us hope that we are moving in the right direction, especially considering the strong stance the Church is now taking with regards to the HHS mandate. Church leadership standing up for the faith is better late than never.

I also think he underplays how many priests speak out on abortion, and sexual ethics though. This is becoming more and more common as we get better educated priests with some back bone.

All 50 states had laws on the books against abortion. A massive civil disobedience campaign was very possible. Rahe thinks outside the box. This ia a view point you will never hear in the MSM.

I go with the tenth commandment.

In other words, you won’t be able to stand before God on the Day of Judgement and say “Well Father, Lord, I didn’t charitably donate my time or money to the poor, but I did pay my taxes to Uncle Sam, and as you know, the US government spends a LOT of money on the poor!”

I’m curious as to how many Catholics think their 10% tithe given to charity is taken care of in taxes…

It would be great if we could at least get America’s back up to averaging giving away 10% of their income. Right now on average American’s are giving 3% of their income to charity at most.

Roe vs Wade had nothing to do with Obama. It reached a U.S. Supreme Court appeal in 1970 and a landmark decision was made in 1973.

The only question was did the U.S. Bishops make a big enough voice back in the early 1970’s telling Faithful Catholics then to speak out with a big enough loud enough against the Supreme Court decision. That’s the real question.

Sadly though things were worse in Canada two years prior in 1968 when the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops in a Plenary session called the Winnipeg Statement where they virtually threw away Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae out the door.

So here we are today in both countries trying to fight for the moral rights of the unborn.
I think we Catholics shoulder the better part of that burden IMHO for not making a big enough voice.

I agree with what’s said in the article. The Church has for years made its own bed; now it is unhappy with the consequences.

It is probably too late to save religious liberty, indeed our Constitution. And Catholics must shoulder their share of the blame.

You are correct about Cardinal Bernardin, but, according to the chronology of U.S. bishops’ political activism against abortion, he led - or participated in - a group that pressed both Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter during the 1976 presidential campaign to support an amendment outlawing abortion.

The confiscation issue probably depends on your view of the Democrats’ social policies. Is taking more taxes from one group ostensibly to pay for a better life for another group redistributing wealth? Much of Church social teaching seems to be state and federal Democrats’ quality-of-life issues given a moral/theological veneer by Diocesan peace-and-social-justice staffs - all too often exclusively Democrats themselves.

You’re right that Supreme Court decisions can’t be overturned by political pressure, but I respectfully suggest that our Supreme Court justices made it to the highest court in the land because they are political animals, who are sensitive to - if not directly influenced by - the national political climate. A strong outcry before the Roe v. Wade decision (backed by some legal muscle) would at least have made them think twice about what they were doing.

This is a little disingenuous. If we consult lawyers, you are correct that executive mandates are very much different than Supreme Court decisions. But in the larger picture, if the bishops had excercised a bit more muscular leadership in 1973, Roe could have been overturned within 12 years. Presidents select SC nominees, you realize.

Mobilized and unified, catholics would be the mother of all political constituencies. But we’ve been gutted of any political influence by leadership that has been permissive to moral equivalence arguments that are and always have been absurd. One can argue whether or not Cardinal Bernadin intended that effect when he made his “seamless garment” explanation. But the results are the same regardless of his intentions. It was a pastoral disaster that rendered catholics impotent as a moral influence on American politics for 30 years. We cancel each other out and smaller, but more unified interests determine US political direction.

What’s done is done. What is your point exactly?

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