Pope Benedict Shares Sober Remarks on American Culture with Local Bishops and Issues a Call to the Laity

On January 19,  Pope Benedict addressed bishops from the District of Columbia, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services, and the Virgin Islands. These U.S. bishops were in Rome for their periodic “ad limina” visits, which included meetings with the pope and Vatican officials, covering a wide range of pastoral matters.

His words provide some sober reflection for us. As is usually the case, I would like to provide excerpts of the Pope’s remarks from a CNS News Article and then present my own comments in red.

Pope Benedict XVI warned visiting U.S. bishops that “radical secularism” threatens the core values of American culture, and he called on the church in America, including politicians and other laypeople, to render “public moral witness” on crucial social issues.

This will call for greater courage and hard work than is evident in many clergy and laity in the Church today. Too often the instinct is to play it safe. And when we are outspoken it is only in the safety of like-minded family and friends. Public moral witness must begin with clergy but it cannot end there. Also public moral witness requires a deep commitment in terms of time and even money.

Increasingly for clergy, the pulpit cannot be a place for abstractions and generalities like “do good, avoid evil.” We have to speak clearly to the issues of our day and be willing to name them. Clear assessments like sin, mortal sin, hell, judgment, right, wrong, good, and evil, must once again find a place in our homilies. Further, we must name issues clearly, abortion, homosexual acts, fornication, contraception, neglect of the poor, greed, corruption and so forth. Ambiguity must give way to clarity. But clarity must also reflect charity. We are to speak the truth in love.

Parents too and every level of the laity must give clear moral witness to their children. Parents must be willing to raise and discipline their children and instruct them clearly in the faith and moral life. It is not enough to say what is taught, but good teaching must also address why. This takes courage and the sacrifice of time.

Catholics in general must be far more willing to enter the public square without apology or fear, and be willing to speak the truth in love. In so doing we must be willing to accept that we will be misquoted, misunderstood and ridiculed. We must accept that we will get it with both barrels and learn that, just because people are angry with us, does not mean we did anything wrong.

Opening with a dire assessment of the state of American society, the pope told the bishops that “powerful new cultural currents” have worn away the country’s traditional moral consensus, which was originally based on religious faith as well as ethical principles derived from natural law.

Yes, at only fifty years of age, I can remember a time when there was a general consensus on the basic moral issues. We had surely been wrong on race, but on most other matters there was a wide consensus that divorce, contraception, abortion, fornication, homosexual acts, disobedience and disrespect for authority by children, loud and obnoxious behavior, public lewdness, immodesty, and bad language were all wrong. I do not say we all lived these values perfectly in every way. But they were agreed upon benchmarks and were largely undisputed.

Moral consensus began to break down with the sexual revolution and anti-authority revolution of the late sixties. But that revolt was largely centered on the college campuses, and took a little longer to reach the suburbs. In short order however, we came to where we are today, largely devoid of wide consensus on the moral issues.

It is amazing how quickly the powerful cultural currents swept away the consensus and the religious practice that was at the heart of it. As I child I remember standing room only in the Churches. Now, there’s a lot of empty pews. It’s happened so fast. And yet not so fast that we cannot share some of the blame for our slow and rather inept response. While the world went crazy, the Church was largely inwardly focused, moving furniture, tuning guitars, and debating about authority and who could be ordained etc. While we squabbled, the West burned.

The cultural revolution happened on our watch and we share the blame.

Whether they claim the authority of science or democracy, the pope said, militant secularists seek to stifle the Church’s proclamation of these “unchanging moral truths.” Such a movement inevitably leads to the prevalence of “reductionist and totalitarian readings of the human person and the nature of society.” The pope drew an opposition between current “notions of freedom detached from moral truth” and Catholicism’s “rational perspective” on morality, founded on the conviction that the “cosmos is possessed of an inner logic accessible to human reasoning.” Using the “language” of natural law, he said, the Church should promote social justice by “proposing rational arguments in public square.”

Yes, the Pope has spoken before about the tyranny of relativism. For if there can be no appeal to reason, to shared values, and a reasonable sense of right and wrong, the only way to win through is not by an appeal to the intellect or heart, but, rather, by shouting the loudest, having the most political power and money. In a relativist setting one cannot appeal to reason to win an opponent, one must simply over-power them. This ushers in an increasing totalitarianism, where those with the most money, power and influence win.

The concept of natural law is dismissed and the beautiful and ancient appreciation that the cosmos is possessed of an inner logic accessible to human reason, which is meant to teach and guide us, is lost. Devoid of this common and agreed upon font, competing groups seek increasing to impose competing visions by the raw use of government power, rather than by an appeal to reason. Power and impostion, not truth or reason, is the basis of many modern secular movements.

In effect, the Pope advises that we must simply stay the course and continue to appeal to natural law and propose rational arguments in the public square. While I do not disagree with the Pope,  I might add that we are bound to experience some futility in this approach,  if we are not willing to engage in some serious prayer and fasting, begging for a miracle, that the rock hard soil of this culture will finally soften to accept the seed of the word. Arguments, though multiplied in number, have proven ineffective in these unreasonable and stubborn times.  Prayer, fasting and the witness of changed and transformed lives, has simply got to take a higher priority for the Church.

Coming at the start of an election year, Pope Benedict’s words were clearly relevant to American politics, a connection he made explicit by mentioning threats to “that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion.” In response to such threats, Pope Benedict said, the church requires an “engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity” with the courage and critical skills to articulate the “Christian vision of man and society.” He said that the education of Catholic laypeople is essential to the “New Evangelization,” an initiative that he has made a priority of his pontificate.

OK, pay attention. The Pope is saying the laity are key, for it is to the Laity that the transformation of the temporal order is entrusted. It’s easy to criticize bishops and clergy, and lots of ink has been spilled right here at this blog of how the bishop’s botch this or that, or have the wrong priorities, or have done enough, or haven’t said enough, etc., etc. Fine, but where are the laity? Well, they’re probably in a sanctuary somewhere distributing communion. The fact is that we have done a terrible job in ushering in a chief aspect of the Vision of the Second Vatican Council: that of bringing forth strong lay leadership specifically focused on the renewal of the temporal order. It’s just so easy to say, “Father ought to do/say something” or “The Bishop’s aren’t doing enough.” But in the end, nothing prevents the lay faithful from organizing and marching forth as leaven in this sickened culture. It is true that the laity should receive formation, and must stick to Catholic principles to retain the name “Catholic.” But, and I’ll just say it plain, there’s too much pew sitting going on. Saying “The bishops should do this or say that” too easily amounts to a cop out.

I’ll boast a little and say that in my parish we are intentional about training lay leaders to engage the temporal order. And I’ve got some good folks stepping up to engage the city around affordable housing, job creation, budget priorities, neighborhood reinvestment, corporate welfare and crony-capitalism where the baseball owners and  convention center gets 100 million subsidy and neighborhood reinvestment gets cut to zero.

I know some of you will say, “Gee Father, sounds fairly left-wing.” OK but here comes the challenge. Where’s the “right-wing” version of this? The “left” has been doing this kind of work for decades. But what of the right? OK, there’s the March for Life, and we, in my parish,  send folks and pass out the literature, and do 40 Days for life. But what else? Where were the trained leaders and organization on the “right” when it came time to oppose Gay marriage in DC? The diocese sent me down to preach on the dais at an emergency rally in opposition to the Gay Marriage Ammendment. And frankly, except for a few parishioners who graciously accompanied me at the last minute, I was all by myself. There were no Catholic organizations that showed up for the large rally. OK, I know, it’s all the clergy’s fault. “If only Father had said something at Mass…” But honestly the large group that gathered there didn’t depend on a pulpit announcement. They were part of a network of Black Protestant Churches connected by e-mail and old fashioned phone calls and they had been organized and were following the issue. Where is the Catholic equivalent of this standing army? We do reasonably well with pro-life, but we are poor when it comes to the other cultural issues.

And believe me, more is needed than to go down and shake signs in front of the state capital on a given night and go home. It requires daily work, lay people coming together meeting with legislators, and crafting legislation on cultural matters. There must be the forming of “think tanks” to inform and influence the culture, publish position papers, build political and social power and influence, file amicus briefs, and even inform and seek to influence the bishops where necessary and inspire action. But where is all this? About the only thing I can think of is the Catholic League, and their out there! But so much more is needed.

It’s so easy to blame the bishops and sneer at the “useless” clergy (as one on my readers recently opined). But really what is the game plan folks? The laity don’t have to wait for the clergy to found something or start it. The renewal of the temporal order is the primary work of the laity.

For the record, I am trying to bring some more conservative folks I know together, and jump start a kind of Catholic think tank devoted to public policy, a kind of more local Washington-based group devoted to the moral and cultural issues as well as the social ones. But honestly it shouldn’t have to wait for a clergyman to start it. My hope it to jump start things and then step back, for the temporal order belongs to the laity.

Do you see what the Pope is saying? We have a battle on our hands and troops are needed. If you find a good fight, get in it! This is a good fight, a fight for the Lord and for the health and future of our culture which we love and want to see restored.

Now let’s see if the combox fills up with complaints about clergy and the endless debate about what to do with Pro-Abort Politicians, or if there will be soldiers with ideas and visions ready to step up for battle and restore the temporal order for the Lord.

Sorry to be a little tough, dear readers, but, as you might notice, I’m trying to pivot the conversation away a bit from the usual focus: There’s plenty to criticize the clergy for, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel, but let’s not forget the essential role of the laity. What’s already going out there that’s good? What can be built on? What needs to be started? Who is willing to begin?

64 Replies to “Pope Benedict Shares Sober Remarks on American Culture with Local Bishops and Issues a Call to the Laity”

  1. very interesting and on the mark. i recently reread the vatican II document on the role of the laity. It is simple, clear, straightforward and easy to understand. two things stand out to me – husband and wife as domestic church setting the standard of conduct in the family and the neighborhood and the call for all to nurture vocations, both sacred (priest, deacon, professed virgins, women religious, brothers) and other vocations (MDs. lawyers, school teachers) where we are also called to live out our baptismal roles as priest, prophet and king. Our problem, a pastor once told me is “the separation of church and state” in that we need to bring what we get in church into the daily affairs of state.

  2. Sorry, Monsignor, no complaints about clergy or Pro-Abort Politicians. Just a complaint about journalists’ use of paraphrase of the Pope’s remarks to suggest that he said something that he did not say. Sorry again to go off on this tangent, but better that we just read the Pope’s teaching for ourselves, without recourse to media gatekeepers who have their own agenda. Original source material is always to be preferred.

    Most egregious is this — Coming at the start of an election year, Pope Benedict’s words were clearly relevant to American politics, a connection he made explicit by mentioning threats to “that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion.”
    In truth, the Pope did not refer at all to electoral politics. What is true is that the Obama Administration and its supporters have tried to tar the Church as merely another political actor engaged in partisan politics, so as to try to delegitimize the Church. And the Pope did warn about this, about the need “to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate.”

    Using the “language” of natural law, he said, the Church should promote social justice by “proposing rational arguments in public square.”
    Now, those words “social justice” have a specific meaning, especially coming from a Catholic news agency. The problem is that, again, the Pope did not say what is attributed to him; he did not in any way emphasis using these rational arguments to promote social justice. What he did talk about was freedom and moral truth, “She thus proposes her moral teaching as a message not of constraint but of liberation, and as the basis for building a secure future. The Church’s witness, then, is of its nature public: she seeks to convince by proposing rational arguments in the public square. The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation.”

    As for think tanks of Catholics, or think tanks with substantial Catholic staff, to inform and influence — they are out there already. Have been for a while. Public policy groups, law firms, lobbyists, etc. Lots of people playing the Washington game. And the politicians treat it like a game. And the Obama crowd is all too happy to treat the USCCB as just another special interest group, just another political player.

    What is needed is people actually complying with their Confirmation duty to actively participate in the mission of the Church to be a witness of Christ to the world (or at least understanding that they have this obligation to use once in a while the graces of the Holy Spirit that they received at Confirmation). As such —
    What is needed is resolve. What is needed is fortitude. What is needed is to be a witness, in Greek martyr. What is needed is a few people willing to fulfill our vocation to beatitude — to hunger for righteousness and be willing to suffer persecution.
    What is needed are a few Thomas Mores, a few John Fishers, a few Clemens August von Galens. What is needed are people who will say NO to evil, especially the evil of oppressive tyrannical government, people who will actively resist evil rather than cooperate with it or merely go along with it.

    The other side often tries a gotcha argument with asking if we really want to put doctors who kill innocent babies in jail? Well, do King Henry Obama or Kathleen Cromwell, wannabe pope, really want to put bishops and priests in jail? Do they really want to go around seizing Church assets and properties when our shepherds act like the Successors to the Apostles that they are and refuse to comply?

    Will there be other disciples, other witnesses, other martyrs to join them?

    1. A thoughtful warning, Bender. My first marriage, decades ago, was to a Catholic** and I was required to ‘not interfere with her practice of her religion’. The main part of this, of course, was in abstaining from artificial birth control, which we obeyed. In the course of my investigation of Catholic teachings I encountered many RC folks who thought ‘the American Bishops produced a document that allowed the pill’. They got this erroneous info mostly from word of mouth and too-casual reading of press reports on birth control.
      In following the current flap one thought has occurred to me, and it comes from Peter himself: “But Peter and the apostles answering, said: We ought to obey God rather than men.” The Christians did so, many suffered for this, and “the way” prospered. Isnt’ this course of action still a good one? IOW who cares what Pres. Obama says?

      I do find part of your post to be disturbing: “asking if we really want to put doctors who kill innocent babies in jail?” The blog entry opens: “On January 19, Pope Benedict addressed bishops from the District of Columbia, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, >the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services<, and the Virgin Islands."
      Like you, I treat the fetus as a human being. ("My bone is not hidden from you, which you have made in secret: and my substance in the lower parts of the earth. Your eyes did see my imperfect being, and in your book all shall be written: days shall be formed, and no one in them." Ps 139) Is it the Church's view that Catholics can join the military to kill other humans at the command of this same Pres. Obama? ("Commader-in-Chief of the Armed Forces") It seems so, if the Church has an "Archdiocese" whose mission is to furnish Catholic chaplains to soldiers.
      What is your view on this?

      ** I don't blame the Church for the subsequent failure of the marriage.

      1. Is it the Church’s view that Catholics can join the military to kill other humans at the command of this same Pres. Obama?

        A Catholic can certainly in all good conscience join the military for the legitimate defense of the country and citizens, in the protection of life, under “just war” principles. Indeed, all three of the priests at my parish have connections to the military (one retired Marine, one Army enlistee, one civilian defense worker). Certainly some of what Commander-in-Chief Obama has done does fall within the realm of legitimate defense, but some of it also is highly questionable (e.g. the reported issuance of death warrants).

      2. Maybe this is only a partial reply to your question Doug, but people have a right to defend their families and their country. Soldiers go to war to defeat the enemy who is not an innocent victim as the child in the womb always is, without exception.
        Although innocent civilians do get killed in war, they are not the target.
        The primary responsibility of going to war is that of the country’s leaders and they will be held accountable. Governments will be held accountable by God. Though in a democracy in the meantime, voters can also hold leaders accountable by making their wishes known and if necessary kicking them out in the next election,
        You may remember that when George Bush had the army invade Iraq Pope John Paul begged him not to go to war, and he was ignored. By having an “Archdiocese of the military” the Church is carrying out her mission to minister to her flock, but the decision to go to war is that of Governments not that of the Church.

  3. I agree whole heartedly with this blog entry, Monsignor. All Catholics, clery and laity need to join the fight. Yes, clergy and laity have failed to instill Catholic values into society. The roots of our current faith crisis stretches back at least 60-70 years when liberal theologians planted their devious seeds in the Church. But that was then and this is now. Everyone has the duty to learn and defend the Catholic faith. Clergy, lead from the front and be frank about the seriousness of sin and it’s real consequences. Yes, hell does exist and many will fall into it if we continue on our ruinous path. Please can the jokes in homilies. We are at Mass to hear from our priests how our souls can be saved, not to be entertained. Mass is not the Improv. Please Bishops and priests, be generous in offering the Mass in Latin. It is now 5 years since Summorum Pontificum. Let our generation behold how beautiful and reverent this form of Mass is. Be bold and courageous in defending the Faith. Many saints were martyred doing this. Encourage confession and fasting. Laity, those who are parents, it is your duty to teach the Catholic faith to your children. Pray with them, teach them the rosary, the lives of the saints, Church history, etc. Where will our next priests and sisters and brothers come from, if not from homes where the Catholic faith is taught and cherished? Those of us who are single, live chaste lives. Be proud of living in purity. Join a ministry in your parish. Engage in discussion with our relatives who have become lapse Catholics. Pray for their return to the Holy Church. And those who are in the Church, enough of the rebellion against Church teachings. Stop bringing scandal to the Church Militant. If you don’t agree with the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church, then leave. Either you are Catholic and profess belief in Christ Jesus and all that His Church has taught through the ages or you don’t and you have become Protestant. The time for all the 60’s era mushiness and silliness and irreverence has to come to an end. It’s time to be serious about our Catholic faith. If we don’t act now, we will all be to blame when the Church Militant is reduced to a remnant and Mass is once again celebrated in the catacombs. Let us pray for one another and pray for Our Blessed Mother’s intercession. +JMJ+

    1. Well said! I especially agree with “can the jokes at Mass” and putting an end to the silliness, irreverance and mushiness plague. Time is of the essence. We need meat = the Truth.

  4. Msgr,

    Hear hear! Yes us laity should start acting like the Church Militant we are called. Most don’t pray anymore yet complain a lot most think of God for one hr a week then go and act the opposite of what He asks us to do the rest of the time all the while being ‘tolerant’ to everything to ‘fit in’ (I was all this).

    Things like your blog, catholic answers radio, realtcatholictv, & other blogs (after my brother put his you know what up my butt & challenged me to study the faith) have helped turn that light on. There is an army out there though small but as Sam Adams said ‘it doesn’t take a majority but a tireless minority willing to set brush fires in people’s minds” we can set brush fires and those fires will grow.

    What do you think of these 2 posts from yesterday?


    People see us in the world more than priests & religious so when we are out in the world doing whatever we should act like we follow Our Blessed Lord in all we do, we don’t submit to ‘tolerance’ of evil or secular society, we stand up for TRUTH at all costs no matter what (for if a man doesn’t stand for something he stands for nothing) & know why we are who we are.

  5. Bless you Father; you truly have God’s graces. You are in my daily rosary intentions.

    I’m reminded of Chesterton when The Times asked several authors to write essays on the subject “What’s Wrong with the World?” Chesterton answered succinctly:
    Dear Sirs,
    I am.
    Sincerely yours,
    G. K. Chesterton

    Regarding you call to action for laity, may I humbly submit a consideration paraphrased from C.S. Lewis – Don’t confuse the means with the ends. God is the ends; everything you list are means.

    “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph.” – Our Lady of Fatima, 1917

    1. Our Lady too promised that the Church would suffer many persecutions. Do not think that Fatima is a message from yesterday — it is ever timely. Still, many will fall away (if Jesus couldn’t convince large numbers of people when He spoke, there will be many who will not listen to us), but those who remain firm during the time of distress will have their robes made white by the Blood of the Lamb.

      Now is the time. Is the Church still the Rock? All those who insist on “We are Church,” will you be a passive bystander to evil or will you do something about it, will you be a rock against the waves of evil or are you a castle made of sand?

  6. Another thing that is CRUCIAL in these times is for us all to see things as they really are, especially the bishops and priests.

    I know that the bishops and priests prefer to give others the benefit of the doubt. Out of an abundance of charity, they prefer to assume the best in people rather than assuming the worst. But there comes a time when you must recognize the evil that is before you and recognize evildoers who are before you. We cannot “work with” persecutors, we cannot negotiate with persecutors, we can only recognize them as persecutors and seek to stop them, suffering under them in the meantime. And we cannot form partnerships with Caesar and expect that Caesar will not act like Caesar, especially since once in a while a Nero is going to come along. And when Nero did come along, all of those peaceful Apostles and disciples saw him for who he was, and they were not shy about calling him the beast that he was.

    Thankfully, it appears that many are now, in fact, seeing clearly, seeing the anti-Catholic, pro-abortion, pro-contraception crowd, now led by Obama and Sebilius, for who they are. Even a well known “progressive” like Cardinal Roger Mahony has publicly recognized that Obama is acting like Henry VIII, that it is increasingly clear that Obama is “knowingly and intentionally trampling upon and reversing our Constitutional rights.”

    To reiterate — Obama, et al. are warring against the Church on purpose. The pro-abortion, pro-contraception crowd, together with the economic leftists, have long seen the Catholic Church as The Enemy. From Poland to the Soviet Union to England to China to Vietnam to Cuba to countless other places, the Church is the enemy.

    We need to see. We need to see what is true. To say “peace, peace” when there is no peace is not a virtue, but a grievous wrong. (Jer. 6:14-15) To say, “we have a compromise, we have an accomodation” when what we have is an even more insidious evil is to facilitate such evil. We need watchmen to cry out, we need true peacemakers, those who will stand firm against the onslaught.

    Martin Luther King expressly understood that the moderate who pushes a false peace is as much an obstruction to liberty and justice as is the Klansman. America was established by people who fled the religious tryanny of the English kings and queen. And our founders understood the need to see and the need to resist, rather than delude themselves with a false peace, “There are cases which cannot be overdone by language, and this is one. There are persons, too, who see not the full extent of the evil which threatens them; they solace themselves with hopes that the enemy, if he succeed, will be merciful. It is the madness of folly, to expect mercy from those who have refused to do justice; and even mercy, where conquest is the object, is only a trick of war; the cunning of the fox is as murderous as the violence of the wolf, and we ought to guard equally against both.” T. Paine, The Crisis

  7. I believe there a lot of things that can be done if we are able to help people to understand what and why the Church teaches what it does. We have to be a lot smarter in terms of resource utilization and sharing.

    There have been some wonderful treasures introduced in the past year that can definitely help to “jump start” a community of action-oriented “ambassadors” for Christ and his Church. The new DVD series and study program, “Catholicism”, by Father Robert Barron, is absolutely outstanding. I have lent my DVDs to various people in our condo building – of all/none religious persuasions – who have been amazed at what they learned about the Catholic faith. Everyone should have the opportunity to see this series. All the parishes in our town are offering opportunities to see/study the series (great leader and student guides).

    Last week, we had a powerful “Day of Enrichment” which drew a crowd of about 200 people – both men and women. Brian Gail, author of the trilogy “Fatherless”, “Motherless” and “Childless”, gave a presentation that truly helped people “get it” in terms of the criticality of the times. He speaks the truth boldly, but in love.

    Brian Gail was followed by a couple, Carrie and Rick Huebner, who gave a personal testimonial about their experiences regarding contraception and in vitro fertilization versus Natural Family Planning (NFP) and NaPro Technology. For many of the 200 people, this was the first time they had ever heard about this alternative.

    During the question and answer period (Brian, Carrie and Rick, and the pastor, Father John Pasquini were on the panel), a gentleman stood up and said that in all his 74 years, he had never heard this much truth at one time. So much was “new news” to so many.

    In addition to the speakers, there were also resources available to browse and to buy – so that people could continue the momentum and be able to share what they had learned with others. There was a Lighthouse Catholic Media table, a Word on Fire Ministries table (Catholicism Series and other study programs), John Paul II’s Theology of the Body materials from several publishing houses (Ignatius, Ascension, Pauline), and there were terrific booklets from Ignatius from the Catholic Truth Society which included a beautifully done booklet on homosexuality (along with another booklet from Catholic Medical Society. There were also DVDs about various saints, the play by JPII, “The Jeweler’s Shop”, etc.

    People received folders containing a National Catholic Register newspaper, a Voices Magazine from Women for Faith and Family which contained Pope Benedict XVI’s new letter on faith which talks about the need for faith formation, a brochure from the Cardinal Newman Society – “How to Select a Catholic College”, a brochure for Mount Royal Academy and handouts of articles from Jenn Giroux at Renew America.

    Also, people received a handout with book recommendations including those by Brian Gail, Michael O’Brien, Mary Healy, Robert Hugh Benson, Erika Bachiochi, Michael Waldstein, etc. And finally, a list of recommended Catholic websites for lifelong learning, for the young, singles, engaged, married; for periodicals (e.g., Catholic World Report, Lay Witness, Catholic Answers, Voices,etc; for Church websites; for groups such as mothers and fathers, and specialist groups like medical and legal and executive; pro-life; for spirituality – and more.

    There is a lot of “Catholic” information out there that can give misinformation and disinformation. People deserve to have someone at least present some resources that represent the real teachings of the Church versus those resources that can and have led to many of the problems we have now.

    I did not mean to go on so long but time is of the essence. It is great to have multi-year programs leading to some degree or certification. Those are needed for some people but the majority are living in the world and need the knowledge and information NOW to be able not only to understand the whats and whys of their faith, but also to know where to go for help. I think it would be very helpful for every city or town to have a “Resource Center” for all the parishes in the area. And we need to have someone like Robert George from Princeton to be able to teach (via DVD?) the skill of critical thinking which is badly needed to survive in this relativistic time of turmoil.

  8. I am a lay person and have been heavily engaged independent from the clergy. I have supported political candidates, spoke on multiple times to joint sessions of my state legislature, lectured thorughout my diocese to lay groups, I even was in a brief debate a while back on a morning TV show, All of this about pro-life issues. As a teacher of medical residents, I have discussed medical moral issues ( and even morality in general) when the opportunity presented itself with the students and medical house staff I teach, when appropriate. I have also given talks to groups of health professionals. So I do these things and continue to do them. I do not say any of this because of think it makes me special, frankly I do them because I feel compelled, so repulsive is the current culture of death. I would most of the time prefer it bothered me less, I would sleep better. I mention all of this not to claim any special credit, but as to someone who is very unhappy with the Bishops I am addressing your comment about its not up to “us” the clergy but “you” ( that is the laity). Of course we can all do better, but honestly I do not see myself as a slouch. Some help might be nice however

    I can try to convince people, all very well and good, but the Clergy, and particularly the Bishops, have a degree of authority I lack in terms of calling something a sin, and telling people if you do this you are co-operating with immorality. Right now the current administration is the most pro-abortion in history, and is currently engaged in what the Bishops rightly claim is an assault on the religous freedom of the Church. frankly it is worse than that. The recent contraception/abortifacient mandate is an assault on every faithful Catholic physician in private practice who buys health insurance for their employees. Few people are even talking about protecting them. In fact it goes beyond Catholic physicians, it includes every Catholic business owner! If this mandate should prevail ( barring a change in administration it will, or a favorable result in the Supreme court make no mistake Obama will not reverse course.) Do such Catholic business owners or physicians shut down the practice or business, drop their employees health coverage, or pay for the abortifacients? Remember these people are not institutions even covered under Obama’s accomadation, they are just lay Catholics trying to avoid moral sin and save their poor unfortunate souls. Just what precisely are they supposed to do? But I digress, last time around 54% of Catholics voted to put Obama in office. This stance of moral neutrality among the political parties is itself aiding and abetting The Democrats who are perpetrating this stuff. I do not want to ” fill your Combox” I want to understand the justification for not declaring straight away that voting to place some one who does these things in power is itself immoral. At some point a political figure crosses a line that any vote to support them is cooperation in evil. I can not imagine voting for an open racist ( even if he was on my side in some important issue, for example perhaps a pro-life racist if one can imagine such a bizarre construct) How can anyone with any moral seriousness vote for Obama or any of his accomplices, and why is it so hard to say this outright? If a Bishops said it ( tax deduction be damned) it would sway at least some of the 54%, maybe one in 10. If it did this evil adminstration would be replaced by one that whatever its flaws, would be an improvement. at least it would respect the first amendment.

    I can understand that the critique that people like me be less shrill, and what not, ok very well, point well taken, but understand the frustration felt. I firmly believe if the Bishops declared in a non ambiguous way that this administration is acting immorally, and that Catholics have a duty to stop supporting them it would help. Its my understanding you still get excommunicated if you join the Freemasons. I know little about the Freemasons, I am not sure they even still exist, but I can guarantee that the modern Democrat party is perptrating infinitely more evil than the freemasons.

  9. Clinton Romero writes, “Either you are Catholic and profess belief in Christ Jesus and all that His Church has taught through the ages or you don’t and you have become Protestant.” MarkA quotes Chesterton, for the first twenty-some years of his admirable writing life formally a Protestant, and paraphrases C.S. Lewis, whom I had thought of becasue of the date of Pope Benedict’s talk – during the week of Prayer for Christian Unity – on account of Lewis’s correspondence (in Latin!) with the Blessed Don Giovanni Calabria. Monsignor notes rallying with a great group of members “of a network of Black Protestant Churches” and commends their example.

    Over sixty-four years ago, Lewis wrote to the Blessed Giovanni, “Quo scribis nos omnes debere quam celerrime contra communem hostem (vel hostes ‘nomen Legio est’) opponere unitatem caritatis et morum Christianorum, toto corde consentio” (which the editor translates, “Where you write that we should all as speedily as possible oppose the common foe (or foes, their name is Legion) with the unity of Charity and Christian living, I agree with my whole heart”).

    How much is continued – and increased – conscientious, circumspect cooperation with all who ‘profess belief in Christ Jesus and what they understand His Church has taught through the ages’ – and with all whom (for example) do not want to be forced by the State to be complicit in abortifacient-killing whether they realize this is a ‘natural law’ position or not – part of what the laity is called to?

  10. Since the day that I turned from the Catholic faith I too have wished for the days of ambiguity to be replaced by the truth. It is the truth in love that has created the ambiguity that clouds the many issues that Catholics are unable to address with clarity. It is my hope that pandering to old dogmas may be replaced by a direction that is fully supported by what Jesus said in scripture.

  11. So tell me Father, and I don’t want to put you on the spot, but why can Catholic Charities USA support the revised HHS Mandate, and the bishops don’t? I thought the US Bishops run Catholic Charities… How does Catholic Charities get away with this? How is this following what the Pope has asked? I have many issues with our own house right now, and am shocked by some of this. I am not for the mandate by the way.

    1. How does Catholic Charities get away with this?

      Part of it is that, as a legal matter, that is, as a matter under U.S. law, organizations like Catholic Charities USA and universities and hospitals are separate corporations (or like legal entity) with the local bishop having no legal authority over them under U.S. law, even if they technically have authority over all such organizations under canon law. Many of the religious orders that established the Catholic hospitals and universities have effectively changed their structures to a more secular structure, run by lay people (and in the case of the hospitals, often run as businesses, rather than as part of the Church’s mission to engage in works of mercy).

      1. Paul said, while he was a “prisoner in the Lord” BTW, “[be] Careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. One body and one Spirit: as you are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Eph 4, Douay.

        If Catholics do have “one faith [belief system]”, then which group is non-Catholic, the charities or the Bishops?

  12. Monsignor,

    You are correct about the lack of commitment from the laity! The old “seamless garment” philosophy foisted upon us by the Catholic hierarchy has not been irradicated. Now, we are just beginning to understand what subsidiarity really means. These are difficult concepts and you and your brothers could provide some help from the pulpit. Maybe we would be more likely to take an active stance if you and your bosses would excommunicate some of the flagrant anti Catholic pols e, g., Biden, Pelosi, Sebelius, Kerry etc. They have all been warned enough, maybe if we see those in authority being serious, the folks in the pews would unite behind them. The laity, in their hearts, want the right things. A real Catholic leader, from the ranks of the ordained, needs to step forward.

  13. “…we are bound to experience some futility in this approach, if we are not willing to engage in some serious prayer and fasting, begging for a miracle, that the rock hard soil of this culture will finally soften to accept the seed of the word. ” Monsignor, I agree with you completely in this regard. Though we know God is on our side in this struggle, we do not know His timeframe for victory. Just as victory of a more moral order over the totalitarian powers in WWII and the Cold War were not foregone conclusions, so also is the current contest. It may well be that the USA, the West, indeed, even the entire world must live for a time under the heel of a tyrannical government before God allows its defeat. Our prayer and fasting will not only advance the advent of that defeat, it will also strengthen our faith and stiffen our spines to oppose with the Truth spoken in love such tyrannies.

  14. To add to my lengthy comment above, I believe that it is extremely important for Bishops and Priests to understand the teachings of John Paul II which comprise what he called “Theology of the Body”. Many clergy are not conversant with these teachings and it would be helpful for them, and us, the laity, if they had a thorough appreciation for this work. I think many are uncomfortable talking about the subject.

    Ascension Press has a study package for the clergy in addition to their packages on Theology of the Body for Middle School, Teens, and Adults. They also have new pamphlets covering related subjects.

    Bishop Robert Baker of Birmingham has done wonderful work relative to Humanae Vitae and Theology of the Body. His diocesan website has a presentation he made at a Catholic Medical Association (CMA) conference entitled “The Redemption of the Body and the Sacramentality of Marriage”. There is a CD of the presentation available at cathmed.org. It would be a good resource for clergy. That way, clergy and laity can work together.

  15. Not only in U.S. but all over the world the emphasis on formation and motivation of lay leadershilp-especiallr as regards radical secularism must be seen to be implemented.

  16. I appreciate the artlicle. Msgr, Pope gives a lot of food for thought as to the role of the laity. However, I’ve heard many say that this is the first time in their lifetime that so many Catholic Bishops have publicly denounced evil. Almost all have come out with a public statement against Obama’s mandate. How sad is it that this is the first time in many, many years that this has happened. If the Truth can’t be proclaimed and defended publicly by all the members of the USCCB, then I say that retirement can’t come soon enough. You are asking that the lay faithful battle in the trenches… I think it ironic, perhaps, that Msgr. Pope doesn’t believe there are active laity at work in the Church. Because the “social justice” propaganda and watered down teaching and feel good homilies are the norm for the lay faithfuls digestion at Mass… the people who are truly on fire for Christ and Truth as seen as Zealots or out to lunch. There is a handful of active, devout people at my Church, literally. And most of those people are related to me in some way. My in-laws started Oregon Right to Life…when Roe v. Wade passed and all of the priests in Portland were caving in. They have given an amazing amount of money to charity, and even more time – not just in the Pro-Life movement, but in all aspects of the Church… and on top of that raised 15 kids who all practice their faith today. All of them. I’d say their record is better than the Bishops, by far.
    I converted 16 years ago due to the encouragement of my spouse-to-be and the enthusiasm of defenders of the faith like Scott Hahn, Steve Wood, Jesse Romero, and Archbishop Fulton Sheen. This is not the Catholicism practiced at our parish nor is it the Catholicism limply “advertised” by most Bishops/priests. The point is, Mngr. Pope, we ARE doing our part and have toed the line while the Bishops have been silent or in error. No encouragement, No catechisis, No standing up radiaclly for Truth and facing Martyrdom in order to do it. We lay faithful living in the world know all too well how to evangelize and what it costs. We actually do it every day. We read the lives of the saints and know that if we are living as Christ’s disciples did, then we should enjoy the same treatment as they did here on earth. I haven’t seen but a literal handful of Bishops stepping up to the fire. If you want the Church to have authority, if you want laity to be involved, if you want to turn the tide on this moral landslide we are in… then the Bishops had better start leading and leading with their very lives. It would sure be nice to be able to say, “yes… believe and follow whatever the Bishops tell you.” As for me, I’ll hear it directly from Rome first, before I put any creadance to what the USCCB says.

  17. Msgr.,

    Good post. I think the reason behind what appears to be little support from the ‘right’ in DC is most conservatives in the metropolitan area choose to live in Virginia. DC is probably the most liberal city in America except perhaps San Francisco. There is no ‘right’ to speak of in the District. You can’t expect Catholics in DC to help you stop the degradation of our culture when many of them embrace the degradation and even the ones who don’t directly embrace it, enable it by putting legislators into office that do.

    And here in northern Virginia, you will find a much more ““engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity”. Part of that is because of broad and deep orthodoxy of the priests, which is essential to achieving this goal, but part of it is also due to orthodox education efforts by local organizations like the Institute of Catholic Culture. While it is a duty of the laity to educate itself concerning the Faith, we live in the real world and need to realize that just isn’t going to happen on its own volition. Education needs to pushed by the parishes and the chancery. Before we have any chance of reversing the tide in the broader culture, we need to reverse the tide in the Church by strengthening our Faith and our Catholic identity. That begins by all of us learning what being Catholic actually means.

  18. Work is needed, yes. But more importantly prayer is essential. Prayer in front of our Eucharistic Lord. Mary gave us the weapon against what we are struggling with. It is called the Rosary. Arm yourself with it now.

  19. it is funny to see the surprised expressions on the bishops and cardinals as the pope states what needs to be done; the expression is as though they never heard all this before; yet when they took their vows they knew well the basic commandments since God gave them to Moses. It is the very same in all the other continents.

  20. Perhaps a good Catholic computer game like “The Last Crusader” where the player is embattled against all the present modern day evil sinful forces such as The Progressive Secularist Society Movement. Get a good programer and animationist to do the graphics along with a theme based on the polical forces and anarchist groups such as the media and class warfare movements attempting to corrupt our constitutional society and moral standards. Make it as competitive and attractively interesting as the most popular video games on the market today and you can reach and educate the lost generation that is being corrupted subliminally by commercial marketing which has dumbed down and numbed the minds and senses of the younger generations to reality. Why waste a good battle on stealing cars, killing cops, raping women and blowing bodies apart for the sheer excitement and adrenaline when you could be learning about what is at stake, what we are up against and inspiring people in the right direction by conquering the bad guys, and saving the world for a higher purpose. Of course, even the crusades were gory, but it was for a good cause.

    1. I could go on a rant about everything that could go wrong with such a game, including turning onto Francoist propoganda. Instead, I’ll just raise one question about one phrase of yours. Do you understand that “class warfare” is oftentimes used as a code for any and all disagreement with the gap between the rich and the poor?

  21. I think people are beginning to wake up. I’m not too sure about Catholic Social action, seems to me that we put too much stress on that in the past and way too little on spiritual and intellectual development – like you said, prayer and fasting. By the way, I don’t expect our priests and bishops to ” doing every thing, ” I would be happy just to see them looking after the spiritual needs of the people. The problem is that they have too much to do. I think Masses need to be reduced and more parishes combined. But if the people can’t be converted then all is lost and if they continue to use contraception they can’t be converted. As you say, the clergy will have to attend more to that. I know it is a hard assignment and the people may not respond but it has to be done. I know old parishoners in my parish who still think a woman has the perfect right to do what she wants with her body ( i.e. to be pro-choice is O.K. ), and that contraception is fine and dandy. I challenged one of these women one day when we were ” feeding the hungry ” on our monthly outing and she maintained that a lot of her friends at Church felt as she did. That is pretty sad.

  22. Great article – Right on the money. We laity need to rise up and excert leadership because 99% of the clergy where I live in Southeastern Wisconsin including assisting bishops would not say sin if they had a mouthful of it. Living in such an environment, it is very hard to find and organize Catholics who are like-minded conservatives that believe in the Church’s teachings. The only true mission of most of our clergy is to find ways to make a forty minute mass last an hour and a half where everyone smiles, talks to each other, holds hands and sings Kumbaya. We hear that Jesus loves us but that is about it, other than hearing the readings done twice, once by the lector and another time by the priest in the homily. One interesting note was the other Saturday night at mass, the 80 plus year old priest actually took a stand and talked about how the administration in Washington was trying to wipe out religious freedom. Believe it or not, the church rang with applause! If this were to become commonplace where priests took stands on tough issues and actually taught what the church is saying I believe the pews would once again fill up. I never quit praying and hoping for this conversion.

  23. A think tank? For God so loved the world that he did not send us a committee.

  24. Does this mean that priests will no longer be punished by their bishops for doing what is right?

    1. Why would a priest ever be punished by his bishop for rightfully being obedient to the bishop?

      1. There are numerous examples of priests speaking out on Church teaching and being removed, silenced or moved by their bishop. Look no further than the atrocity of Fr Pavone’s sentence. This does much to discourage the faithful. It makes it all the more difficult to fight the good fight when the clergy end up fighting you.

        1. Were they obedient or disobedient to their bishop?

          Disobedience to the bishop does not constitute “doing what is right.”

  25. “Fine, but where are the laity? Well, they’re probably in a sanctuary somewhere distributing communion. The fact is that we have done a terrible job in ushering in a chief aspect of the Vision of the Second Vatican Council: that of bringing forth strong lay leadership specifically focused on the renewal of the temporal order.”
    I wholeheartedly agree that lay leadership needs to be fostered in the Church–but fostering true leadership in others means a willingness to give up some degree of control. It would be difficult to make a clear delineation between what is strictly “temporal” and what is not, and I believe that is appropriate to our sacramental worldview–Jesus has bridged the infinite to the temporal. Unless I’m reading it incorrectly, you seem dissatisfied with lay people acting in the sanctuary. What is the temporal order? If it involves social structures and family life, then there is another challenge, because in this realm (where lay people live and act) they are also instructed (by the hierarchy) as to how we should act (e.g. contraception, gay marriage, etc.), and even sometimes how we should vote. This causes many Catholic lay people to believe there is no room for lay leadership, only obedience. As with the HHS mandate (it’s not so much about contraception as about religious freedom), in this case it’s not so much about whether a lay person agrees or disagrees with contraception or gay marriage teachings, but that often the laity feel like they are perceived by the hierarchical magisterium as having nothing to contribute to the discussion because they lack ordination. Those who disagree might simply be called heretics or dismissed as poorly catechised without being given a hearing about their real experience in the temporal order.
    “But in the end, nothing prevents the lay faithful from organizing and marching forth as leaven in this sickened culture. It is true that the laity should receive formation, and must stick to Catholic principles to retain the name “Catholic.” ”
    I guess I’m wondering out loud if telling lay people to go out and march or expecting them to go out into the temporal order and repeat what the priest or bishop told them to say is bringing forth real leadership (or simply seeing the laity as PFCs in the Church militant. Can lay people have a say in what the name “Catholic” means?
    It’s obviously a point of frustration for me, but I really think some points need to be clarified if real leadership is sought.

  26. I’m sorry but Catholics by and large DO NOT KNOW their faith. That is the reason Obama was elected. Who takes responsibility for that? The laity? The ones who don’t know their faith?

    You may pass the buck, but you will have to be the leaders. That’s not your job, its the nature of your role. You simply can’t expect to lead faithful Catholics into battle and continue to ridicule them for being faithful Catholics. Nor can you expect them to follow bishops who are in bed with the enemy.

    Can we depend on you to put into practice EVERY principle of thought that was expressed in letters such as PJPII’s 1996 Message on World Migration Day? When you echo his care for the poor, but disavow the next sentence that suggests to help them back to their country of origin, what would you expect from the laity?

    We need faithful bishops and priests to change the course of the past 100 years of religious experimentation. Are you that priest?

    I understand your call to action. But I won’t follow those who vote for Obama or anyone like him or any of their policies. I won’t follow one who supports illegal immigration policies that do not take into consideration and also execute all of JPII’s counsels. I won’t follow one who supports Federally funded healthcare in the hands of a tyrannical government. I won’t follow one who is too naive to see through the Democrats’ political manipulations on grounds of ‘compassion’. Those are many “I wonts”, but I won’t follow the enemy in any of their policies. I’m supporting my wife and 4 kids on next to no income, and its too risky for me to follow a blind guide.

    You are speaking to those who likely have a fire inside of them to fight, like myself. But you will have to get through to them with something other than “stop blaming us”. You will have to gain our trust again. How will you do that?

    1. Who takes responsibility for that? The laity?

      The ones who have primary responsibility for the education of Catholics is PARENTS. So, yes, the laity.

  27. Sir –

    You ask where was the Catholic “right wing” when standing up against the District’s same-sex marriage rulings… I submit there is hardly a Catholic “right wing” existing in the District. We are an endangered species. I remember that homily the priest gave that Mass. Members of the laity got up and walked out of the Church.

    So, my apologies that none of the three or four of us that live in the District were able to attend physically. But, do know that our prayers continue to be with you and others that are standing up for the sanctity of marriage – and that, sir, is far more powerful.

    As for your “left wing” proposals, I would submit there is a “right wing” answer and it involves doing all those things but through non-State organizations and institutions where it is properly relegated. It is not the State’s responsibility and to make it the State’s responsibility invites the State to assume authority over far more than I think any Catholic would feel comfortable with. The recent debate between the USCCB and the Administration over rulings from HHS is a clear example of what happens when we afford the State the opportunity and authority to enter into matters that are properly relegated to the non-State organizations and institutions.

    I pray, sir, that you will see the wisdom in this.

    1. OK Scott, where is the on-switch – get started now. I expect you to have achieved subsidiarity and non-state approaches, which I support by the way, within five years. Who are you bringing to the table? What leaders are you developing and getting elected?

      1. Sir –

        With all due respect, I believe the inherent problem lies in the context of your question which asserts that elected officials and the State can solve or, rather, be a part of the solution. “I am from the Government and I am here to help” does not really inspire confidence in light of the State’s performance these last few decades (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, public school systems, etc.).

        Without getting into a lengthy debate or treatise, I would submit that many times the State does not help but hinders. You may disagree with this. We will have to agree to disagree.

        To your other point, I can only do my small part of humbly trying to live an apostolate in my life and community as a cheerful Christian willing to serve others without hesitation, hoping someone asks what gives me cause for my cheer and hope. This is done through my work, my volunteer – not compelled – service to the community…

        When you compel others, it removes their free will to choose. When the State does it, they burden the taxpayer while removing their free will. It is not the State’s choice to compel us to love each other; God, alone, has that right and He has chosen to let us make that choice ourselves.

        This, sir, I believe we can agree on, no?

          1. The “right-wing” is out there and working. They don’t seek your approbation and you wouldn’t approve of their methods anyway, therefore you are not aware of their activities and if you are you ignore and/or disparage them.

            What are they doing? They are creating jobs by building existing companies and starting new companies. They lie awake at night worrying about how to make payroll, pay the bills, and taxes. Government does not create jobs. Jobs only exist when a firm offers a product that someone is willing and able to purchase. Jobs exist in an environment that promotes job creation. This environment is a social creation that has been neglected and abused for years and must, out of social justice, be recreated – both political parties have failed here. Note also that creating meaningful jobs also addresses the “affordable housing” issue.

            The “right-wing” also works with elected officials, and runs for office to create a favorable job creation environment. They have attempted to instill fiscal discipline in our governments. Europe is the poster-child of how the lack of discipline of the welfare state has bankrupted various states and resulted in massive social dishevel and unemployment. In every effected country unemployment is disproportionately borne by young adults. The unemployment rate in the U.S. for young Blacks is currently at about 40%. If that is not a social justice issue I don’t know what is.

            The welfare state has been catastrophic for those it was supposed to help. It has destroyed the Black family (70% illegitimacy). It is destroying the Hispanic family (50% illegitimacy) and not helping whites (30% illegitimacy). Being a female head of household is a bullet train to poverty. On a more mundane level, the funds for most state and local HHSS type programs are Federally funded. The Federal Government does not have the money; it is either borrowed from foreign nationals or monetized.

            You state “I expect you to have achieved subsidiarity and non-state approaches… within five years.” Gee, sounds like the old Soviet five year plan. You place a stricter requirement for success on a conservative, private sector solution than a public sector solution. The state welfare approach has not achieved subsidiarity in 80 years of application in the U.S. nor has it achieved subsidiarity in Europe in a century. Why do you expect the private sector solution to solve the problem in five years here? There will be no heaven on earth and utopia does not exist. Empty platitudes and good intentions are meaningless. No system on earth has raised more people out of abject poverty, delivered decent housing, supplied wholesome food, and medical care to more people than American style capitalism. I do not claim it is perfect, but I have not seen anything better. It is unfortunate it does not get the support it deserves.

          2. No you’re reading a lot into my remarks. I am not a soviet or a statist. And you are right, you do not need my “approbation.” Note too, my vision is for Catholics to group together as Catholics and seek to influence the culture and provide true Catholic voice both in politics and in the public square. Some of the examples you offer do that, other examples you offer are mere critiques (many valid). But what are some good alternatives and how do we get there? That’s what I’m looking for and hoping to hear. Complaints aside, how do we get there?

  28. “What if they gave a War, and nobody came?”

    This used to be a very popular slogan during the Vietnam Era.

    It is still relevant in its underlying principal.

    “What if Truth showed up, and nobody recognized it?”

    Pontius Pilate was the most powerful leader in his jurisdiction…

    He enjoyed all the modern comforts, had steady employment that depended absolutely on him living in that world and not doing anything “Politically Incorrect”.

    If he had opinions on anything, he had better keep quiet about them, least he lose all he had.

    Most of us Catholics are the same way.

    Even the Holy Father states:

    “powerful new cultural currents”

    instead of naming the Enemy seventeen brave Popes have condemned throughout Church History.

    The Holy Father does not command his Bishops to abandon American Freemasonry and all other Luciferian Sects.

    Reading the Pope’s politically correct statements that leaves no real ‘meat and potatoes’ on the plates of his Bishops bring forth the question:

    “What if Truth showed up, and nobody recognized it?”


  29. Laity meddling in the Holy Ministry of Priests is responsible for the collapse of Catholicism in America and the death of Vocations.


  30. Msgr. Pope: it is my fear that the folks you would expect to show up do not exist. Very few Catholics any more agree with the teachings of the Church, and so are not inclined to fight for them. Right and left are both compromised, but they recognize hypocrisy, so they will not show up to fight. Now is definitely the time to do things, but who will do them indeed? I tend to agree with some of the postings- it is way past time for the clergy to require the laity to choose. As Jesus asked and still asks us “Who do you say that I am?” If He is who He says He is, then all manner of dancing around the tough choices must end. There won’t be an opportunity for that when we finally see His face. We ought to get used to it now. The left and the right.

    @Dave Williams: as a fellow resident of SE WI, I couldn’t agree more with your comments about the local clergy. My former pastor once said in the homily in answer to requests that he speak about abortion “what is pro-life, anyway?” However, we were able to have a petition read that urged having a gay-tolerant stand a few years back when the State was voting on the defense of marriage amendment to the constitution. With attitudes like that, how will anyone care enough to fight for the Faith?

  31. Msgr. what is needed is a conservative Catholic alliance. Washington is run by lobbiests so only numbers will bring change. The problem is that most Catholics are liberals. And I think most clergy and bishops are still liberal, even though liberalism embraces abhorant Anti-Catholic agendas.

    If someone started an alliance of conservative Catholics, embracing limited government, subsidiarity, forms of distributism, national autonomy, and the like… do you honestly think the bishops would lend their support? Especially when they have embraced policies of the welfare state, socialist healthcare, and open borders?

    Please give me your honest opinion. Do you think this would not be met with widespread apathy or even condemnation?

    1. Gotta Start somewhere. Part of the mission would be to reach out to the bishops. Many bishops would be sympathetic to another message, but in the end relationships take time to develop. But you have to start. Conservatives Catholics like to complain more than do anything. It’s annoying after awhile. Had an alliance been begun some decades ago, where would things be today? I suspect not as you describe them.

      So I suppose my answer to your question is, So what if it is met by what you describe? I think if the coalition you describe is not purely partisan (in terms of secular politics) the coalition would gain recognition, even if grudging at first. Remember too, my goal here is not conservative advocacy per se, but general advocacy where the whole Catholic vision is vigorously advocated by laity everywhere. On the Catholic “left” vigorous advocacy has been a rule for decades and, yes they also have the bishop’s ears. But that is because they are organized and many give their life for the cause of the poor, immigrants and so forth. Their work has been admirable even if the Catholic “right” doesn’t always appreciation their vision in terms of subsidiarity and how their work intersects with politics.

      On the Catholic right, with the large exception of the pro-life movement, Catholics concerned about the family and life issues are generally not dedicated and like primarily to complain about bishops, as a lot of the comments above indicate. But as the pro-life movement shows, respect is given by those willing to advocate and work for what they are passionate about.

      Complaining is not work however. In fact it is easier than sleeping. I live for the day when Catholics on the “right” will not just talk about subsidiarity, but show us how to get there. Will not just complain that the Bishops were too little too late on the gay “marriage” thing, or religious liberty, or stem cell research or Euthanasia, but will actually mobilize in some of the ways I describe to try and re-evangelize the culture. And what is the Catholic conservative view on immigrants other than to shout border security? How do we apply Catholic principles to that complicated issue? You can decide just to cede the discussion to “left-wingers” in the Church or you can actually offer a vision and you might even find common ground.

      But, as many of the comments above show, the general approach is to complain about bishops, clergy, “the Church” etc. But generally not do much.

      1. Your latest comment is a little unfair. What has the Catholic ‘right’ done to re-evangelize the culture? Let me list a few examples – they tirelessly advocate for restoring the Traditional Mass and improving the Novus Ordo Mass, fill seminaries, convents, and monasteries (or support them if not join them), provide orthodox education, actually have children and raise them in the Faith, etc. And, yes, conservative Catholics volunteer and give money to help the less fortunate. Think tanks HAVE been established (see http://www.acton.org for example), as have many magazines, blogs, newspapers and journals. They vote for pro-life candidates.

        Conservative Catholics HAVE offered a vision in many places – and it is regularly ignored, if not crushed outright. Many bishops actively block any initiative by conservative Catholics and punish orthodox priests. For example, its hard to set up a traditional Catholic parish/school when the bishop actively undermines Summorum Pontificum or blocks an orthodox order from working in his diocese. These aren’t small issues we are complaining about but deal breaking roadblocks set up by bishops that can only be removed by the same bishops.

        1. OK, tell me which is which —

          Group One says, “Forget the bishops, the bishops are wrong and we know best, we’re going to do what we want because we know Catholicism better than the bishops do.”

          Group Two says, “Forget the bishops, the bishops are wrong and we know best, we’re going to do what we want because we know Catholicism better than the bishops do.”

          Which is the liberal pro-contraceptive mandate group, — “which is the conservative anti-contraceptive mandate group?”

      2. It was some years ago, when I first came to D.C., and I became friends with this group that was starting at the JPII Institute on Marriage and Family. No one knew each other, we were all new to D.C., and we went down to Chinatown for dinner.

        I was talking to this one girl, and my having come from liberal Ann Arbor, I was just delighted at what she was saying, so I asked her, “So, you’re a conservative Catholic?”

        And she answered, “No. I’m Catholic.”

        And then there was a pause. And then I got it.

        The Catholic Church is not conservative, the Church is not liberal. The Church is not Republican, the Church is not Democrat. The Church is, simply, Catholic.

        We ready have too many people whose politics dictates their Catholicism, instead of their Catholicism informing their politics. If we gotta start somewhere, a good place to start is to not divide ourselves up into right and left, conservative and liberal, traditional and progressive — that is what those who seek to war against the Church are doing, seeking to divide us, seeking to pit good pro-women liberals against those evil anti-women far right extremists. Far from a conservative alliance, we need to encourage those who have taken up sides with the King and against the bishops to come home.

  32. I can’t see a way around either confronting the bishops as a whole or bypassing them altogether. If they won’t listen to the complaints of the ‘right’, which basically means they don’t care about how we’ve been brushed aside, ridiculed, abandoned, neglected and abused… even when they bend over backwards for liberals who nag and complain more than any conservative would…. if they don’t care about the faithful Catholics who try their best to love and live according to the Magisterium, then I don’t know how to get through to them.

    By and large, faithful, conservative parents are having children. Msgr, do you know that over the past 5-8 years I’ve made about 20-25 thousand dollars per year? And somehow supported my wife and (now) 4 children on this? Conservative families work hard, have babies, go to holy Mass and try to find time to spend together. We don’t get days off. Days off from work still mean feeding the kids, doing laundry and dishes, cleaning spit up, changing diapers, homeschooling, and on and on. There isn’t time to complain.

    Can you understand the frustration at hearing someone say, “you don’t do enough… all you do is complain”? Where are the priests who will take care of us? You are all too busy. We are trying to form the next generation, dealing with very little support. Is this why you don’t hear from us? I pray to God that I don’t have any grandchildren. I don’t want to worry for their souls in the world they will grow up in. My hope is that my children will all have religious vocations so that others like us will have guides in this present darkness.

    I’ve thought it through and honestly, I don’t know what the answer is. There are Scott Hahn’s, Jeff Cavins, Marcus Grodis, Patrick Madrids, Steve Rays, Catholic Answers, EWTNs, Relevant Radios, Janet Smiths, etc, etc. All made up of good Catholic laity who more than likely vote conservative. If the laity are doing so much, why aren’t they effective? And why is it not enough?

    I want to relate to you somehow. And honestly, I want to help, even under the present circumstances. Your call to action lights a fire. But I don’t know how the laity can do any more.

    1. since you introduced coins, when one was shown to Jesus he said render to the “state” the things that are of the state. please let’s get it straight, the president represents all the people not just “christians”. i’m sorry but if the bishops and pope want the people to follow them then they ought to act more like Christ. not ride around in their chauffer driven limos, studying reports, laying burdens on people without lifting a hand to help. in my opinion if Christ had been born at this time the current bishops would be more like the pharisees and scribes Jesus took such an affront to. Christ would be with the poor and marginalized not the well-heeled and self- righteous lot that seem to make up every catholic parish in america and to whom most every bishop in the land considers his “base”. start living Christ’s teachings rather than trying to figure out how to get funds for another building.

  33. Conservative Catholics interested in engaging the political culture might begin by inviting conservative Catholic legislators to speak with like-minded parish groups about these important issues and to suggest ways to organize at the grassroots level. During all the years I have been working in the political arena to obtain legal protections for the unborn, I have never once been asked by any lay Catholic group to address these matters. Certainly, there are many other Catholic legislators like me who would be willing to assist such a Catholic lay movement. Just ask one of us!

  34. Should we look to kings and princes to put right the inequalities between rich and poor? Should we require soldiers to come and seize the rich person’s gold and distribute it among his destitute neighbors? Should we beg the emperor to impose a tax on the rich so great that it reduces them to the level of the poor and then to share the proceeds of that tax among everyone? Equality imposed by force would achieve nothing, and do much harm. Those who combined both cruel hearts and sharp minds would soon find ways of making themselves rich again.

    Worse still, the rich whose gold was taken away would feel bitter and resentful; while the poor who received the gold from the hands of soldiers would feel no gratitude, because no generosity would have prompted the gift. Far from bringing moral benefit to society, it would actually do moral harm. Material justice cannot be accomplished by compulsion, a change of heart will not follow. The only way to achieve true justice is to change people’s hearts first—and then they will joyfully share their wealth.

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