The Vatican and U.S. Catholic Bishops have kicked the hornet’s nest of American Catholicism with their constant harping on the specks in the eyes of Catholic women, Sisters, Girl Scouts, justice-minded theologians, or universal healthcare etc, while blatantly ignoring the tremendous, Sequoia-sized timber protruding from their own eyes, namely the sexual abuse scandal and their criminal conspiracy to cover it up.
As the bishops launch the old “bait-and-switch” trying to by focus attention on their “Fortnight of Religious Freedom” (which in my humble opinion is naught much more than the public burning right-wing money in an era of skyrocketing joblessness and poverty), a group of Catholic lay leaders in Washington, D.C., have begun to call out the Vatican and the U.S. bishops’ “overreach” on issues of religious liberty.
We are deeply concerned that, under cover of a campaign for religious liberty, the provision of universal health care–a priority of Catholic social teaching from the early years of the last century–is being turned into a wedge issue in a highly-charged political environment and that our parish, and indeed the wider church, is in danger of being rent asunder by partisan politics. We, as a group, may have differing views as to the wisdom of the details of the Health and Human Services mandate, against which our archdiocese has now announced a lawsuit in federal court, but we are united in our concern that the bishops’ alarmist call to defend religious freedom has had the effect of shutting down discussion.
It is a step too far. We, the faithful, are in danger of becoming pawns and collateral damage in a standoff between our church and our government.
Eileen Zogby, one of the group members and a parishioner at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Parish in Washington, D.C., wrote this reflection and distributed it through Catholics United:
I have been an active member of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Washington, D.C., for more than 31 years. My faith is my bedrock; my parish is my home.That is why I am worried and deeply saddened to see partisan politics increasingly creeping into our faith community. A few months ago, I attended a meeting at our church when a fellow parishioner publicly expressed outrage that there were cars in the church parking lot that had “Obama bumper stickers.” The intensity of his tone and the fact that I had such a decal made me so uncomfortable that I left the meeting.
In this highly charged election season, the political attacks will only intensify. The “Fortnight for Freedom” being organized by the Bishops because of their disagreements with the Obama administration should not be brought into our sacred space. They are asking pastors to preach about “religious liberty” and to distribute political statements inside our bulletins.
But there’s hope. A group of parishioners at my church recently spoke to our pastor about our concerns and he is listening.
We wrote our pastor a letter and asked him to reconsider our parish’s participation in the “Fortnight for Freedom”. We met with him and expressed our concern that this type of political activity was inappropriate and would cause divisiveness in our community. Our parish had always been a welcoming place where people of all different opinions joined together in worship, heard the Gospel message of Christ and found a source of spiritual strength. We are grateful that our pastor listened and feel that he has taken our concerns seriously.
As the mother of five, and the grandmother of nine, I worry whether these future generations will see the Church as a place that proclaims the expansive message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a place where they will find the abundance of God that will inspire them to go out and serve others in God’s name. —Eileen Zogby
Read the full letter to the Blessed Sacrament’s pastor here. Here’s a snippet:
There is, however, another, very serious, threat to the well-being of millions of our fellow citizens. We are concerned that, under cover of a campaign for religious liberty, the bishops are jeopardizing the universal health insurance coverage that has long been a prime objective of Catholic social teaching.
We are also concerned that the “fortnight for freedom” and related efforts will be seen, in an election year, as acts of political partisanship and as such have the potential to divide our parish and the wider church.