The politicization of the U.S. church

In August, Bishop Thomas G. Doran of Rockford, Illinois, wrote a column in which he announced that the "seven 'sacraments' of [the Democrats'] secular culture are" -- in alphabetical order -- "abortion, buggery, contraception, divorce, euthanasia, feminism of the radical type, and genetic experimentation and mutilation." Carolyn, a Commonweal reader from Rockford, writes:

The politicization of the American Catholic church does seem to be picking up steam; I am concerned about it.

In the Midwest, it's everywhere. Hastert's campaign staff stands in the vestibule of my church with campaign literature. Catholics seem to be a big battleground for the political parties--and priests and others who should be more level-headed seem to be getting caught up. In other parishes Republican nominating petitions were circulated at the beginning and end of catechism classes. In Nov. 2004, one priest flat out told us we couldn't vote for Kerry, and issued a "my guy won" sermon after the election. And yes, Hastert's picture appears regularly in my friend's church bulletin. My friend is a lifelong Catholic, a senior Knights of Columbus member, a pillar of his community; his daughter was the first altar girl in his parish. And he and his family are being told by their own bishop they represent buggery and are a clear and present danger to society because they vote Democrat.

I had another friend come to me in tears after Doran's pronouncement. This stuff isn't benign, it tears apart people who make up the fabric of our parishes. This woman is a member of Pax Christi and has worked tirelessly for many years in the cause of peace and social justice. She makes prayer shawls, helps at the homeless shelter, and wants desperately to belong to a church that takes its mission seriously. What can I say to her?

Maybe I'm reading too much Bonhoeffer, but in my view the politicization of our church and its members is a danger, and something I wish our bishops and those who write about church affairs would take more seriously. Political oaths have no place in church.

Of course we all fall short. But the weak cries for unity and civility I hear are just not working. We need some real leadership from our Conference, or the Vatican, somewhere. We need some level-headed Catholicism. The days of Cardinal Bernardin seem like a million years ago.

Grant Gallicho joined Commonweal as an intern and was an associate editor for the magazine until 2015. 

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