SUNDAY REVELATIONS: Of St. John Paul II and the Donald

Yesterday I saw the concluding class of a twenty-session study on the history of the Catholic Church by a professor from Franciscan University of Steubenville. He spoke how St. John Paul II wanted to create “a culture of life and a civilization of love.” How did he do? It seems that a lot of “orthodox” Catholics took to the “culture of life” by trying to ban abortion and euthanasia as if a culture can be legislated rather than created by individuals acting for the common good.

What they have failed to do is create a culture of life where abortion and euthanasia don’t exist because they are not desired by anyone. However, because that would require sacrifice on their part, they refuse to do so. A civilization of love? Obviously, we don’t have that when “orthodox” Catholics caustically insulting people while saying “they don’t mince words” or “suffer fools” or they are indifferent. They decry “Obamacare” and its assault on religious liberty, but that is because they failed to see that their brothers and sisters WERE struggling without being able to afford medical care. A saying I heard at a Presbyterian church my wife once attended said that “a church that is indifferent to the marginalized because itself marginalized. It’s God’s poetic justice.”

The “orthodox” Catholic will respond that they give generously to charity, and many of them do. In fact, the religious parts of the country are the most generous, but if they simply give to their megachurch to buy their salvation that isn’t charity but extortion on the part of Elmer Gantry. However, Archbishop Romero said “When I give the poor bread they call me a saint. When I ask why they don’t have bread they call me a Communist.” Even a friend of mine said that he is “a shepherd, not an economist” which is a meaningless statement. Indifference is just as bad, if not worse, than hostility. In the Gospel of Luke, after giving his disciple the Lord’s Prayer, asks “What father would give his son a snake if he asks for a fish or a scorpion if he asks for an egg?” Yet if we support some Tim Eyman initiative that guts public transportation that prevents a poor or disabled person the chance to contribute through paid or unpaid employment simply because it saves us money then you have given that person a snake or a scorpion. You have said “I don’t care about what you need. That’s my concern. God bless.” During the grape boycott of Cesar Chavez my father worked for Boeing. When a woman asked my dad if he wanted some grapes he said “No” because he was supporting the boycott. Her answer “I like grapes.” In other words “I don’t care if those dirty farm workers are hungry and in squalor, my wants are more important than their needs.”

It never fails that whenever the social justice teachings of the Church are brought up and the deity of capitalism remotely taken to task, letters pour in to state how Jesus was a capitalist along with “stick to faith and morals” or even, “dopey Popey” while, apparently, their personal deity of Donald Trump can do no wrong. Honestly, I am thoroughly disgusted with it and no “orthodox” guru is going to call me stupid, self-absorbed or irrational anymore.

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  1. 1

    To get the full scope we must look at the Church globally. Compare the various Vatican websites to the kind of rhetoric we often see from prominent American Catholics and we find a great disconnect. You’ll find the Vatican itself quite progressive in meeting JPII’s ideals.

    Some foundation for my following comments: I converted to Catholicism quite unexpectedly in 2007. So I do not have the acculturated biases of “traditional” Catholics raised in the Church–and I have a variety of religious experience behind me to rival William James, including atheism. I am now one test away from an MA in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville. I also have an MS in Media Psychology.

    I conclude this is because American culture more than other societies cultivates polarized thinking (our current election as example).

    In addition, American Catholics have allowed the conservative Christian movement to infiltrate and appropriate their influence–and this is really a secular conservative manipulation, not a Christian initiative (as in the sources and motivations of the “religious right” movement are secular).

    These Catholics may often trust news from EWTN and its print counterpart “The National Catholic Register” more than others. While EWTN is impeccable for liturgical and theological matters, it gets funding for news from the Heritage Foundation, which means its coverage is tainted with Koch Bros. influence.

    But consider that the American Catholic tendency to use Church doctrine as a reason to vote for candidates claiming to oppose abortion, no matter what other evils the candidate may promote, is absolutely CONTRARY to Church doctrine.

    Church doctrine actually asserts the seven themes of Catholic Social Teaching are interdependent. Sacrificing one for the sake of any others works against them all. If we oppose rights of labor, we promote abortion. If we dismiss the needs of the poor, we promote abortion.

    Abortion as an issue itself has been declared “an intrinsic evil” by the Magisterium, and because of the polarizing influences which they trust, many American Catholics have difficulty seeing beyond that “Pro-life/Pro-choice” false dichotomy promoted by the secular motivated “religious right”.

    That’s an example.

    Abortion falls under the Catholic social theme of defending “The Life and Dignity of the Human Person.” This combines with the dogma that human life begins at conception, to conclude a social responsibility to protect it “from conception to a natural death.”

    This and all Catholic social themes are based in a Philosophy of the Human Person, which in brief summary concludes it a violence against any human person (from conception to a natural death) to treat that person as MERELY A MEANS TO AN END.

    One problem is that Catholics have been co-opted into a pro-life movement which does not distinguish womb-bound persons as individuals, but lumps them into this group called “the unborn”. This clouds the fact that they are the same individual persons after they are born. It results in treating both the victims of abortion and their mothers as a means to an end.(IMHO that end is the revenue stream “pro-life” non-profits are assured as long as the false dichotomy continues.)

    Keeping the individuality of each person foremost can turn the parallel monologue into a dialogue.

    The most effective argument I have found goes like this: We claim to defend the fundamental human rights of unborn persons. These rights are rights to opportunity, sustenance, healthcare, and a natural death–these are the rights we assert for individuals not yet born when we oppose abortion.

    However, if in the process we deny these to individuals already born, then we deny them as fundamental human rights–the same individuals can’t lose these rights just by being born. When we work against these rights we deny them as fundamental human rights, and so have no foundation to defend the same rights for unborn persons.

    I have not explored this as deeply as the question on abortion. Teaching on this is also misunderstood. The teaching unequivocally opposes intentionally executing a person because of their suffering. I agree with this and did before becoming Catholic. A full explanation would take as much as used already, so we will hold on that discussion.

    What is often misunderstood is handling issues approaching death. The Church actually OPPOSES extreme measures to artificially extend life (“conception to A NATURAL DEATH”). They can offend the life and dignity of the human person.

    Removing a feeding tube from someone with one in place would be an overt act toward killing the person, but refusing one in the first place would not. Just an example.

    But I can tell you it takes a lot of love to sit with someone in pain, whom you know is dying, just to assure they do not have to experience it alone.

    We have no idea how much pain comes with every death. We only know what appears or can be expressed as painful by the person. The deaths which appear painless to us could be more painful than the cumulative pain in a lingering death.

    I’ve known people getting closer to death, in serious pain, who want ever less pain killers–or none–because they do not want to cloud their perception of the last moments to any degree, even if that means embracing the attendant agony.

    While “putting someone out of their misery” is appealing, I personally consider it something we want to do for ourselves more than the other individual. The more empathy we have, the harder it is FOR US to watch someone we know suffering when we know that suffering will only end in death anyway.

  2. Francis Jacobson #

    Thank you so much, Mr. Stone, for your reply. I knew that Vatican documents, not only from Pope Francis but also just about every Pope since Leo XIII. I knew that the Catholics were letting themselves be taken in by the Religious Right to defend their pre-existing prejudices. However, I was not able to articulate this very well because the most influential Catholics in my parish are quite conservative. This despite the fact that most of the congregation is not. Thank you as well for your explanation of EWTN’s conservatism.