With U.S. Bishops taking on President Biden regarding his worthiness of the Eucharist, many Catholics are questioning where they stand in the wake of an increasingly political church. American Bishops sent mixed messages to the public about the sacrament, originally chastising Biden for being a pro-choice and LGBTQIA+ supporting Catholic. The Bishops quickly retraced their steps after this controversy hit the news cycle and announced that, “there will be no national policy withholding Communion from politicians.”
While this is a good sign for liberal Catholics, it is also a wake-up call for some who have been turning a blind eye towards some of the Church’s more conservative stances. It also points toward a growing divide in the Catholic Church with some members excited to point fingers while others feel the Church is overstepping boundaries.
Preaching love while practicing hate
Since its origins, the Catholic faith has been a religion whose main message was towards spreading love and acceptance. Like many religions, however, its members have disagreed about certain issues and split into distinct social groups. There are the bible thumpers or those who use the bible to advance a political agenda and follow its teachings to the extreme. Then there are the cherry pickers or those who “pick and choose” which teachings to believe and follow. Finally, there are the “Chreasters,” or those who only attend mass on Christmas and Easter to ease their Catholic guilt.
Of course, the spectrum of beliefs within the Catholic Church are more varied than the listed categories above. However, these categories demonstrate the growing separation of the Church’s members and their political and social stances. Whether it’s abortion, LGBTQIA+ rights, or capital punishment, members of the Catholic Church disagree on several topics. It is no longer possible for Catholics to automatically assume that their fellow members share the same beliefs.
Faith or falsehood?
With the Church getting involved in politics and making statements about the government, Catholics are left in a unique position. They can either remain silent, condoning the Church’s political stances, or speak out against their Church and its leaders. This choice is a difficult one for most Catholics, because of the Catholic guilt that the organization is notorious for.
Many falsely equate criticizing the Church and its leaders with criticizing God himself. Church leaders are responsible for this falsehood, telling their congregations to just have faith. This phrase creates a cycle of ignorance through the perversion of trust when applied to blindly following the leaders of the Church and their political agendas. While faith can be a beautiful and comforting part of one’s spirituality, having faith, in this case, means putting all of one’s trust in a human who wants you to ignore their abuse of power.
It’s important to remember that one isn’t questioning a higher power if they’re questioning the leaders of the Church. Those leaders are human, who Catholics believe have inherited sin just like any other person. They have their own flaws and interpretations of the bible, which they can bend to fit their personal motivations. Once Catholics accept this, they can come to terms with the increasing polarization and what that means for its members.
A shift for some, the norm for others
It would be irresponsible to talk about these issues without recognizing how this has long been the norm for many members (or ex-members) of the Church. While some are finally waking up to the political polarization that the Church has inherently contributed to, many have already witnessed or experienced firsthand how the Catholic Church has never been the safe haven it has claimed to be.
Clearly, members of the Catholic Church can no longer turn a blind eye to the polarizing shift within the religion. While some may have comforted themselves with the idea of picking and choosing what to personally believe in, supporting an establishment that is ostracizing people goes against every teaching that they supposedly follow. Not only that, but many members conveniently forget that religion has no place in politics and should never dictate how a country or leader works.
It is time for people to realize that a church and a religion are two distinct entities- the former being an establishment made up of humans and the latter being a set of beliefs. If one’s beliefs don’t match the respective establishment, then it is time to question who you are really following- men interpreting the word of God for their own personal use or the higher power itself.