Usefulness

I notice from facebook, the NYT, and other media the dust-up from that Catholic-Evangelical skepticism in La Civiltà Cattolica still has legs.

It seems that a non-American might not be totally up-to-speed on the complexities of Catholic-Evangelical bedfellowship. I confess I don’t much get it myself. I’ve been a part of local efforts, and it was usually confined to charitable efforts. I’ve never experienced a willingness on the part of my Evangelical sisters and brothers to join in shared worship (during, say, Christian Unity Week or on Thanksgiving). In one ecumenical organization, the young Assembly of God pastor basically expressed public skepticism that any of the rest of us were authentically Christian. But he was a competent treasurer for the inter-Church organization.

I didn’t read the original. I did catch Archbishop Chaput’s essay here. I wasn’t moved by his argument:

there’s no evidence Lenin actually spoke those words (“useful idiots”), at least in public. But no one seems to care. It’s a compelling line, and in its own way, entirely true. The naïve and imprudent can very easily end up as useful tools in a larger conflict; or to frame it more generously, as useful innocents. The result is usually the same. They’re discarded.

The first things that occurred to me was the lack of political fruit for the anti-abortion effort over the past decades. After Republican movement in the 1960s to decriminalize, and after a mostly GOP-appointed SCOTUS decided Roe v Wade, and after a good bit of executive and legislative control over the past decades, it would seem we’ve arrived at a mutually comfortable stasis on the issue. When the D’s are in control, the R’s go into fundraising overdrive. And vice versa. And often enough, it’s a crisis for both sides.

I am sure some of my conservative Catholic sisters and brothers are well aware of the real motives of many political conservatives. I remember the clucking at the stance of personally-opposed-but. No doubt, we have neighbors who are politically opposed, but personally in favor.

In any instance, let the buyer beware.

A few thoughts on the American take on “religious freedom.” There are people, even Catholics, who experience impingement on aspects of the observance of their faith. And sometimes it even happens at the hands of others in the Church. Check our Worthy Women series that ran concurrently with the Fortnight For Freedom for a few years.

I think it’s an American thing to want to celebrate personal freedom, spreading out however one might wish. Sometimes it’s a matter of individualism, of wanting to do what we want, when and how we want. Sometimes the freedom of others is trampled. Often we can live in a general state of doing our freedoms together. But on occasion, it can be a matter of freedom for me, but not for thee.

Rights often get trumpeted, but responsibility is occasionally overlooked. I find the latter to be an impulse more important to consider that rights and freedoms in certain areas. My role as a husband, father, and church minister is to facilitate the freedoms of others.

A more effective and fruitful stance for the Church at large, and especially our leadership is an advocacy not for our own freedoms, but as spokespersons for the rights of others. It’s a basic Matthew 25:31-46 moment. Jesus does not laud those who lift themselves up, but rather those who assist the neediest. People who suffer abuse of rights in our own neighborhoods and nations. People around the world who are ousted from homes specifically because of their religion.

I haven’t seen much from Catholic-Evangelical dialogue on Black Lives Matter, on Missouri’s travel advisory, or on receiving Middle Eastern people–even Christians–generously into our communities.

I think one has to delve a little deeper past the wedding cakes to find a useful direction.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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