I’m back at the Catholic Weekly, baby!

Published January 21, 2021

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.

American Catholicism

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.

Much more here…

18 Responses

  1. “ 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.”

    So, the FIRST topics of concern for this unmarried, allegedly celibate old fossil are: sex, sex, sex, and sex. But not an appropriate and legally supportable effort to root out the sexual issues of kiddy diddlers and their enablers. The SECOND topic of concern is imaginary persecution in the face of the religious privilege that he actually wishes to exercise. The THIRD great concern is not “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, but “Do Unto Others…FIRST!” If there was one thing that Jesus was clear about, it was “I didn’t die so that you would have to bake cakes for homeaux.”

    My human life and dignity is threatened every time one of these old bigots, hiding behind god and faith, calls my marriage, the lives of transgender people, and freedom of OTHER BELIEVERS to live according to THEIR “well formed consciences”…

    A threat to marriage, family, faith, freedom, morality, heterosexuality, children, but most of all, TO THE CHURCH.

    1. @jj

      Blaise is a French name. Murkins don’t do French. So neither does English autocorrect. Blase it is.

      Surprisingly, it’s a very old one, dating from the days when there was great Britain and less Britain, now known as Brittany, The druid magician, Merlin, makes a reference or two to “My master, Blaise.”

      If you ever need a store Of completely irrelevant and useless knowledge that occasionallycomes in handy, send me an email. As my friend Aggie says, and she is no slouch herself, “if you want to know something useless than nobody else knows, ask Ben.“ Except that it isn’t useless because someone will actually ask me those questions.

      1. Did you see any of Mayor Pete’s confirmation hearing? He’s going to be the first gay-married president of the United States.

      2. @neko

        That is certainly my hope. He is a man filled with compassion, intelligence, non-weaponized faith, and knowledge. He is a former soldier and speaks several languages.

        Unfortunately, the fact that he is proudly and unrepentantly gay will damn him in the eyes of the far right, including those that hide behind their religious beliefs.

        I don’t think he was ready to be president right after being a mayor, and that’s why I didn’t vote for him in the California primary. But once he serves his stint in the cabinet, and has spent some time on the national stage, I will have no problem voting for him.

        Go mayor Pete!

  2. Actually, he’s of Croatian descent. St Blaise was Greek. Blaise or Blase are common Catholic names. But the point is the accent on the é – neither the French nor, to my knowledge, the Croatians pronounce it like that, and nor does the Wikipedia article spell it like that. The English word blasé is often spelt that way – but I am sure the name never is. I assume, as I said, that it some software’s auto-correction.

  3. Yes, excellent. Thank you.

    I am compelled to report that the name of our fourth son is one of our greatest accomplishments. It has bridged the gap between the stoners and the intellectuals..

    “Blaise Augustine”.

    I know.

    On both sides of the spectrum they nod and say: “Whoa”.

    1. I came across a passage from Garry Wills’ “Memories of Catholic Boyhood” that reminded me of you.

      Holy cards of saints with eyes so strenuously upturned as to be almost all white. The Infant of Prague bulkily packaged in “real clothes.” The sight, in darkened churches, of a shadowy Virgin with hands held palm-out at the level of her hips, plaster cape flowing down from those hands toward blue votive lights unsteady under her like troubled water. Sand under the votive candles for putting out tapers; and a box of large kitchen matches, for lighting tapers, stuck into the sand. The momentary waxen strangle of St. Blaise Day, as crossed candles bless one’s throat.

  4. As someone who is a big fan of your writing, I feel compelled to say that this is not one of your better columns Mark. It deeply mistakes the tenor and tone of Archbishop Gomez’ statement. You cherry picked a few lines of the address to make a point. You wrote “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”. What Gomez actually wrote was balanced and consistent with Catholic teaching. He wrote: “My prayers are with our new President and his family today. I am praying that God grant him wisdom and courage to lead this great nation and that God help him to meet the tests of these times, to heal the wounds caused by this pandemic, to ease our intense political and cultural divisions, and to bring people together with renewed dedication to America’s founding purposes, to be one nation under God committed to liberty and equality for all . . . the bishops and Catholic faithful carry out Christ’s commandment to love God and love our neighbors by working for an America that protects human dignity, expands equality and opportunities for every person, and is open-hearted towards the suffering and weak. . . .On [life issues], our duty to love and our moral principles lead us to prudential judgments and positions that do not align neatly with the political categories of left or right or the platforms of our two major political parties. We work with every President and every Congress. On some issues we find ourselves more on the side of Democrats, while on others we find ourselves standing with Republicans. Our priorities are never partisan. We are Catholics first, seeking only to follow Jesus Christ faithfully and to advance his vision for human fraternity and community. I look forward to working with President Biden and his administration, and the new Congress. As with every administration, there will be areas where we agree and work closely together and areas where we will have principled disagreement and strong opposition.

    This is hardly a message fraught with suspicion and fear.

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