Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 17, 1891 when Bishop Lawrence S. McMahon dedicated St. Bernard Church, Enfield.
Catholic Transcript Reader Survey
Catholic Transcript Reader Survey

The Catholic Difference

My local paper, the Washington Post, is best read for its sports and op-ed pages and its often-sensible editorials on foreign policy. Alas, the Post editorial board’s IQ drops well below the Mendoza Line when the subject is the Catholic Church. After decades of grumbling about this seemingly permanent feature of life along the Potomac littoral, it occurred to me recently that the problem here isn’t gross ignorance about matters Catholic; the problem is that the Post is all-in for another, competing religion.

The prophet of that religion – call it the Church of the Imperial Autonomous Self or, if you prefer something punchier, the Church of Me – is U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. For almost a quarter-century, Justice Kennedy has preached a notion of freedom that the Post regularly applauds and promotes, dismissing other views as bigoted. The idea of freedom in the Church of Me was neatly captured by that great moral philosopher, Frank Sinatra, when he sang, “I did it my way.” Underwriting that self-centered (indeed, selfish) concept of freedom is the idea that the human person is just a twitching bundle of desires, the satisfaction of which is what we mean by “human rights.”

This Church of Me has, if you’ll pardon the phrase, a sacramental system: the sexual revolution in all its forms. Thus the Post has been front and center in the agitation for giving legal protection to every imaginable icon of this extraordinary cultural upheaval, from state-funded contraception to abortion-on-demand to the latest faux-“civil rights” cause: public restrooms in which people who call themselves “transgendered” can live out their self-definition, irrespective of biology.

In a July 2 editorial (“The Pope’s welcome surprises”), the Post tried to recruit Pope Francis as a kind of deputy to Justice Kennedy as prophet of the Church of Me, claiming that the Holy Father had “charted a new course in compassion for the Roman Catholic Church.” The evidence for this was the most over-reported and misrepresented papal statement in history: the Pope’s response (“Who am I to judge?”) to a question about the appropriate pastoral approach to a priest experiencing same-sex attraction who was striving to live an upright and chaste life (the pope repeated a modified version of the phrase to reporters in late June). “Empathy for the oppressed,” the Post’s editors opined, “has always been a hallmark of Francis’s papacy.”

Memo to editors: “Empathy for the oppressed” has been a hallmark of the papacy for a long time. To suggest otherwise – to imply that the Catholic Church has been a theologically-sophisticated Ku Klux Klan, reveling in oppression until the pope from the peripheries began to drag it into the bright uplands of compassion – is slander. Period. And anti-Catholic slander, as the Post editorial board should know, has a long, ugly history in the United States.

Then there was the editorial’s claim that the “Catholic Church has been dodging” certain “contested issues” for a long time. Which issues, you ask? Welcome to the catechism of the Church of Me: the issues being “dodged” include “homosexuality, divorce, and contraception.”

Memo #2 to editors: The Catholic Church has emphatically not been “dodging” these issues, which are not in fact “issues” but settled matters of Catholic moral teaching, informed by both reason and revelation.

Beneath the façade of a church playing dodgeball, the real complaint here is quite different: what cobs the Post’s editors is that, unlike liberal Protestantism and Reform Judaism, the Catholic Church has not taken the Post’s advice and caved in to the cultural tsunami of the sexual revolution – a surrender the Post applauds as “compassion.”

If Pope Francis, however misreported and misrepresented, has gotten the Washington Post editorial board’s attention, good for him. Let me now suggest some follow-up for the editors. Read Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body or, if that’s too much to ask, read the summary of it in my Witness to Hope. Then see if that portrait of human love, noble self-giving and mature, humble self-mastery isn’t a more attractive vision of human possibility than Justice Kennedy’s twitching bundle of desires.

The editors challenged “church traditionalists” to “open themselves to a ‘God of surprises.’” Let’s see if the Post’s editorial board has the nerve to take its own advice.

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.