Photo by Nicole Grimes
For the last month, the media have been filled with a conflict which is usually framed as a conflict between the Catholic bishops and the Obama Administration. Three of the Republican candidates picked this up and accused the Obama administration of waging war on the Catholic Church. We are certainly witnessing a clash in values on this issue between the Administration and the Roman Catholic moral traditions but calling the differences “a war” is a cheap political shot.
The Administration made a terrible political blunder and lately is trying to correct it. The issue is that new directives are demanding that all employers must provide insurance that would cover contraceptives and some form of abortion. The bishops are not the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is a faith community of approximately 65 million members divided into every imaginable subgroup, but what unifies most of them is the appreciation that the United States has always guaranteed them and all others freedom of religion. Millions of those Catholics are now very angry and unless the present impasse is adequately corrected, it will have a measurable effect on the November election.
An editorial of the National Catholic Reporter said it well. “Catholics of all stripes have voiced their deep concerns. The opposition to the decision runs across all the usual divides – left and right, conservative and liberal, orthodox and progressive – all have made it clear: we might disagree with our bishops and each other over the issue of contraception but this ruling seeks to force our church to violate its conscience on a serious matter. Some of the voices that spoke the strongest words and risked the most on advocating healthcare reform now see a threat to the church inherent in the roll out of the reform.”
I understand that.
Share on Facebook
Two months ago, I wrote in this space about the sad reality that the second largest religious community in the United States is made up of former Catholics! At that time, I mentioned that to the best of my knowledge nobody in the offices of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops was doing any kind of a professional study on this phenomena. I so much want to be wrong on that point but no one has challenged it.
Last year Gallup did a survey on this subject and found that Catholics who have attended church within the last seven days has dropped from 75% in 1955 to 45% in 2005. This is a startling statistic and should have Church leaders staying up late at night to see what could be done to turn the situation around. During that same period, Protestant Church goers went from 42% to 45%. In other words, both religious communities are about equal today on this issue, a dramatic change from a few years ago.
The cause of the Catholic decline are many and certainly the clergy sex abuse stories contributed mightily in the last ten years, but the decline had begun dramatically a few decades earlier. What is the reason? Let’s ask ourselves: is the Catholic Church perceived as a kind and loving institution that wants to make life in this valley of tears a little bit easier for all of us, or is it seen as a harsh, judgmental and vindictive entity that seems to thrive on driving people out the front doors?
In my opinion, “Catholicism of the streets” where priests, nuns and lay people work day-by-day helping to ease the pain is seen as that kind and loving institution, but ecclesiastical leadership, whether it be true or false, is often perceived in the latter vein as not listening, insensitive, unyielding, harsh and judgmental. Regretfully, it is the bishops and their activities that dominate the media.
I will come back to this in a couple of days.
Share on Facebook