Cardinal Francis George of Chicago released a letter today to President-elect Obama regarding his announced intention to sign into law the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). I don't have time to go into the ins and outs of FOCA in this space, but the long and the short of it is that it will attempt to remove any restrictions on abortion whatsoever. The restrictions removed would include parental notification, term limits, protection for born-alive infants, and existing limits on taxpayer contributions to funding abortion here and abroad.
You can read the Cardinal's letter here.
The bishops met Monday through Wednesday of this week in Washington, D.C. The stated purpose of the meeting was to discuss politicians, abortion, and the fact that slightly more than half of the Catholics in the United States voted for the most pro-abortion presidential candidate ever. There were some great moments (I've been paying attention). Auxiliary Bishop Robert Hermann of St. Louis was quoted as saying, "Any one of us here would consider it a privilege to die tomorrow--die tomorrow!--to bring about the end of abortion." Cardinal George's opening statements made it very clear that Catholics who claimed that the best way to reduce the frequency of abortion was to address economic concerns were seriously misguided.
But in the end, there was a lot of spark and flash and all we got was this letter.
There is nothing necessarily wrong with the letter, there's just not enough that is right in it. It comes off sounding like the bishops are coaching Obama on politics. He's a politician, and a very good one, and he doesn't need coaching. He's pretty aware of what people are thinking and doesn't need information on demographics and voter impressions.
What we need from the bishops is a vigorous statement defending unborn life and condemning those who support its wanton destruction. The Catholic population of the United States has been denied direction on the topic of abortion for the last 35 years. There is no sense in this country, among the majority of Catholics, that there is something gravely wrong with abortion. It is the duty of the bishops to rectify this situation. Do they really think that this will be accomplished by writing letters to the President advising him on legal and political matters?
There is only one thing, and exactly one thing, that the bishops can do at this point to remind the American people that abortion is murder. That is to decide, as a body, that those who publicly endorse laws that accelerate the destruction of human life are acting in gross violation of the Churches laws and teachings and to deny them participation in the celebration of the mass. In other words, they must be excommunicated.
This is not an unusual or atypical approach to guiding the people of God. It is the tool used by bishops for two thousand years to discipline and to guide those who stray.
It is the path of charity, for those who stray and even more so for those who would remain in the fold. It is the only thing that would register in the minds of the millions of Catholics in the United States the fact that there is a choice to be made.
I'm tired of expecting something from our bishops. Historically speaking, it is probably foolish to hope. I believe that it is representative that when Henry VIII revoked the spiritual authority of the Holy Father, only one or two bishops out of a couple hundred opposed him. And the fact is that people are not of a better quality today than they were in the sixteenth century. We're all alone on this one.
I wonder if the concern of bishops in many dioceses is making it as easy as possible for the laity in their diocese to be Catholic. Isn't that the job of an adminstrator? Wouldn't a lot of people be alienated if the Church required them to be counter-cultural?
I don't want it to be easy. Maybe that makes me harder to lead.
I remain a faithful Catholic and pray that I will die in the arms of Holy Mother Church. But I am left with profound confusion as to my place in this communion of confusion and facility. I didn't decide to follow Jesus because it was easy. I just didn't expect the leaders of His Church to make it so hard.