We must show a united position – Catholic Outlook
Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, OFM Cap., Is a very busy man. A few days before his 76e anniversary, one year after retirement age, he is still Archbishop of Boston, the fourth largest archdiocese in the United States. O’Malley has been a member of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals since its inception in 2013, and he attended the virtual council meeting on Thursday to discuss the importance of synodality, the current state of the pandemic around the world and the Vatican. finances. He has also been President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors since 2014 and a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith since 2017.
During his years as a religious, priest, and bishop, he served various marginalized communities, including immigrants and the poor, and was part of the pro-life movement from the start. As Bishop and Archbishop of Fall River, Palm Beach and Boston, he was entrusted with responsibility for the dioceses reeling from the sexual abuse scandals and episcopal misdeeds of his predecessors. I had the pleasure of meeting him once, at an event sponsored by the USCCB while he was Chairman of the Pro-Life Affairs Committee. He was very kind and courteous during our brief conversation.
Cardinal O’Malley recently weighed in on the debate surrounding the planned USCCB document on the Eucharist. Several days ago I mentioned his comments on his blog, in which he expressed that he was encouraged that the focus of the document had shifted from politics to “the issue of preparation and preparation.” Eucharistic coherence ”. It was a positive sign.
Today he shared some additional thoughts on the topic, but again it’s buried at the bottom of a really long blog post, so I want to highlight it here. It is worth reading and thinking about:
In my mind, the two greatest evils in American history are slavery and abortion. I will always be ashamed that instead of strongly opposing slavery and racism, too often in our history, American Catholics have tended to assimilate into the mainstream culture that justified slavery, perhaps. to be even as a necessary evil, but necessary. Religious communities and Catholics owned slaves; the bishops defended the institution of slavery. This was fueled in part by a Catholic inferiority complex that made us always try to prove how American we were and, therefore, very flexible under the pressure of society. There were Catholic abolitionists, but the Church in the United States miserably failed to be a prophetic voice in not condemning the cruel institution of slavery. Other religious groups like the Quakers were much more loyal to Gospel values and defended the human rights of slaves. The Catholic Church‘s historic complicity with slavery causes much pain and shame today, especially among our black Catholics.
The history of the Catholic Church with abortion in the United States is different. We were not co-opted by secular culture; we have not been assimilated into the pro-abortion mentality of political correctness. The Catholic Church in the United States – the hierarchy of the United States – has never withdrawn from the fight against abortion. And before other groups lift a finger, Catholic bishops have spoken out loud and clear in our opposition to the culture of death. I don’t know of any other hierarchy in the world that has fought harder to stop abortion and promote the gospel of life.
As a young priest, I worked with Nellie Gray, organizing the first March for Life in Washington, eating the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches she served me in her living room. Nellie Gray was a lawyer working in the Department of Labor during Roe v. Wade’s time. She immediately gave up her job and dedicated her life to making the world a safer place for unborn babies. The experts were all saying that these pro-life groups of people will all die and the future will be ours – for the people of choice.
Well, 50 years later the pro-life movement hasn’t died out, and, in large part, it’s because the Catholic Church is there.
During my lifetime, our Church did not do a great job of teaching people preparation for the Eucharist. I grew up in a world where a lot of people were afraid to go to Communion. If you have swallowed even a mouthful of water while brushing your teeth, you might be afraid to approach the communion ramp for fear of committing sacrilege. As a young priest, I spent hours in the confessional with people tortured by scruples. No Catholic ever wants to commit sacrilege. This fear often made people hesitate to receive the sacrament.
At the same time, I saw that many people were motivated to leave a life of sin and vice because of their hunger to receive the Eucharist. Mauriac talks about how people’s hunger for the Eucharist brings conversion into their lives. Some people have resisted temptation, overcome feelings of jealousy and revenge, abandoned infidelities and lies, all because of their desire to be able to receive the Body and Blood of Christ with dignity.
After Vatican Council II, we had a lot of liturgical changes that came quickly. Many of these changes were very helpful, but often there was little explanation or catechesis as to why things changed. When I was young, to receive Communion, we fasted from midnight, even in water. Only priests could touch the host. We fellowship on our knees. We all went to confession almost every Saturday. Women covered their heads in church, if not with a hat, with a piece of Kleenex or a glove. It all changed almost overnight. There has never been any anthropological consideration of how changing symbols can change the meaning for people.
One of the things that changed was the connection between confession and fellowship. Suddenly, the impression was often given that everyone was invited to come forward to receive, regardless of their preparation or absence.
I would appreciate a good catechesis on how we are to prepare to receive the Eucharist worthily, but I fear that the discussion of simply denying communion to politicians has already become the center of the conversation, leading to many ripples. The serious consideration that we must make as Catholics is being engulfed in the political polarization of our country.
Our Catholics, whether liberal or middle conservatives, have been through a lot. I always say that being Catholic in Boston is a contact sport. The secularization of our culture, the loss of a commonly accepted Christian anthropology and now the fallout from the sexual abuse crisis have left Catholics shaken in their faith, angry with the bishops and suspicious of the leaders of the Church.
The controversy over the denial of Communion to politicians is fueling anger on both sides. If we bishops get drawn into this fight, we can easily give the impression that we are divided in our opposition to abortion, and I do not believe so.
We must show a united stand on behalf of the gospel of life and all of its ramifications. If we are divided, we will weaken the Church and our ability to promote the gospel of life will be compromised. The denial of Communion to politicians will be interpreted by most Americans and Catholics as partisan politics that has nothing to do with respect or piety.
I understand how angry and saddened Catholics can be when our elected officials attempt to reject the gospel of life as an optional sectarian issue rather than a sacred duty to defend human rights. It has nothing to do with imposing our Catholic faith on anyone. It is a matter of human rights.
We must recommit ourselves to working tirelessly to defeat abortion by changing hearts, serving women in difficult pregnancies and changing the conditions of injustice that lead people to the tragic choice to destroy their own children.
So often when I speak to our priests and deacons about their great responsibility to teach the truths of the Catholic faith, I try to argue that people will listen to us if they see that we are genuine in our lives of discipleship and whether they are convinced that we care about them.
The Holy Father calls us to dialogue with those who do not agree with our convictions. We must try to engage in a way that will bring more light and less heat to the conversation. Otherwise, the sad divisions that afflict our country and our Church will only deepen and become more intractable.
Today we are living through a very difficult time for the pro-life cause, as became evident at our Spring General Assembly of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. While each bishop may have a different opinion on how best to promote the defense of life in today’s environment, there is no doubt in my mind that they are all pro-life and want to do what is in their power. to protect the innocent. life and to communicate the social teaching of the Church to our Catholic people.
It’s hard to imagine anyone in the United States who doesn’t know the Catholic Church’s steadfast opposition to abortion. It will never change.
The current debate on communion for Catholic politicians supporting abortion shows a deep division among bishops on this subject, but not on abortion.
Unfortunately, when these types of divisions become too obvious, it hinders our ability to teach the gospel and to draw our communities closer to Christ and to each other.
The Eucharist is at the center of our life as a Church, and I hope that as the document is written we will find a way to reconcile the different perspectives on how to take a pastoral approach. with our Catholic politicians without undermining the centrality and importance of the Eucharist.
The Holy Father urges us to find ways to heal divisions and announce the Good News with boldness and joy.
Read Cardinal Seán’s full article here.
Mike Lewis is a writer and graphic designer from Maryland, having worked for many years in Catholic publishing. He is a husband, father of four and a lifelong Catholic. He is active in his parish and in his community. He is the founding editor of Where is Peter.
With our thanks to Where is Peter and Mike Lewis, where this article originally appeared.