With bishops like these, it’s hard to be Catholic

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone leading a service in San Francisco. His stance against Nancy Pelosi will alienate others who are tired of U.S. clerics’ rigidity.

By Jackie Calmes

To flip the famed line from “The Godfather Part III,” just when I think I might return to the Catholic Church, they pull me back out.

“They” are the church’s archbishops and bishops, in particular those in the United States, who not only advocate for the church’s teachings against gay rights, contraception and abortion, which is their right, but also repeatedly enforce them in ways that often seem un-Christian and downright wicked. All the while, the church’s pedophilia scandal persists into a third decade because of the clerics’ coverups.

What would Jesus do? Not act like these guys.

On Monday, two weeks after the archbishop of San Francisco, the archconservative Salvatore Cordileone, ordered that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi not receive Communion because of her support for abortion rights, leaders of the Colorado Catholic Conference sent an open letter condemning state lawmakers who’d voted for an abortion-rights bill.

The Denver archbishop and three bishops admonished the lawmakers not to take Communion until they performed “public repentance” and confessed their sins to a priest. In contrast, they praised four Republican legislators who opposed the bill. Increasingly, church leaders overtly ally with the Republican Party, despite its general hostility to policies beneficial to needy people once they’re born, to immigrants and to those on death row.

The clerics’ “pro-life” actions in California and Colorado came even as Americans were reeling from news of one mass shooting and then another, including the massacre of fourth-graders. Four bishops wrote a letter to Congress calling for “reasonable gun control measures,” but where’s the muscle and outrage comparable to that against abortion rights?

Seven months ago, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement on the sacrament of Communion that stopped short of singling out the pro-choice President Biden for sanction, but only after much debate. While conservative bishops are often critical of the progressive pope, uncommonly so, Biden had just enjoyed a warm meeting with Pope Francis, who blessed the rosary the president routinely carries and urged him to keep taking Communion.

As Francis says, the Communion wafer that Catholics believe incorporates the body of Christ “is not a prize for the perfect.”

With the Supreme Court expected to soon issue a decision overturning abortion rights after a half-century, the divide between Catholic bishops and most rank-and-file church members is likely to widen. A majority of the justices, five, are conservative anti-abortion Catholics.

The U.S. church hierarchy isn’t exactly playing single-issue politics. Opposing gay rights as well as contraception also remain the bishops’ preoccupations, at the expense of attention to poverty, social and racial justice, and nonviolence. Those latter issues are the ones that “my” church emphasized during my first 18 years, including 12 years in Catholic schools. Then came Roe vs. Wade in 1973, and the peace-loving church turned culture warrior.

I recall Masses during which the priests directed us church-goers to use the small pencils and postcards provided in the pews to petition lawmakers against abortion. There were parish convoys to Washington to protest on the anniversary of Roe. And there were the periodic sermons, including one so graphic when I listened from the front pew with my preteen daughters that I switched parishes — and took another step in my walk away from the church.

Yet from early on, even as I accepted the church’s teachings and its authority to preach them, I privately questioned why those positions should bind the state, public officials (including the Catholics among them) and citizens of other faiths.

Again to quote Francis, speaking in this instance about LGBTQ people, “Who am I to judge?”

I’m hardly alone in my estrangement from the church. While Catholicism remains the nation’s largest religious denomination, the church has declined in membership from about a quarter of the U.S. population to roughly one-fifth. Polls consistently show that the hardline positions of so many bishops are anathema to most of their so-called flock.

The bishops may be known as shepherds, but we’re no sheep. A poll of Catholics in mid-May from the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 63% of Catholic adults said abortion should be legal in all or most cases; 68% said Roe should stand. Both percentages are in line with the views of the overall U.S. public.

Two-thirds of Catholic adults said Catholic politicians who are pro-abortion rights should not be denied Communion, and even more — 77% — said that Catholics who identify as LGBTQ should be allowed to receive Communion.

Still, a Catholic diocese in Michigan recently said its pastors should deny the sacraments, including baptism and Communion, to transgender, gay and nonbinary Catholics “unless the person has repented.” That’s rich coming from “leaders” of a church in which a disproportionate number of priests are gay.

Thank God, literally, for the dissenters like Archbishop Michael Jackels of Dubuque, Iowa, who recently said that “protecting the Earth, our common home, or making food, water, shelter, education and healthcare accessible, or defense against gun violence… these are life issues too.”

It’s priests like him, and the sentiments they espouse, that entice me to return to the church. Yet there are just too few like him among the men in charge. The self-righteous Cordileones are setting the tone, in religion and politics. And they keep pulling me back out.

Complete Article HERE!

AP-NORC poll details rift between lay Catholics and bishops

FILE – Migrants watching Pope Francis’ Mass in Juarez, Mexico, from a levee along the banks of the Rio Grande in El Paso, Texas, take part in Communion, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. According to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research conducted in mid-May 2022, only 31% of lay Catholics agree that politicians supporting abortion rights should be denied Communion, while 66% say they be allowed access to the sacrament.

By David Crary 

The hardline stances of many conservative Catholic bishops in the U.S. are not shared by a majority of lay Catholics. Most of them say abortion should be legal, favor greater inclusion of LGBT people, and oppose the denial of Communion for politicians who support abortion rights, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The poll, conducted in mid-May, shows a clear gap between the prevalent views of American Catholics, and some recent high-profile actions taken by the church’s leaders.

For example, leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops recently called on Catholics nationwide to pray for the U.S. Supreme Court to end the constitutional right to abortion by reversing its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. According to the new poll, 63% of Catholic adults say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 68% say Roe should be left as is.

On May 20, the archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, announced that he will no longer allow U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to receive Communion because of her support for abortion rights.

According to the poll, only 31% of lay Catholics agree that politicians supporting abortion rights should be denied Communion, while 66% say they should be allowed access to the sacrament.

An even larger majority – 77% — said that Catholics who identify as LGBT should be allowed to receive Communion. That contrasts sharply with a policy issued by the Diocese of Marquette, which encompasses Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, saying pastors should deny Communion to transgender, gay and nonbinary Catholics “unless the person has repented.”

Natalia Imperatori-Lee, a professor of religious studies at Manhattan College, said the rift between rank-and-file Catholics and the bishops “reveals a breakdown in communication and trust — shepherds who are far removed from the sheep.”

“This is a precarious time for the U.S. Catholic church,” she added in an email. “U.S. Catholics are, on the whole, accustomed to living and working in a pluralistic society and this poll reinforces the notion that they want the public square to remain pluralistic, free from coercion, and oriented toward care for the vulnerable populations among us.”

The Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said the poll results didn’t surprise him, and underscored a need for anti-abortion clergy and activists to redouble efforts to change people’s positions.

“For us working on pro-life issues, these kinds of polls are like a summons,” he said. “You’ve got to be doing your work — maybe you’ve got to do it better.”

As for conservative bishops, “their awareness of the gaps that the polling reveals is precisely one of the reasons they feel the need to speak up,″ Pavone said. “They are striving to exercise the role outlined for them in Scripture, namely, to patiently and persistently teach the faith, whether convenient or inconvenient, to clear up confusion.”

Beyond the bishops/laity rift, the poll highlighted other challenges facing the church, which is the largest denomination in the U.S.

For example, 68% of Catholics reported attending religious services once a month or less. Compared to five years ago, 37% said they were now attending less often; 14% said they were attending more often.

Over that five-year span, 26% percent of Catholics said their opinion of the Catholic church had worsened, while 17% said their opinion had improved. Most said their opinion hadn’t changed.

More than two-thirds of U.S. Catholics disagree with church policies that bar women from becoming priests. And 65% say the church should allow openly gay men to be ordained.

The poll was conducted just after the leak of a draft Supreme Court majority opinion that would strike down Roe v. Wade. The views of U.S. Catholics, as expressed in the poll, were in line with the overall American public, both in regard to supporting abortion’s legality and preserving Roe.

However, there were sharp differences among major religious groupings. While 63% of Catholics said abortion should be legal in all or most cases, that stance was held by 74% of mainline Protestants and only 25% of evangelical Protestants.

Sharon Barnes of Dallas, who converted to Catholicism as a young adult, appreciates the centuries-old consistency of Catholic doctrine. Yet she differs from the church on some major social issues, including abortion.

“It’s a woman’s right to decide,” said Barnes, 65. “It’s something that you have to kind of reconcile yourself, and it’s between you and God.”

Pedro Gomez, a 55-year-old border patrol agent in Rio Rico, Arizona, is a lifelong Catholic who prays every night and attends church regularly. He understands the need for abortion in cases of rape, incest or saving the life of a mother, but he said he considers the procedure to be the killing of a child.

Gomez was surprised that most U.S. Catholics support some degree of abortion rights.

“There’s a lot of gray area now that was never there in my upbringing,” he said. “Maybe they’re watering down Catholicism … Now people are being able to make up their own rules.”

Ed Keeley, a 62-year-old public school teacher in Houston, also was raised Catholic. He described abortion as “a hard subject,” saying he believes in the sanctity of life but that abortion should be allowed in specific cases, including rape or incest

He finds it “ridiculous” that a priest would deny Communion to someone because of their views on abortion or politics generally.

Last year, some conservative bishops, including Cordileone, argued publicly that President Joe Biden — a lifelong Catholic — should not receive Communion because of his support for abortion rights. However, Pope Francis conveyed his opposition to such a stance, saying Communion “is not a prize for the perfect.”

Cordileone’s recent denial of Communion for Pelosi was supported by several of his clerical colleagues, including the archbishops of Denver, Oklahoma City, Portland, Oregon, and Kansas City, Kansas. However, Archbishop Michael Jackels of Dubuque, Iowa, issued a statement describing the action as “misguided.”

“As Jesus said, it’s the sick people who need a doctor, not the healthy, and he gave us the Eucharist as a healing remedy,” Jackels said. “Don’t deny the people who need the medicine.”

He also contended that abortion was not the only critical “life issue” facing the church.

“Protecting the earth, our common home, or making food, water, shelter, education and health care accessible, or defense against gun violence… these are life issues too,” he said. “To be consistent, to repair the scandal of Catholics being indifferent or opposed to all those other life issues, they would have to be denied Holy Communion as well.”

John Gehring, Catholic program director at the Washington-based clergy network Faith in Public Life, said some conservative bishops engage in the culture wars “in ways that damage their already diminished relevance and credibility.”

“Most Catholics are fed up with bishops who want to weaponize Communion in a hypocritical, single-issue campaign against pro-choice politicians, especially when we see Pope Francis offering a better road map,” said Gehring

The AP-NORC poll of 1,172 adults, including 358 Catholics, was conducted May 12-16 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.0 percentage points, and for Catholics is plus or minus 7.4 percentage points.

Complete Article HERE!

Mixed Signals In Leap Of American Bishop Robert McElroy

San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy.

By Terry Mattingly

Two years before long-standing rumors about Cardinal Theodore McCarrick leapt into headlines worldwide, America’s most outspoken activist on clergy sexual abuse, Richard Sipe, met with his local bishop — San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy.

“It was clear to me during our last meeting in your office, although cordial, that you had no interest in any further personal contact,” wrote Sipe, a former Benedictine priest who then worked for the Seton Psychiatric Institute in Baltimore. While church officials asked him to report to McElroy, Sipe continued, “your office made it clear that you have no time in your schedule either now or ‘in the foreseeable future’ to have the meeting that they suggested.”

Sipe’s 2016 letter to the San Diego bishop was later posted online and is frequently cited as an example of the bishop ignoring warnings about the now-defrocked McCarrick, who often boasted about his clout as a Vatican kingmaker. Now it will receive more attention because Pope Francis has named McElroy to the Sacred College of Cardinals. This promotes the San Diego bishop over several prominent archbishops — including Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez, who leads America’s largest Catholic archdiocese and is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In his hand-delivered report, Sipe told McElroy that his ongoing research indicated that 6% of American priests were guilty of sex with minors. Meanwhile, a “systemic” trend was clear: “At any one time no more than 50% of priests are practicing celibacy.”

As for the powerful McCarrick, Sipe noted, “I have interviewed twelve seminarians and priests who attest to propositions, harassment, or sex with McCarrick, who has stated, ‘I do not like to sleep alone.’”

Debates about McElroy’s elevation have focused on other divisive issues in Catholic life, although decades of sexual abuse crimes loom in the background. He has, for example, supported the ordination of women to the diaconate, allowing them to preach, perform weddings and serve — one step from the priesthood — at Catholic altars.

McElroy has openly clashed with American bishops anxious to address “Eucharistic coherence” as prominent Catholics, especially President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, support — with words and deeds — abortion and LGBTQ rights.

It was McElroy who told an online 2021 Georgetown University forum, “I do not see how depriving the president or other political leaders of Eucharist based on their public policy stance can be interpreted in our society as anything other than the weaponization of Eucharist and an effort not to convince people by argument and by dialogue and by reason, but, rather, to pummel them into submission on the issue.”

In that context, McElroy’s elevation sends a “strong message to the US hierarchy,” tweeted Christopher Lamb, Vatican correspondent for The Tablet. And it’s important, he added, that McElroy has “called for a more welcoming stance to LGBT Catholics saying, ‘what we need to project in the life of the church is ‘You are part of us and we are part of you.’”

Papal advisor Antonio Spadaro also said giving McElroy a red hat was “a strong and clear message for the Church in the United States,” noted J.D. Flynn of The Pillar. Catholics will now ponder the meaning of that message from Rome.

In terms of strategy on abortion, in 2019 McElroy told U.S. bishops that their efforts to focus on “abortion as a preeminent priority — the killing of nearly a million unborn children each year — was ‘discordant with the pope’s teaching, if not inconsistent,’” noted Flynn. On this and other divisive issues, the “cardinal-elect is not aligned with most American bishops … and has seemed entirely undisturbed by that.”

As a man of the left, Sipe agreed with McElroy on many, if not most, issues in modern Catholicism. However, he confronted his bishop because he believed the sexual abuse crisis is an issue that transcends left-right arguments.

Thus, after 12 pages of text and footnotes, Sipe concluded: “I have tried to help the Church understand and heal the wounds of sexual abuse by clergy. My services have not been welcomed.

“My appeal to you has been for pastoral attention to victims of abuse and the long term consequences of that violation. This includes the effects of suicidal attempts. Only a bishop can minister to these wounds.”

Complete Article HERE!

Pelosi vs. Cordileone isn’t only about abortion.

It’s about women and bishops.

The list of reasons Catholic women stopped listening to bishops is a long one.

By

In October 2021, Pope Francis initiated a two-year “Synod on Synodality,” aimed at finding out what Catholics and others think about the church. He may get more than he asked for.

Preliminary results indicate one thing: Women are fed up. They like Francis well enough, but they are not much interested in what bishops and priests have to say.

Why?

The latest kerfuffle between San Francisco’s Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is at the tip of a very big iceberg.

Pelosi’s perceived support of legalized abortion at the federal level collides with Catholic teaching. Hairsplitters who support her will argue that she does not support or promote or procure abortions, she simply supports current American law and works to preserve it.

Hairsplitters on Cordileone’s side will argue that because Pelosi is perceived to be, as they say, “pro-abortion,” she creates public scandal and therefore must be denied access to the Catholic sacrament of Communion. They say the Code of Canon Law trumps U.S. law.

But Pelosi and Cordileone’s battle may be seen more broadly as one battle in a decades-long disintegration of trust between women and the bishops.

Some say it all started with Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical, “Humanae Vitae,” which ignored the recommendation of his own Pontifical Commission on Birth Control. Eight years after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had approved the first oral contraceptive pill, the pope took some 7,000 words to say “no” to contraceptive measures beyond what came to be known as “natural family planning.”

Catholic women in the United States and around the world ignored the pope’s decision. You didn’t have to track sales of “the pill” to realize what was going on. Jokes about the size of Catholic families suddenly became a gauzy memory. Women were clearly listening to the opinions of the men in the pulpit, then returning to their homes to manage their private matters as they saw fit.

Once women began to bypass church teaching on birth control, they found other reasons to ignore the bishops. At the top of that list are clerical sex abuse and the subsequent episcopal cover-up. But there is also the question of allowing women to be active participants in Masses, and the ordination of women.

The 1983 Code of Canon Law decreed any layperson could perform the duties of lector and acolyte, or altar server. It took another decade before the Vatican agreed that “any layperson” included women. To this day, many bishops around the world want women kept away from the altar, despite Francis’ updates to the law that allow women to be formally installed as lectors and acolytes.

Ordaining women as priests is not a discussion the hierarchy is going to have, but ordaining women as deacons is a distinct question. Women were ordained as deacons in the early church. No matter: The naysayers connect the two orders, saying because women priests are definitively forbidden, so also are women deacons. (They overlook the fact that their logic fails. If the two orders are so connected, then the historical fact of ordained women deacons may be used to argue for women priests.)

The arguments over ordination, altar servers, lectors and birth control are all debatable, however. The definitive nature of church teaching on abortion is clear.

But all the same, for a bishop to make a public event out of a private discussion is unseemly. Before she was elected to Congress, Pelosi had five children — after the FDA approved the birth control pill. She is proud of her Catholic heritage.

Pelosi is the most powerful Democrat in the Congress. Would Cordileone, or any other bishop, prefer a non-Catholic? Or is the problem that Pelosi is female?

Complete Article HERE!

Pelosi challenges archbishop’s denial of Communion over abortion rights

By and 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday questioned whether a San Francisco archbishop who said he would deny her Communion over abortion rights was using a double standard by allowing politicians who support the death penalty to receive the sacrament.

“I wonder about the death penalty, which I’m opposed to. So is the church, but they take no actions against people who may not share their view,” Pelosi said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

On Friday, the Most Rev. Salvatore J. Cordileone, the Catholic Church’s archbishop in San Francisco, said Pelosi would be denied Communion because of her vocal support for abortion rights, a stunning rebuke of one of the nation’s most senior practicing Catholic politicians, who often evokes her faith when discussing her family and politics.

“After numerous attempts to speak with her to help her understand the grave evil she is perpetrating, the scandal she is causing, and the danger to her own soul she is risking, I have determined that the point has come in which I must make a public declaration that she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion unless and until she publicly repudiate her support for abortion ‘rights’ and confess and receive absolution for her cooperation in this evil in the sacrament of Penance,” Cordileone said Friday in a letter to members of his archdiocese.

“I have accordingly sent her a Notification to this effect, which I have now made public,” he added.

Cordileone, one of the country’s most conservative Catholic leaders, last year called for Communion to be withheld from public figures who support abortion rights but did not mention Pelosi by name at the time. In November, U.S. Catholic bishops backed away from a direct confrontation with President Biden, the second Catholic president, over his support for abortion rights and the sacrament of Communion. They approved a document on the Eucharist that did not mention any politicians or the president.

In the MSNBC interview, Pelosi challenged the notion of imposing her personal views on abortion on others and highlighted Cordileone’s pronouncements on other issues, such as gay rights.

“We just have to be prayerful, we have to be respectful. I come from a largely pro-life Italian American Catholic family, so I respect people’s views about that, but I don’t respect us foisting it onto others,” she said. “Now our archbishop has been vehemently against LGBTQ rights. He led the way in some of the issues, an initiative on the ballot in California. So this decision … is very dangerous in the lives of so many of the American people. They’re not consistent with the Gospel of Matthew.”

Democrats and abortion rights advocates have responded with alarm in recent weeks after the leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn the right to abortion established in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

Holy Communion is the central sacrament of Catholicism and the centerpiece of the Catholic Mass — a ritual memorial of Christ’s death on the cross in which bread and wine are said to be transformed into his flesh and blood.

Catholic archbishops have vast power within their diocese, and a reversal of Cordileone’s decision would require the intervention of the Vatican, which is unlikely. The order to deny Communion to Pelosi applies only to Catholic churches within the San Francisco archdiocese under Cordileone’s purview, including the speaker’s home church.

Last September, Pope Francis said the decision about granting Communion to politicians who support abortion rights should be made from a pastoral point of view, not a political one. He told reporters: “I have never refused the Eucharist to anyone,” while adding that he has never knowingly encountered during Communion a politician who backs abortion rights. Francis, however, reiterated that abortion is “murder.”

According to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released earlier this month, 55 percent of Catholics in the United States want the Supreme Court to uphold Roe. Catholic teaching opposes abortion, however, and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops last year debated the meaning of Communion and whether it is appropriate to withhold the sacrament from Catholic politicians, such as Pelosi or Biden, who support abortion rights.< After a firestorm of debate, the bishops clarified that there will be “no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians.” They later released a document on Communion but declined to single out politicians who back abortion rights.

After Cordileone last year condemned a bill codifying the constitutional protections of Roe v. Wade into federal law as an “atrocity” and “nothing short of child sacrifice,” Pelosi acknowledged a “disagreement” with the prelate.

“I believe that God has given us a free will to honor our responsibilities,” she said, before again talking about her own family.

“For us, it was a complete and total blessing, which we enjoy every day of our lives,” Pelosi added. “But it’s none of our business how other people choose the size and timing of their families.”

Complete Article HERE!