I’m back at the Catholic Weekly, baby!
That’s this Catholic Weekly, the one in Sydney, Australia, featuring articles by both me and the vivacious and talented Simcha Fisher (as well as many others) that are at once bodacious. puissant, variegated, and sesquipedalian.
I trust you will say to yourself, “Self! I could not love or respect you if you do not click this link and go read Shea’s piece, available exclusively at the Catholic Weekly! If it is anything as close to the goodness of the stuff I read on his blog every day it should be a humdinger!”
Here’s a taste of my first piece for them, about the struggle of the American bishops to navigate the new normal under Joe Biden:
Disgraced former President Donald Trump departed Washington to the strains of My Way (a song once aptly described by Peter Kreeft as the “national anthem of hell”) early on 20 January 2020 and, a few hours later, Joseph Biden was sworn in as the second Catholic President in American history.
A visitor from Mars could be forgiven for thinking this was an overwhelming triumph for American Catholicism. After all, Trump, who teargassed peaceful protesters so he could wave a Bible he doesn’t read in front of a church he doesn’t attend to exploit a Faith he doesn’t practice and insult a God he doesn’t obey was replaced by a Catholic who was sworn in on his family’s Douay-Rheims Bible by the Catholic Chief Justice of the Supreme Court while his Vice President Kamala Harris was sworn in by one of the five other Catholics on the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor. All this happened after Biden attended an Inaugural Mass and was prefaced by an invocation offered by a Catholic priest as the soon-to-be President crossed himself on national television.
Biden’s Inaugural Address not only was composed of complete sentences and logically coherent thoughts, it was suffused with quotes from and allusions to Scripture and Catholic Social doctrine, as well as quotations from both St Augustine and Pope Francis. Poet Amanda Gorman likewise quoted Scripture and Garth Brooks invited everyone on planet Earth to sing Amazing Grace. Some American wags have already noted it felt more like a Church service than a civic ceremony.
A divided Church in the US
And yet, millions of American Catholics, including not a few bishops, have met the incoming president with remarkable hostility. Instead of emphasizing good will and commonality with a Catholic who is deeply empathetic to much in the Church’s teaching, the USCCB’s Archbishop Jose Gomez came close to issuing a statement on Inauguration Day fraught with suspicion and fear, reading in part:
“So, I must point out that our new President has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender. Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.”
The statement was scotched by intervention from the Vatican and condemned by such figures as Cardinal Blasé Cupich and Joseph Tobin as well as other unnamed bishops. Rome later released a communique from Pope Francis extending the pope’s “cordial good wishes and the assurance of [his] prayers” for the new president.
The US Church’s feedback loop
All of this signals the fact that the American episcopacy is struggling to navigate in a country where a few issues — abortion and homosexuality chief among them, with a strong fear of religious persecution of conservative Christians layered on top — have been allowed to dominate Catholic discourse and have resulted in a deeply unbalanced implementation of Catholic social teaching as a result.