1. Baptism: Means of Salvation (87)
2. Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
3. St Firmin 4. Christ in the Home (61)
5. Articles and notices
Here in Las Vegas there are two music festivals this weekend: Life is Beautiful and iHeart. I cannot vouch for the iHeart, but the Life is Beautiful festival which, as the Church is in the middle of it, I can comment on having witnessed the event. It seems sad that the people of this world want happiness yet irrationally seek it in what can never bring happiness: Evilness. The perverseness of misery is such that one can have a perverse happiness in enjoying evil. The art is not an expression of peacefulness, of truth, of joy and uplifting—it expresses the emptiness and soul except for the
frustration and hate or sadistic impurity within the heart. The music is not expressive of peacefulness, of truth, of joy and inspiring, but also turns to screaming and yelling the frustration, hate, despair, impureness and loss of desire to live a life of fulfillment. One may ask why do these people listen to such noise or look at such gross displays. It is because they are attracted to what expresses their mood. This is why depressed people listen to depressing music and joyful people listen to joyful music. If it is a joyful festivity and someone begins a depressing song it changes the people’s mood and they will object if they want to continue the joyfulness. But this also shows how it forms the moods of the youth if, already as children their siblings or parents are either displaying grotesque art or listening audibly to the self-destructive music. The thoughts are transformed from pure, happy and motivational to impure, frustrated and depressing. Under such influence and with such a desire to find that which corresponds to one’s thoughts, the scene here gathers the children of the world to engross themselves into themselves and validate their life and then these young adults feel that expressing their misery brings them this perverse happiness as they continue to live out their moods. For faithful Catholics we understand that control of our moods is necessary as they need to be directed toward living our faith and the obtainment of heaven—emotions and moods that take us away from this must be battled, for there is no denial that we suffer to some degree from our moods, some more than others but with God nothing is impossible and we cannot excuse ourselves. This is why Saint Paul says: Be ye filled with the holy Spirit, Speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God and the Father. (Eph. 5:18-20) Therefore, as Catholics, we want to see beautiful, inspirational artwork and music that brings joy and peace as it uplifts us to better thoughts.
As always, enjoy the readings and commentaries provided for your benefit. —The Editor
Means of Salvation
Sacrament of Baptism
Summary of Church Teaching Concerning Baptism
Having taken the time to present the Church’s teaching on Baptism, from Original Sin to the administration of the Sacrament, it would be well to summarize what is generally presented in the theology books regarding baptism, where the sources have already been provided, modeled on the Summa Theologica of Saint Thomas Aquinas (III, q. 66-71.) and the Roman Catechism or Catechism of the Council of Trent(II, 2). Drawing from the Roman Catechism, in the United States of America the Baltimore Catechism was decreed to be published at the Third Council of Baltimore (1884). It was first written by the priest, Father Januarius de Concilio at the request of the Council, as a well known and accepted author who also had experience as a parish priest. Bishop John Spalding of Peoria, Illinois, worked with de Concilio and later revised the Catechism into two parts. The Catechism was considered. Both de Concilio’s and Spalding’s versions were considered the standard text until the edition of Fr. Francis J. Connell was published by the Episcopal Committee for the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD, 1941), having received the approval of the Vatican and all the Bishops in the United States. There were and are many other Catechisms, but taking consideration of place, use and approbation, the Baltimore Catechism of Francis Connell will be the text referenced. For that of summarizing the doctrines of the theological books, again, several authors could be used (Pohle-Preuss, Tanqueray, Hunter, or Henry among others), but Ludwig Ott’sFundamentals of Catholic Dogma will be used for practical reasons.
Some of the wording may be unfamiliar, but this is provided to present the continuum of the faith and a source to confront those who would claim the Church has constantly evolved in its faith (neo-Modernists) or that certain doctrines (Baptism in desire or by blood) were not taught and believed until the beginning of the twentieth century.
AAS means Acta Apostolicae Sedis, or all official papal documents and Vatican (Roman curia pronouncements approved by the pope) documents since 1865.
AS is for Anathema sit, or Latin for anathema—which means a condemnation of such a statement because it is opposed to Church teaching.
CIC refers one to the 1917 Code of Canon Law.
The D in D 844 refers to Heinrich Denzinger’s Enchiridion symbolorum, definitionum et declarationum de rebus fidei et morum, a collection of the Church’s creeds, definitions and declarations on matters of faith and morals. The number, 844, refers to numbering the documents for easy reference.
PG refers to Migne’s collection of Greek Fathers, e.g., Basil and John Chrysostom.
PL refers to Migne’s collection of Latin Fathers, e.g., Ambrose and Augustine.
Where the Latin was not translated, the English translation was inserted by the author.
In Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Cork: Mercier Press, 1955 (pages 350-360), there is this following theological outline on Baptism:
- The Sacrament of Baptism
- 1. Concept of Baptism and Its Sacramental Nature
Baptism is that Sacrament in which man being washed with water in the name of the Three Divine Persons is spiritually re-born. The Roman Catechism, supported by John 3, 5, Tit. 3, 5 and Eph. 5, 26, gives the following definition: Baptismum esse sacramentum regenerationis per aquam in verbo [“The Sacrament of regeneration by water in the word.”] (II 2, 5).
- The Sacramental Nature of Baptism
Baptism is a true Sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ. (De fide.) D 844.
The institution of Baptism by Christ is disputed by modern Rationalism. According to Harnack, the Christian forgiveness of sins developed out of the penitential baptism of St. John. R. Reitzenstein attempted to prove that Christian Baptism is an imitation of the baptism of the Menanderians, an old Gnostic baptismal sect. On the contrary, however, what is more probable
is that this heretical baptism was influenced by the Christian Baptism. Pope Pius X rejected the teaching of the Modernists that the Christian community had introduced the necessity of Baptism by adopting from Judaism the rite of baptism as an outward sign of acceptance into the Christian communion, and associating therewith the obligation to lead a Christian life. D 2042.
- a) Baptism was already prefigured in the Old Covenant. Archetypes or Baptism are, according to the teaching of the Apostles and of the Fathers, the hovering of the Spirit of God over the primitive waters (cf. the baptismal consecration of water); the Flood (1 Peter 3, 20 et seq.); circumcision (Col. 2, 11 et seq.); the march through the Red Sea (1 Cor. 10, 2) and through the Jordan (Jos. 3, 14). A formal prophecy of Baptism is found in Ez. 36, 25: “I will pour upon you clean water and you shall be cleansed from all your filthiness: and I will cleanse you from all your idols.” Cf. Is. 1, 16 et seq.: 4, 4; Zach. 13, 1.
An immediate preparation for the Baptism of Christ was the Johannine baptism (Mt. 3, 11) which excited the recipients to penance and thus (ex opere operantis) was to effect the forgiveness of sins. The Council of Trent expressly declared, against the Reformers, that the Johannine baptism had not the same effective power as the Baptism of Christ. D 857. Cf. S. th. III 38, 3: Baptismus Ioannis gratiam non conferebat, sed solum ad gratiam praeparabat [The baptism of John did not confer grace, rather it was only a preparation for grace].
- b) Christ had Himself baptised by John in the Jordan (Mt. 3, 13 et seq.) and gave His disciples the mandate to administer Baptism (John 4, 2). He explained to Nicodemus the nature and the necessity of Baptism (John 3, 3-5), and before the Ascension gave His Apostles a universal mandate to baptize (Mt. 28, 19), John 3, 5: “Unless a man be born (Vulg.: re-born) of water and the Spirit (Vulg.: Holy Ghost), he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” (Mt. 28, 18: “All power is given to me in Heaven and in earth. 19. Going therefore, teach ye all nations: baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost ” (βαπτίζοντες αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ Πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ Υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος). Cf. Mk. 16, 15: “Go ye into the whole world and the preach Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned.”
The genuineness of Mt. 28, 19 is guaranteed by all the manuscripts and all the old versions. In the Didache c. 7., the passage is cited twice.
From the classical passages adduced in the context John 3, 5 and Mt. 28, 19 all the elements of the New Testament concept of Sacrament can be derived, Baptism appears as an outward sign of grace, consisting of ablution with water and the invocation of the Three Divine Persons; it effects inward grace, namely re-birth, and is ordained for all time by Christ.
- c) In the Primitive Church, the Apostles fulfilled the mandate to baptise (Acts 2, 38, 41; 8, 12 et seq.; 8, 36 et seq.; 9, 18; 10, 47 et seq.; 16, 15. 33; 18, 8; 19, 5; 1 Cor. 1, 14 et seq.). The oldest Church documents, such as the Didache (c. 7), the Letter to Barnabas (11, 11), Pastor Hermae (Sim. IX 16), St. Justin Martyr (Apol. 1, 61) attest the perpetuation of the apostolic tradition. The oldest monograph on Baptism was composed by Tertullian (about 200).
- The Actual Time of the Institution of Baptism
The exact time of the institution of Baptism cannot be established from Holy Writ. Theologians are divided in their opinions. Some assign as the time of institution the Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan (Petrus Lombardus, Sent. IV 3, 5; St. Thomas, S. th. III 66, 2; Cat. Rom. II 2, 20); others the conversation with Nicodemus (Peter Abelard; cf. St. Bernard of Clairvaux; Ep. 77), others the promulgation of the mandate of Baptism before the Ascension (Hugo of St. Victor, De sacr. II, 6, 4; Mag. Roland). The first two views are based on the improbable assumption, that the baptism of the Disciples was Christian sacramental Baptism. Against the first opinion we may note above all the silence of Holy Writ; against the second, the external circumstances, in which the words of Jesus on the necessity of Baptism for salvation were spoken. The probabilities are in favour of the occasion in Mt. 28, 19; still the mandate of Baptism does not exclude an earlier institution.
St. Bonaventure (Com. in loan. c. 3. n. 19) seeks to unify the various opinions in the following fashion. According to the matter (materialiter) Baptism was instituted when Christ was baptised; according to the form (formaliter) when He rose from the dead and gave the form (Mt. 28, 19); according to the effect (effective), when He suffered, for it received its power from the Passion; according to the purpose (finaliter), when He foretold its necessity and its benefit (John 3, 5).
(To be continued)
Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Benedict Baur, O.S.B.
- “Put on the new man Wherefore, putting away lying, speak ye the truth Be angry and sin not. Let not the sun go down on your anger. Give not place to the devil” (Epistle).
- “Be angry and sin not.” There lies in man both a justified and an unjustified anger: anger against himself, against men, against conditions in which he lives. Anger has its origin in one’s consciousness of having been injured. As far as it is directed against other persons, the anger is founded on the idea that others underestimate our worth or fail to show us the respect we feel is due to us. Anger results from the desire to revenge some real or supposed injury that has been inflicted on us. Anger easily combines with hate, at least when the desire for revenge appears reasonable and justified. In this case we do not desire that he who has done us harm be punished out of charity, or out of justice, or solicitude for his soul, but rather out of the evil desire to be avenged on the person who has harmed us. Anger often prompts us to act unjustly and to punish one who has not merited punishment, or to punish far above the proper measure someone who merited it. Anger and the desire of revenge and punishment are sins against meekness and mercy. They destroy the mutual peace of men and give rise to many sins against charity by causing unrest and rash judgments in words and works. With good reason the Epistle admonishes us: “Be angry and sin not.” Be not aroused to anger; cling not to anger; do not show your anger outwardly, but restrain and control your irritation. Never make a decision in anger; for at such a time reason is impaired and we cannot judge correctly. But, above all, when your anger is aroused, turn your eyes to God and seek to do His will. Seek God’s will in all the disagreeable things and all the bitter things that disturb you, for they come from the hand of God. If we consciously turn to God when disagreeable occasions threaten us, we shall easily overcome our anger.
“Blessed are the meek” (Matt. 5:4) does not mean that Christian meekness consists in our having deep distrust of ourself; nor does it mean that we should never assert ourselves, nor that we should allow others to treat us as they will. That is not the meekness of Christ; that is spinelessness. Indeed such a negative attitude that shows indifference even against evil has nothing to do with true Christian meekness. Christ’s meekness springs from strength, not from weakness. It is born of an ardent love for God and neighbor, and is an index of self-control. It flourishes in the silence of the soul possessed and blessed by God, in which the egoism of the spiteful and impatient man and the low instincts of fallen nature are replaced by a higher life. It is a new reaction to adversity. Christian meekness requires humanity, tenderness, sympathy, and love for our neighbor. But it follows an unmerciful logic in the use of all these emotions and cleans them of all self-love, pride, meanness, and servility. Christian meekness is the product of a thoughtful, conscious, vital heroism carried to its logical end. It seeks perfection and the divine union. Therefore it alone can use the strong, sublime virtue of meekness and tenderness as the law of its own perfection. Only Christian meekness can uncover the weakness which lies behind every outburst of anger and behind every ill-advised and spiteful word or deed. True Christian meekness is to be found only in the regenerated man who is created after the image of God in true justice and holiness.
- “Be angry and sin not.” Jesus Himself became angry at the sight of the buyers and sellers in the Temple. “And when He had made, as it were, a scourge of little cords, He drove them all out of the Temple, the sheep also and the oxen; and the money of the changers He poured out, and the tables He overthrew. And to them that sold doves He said: Take these things hence and make not the house of My Father a house of traffic” (John 2: 15 ff.). He is not indifferent to the desecration of the Temple. He cannot be. He opposes the evil with His very soul. Should not we also be angry at times and oppose evil with all our strength and with our whole soul? Yes, indeed! But we must not resort to force; we must not shed blood to avenge blood; we must not seek bitter revenge.
“Be angry and sin not.” Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good” (Rom. 12:21). True Christianity gains all its strength from within. It begins with a thorough self-reformation, with the establishment of the new man, and only then turns to the reform of others. Because we are not so regenerated, our anger is unholy and unfruitful.
When we have put on the new man, who is meek in the spirit of Christ, we become spiritually strong. Then we turn to the reform of others with firmness, yet without bitterness. Then only may we safely apply the outward means of correction to others without sacrificing principles, and yet with discretion. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the land.”
Almighty and merciful God, in Thy loving kindness shield us from all adversity, that being prepared in soul and body, we may with free minds perform the works that are Thine. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
SATURDAY OF THE NINETEENTH WEEK
“Speak ye the truth”
- The Judge shall come. Therefore, “Be ye renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth. Wherefore, putting away lying, speak ye the truth every man with his neighbour; for we are members one of another” (Epistle). We are, as it were, clothed by nature in a lie, by reason of original sin—a lie which like a garment covers us and makes us appear otherwise than we are. The new man, the one baptized, puts away this deceptive garment and speaks the truth.
- “Putting away lying.” “The mouth that belieth killeth the soul” (Wisd.1:11). “Lie not one to another” (Col. 3:9).
“Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile” (Ps. 33: 14). Such is the unchangeable law of God. And yet there is in the world, even among Christians, so much untruth, dishonesty, deception, and deceit. Dishonesty is the essence of the world’s maxims and of worldly actions. The so-called polish of the world is at best little else than an attempt to cover the inward man with a pleasing veneer, an attempt to veil the sense of words so as to make the right seem wrong and the wrong seem right. The spirit of the world is the prudence of the flesh. Its maxim is: Do what you like, but do not get caught in your wrongdoing. Keep up appearances, protect your honor. Faults you may commit, but do not admit them. You may sin and dishonor God and your conscience, but you should never through an honest confession seek to restore the honor of God and of your own self-respect.
The world thinks a man stupid and silly who would suppose that his outward actions should be a mirror of his heart. To the world such an attitude is only a new proof that Christianity is naive and outmoded, unfit to compete with the culture of our modern world. There is much conscious deception of one’s neighbor, parents, and superiors in the pursuit to achieve personal ambitions and aims. Such is the world; and even we have gone so far that we cannot bear the truth. If someone tries to point out’ a cheap deception, to tell us -the truth in a kind way, we condemn him for a lack of culture and delicacy. We who daily perform our devotions, partake in the Mass, and receive Holy Communion, have wandered far from the spirit of Christ. “Be ye renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man.”
“Speak ye the truth every man with his neighbor.” How simple and natural Christ was in His words and His conduct! Every child understood Him. The saints of the Church have imitated the example of Christ. They are characterized by a spirit of truth, righteousness, and simplicity. Righteousness and honesty of the heart are the root of all virtue in them, a criterion of perfection. A man may work miracles, he may be venerated as a saint; but if only once he is caught in an untruth or in an act of deceit, he is condemned by every serious man. “For the Holy Spirit. . . will flee from the deceitful” (Wisd. 1:5). “His will is in them that walk sincerely” (Prov. 11:20). Our God is a God of truth. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away” (Luke 21:33). Truth demands that our words be in conformity with our thoughts, that we speak exactly as we think, that we conform our actions to our mind. Our conduct must be the expression of our inner thoughts. “Speak ye the truth, . . . for we are members one of another.” The Christian community needs to respect the truth. What would result if we questioned every word of our neighbor, our brother in Christ? How could any community so exist? Misunderstandings would arise, confidence would be destroyed; anger, unjust prejudice, hate, and enmity will rule when we can no longer depend on the word of others. How essential to love and mutual understanding is truthfulness!
- God gives us the key of truth: “My eyes are ever towards the Lord” (Ps. 24: 15). As long as we adopt the attitude of the world, as long as we make use of deception, ignoring our conscience and neglecting our duties, as long as we still have in mind any object other than the will of God, we shall never walk the way of Christian truth. But the Epistle today exhorts us: “Put ye on the new man.”
“Thou hast commanded Thy commandments to be kept most diligently. Oh, that my ways may be directed to keep Thy justifications!” (Communion.) All our thoughts must be directed to the observing of God’s commandments. Uprightness and truth may at times be inconvenient, but if we look to God and observe His commandments, we will rise above all difficulties.
Almighty and merciful God, in Thy loving kindness shield us from all adversity, that being prepared in soul and body, we may with free minds perform the works that are Thine. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
25: ST FIRMINUS, BISHOP AND MARTYR (FOURTH CENTURY?)
ACCORDING to his “acts”, he was a native of Pampeluna, in Navarre, initiated in the Christian faith by St Honestus, a disciple of St Saturninus of Toulouse, and consecrated bishop of Toulouse by St Honoratus to preach the gospel in the remoter parts of Gaul. Being arrived at Amiens, Firminus there chose his residence and founded a church of faithful disciples. He received the crown of martyrdom in that city, where the bishop St Firminus II (who is honoured on September 1) built a church over his tomb, dedicated under the invocation of the Blessed Virgin, but now known as St Acheul’s. It is possible that Firminus I and Firminus II were only one man; they are both unheard of before the ninth century, the first known bishop of Amiens being Eulogius in the middle of the fourth century. Firminus was probably simply a missionary bishop in Gaul.
(Butler’s Lives of the Saints)
CHRIST IN THE HOME
BY RAOUL PLUS, S.J.
TRAINING IN SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY (4)
WE HAVE not done everything when we have given children the idea and the desire of going to the aid of the poor. There is something better to be done. That is to teach them gradually to try to prevent misery from invading the poor world. We shall never succeed completely in checking it, but what a beautiful work it is to try to spread more happiness among men!
As children grow and reach an age of keener perception and of deeper reflection show them that the problem involves:
—The relations of social classes with one another;
—The relations of nations toward one another.
Within a single country, there are those who have what they need, those who have more than they need, those who have not even the essentials.
Is it not fundamental to establish a condition in the world in which the fewest people possible lack the necessities of life or better in which the most people possible can attain a sufficient possession of the goods of the earth, the culture of the mind and the knowledge of supernatural riches?
To the degree in which we are impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel, we will desire that our brothers about us are not only cured of their wounds but preserved as far as they can be from possible wounds and established in a state of adequate human development, and of adequate divine development.
To dress a wound that has been infected is a good deed; to prevent a wound from being inflicted is a better deed. To prearrange indemnity for those who fall into unemployment is good; to strive for a status of work in which unemployment is prevented is better.
Now the conditions of modern living, the economic equipment of society, have thrown a whole section of society into a situation in which life has become very hard, in which “earning one’s living” has become a terrible problem.
Young boys and girls must be taught to realize these facts as they grow up. They must open their minds to an understanding of the social problems in their most agonizing aspects; they must prepare themselves to work to the best of their ability to counteract these evils.
When the social questions are concerned with relations between peoples of different nations, then how many problems crop up! Wars, even after treaties have been signed, leave hearts embittered. New difficulties arise. A very correct idea of patriotism is of capital importance!
Is periodic war between nations justifiable? Ought we not do everything in our power to constitute a state of peace in the world by an honest agreement between nations?
What procedures should we follow that these desirable understandings be effective?
What virtues must be developed in order to reconcile at one and the same time concern for national dignity, love of peace, brotherhood according to God.
How can we get different peoples to live together side by side without the grave interests of any group suffering even though each nationality remains deeply concerned for its own greatness?
A whole education on these points must be given.
THE FAMILY AND THE SCHOOL
To CHOOSE a school and then to help the school are two great duties of the family.
- To choose a school. It is quite clear that a Catholic family ought to choose a Catholic school. On every level of education when there is a choice between a Catholic school and a public school, Christian parents have the serious duty to prefer the one which speaks of God and Christ rather than the one which sins by omission.
It is a duty and a serious duty for many reasons:
First of all when Catholics practically bleed themselves to death financially to maintain their schools, not to profit by their sacrifice is to do them grave injustice.
Then, and this is serious, even when there need be no fear of the danger of immorality, the very fact of the mixed religions necessarily involved is a danger for the child’s faith since because of this variety, the education offered is severed from all allusion to things eternal. It is by a regrettable amputation that educators pretend to isolate in the human being, the merely human vocation and the supernatural vocation. We have not been created to be human beings pure and simple but divinized human beings. Educators can work in vain, secularization will accomplish nothing in changing this truth.
It is just that way. The same holds for the education the parents give to supplement that of the school; it is immeasurably harmful for the moral life of young minds and young hearts never to hear mentioned that which alone counts for life. That is, however, how so many generations have become accustomed to put life on one side and religion on the other as if they were separate water-tight compartments.
To count on the school alone, especially when it is neutral, to equip children adequately for life is a grave delusion.
Spencer, that English realist, once wrote:
“The one who would want to teach geometry by giving Latin lessons or who believed he could teach pupils to play the piano by drawing would be considered crazy. He would be just as reasonable as those who pretend to improve the moral sense by teaching grammar, chemistry or physics.”
An education, even a solid education that is purely secular is insufficient for the full development of the moral sense and the adequate formation of character.
- To help the school. After the school has been carefully chosen, the family still has the duty to help the teachers in their task. Therefore, parents, older brothers and sisters should:
—show new interest in the children’s studies not as they often do through vanity but through real interest in the children.
—should never contradict the disciplinary measures that teachers thought necessary; if a punishment has been inflicted at school or a schedule decided upon, the pupil’s family ought to support it and express themselves as being in accord with it.
—should, if necessity has obligated them to put a child in a secular school, supplement the regrettable deficiencies of the school by competent religious instructions; they must also exercise vigilance over the friendships and associations the children form.
They should exercise vigilance in this regard even when the school is of the highest moral standard; particularly careful must they be of the influences of doubtful companions the children might become acquainted with on their way to and from school. Along with the school and the home we must take account of the influence of the streets.
(To be continued)
The following article is a view that shows “Catholic” is just a name that is a remnant of what one’s ancestors were and nothing more—all a result of Vatican II and its authors.—The Editor.
Why Only Cafeteria Catholics Can Survive in American Politics
What Tim Kaine and Mike Pence say about the diluted identity of the American Church
[Picture shows] The Democratic vice-presidential candidate Tim Kaine speaks at a Unitarian Universalist Church in Virginia in July. Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP
There are lots of ways to be a Catholic public leader in the United States. But the only path that’s impossible, it seems, is to advocate policies that fully follow the Church’s teachings on Jesus. Politicians of both parties have to pick and choose their theology, sticking to party lines that defy the United States Conference on Catholic Bishops’ guide to faithful citizenship. For their part, lay Catholics have largely blended into the general electorate. Far from taking positions that are distinctive to their faith, many hold views that reflect their partisan allegiances.
Meanwhile, American politics has shaped the way Church leaders talk about their faith. While bishops theoretically adhere to the same set of social teachings, “there are people who become engaged on particular issues,” said Robert McElroy, the bishop of San Diego. “Some become very involved in the immigration question. Some become very involved on the question of abortion; others on poverty; others on the environment; and others on religious liberty.”
This is a relatively new dilemma for American Catholicism. Half a century ago, when John F. Kennedy ran for president of the United States, his fellow citizens feared he might prove more loyal to the bishop of Rome than the American people. The whispers of doubt were so widespread that he addressed them in a major 1960 speech on faith: “I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant, nor Jewish,” he said, “where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the pope.”
Today, it would seem ridiculous to accuse someone like Tim Kaine, who is Catholic and a nominee for vice president, or his rival Mike Pence, who was also brought up Catholic, of trying to give Pope Francis unseemly power over the White House. On the contrary, they might welcome the association: The pontiff is almost twice as popular in the United States as the Democratic or Republican presidential nominees. But while non-Catholic Americans are much more comfortable with the Church than they used to be, their changing attitudes say less about acceptance than assimilation. The price of Catholics’ admission into public life was a loss of distinctiveness. And the political records of this year’s two vice-presidential candidates—both of whom have openly defied the Church on different issues—illustrate why.
Tim Kaine has touted his Catholic identity on the presidential campaign trail, dropping Bible-verse burns and references to his Jesuit education. On Friday, he spoke in a conference call to a group of Catholic leaders around the country, talking up his faith background and Hillary Clinton’s commitment to empowering families and kids.
At times, though, he has directly challenged the Church’s positions, particularly on social issues. At a September dinner hosted by Human Rights Campaign, the LGBT-rights advocacy group, he said the Church will eventually come to accept same-sex marriage, just as he has; the comment prompted a rebuttal from his bishop. In 2015, as Pope Francis made his way to the United States, Kaine challenged him to ordain women, which is forbidden by the Church.
On other issues, Kaine has been more conflicted than defiant. During his time as governor, he presided over 11 prisoner executions, despite the Church’s strong opposition to the death penalty. In an interview with C-SPAN this summer, Kaine said the decision to approve the killings was “the hardest thing I had to do … It’s still painful to talk about.” He’s also shifted positions on abortion. When he first got into politics, he spoke openly about his “faith-based opposition to abortion.” Now, he’s largely supportive of pro-choice policies. While he says he personally agrees with the Hyde Amendment—a policy that prohibits federal funding for most abortion procedures—he understands that Clinton is explicitly calling for the repeal of Hyde, and he fully endorses her platform.
For these reasons, Catholic leaders have publicly questioned Kaine’s Catholicism, marking a radical change in how Catholics’ public lives are evaluated. “For most of our nation’s history, [for] Catholics in public office, the question was: Could they be American enough?” said Kathleen Sprows Cummings, an associate professor of history at the University of Notre Dame. Now, “the question centers on how Catholic the candidates are.”
This isn’t just a challenge for Democrats. Mike Pence now identifies as an evangelical, but he was raised in the Catholic Church; he met his wife at St. Thomas Aquinas, a parish in Indianapolis, and his grandfather was an Irish-Catholic immigrant. Yet Pence publicly sparred with Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin over Syrian refugees. When the local Catholic Charities agency agreed to help resettle a family last December, Pence asked Tobin to put a stop to it. The clergyman did not oblige. “For 40 years the Archdiocese … has welcomed people fleeing violence in various regions of the world,” he said in a statement. “This is an essential part of our identity as Catholic Christians and we will continue this life-saving tradition.”
“Political leaders … often don’t reflect the spectrum of Catholic social teaching to a great degree.”
Pence’s other positions similarly illustrate the challenges of being a Catholic Republican. The governor is a global-warming skeptic, in contrast to the environmentally conscious pope. While the Church has called for immigration reform “with a special emphasis on legalization,” Pence has struggled to reconcile his past moderate positions on immigration policy with the Trump campaign’s strongly anti-immigrant rhetoric. A Pence spokesman recently told me that all immigrants and refugees from countries and territories “compromised by terrorism” would be sent to “safe havens” instead of receiving welcome in the United States if Trump and Pence were elected in November.
“The central issues of Catholic social teaching that our society faces at the present moment really bifurcate the partisan divide in our nation,” said McElroy. “The Democratic Party emphasizes certain of those teachings and embodies them more fully, and the Republican Party embodies others. Because political leaders are forced into those partisan molds, particularly during partisan campaigns, they often don’t reflect the spectrum of Catholic social teaching to a great degree.”
This division extends to lay Catholics, as well. An estimated 66 percent of Catholic Republicans think it’s sinful to have an abortion, compared to 48 percent of Catholic Democrats; those are only slightly higher numbers in each party than among Americans generally. Thirty-one percent of Catholic Republicans and 57 percent of Catholic Democrats think the Church should recognize gay marriages; almost a year after same-sex marriage became legal in the United States, Catholics were on average more enthusiastic about the unions than other Americans, despite the Church’s staunch opposition. Only about half of Republican Catholics said there’s “solid evidence” that global warming exists in a June 2015 poll, compared to 85 percent of Catholic Democrats. And only 43 percent of Catholic Republicans said they agree with Pope Francis on immigration in 2015, compared to 54 percent of Catholic Democrats. The whole flock is openly defiant of their Church on the death penalty, with 63 percent of all Catholic Americans supporting the policy.
“Catholics have, in a sense, come out of their ghettos,” said Steve Schneck, the director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies at the Catholic University of America. “They engage in political life less tribally than they have in the past.”
Two factors in particular help explain this change. First, white Catholics are no longer newcomers in the United States. When waves of Irish and Italian immigrants arrived in the United States in the late 19th century, they realigned partisan politics, said Sprows Cummings—“specifically Irish Catholics and their overwhelming alliance with the Democratic Party.”
“Catholics have, in a sense, come out of their ghettos.”
Decades later, that long-standing coalition was deeply shaken. “U.S. Catholics have had no political home since around the Kennedy election,” Sprows Cummings said. “The emergence of abortion as a central issue … was part of a migration of some Catholics to the Republican Party.” (Others switched parties in the 19 60s over issues of race, crime, and civil rights.) Over time, the Democratic Party has become almost exclusively pro-choice: Even by 1992, the Catholic, pro-life U.S. Senator Bob Casey Sr. was shut out of speaking at Bill Clinton’s Democratic National Convention, allegedly because of his efforts to restrict abortion in Pennsylvania.
This sense of ideological homelessness is arguably responsible for the loss of distinctive Catholic identity among politicians and voters-and for division within the Church itself. “There’s almost a kind of crisis for the Catholic Church in America today associated with the polarization that comes from our political culture, that’s insinuated itself into our pews,” said Schneck. “What it is that’s Catholic is being lost as a result of the [politicized] … way in which individual Catholics think about their faith.”
Catholic clergy have been voicing their worry about this divisiveness in their flock-and their polity. At a speech at Notre Dame last Thursday, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said that, in all the time he has voted, “the major parties have never, at the same time, offered two such deeply flawed presidential candidates.” He believes “each candidate is very bad news for our country … One candidate, in the view of a lot of people, is a belligerent demagogue with an impulse-control problem. And the other, also in the view of a lot of people, is a criminal liar, uniquely rich in stale ideas and bad priorities.”
The consequences of this division won’t end in November. “My great fear is that no matter who wins this election, we’re going to be left with a very fractured nation and a new president who is greatly resented by almost one-half of the American people,” said McElroy.
Like the country, American Catholicism itself is going through period of great change: Once again, it’s becoming an immigrant Church. The share of Hispanic-American Catholics has risen to one-third over the past decade or so, according to Pew Research Center, and more Catholic Millennials are Hispanic than white.
These demographics are part of a larger pattern of growth in the U.S. Hispanic population-a change that will likely reconfigure old voting blocs. If Donald Trump’s rhetoric is any indication of what’s ahead from the Republican Party, the increasingly Hispanic Catholic population could once again line up as solidly Democratic. “I don’t think anyone can watch this [election] process and not be concerned,” said Mark Seitz, the bishop of El Paso, in an interview. “What I hear from my community here, which is over 80 percent Hispanic, and many of them relatively recent migrants, is certainly concern. It’s almost as though they can’t believe what they’re hearing.
“I was getting tired of the Catholic worship I was used to-big suburban parish, 45-minute mass because you had to empty the parking lot.”
On the other hand, demographic changes within the Church might also bring out a new spiritual language among Catholics-and, perhaps, a chance to reclaim Catholicism’s distinctive voice in American public life. The lives of the two vice-presidential candidates help explain why. Although Kaine and Pence made different choices about how to relate to the Church in their adult lives, their stories are similar in one distinctive way: Both sought out more charismatic, spiritual engagement with religion as they got older. For his part, Pence wanted what he called a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” Although he has said in interviews that he “[cherishes] my Catholic upbringing and the foundation that it poured in my faith,” he didn’t find that in the Church. He eventually gravitated toward evangelical Protestantism. At times, he has tried to split the difference, calling himself an “evangelical Catholic,” but he and his wife reportedly don’t go to mass-they often attend a megachurch in Indianapolis.
Kaine also searched for deeper spirituality as he got older, and he found it in the Latin American Catholic tradition while he was working with the Jesuits in Honduras during law school. “I was getting tired of the Catholic worship I was used to-big suburban parish, 45-minute mass because you had to empty the parking lot,” Kaine said in his June interview with C-SPAN. “Here, mass was 2. 5 hours long and it was so vibrant and chaotic and fun.” After Kaine returned stateside and met his future wife, Anne Holton, they joined St. Elizabeth’s Catholic Church in Richmond, which was then predominantly African American. He even did something very rm-Catholic: He joined the choir.
Kaine and Pence’s adult spiritual lives seem to symbolize the failings and the potential of the Catholic Church in American political life. While partisan divisions have arguably made Catholicism less vibrant, the faith also has a long history and tradition to draw from, including these more charismatic strains. The difficult part is fusing the two sides of the Catholic tradition back together, uniting social and economic issues in the “seamless garment” the Church teaches them to be.
“If we want a society in which public policy defends the life and dignity of all, supports marriage and family, promotes the common good, recognizes objective right and wrong and religious freedom, personally and institutionally, then of course the Church must be involved,” wrote Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, in a recent editorial for the Catholic Standard, an online publication of the Church. “Especially, the lay faithful must speak out and become ‘salt and light’ in our democracy.”Chaput said something similar in his speech at Notre Dame. “Christians are not of the world, but we’re most definitely in it,” he said. “Augustine would say that our home is the City of God, but we get there by passing through the City of Man. While we’re on the road, we have a duty
to leave the world better than we found it. One of the ways we do that, however imperfectly, is through politics.”
Augustine seems to have the right lesson for Catholics in American public life: There’s probably never going to be a this-worldly system that perfectly fits a Catholic interpretation of the gospel. So for all those Catholic voters whose views leave them feeling at odds with the American politics-pro-life Democrats, for example, or pro-immigration Republicans-a friendly bishop has some advice. “Imagine, as you’re standing in the voting booth, that Christ is beside you,” said McElroy. “And ask yourself, facing this candidate or that candidate, ‘Who do I think, in the end, Christ would be for?”‘
EMMA GREEN is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where she covers politics, policy, and religion.
Father Krier will be in Los Angeles on October 4 and San DiegoOctober 5. He will be in the Czech Republic October 8-9. He will be in Pahrump October 13 and Eureka on October 20.
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