Catholic Bishops: Is It All About the Money?

In a previous post, I wrote about how the Vatican is trying to scuttle plans by U.S. bishops to come up with a formal policy regarding public figures receiving the Eucharist when they actively promote immoral behavior such as abortion. A Vatican official, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, laid out a number of steps that must be pursued before any vote on a formal policy, and he said there must be near-unanimous agreement on the policy. The steps and conditions he set forth are so broad that they will likely never be met and a formal policy will never be approved.

Enter Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco. I had heard that he recently released a pastoral letter (“Before I Formed You in the Womb, I Knew You“) and that it was a pushback against those bishops who want to delay any action on a formal policy. Recently, Cordileone appeared as a guest on the Crisis Point podcast episode, “Holy Communion and Pro-Abortion Catholic Politicians with Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone“, hosted by Eric Sammons, editor-in-chief of Crisis Magazine. The discussion between Cordileone and Sammons was very informative and I recommend listening to the entire 48 minute podcast.

During their discussion, the archbishop explained that he felt Catholics were confused by the Church’s teaching on reception of the Eucharist as it pertained to what might prohibit any person (not just politicians) from receiving it. He explained the different levels of cooperating with evil, e.g., formal cooperation being when someone publicly supports, encourages and enables an immoral act to take place. Formal cooperation is the most serious form of involvement and the archbishop explained what the lesser degrees were.

Cordileone also explained that there were three phases of pastoral correction that can be taken by a bishop. Step one is talking with the individual involved in the immorality and trying to convince them to stop their participation. In the second step, a bishop can publicly announce that a person is not allowed to receive Communion, thereby notifying all priests in his diocese. If a person is still unrepentant, then the bishop can excommunicate them.

After the discussion of the pastoral letter’s content, Sammons said that the laity, especially listeners of the Crisis Point podcast, were frustrated that no politicians who supported abortion were being denied the Eucharist. It seemed clear that those politicians, particularly Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi were formally cooperating in the evil of abortion since they publicly expressed their support of it and supported laws funding abortion. Sammons respectfully pointed out that Cordileone had been archbishop of San Francisco for nine years, that Pelosi was in his diocese and yet no action had been taken regarding her reception of the Eucharist.

Cordileone’s reply was that they were in the first of the three steps, that some discussion had taken place between Pelosi and him. Out of respect for privacy, he would not elaborate on the discussions, which is understandable. My first thought was he had been her bishop for nine years and they’re still in the discussion phase? Sammons also pointed out that Planned Parenthood had given its highest honor to Pelosi, the Margaret Sanger Award.

Then the archbishop said that Speaker Pelosi had also done things that benefited the Catholic Church, and that he wanted to give her credit for that. For example, she made sure that the Church was included in the COVID relief Payment Protection Plan so that they could receive federal money during the shutdown. BOOM! There it was – the money! It’s always the money! The U.S. bishops are huge supporters of “refugee resettlement” and open borders. Their various charities received hundreds of millions of dollars for those purposes during the Obama years. According to the Millenium Report, Catholic Charities receives about 65% of its budget from the federal government. Fifty-seven government agencies contract with the Catholic Church, for which the Church receives $1.6 billion (per year, I presume).

Did you know that when a charity receives federal funding, they are not allowed to proselytize or even to talk about God to the people they serve? Religious charities have to decide if the funding is more important than being able to share their faith. Catholic Charities fired my son because he tried to encourage a disconsolate immigrant by telling him the story of Job. My son was not trying to convert the man or invite him to Mass. The man had not qualified for the federal assistance that Catholic Charities was administering and he was talking about suicide. After my son shared the story of Job, the man left feeling very encouraged. He had never heard the story before and it gave him faith. (Some time later, my son saw this man at a public park. The man thanked him for his encouragement and could not believe that my son had been fired for simply sharing the story of Job.)

Back to the interview with Cordileone. The archbishop stated that a bishop has to consider several things when deciding to take any action regarding a public figure. He said it’s possible that instituting Church discipline could embolden the other side. I’m trying to think of how much more emboldened the other side could be than it already is. Aren’t the Catholic pro-abortion politicians already flaunting their independence from Church teaching? Aren’t they already pushing full steam for unrestricted abortion?

Cordileone also said we need to build up a momentum, that people need to have a revulsion toward abortion before the Church acts by denying Communion or excommunicating a public figure, otherwise it could backfire. Perhaps the archbishop means there needs to be a groundswell of public opinion, but a newly released poll shows that 74% of regular Mass attendees believe that pro-abortion politicians should not present themselves for Communion. Other findings from the poll show even more support for the Church’s pro-life stances and duties. (The poll apparently did not ask specifically whether or not bishops should ban politicians from Communion.) It would seem that among faithful Catholics, there is the momentum that Cordileone says is required.

I want to give Cordileone the benefit of the doubt and say that he leans toward prohibiting pro-abortion public figures from receiving the Eucharist, but that a desire for unity among the bishops and the Vatican wins out. Or perhaps he’s just afraid of stepping too far out. Who wants to be the first bishop to ban a pro-abortion politician from the Eucharist? Volunteers? Anybody? Cordileone’s arguments against taking action sound weak to me, and I know he’s a lot smarter and more educated than I am, so surely they sound weak to him, too, don’t they? And maybe his example of Pelosi’s financial aid to the Catholic Church was just a poorly chosen example. Perhaps she baked cookies for a bake sale or sold kisses for $1 at the parish bazaar. Unfortunately his example makes it appear that she bought off the Church, whether or not the COVID and similar funding have any influence on whether or not the bishops discipline the politicians.

The Vatican cuts Biden a break

It’s funny how homilies from daily and Sunday Masses provide food for blog posts. I find it’s becoming more frequent that I am getting more riled up by homilies rather than encouraged or edified in my faith. Perhaps it’s just that I’m getting more contrarian in my advanced age. Nah…that’s not it. I think it’s that the trend of redefining words, traditions, science, laws and whatever else forms the structure of our culture has invaded the Catholic Church as well.

When we lived in the Dallas area, we were regularly treated to heresy in homilies. That would be “heresy” with a small “h”, as I’m not theologically trained enough to pronounce them to be actual named heresies. I’m talking small potatoes stuff, for example — the miracle of the loaves and fishes was not really the multiplication of those borrowed foodstuffs, but it was the miracle of love among people sharing the food they’d brought. Or how about, the parting of the Red Sea that allowed Moses to flee from Pharaoh’s army? Well, it was really just a marshy area that had dried out over some time period that allowed the Israelites to escape. One homilist even seemed to hint that the Eucharist was not the mystical body and blood of Jesus Christ.

As I mentioned in a previous post, one happy result of our move from Dallas to a smaller city was that we were no longer hearing heresy from the pulpit. Not that every homily is necessarily inspiring, but we haven’t had to exercise what I call “interpretive listening”, i.e., filtering out the garbage – until the last few years. To be honest, the occurrence of these homilies is infrequent and the offending content usually involves putting a spin on an issue rather than some type of heresy.

Why did this start happening within the last few years? Hmmm…let me think…oh yeah! Pope Francis was elected! His inclination to offer an opinion on any issue, the harsh judgments he offers on those with whom he disagrees, his willingness to “make a mess”, saying Donald Trump is not a Christian and comparing him to Hitler, mocking Catholics who lean to the more traditional side – the Pope says and writes a lot that needs “clarification”. The priests in our parish actually don’t defend the Pope very much and generally act as if he hasn’t said anything controversial. They focus on the positive aspects of what he says and does. Fair enough.

Another change that occurred about a year and a half ago was the appointment of a new bishop over our diocese. Bishop X is a social justice warrior and appears to get his talking points for his sermon from leftwing sources (probably the Jesuit “America” magazine, National Catholic Reporter, or maybe even CNN or the New York Times.) A week after George Floyd’s death, the bishop delivered a homily about the terrible systemic racism in our country. This was before any facts about Floyd’s death had been released. We decided we would try to avoid attending Masses if it had been announced that the bishop would be presiding. One Sunday he surprised us and I dreaded having to hear another SJW homily from him, but to my surprise his homily was non-political and merely involved his use of a “garden weasel” tool as a prop. But not to be disappointed, at the end of Mass, he made this statement (paraphrased but close to his actual language): “Our country is not known for welcoming people of different races. The Asian community is experiencing a wave of hate crimes and we must pray for an end to that,” etc., etc..

What? Our country only welcomes a million legal immigrants a year with 28% of those being Asian and 50% being Mexican or other Latin American. The U.S. has been so unwelcoming that the percentage of the white population has decreased from 80% in the 1980s to 65% today.

The wave of hate crimes affecting Asians was news to me, and I read a lot of news. It turns out the Red media (CNN, MSNBC, WAPO, NYT, et al) were all pushing the new narrative about Asian hate crimes. I don’t get my news from the liberal propagandist organs, but apparently the bishop does. Whether there is a rash of violence against Asians or not, I don’t know. I have read that a large percentage of attacks that do occur are perpetrated by other people of color.

I’ve written before about our bishop’s directive to have the entire diocese pray a novena to St. Joseph for unity in our country and that God would give Joe Biden wisdom as our president. (No mention of asking God to change Biden’s heart about his support of abortion.) Idle question: Will God grant wisdom to someone in the throes of dementia? Will he grant wisdom to someone who is materially cooperating with the slaughter of almost 700,000 innocents per year? Wisdom? Really? How about praying for God to have mercy on Joe Biden?

Which brings me to last Sunday’s homily. When they meet this June, the U.S. bishops (USCCB) were planning on taking a vote on whether or not to draft a document that clarified their position on withholding the Eucharist from Catholic politicians who openly opposed Church moral teachings, especially regarding abortion. A couple of weeks ago, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, a Vatican official, sent a letter to the president of the USCCB strongly warning him against such a vote. It seems Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, N.J. and Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago, IL, had visited Ladaria a few days prior to him sending the letter. Those are two of the most left leaning cardinals in the U.S. and have opposed any official stance on the issue, so one can assume that they were the influence behind Ladaria’s letter.

The gist of the letter and statements made by leftist bishops was that no vote or official position should be decided without (1) discussion among the bishops and (2) discussion with the political leaders. Those discussions would have to include all of the other “life issues” of grave importance, such as immigration, health care, poverty and so on. Oh, and also the bishops would have to discuss if a position prohibiting the reception of the Eucharist would just apply to politicians or to everyone and how would that determination be made. Then after all of that discussion, an official stance must be near unanimous. So you see, they could arrive at a unanimous consensus and produce an official policy in about, oh let’s say – never?

So on Sunday our pastor began his homily saying that we had probably been hearing in the news about the postponement of any action on that question about politicians and the Eucharist. He said he wanted to give us the real story about what had happened. But it turns out the real story is just about what various news accounts have reported, with the exception that Father placed an emphasis on unity being so important within the Church and especially among the bishops. It’s true that Ladaria’s letter said it was important to avoid division among the bishops and that division would hurt the mission of the Church to bring the gospel to the world, so I guess unity was the watchword.

Did you know that Adolph Hitler was baptized and confirmed as a Catholic? Yep. If Hitler was president of the U.S. and was openly sending people to gas chambers, I wonder if the Vatican and the USCCB would insist on such unity before taking a position on denying Communion to Hitler. I wonder if they would insist on endless discussions among themselves and with the politicians. I know, that’s not really a fair comparison. During Hitler’s reign, when the Church did speak out, Hitler just stepped up his executions, so the Church opted for silence while working quietly to help the persecuted escape Germany. But Biden does not yet pose such a threat.

Jesus did say, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Maybe unity is not all it’s being cracked up to be.