I understand that Catholicism has long been an advocate for the disadvantaged in our society. Part of the reason I returned has been my lifelong admiration of its pro-life stance. No other church has been as committed to life issues as the Catholic Church. I also have been proud of Catholicism's history as the creators of the first hospitals and schools. Throughout the world, you will find Catholics who are dedicated toward educating and caring for orphans, and also caring for the poor.
However, I see a vast difference between showing compassion to those who are in need versus becoming "activists" for their situations. Jesus said we will always have the poor with us. He spoke often about how we were called to love and show them mercy. He did not say we were obligated to storm the gates of the Roman government demanding justice for them.
I read an interesting article on Inside Catholic about a Catholic's response to the health care reform debate. The man wrote a letter to his priest, emphasizing his dissatisfaction with the promotion of a certain viewpoint. Unfortunately, it would seem the priest did not appreciate an honest opinion and instead took the opportunity to belittle and condemn the man.
From the article:
Unfortunately, there are clergy who not only contribute to the misunderstanding but also treat respectful disagreement with condescension. The following e-mail was passed along to me by an acquaintance who wrote to his parish priest to question the wisdom of placing the nation's health-care system in the hands of the federal government. (I've edited the e-mail to protect the identity of its author.) The priest's response:
It is so unfortunate that you have such a myopic vision and have made the conscious decision to NOT learn anything about Social Justice, that you would rather listen and believe the words of Hannity and Limbaugh rather than [local bishop's name] or any Roman Catholic authority on the teachings of the Catholic Church especially in the area of Social Justice and the Social gospel.
I was contacted by Bishop _____ and [another bishop's] Secretary. They both were disappointed in your mindset and your refusal to learn what the Catholic Church actually teaches. I pray that someday you will spend the time and effort to learn, understand and comprehend the Church's view on Health Care Reform, Immigration Reform, and the understanding that the Body of Christ isn't made up of only those people you believe to be given the recognition. With that being said, I do not want you to send me any E-Mails or forward any articles that are contrary to the teachings of the Church. I pray that God may have mercy on you (emphasis added).
The lack of pastoral courtesy requires little comment, except to say that this sort of demeaning clerical tone pushes the suppliant further away and exacerbates the discontent.
It is proof once again, of the divide between the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholics in the pew. Like the immigration reform issue (which the U.S.C.C.B. supports) the health care reform issue exposes another major disconnect between leadership and laity. I don't care how you slice it, the health care reform is not about health care. It's about control. It's a Trojan Horse the U.S.C.C.B. has gladly received, believing it to be a good deal for the needy. However, at what cost? Not only will there be a huge financial burden placed on the taxpayer, there will be an overall loss of freedom for our country.
If the government is in charge of healthcare, they will be able to dictate what businesses must do to insure their employees. More regulations will be on the way regarding what we can eat and drink. And anyone who doesn't believe healthcare will be rationed is living in a fantasy world. Nothing the government touches ever succeeds. In fact, whatever the government involves itself with only grows more bloated and inefficient. Their takeover of the automobile industry hasn't helped. We all know the incompetency of their schools. And now they want to take on healthcare.
Here is my ultimate beef with "social justice." It isn't anyone else's responsibility to gain justice for me but myself. No one is in charge of my life. I'm the CEO, the owner, the one who makes choices whether I do something or not. Thank God I had parents who taught me the importance of personal responsibility. Sadly, many in our society never learned that lesson and as a result, they are constantly looking for others to save them.
Those who promote "social justice" are only too happy to accommodate them. They rush in with a Messiah complex, eager to tell someone how to live their life. Meanwhile, the person who is in a difficult place rarely realize that they've given up their freedom in the process. I have no problem with helping anyone. But I do have a problem taking care of someone when they are able to take care of themselves. I have a problem with those who can work but refuse because it's easier to depend upon government subsidies. I have a problem with those who make a series of bad choices and then depend upon the government to bail them out.
I have a problem with a religious organization who tells me that being concerned about such things is wrong and claims I don't "understand."
Here's another thing: The U.S. government, on its present course, is in direct competition with the Catholic Church.
How? Because the government wants to take the place of the Church by providing "justice." I can't help but wonder where the U.S.C.C.B. thinks its going to land when all the dust settles. I don't think its too far-fetched to say that the government will be quickly eyeing church property and tax-exemption status to fill their coffers. If the U.S.C.C.B. thinks its going to get along famously with the government because they share the same concerns, I'd say think again. Marxism and Communism have little love for religion. As a matter of fact, they hate it. Religion brings truth and truth brings freedom. They won't have it. St. Maximillan Kolbe and other priests who died in the concentration camps are proof.
I don't mean to be disrespectful to our bishops. These are men who have served the Church and have taken vows to love her and prepare her children for the afterlife. But I strongly disagree with them on these issues. Like the writer said in the article quoted above, "There is no 'Church view' on health care reform but there is a position taken by the bishops conference." I'm saddened by how some bishops are turning a deaf ear to the people by dismissing them as clueless. I'm all for spirited debate. What I'm not for is a "sit down and shut up" directive.
Throughout history, the Catholic Church has made a tremendous difference in the lives of millions. It has contributed to the success of many communities and countries. I am proud of my heritage as a Catholic and continue to be as the Church shares itself with the world.
However, I find it disturbing that while many in our country have fought for a "separation of Church and State," those same people are silent when the Catholic Church joins forces with the government when it is in their interests. Why is it acceptable to criticize "the religious right" when they object to an obvious persecution of their faith (such as banning the religious connotation of Christmas) but yet religion involved with politics is fine - as long as the religion supports the current party line? When President George W. Bush was in office, Christians often heard about its unacceptable level of influence. But now that we have a different President, suddenly its okay?
Color me unimpressed and unconvinced. Mixing government with religion has never bode well for its citizens. I fear we're about to experience this truth even more if we remain on our current path.