John F. Kennedy was the first presidential candidate to enunciate the idea that Catholicism might somehow be detrimental toward being a good American. In seeking to distance himself from the dark powers of Rome, he promised that he would always act “in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.”
Kennedy was roundly applauded for his stance, but in truth it should have sounded an alarm for all of America. His assertion suggested that the moral “dictates” of the Christian faith might somehow conflict with what was best for America; a nation that was founded on those very principles. He gave credence to the notion that one’s faith can be a mere cloak trotted out for political profit, or worse, to be shut up in private, never to see the light of day in public; especially if one is a Catholic. Indeed, the phrase, “I’m personally opposed to it, but…” has become a staple of liberal Catholic politicians across the fruited plains thanks to JFK.
Now, some might argue that the teachings of the Catholic Church are in opposition to those who founded this country, but if they are, it was not always so. Artificial birth control, for example, was forbidden among most Protestants until 1930. And we have seen all too clearly, the havoc wreaked upon this nation when the marital act is separated from procreation and used to objectify human beings. The idea that sexual relations should exist solely for pleasure outside the marriage bed has led to the breakup of the family unit and perversions such as the one the Church faced within the ranks of her own priesthood.
Many pro-life conservatives have issues with some teachings of the Church, like her positions against the death penalty and unjust war. Of course, these topics are open to the discretion of individual Catholics; but certain tenets of the faith are not. As Pope Benedict XVI explained, “There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.”
And here is where the rubber meets the road for Catholics like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi and their followers, to whom they are giving examples of grave moral error, or scandal, as it is known in the Church. And it seems that these scandalous men and women might finally drive good priests and bishops to publicly deny them the Holy Eucharist. Now, many good Catholics have been praying for just such a confrontation; but that’s not what the bishops want. They truly desire — in fact, it is their duty — to return lost sheep to the fold, if they can.
Yet, at the same time, the Church sees the withholding of Communion to correct grave error as an act of charity. As former St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke points out: “If a person who has been admonished persists in public mortal sin and attempts to receive Communion, the minister of the Eucharist has the obligation to deny it to him. Why? Above all, for the salvation of that person, preventing him from committing a sacrilege.”
In another example of fraternal correction, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver delivered this stinging rebuke to Pelosi for her claim that her position on abortion was the result of a long study of Church history:
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is a gifted public servant of strong convictions and many professional skills. Regrettably, knowledge of Catholic history and teaching does not seem to be one of them…. Abortion kills an unborn, developing human life. It is always gravely evil, and so are the evasions employed to justify it. Catholics who make excuses for it — whether they’re famous or not — fool only themselves and abuse the fidelity of those Catholics who do sincerely seek to follow the Gospel and live their Catholic faith.
Yet sadly, these and other admonitions seem to carry no weight with those who persist in identifying themselves with an organization whose membership is voluntary but whose precepts are obligatory. And so we are left with Catholics who flagrantly flaunt Church teaching and encourage others to do so, but fall all over themselves to genuflect before the Pope and kiss his ring.
It is interesting to note that in the last election, Methodist George W. Bush garnered more Catholic votes than did erstwhile altar boy John Kerry; a message that was no doubt lost on the Obama team who selected Joe Biden to deliver the goods this time around. It seems these voters had no problem reconciling Christian morality with the good of the country; and that their allegiance to their faith could and would never prevent that.