Thursday, November 12, 2009

Catholic ultimatum: Obey, or the poor will starve!

What would Jesus do?

Jesus had no trouble interacting with prostitutes, beggars, and Samaritans. He was not an -ism sort of guy. When his questioners phrased their queries in the third person ("What must a man do to ..."), Jesus usually responded with "You must". No shift of responsibility from the individual to society was allowed under his watch. No dogma would exculpate individual failure.

The Roman Catholic Church has been in retrograde motion from Vatican II since the assent of John Paul II, and has under Benedict XVI rapidly increased its purge of liberalism within and without the Church.

Its latest candidate for the Grinch Award comes with an ultimatum issued by the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. to the District that it will be "unable to continue the social service programs it runs for the District if the city doesn't change a proposed same-sex marriage law".

Rather than extend employee benefits to same-sex married couples, Catholic Charities would rather deny shelter to the homeless and food to the hungry.

Quo vadis? Mat 25:34-46 suggests that this is ill-advised strategy for someone wanting to get to heaven:

Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.'

Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'

And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'

Even that firebrand St. Paul would find the current Catholic self-righteousness un-Christlike and counterproductive, as he clearly states in Romans 12:14-20:

Bless those who persecute (you), bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, on your part, live at peace with all.

Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."

Rather, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head."

If you cannot give charity without preconditions and with selfless generosity of spirit, then keep your money. As St. Paul says so passionately in 1 Cor 13:4:

If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

The poor, the hungry, the homeless, are not pawns in some Vatican chess game. Threatening to withhold succor from them to blackmail and pressure secular politicians is evil.

In the 70's we used to sing in mass, "you will know we are Christians by our love". If only that were still true.

3 comments:

Quin said...

"Question what you think you know"...

According to the question and answer session link posted with the story-Patrick J. Deneen, associate professor of government at Georgetown University states:

"My best understanding is that the Church will continue to provide social and charitable services (in this sense, the Post's article today was not strictly correct - the Church is not threatening to withdraw services as such); it is only in cases where there is a contracted or licensed service that the District would adjudge the Church to be ineligible to provide those services on a contractual basis. If DC does not grant the exemptions that would be in keeping with the Catholic's tenets, the assumption is that the Church would no longer be eligible to be licensed or contracted to provide those services."

The Catholic Church is not saying that it will stop feeding the hungry or housing the poor-it is saying that it will no longer partner with the District's programs.

By refusing to broaden the legislation to protect the religious rights of the church, the District is forcing the Church to withdraw its contracts with the city rather than be forced to act in a secular manner.

As to your comments about Jesus interacting with "prostitutes, beggars, and Samaritans"; I'm not sure what your point is.

Dan Weston said...

You address a minor point of the blog post, but I accept your correction. The key quote is question is:

"unable to continue the social service programs it runs for the District"

At issue is whether "it runs for the District" is a restrictive or nonrestrictive clause.

I (mis?)read this to be nonrestrictive, although on rereading I mentally inserted a "which" before "it runs".

If the Church intends to continue its charitable work with whatever funds it can legally obtain, I have no problem with them going their own way. I do believe that if the poor suffer for this, the Church has put principle above people, but that is not my call. Jesus for His part never seemed too concerned with how things looked, hence the "prostitutes, beggars, and Samaritans" comment. I think he would not have obsessed with gay people getting taxpayer-supplied money for benefits, but who knows -- He isn't here to say one way or another.

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But that still leaves the main point of the post, the (apparently) intense lobbying by Church officials? Surely if taxpayer rules would taint the Church, then the Church's rules also taint the taxpayer. If the poor are provided for and the Church rules are upheld, why the angst?

The "proper" reaction would have been to announce that the Church might reluctantly have to withdraw from D.C. partnership for fear of tainting the taxpayer with Church rules, then lobby for assurance that the District would at least make up the difference so that the poor do not suffer because of this separate disagreement.

Instead, there was intense lobbying to resist the policy change itself, not out of realistic fear for the poor, but as part of a larger resistance to the normalization of homosexuality in society. If this was the real motivation (and I believe it was), then bundling this with the fate of the poor gives the strong impression that the latter are being used as a weapon.

And that would be a very unchristian thing to do. I welcome any future clarity from the Archbishop on the matter.

Dan Weston said...

The DC Council has just passed the resolution 11-2, over the strong objection of the Catholic Archdiocese.

More details here.