Short weeks ago, the political world was in welcome upheaval at the news that Barack Obama's latest healthcare fiat was being met with great opposition, particularly by the Catholic Church. His dictate that certain forms of contraception be covered by all employers regardless of their religious beliefs had folks from both right and left arrayed against him, outraged at his blatant disregard for the First Amendment's protection of religious liberty. But then a funny thing happened.
Rush Limbaugh, influential in liberal as well as conservative circles, read on air from a column written by Dr. Paul Rahe, a professor at Hillsdale College, who basically said that the Catholic Church deserved what it was getting, as a result of its "Pact with the Devil," made decades ago. The piece makes numerous contentions against the Church in America; most of them true and some of them not so true, with further inference by Rush, suggesting that the Church was indeed in league with the Democratic Party and therefore rightfully deserving of its treatment by Obama and friends. Sort of what I call the William Kennedy Smith defense: that girl walked into the bar with me; ergo, she deserved to be raped.
Have many U.S. bishops acquiesced to parts of the liberal agenda in the last 70 or so years? Unfortunately, they have, as have too many Americans. Yet to posit that the Church is in bed with modern Democrats is a quite a stretch. The Church is the only worldwide entity that stands athwart their main pillars: abortion, gay marriage, and euthanasia. Yet, as the Rahe view gains popularity, too many Americans have put the Church in their sights, instead of the Obama Administration.
The distressing part of all this is that many conservatives have now fallen prey to that most progressive of diseases: the "everybody knows it" syndrome. This dreadful malady takes hold when an appealing bit of personal opinion makes its way into the mainstream, then metastasizes into the realm of public acceptance. This nugget need not be factual, but it becomes an easy way to deal with issues that deserve deeper consideration.
Almost as disturbing as the "the Church deserves it" theory, is Dr. Rahe's claim that in 13 years of visiting parishes across the nation, he has only heard three anti-abortion sermons, and none on contraception, stating: "In the face of the sexual revolution, the bishops, priests, and nuns of the American Church have by and large fallen silent. In effect, they have abandoned the moral teaching of the Roman Catholic Church in order to articulate a defense of the administrative entitlements state and its progressive expansion."
Well, this surely comes as news to me and millions of other American Catholics. Living as I do, in Fairfield County, Connecticut, one of the most liberal enclaves of this nation, you'd think that I too would have trouble finding a parish that teaches the true Faith; that it would be impossible to find a spiritual home amongst the modern dwellings of Sodom and Gomorrah. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, within a few miles of my home, there are at least five parishes so orthodox in worship, that they would be fit to host a visit from Pope Benedict XVI himself; indeed, my own parish church was recently named a minor basilica where, during any given week, Dr. Rahe might hear a few pulpit-pounding homilies dealing with abortion and avail himself of one of the 15 Confession opportunities. And yes, there is always a line.
The truth is, there are very many faithful Catholics in this country who reject the liberal agenda: just look to the U.S. Supreme Court, or to the many recent converts to the faith among the conservative punditry, or to two of the four remaining presidential candidates. The problem is, those who call themselves Catholic yet publicly and repeatedly reject Church teaching are the ones who get all the ink.
But, as they say, the times, they are a-changin'. Newly named Cardinal Timothy Dolan -- a classmate of my Pastor at the Pontifical North American College in Rome -- the jocular prelate who is currently charming the pants off the liberal media, has been gifted with the nauseating sobriquet of "rock star," as they celebrate his outward joviality while ignoring his rock-hard commitment to the Church and her teachings; a mistake they will hopefully come to regret. He is only one of many of the Pope's Panzer division of new hierarchy of the Church who will lead her for many years to come.
So before folks decide in favor of an indictment against a fading breed of 1960s bishops as representative of the Church in America, they shouldn't fall prey to the liberal media tactic of blaming the victims. The Church, going forward, may indeed lose many, many members who wear their Catholicism like a piece of clothing to be changed and discarded at a whim, but those of the true Faith will continue to uphold and defend it, come what may.