Yesterday, Mark Brumley, in commenting on Catholics and the election, stated:
We need to make the most of this situation and do what we can to change things. Bishops will have to step up the plate. Priests will, too. And religious. And lay leaders. It is going to take an honest appraisal of the problem. No more happy talk about the Church in the U.S. Yes, we have a priest shortage. You want to know why? Because we have a Christian shortage and a Catholic shortage among Catholics. That's the unvarnished truth. The baptized pagans who occupy so much pew space in our churches have to be converted to Christianity. The liberal-Protestantish Catholicism-lite that substitutes for Catholicism has to be converted to real Catholicism. The bishops have to stop kidding themselves. And they have to be willing to take on their brother bishops when they're part of the problem and they have to be willing to confront their clergy when they are part of the problem.
There is more to be said but this will do for now. Let's all look at our own situation and ask ourselves what needs to be done in our own lives. That may require prayer and sacrifice on our part. It may involve having to confront others--charitably and lovingly, of course. It should get us involved more, if we're not already, in parish life.
Today, Phil Lawler of CatholicCulture.org, offers this analysis:
In an interview recorded just before Election Day, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver explained that he had decided to take a prominent public stand on the obligations of Catholic voters because the "quieter approach to these things has not been effective." How right he was! He and many other prelates deserve the gratitude of loyal Catholics for their willingness to take a more energetic approach. This year, at last, the American bishops were clear and forthright in their teaching. Yet on Election Day it became evident that millions of American Catholics weren't listening.
Should we be surprised if Catholics ignore directives from the hierarchy? Should we be surprised that Catholics who do not attend Mass regularly-- thereby violating a precept of the Church-- ignore Church teachings on other issues as well? No, this result was predictable.
An entire generation of American Catholics has grown accustomed to dissent from Church teaching, and grown accustomed to seeing their bishops tolerate that dissent. In the 35 years since Roe v. Wade, Catholics have watched their Church leaders handle pro-abortion Catholic politicians with kid gloves, treating their moral treason as a minor annoyance rather than a public scandal. Yes, the bishops routinely denounced abortion; but at the same time they treated the public supporters of taxpayer-funded abortion with jovial deference. Puzzled lay Catholics concluded that the bishops didn't really take the issue too seriously, and the laity in turn stopped taking their bishops seriously. A few dozen statements from brave orthodox bishops in the autumn of 2008-- however clear, however compelling-- were not enough to undo a generation of damage.
There are plenty of such Catholics who will use any number of excuses for not listening to the bishops, including an appeal to the sex scandals and how they were handled by certain bishops. But the failures of those bishops is not license or leverage for ignoring Church teachings about any number of issues whose veracity and truthfulness has nothing to do with the moral failings of this or that person. Yet, as Lawler rightly points out, many years of generally mediocre to poor leadership among bishops in the U.S. have been a significant part of the problem. The public, vocal stands of several dozen bishops during the past few months is, hopefully, just the first of many more such actions. Catholics will, I am convinced, have many more opportunities in the very near future to make more stands, to publicly articulate and explain and defend Church teaching, not only about life issues, but other issues as well. The divide will grow further and more obviously between Catholics devoted to the example and teachings of Jesus Christ and his Church and Catholics who are devoted first and foremost to their poorly formed consciences, their wallets, their social status, their pleasures, and their customized form of pseudo-Catholicism.
Such a statement, of course, will be construed by some as self-righteous and arrogant. But the temptation to be the latter sort of Catholic is always with us—and with myself. The challenge to take up the Cross is not just for others, it is always first for me. Conversion starts at home. And, really, any authentic change for the good in our country is not going to ultimately come from political leaders, policies, or judicial rulings, however significant they might be, but from faithfulness to the Gospel and trust in the Resurrected Lord. It means, as Pope John Paul II stated so well, building a culture of life that is firmly based on truth and hope, not just political expediency and calculated compromises:
Faced with so many opposing points of view, and a widespread rejection of sound doctrine concerning human life, we can feel that Paul's entreaty to Timothy is also addressed to us: "Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching" (2 Tim 4:2). This exhortation should resound with special force in the hearts of those members of the Church who di- rectly share, in different ways, in her mission as "teacher" of the truth. May it resound above all for us who are Bishops: we are the first ones called to be untiring preachers of the Gospel of life. We are also entrusted with the task of ensuring that the doctrine which is once again being set forth in this Encyclical is faithfully handed on in its integ- rity. We must use appropriate means to defend the faithful from all teaching which is contrary to it. We need to make sure that in theological faculties, seminaries and Catholic institutions sound doctrine is taught, explained and more fully investigated. 106 May Paul's exhortation strike a chord in all theologians, pastors, teachers and in all those responsible for catechesis and the formation of consciences. Aware of their specific role, may they never be so grievously irresponsible as to betray the truth and their own mission by proposing personal ideas contrary to the Gospel of life as faithfully presented and interpreted by the Magisterium.
In the proclamation of this Gospel, we must not fear hostility or unpopularity, and we must refuse any compromise or ambiguity which might conform us to the world's way of thinking (cf. Rom 12:2). We must be in the world but not of the world (cf. Jn 15:19; 17:16), drawing our strength from Christ, who by his Death and Resurrection has overcome the world (cf. Jn 16:33). <snip>
101. "We are writing you this that our joy may be complete" (1 Jn 1:4). The revelation of the Gospel of life is given to us as a good to be shared with all people: so that all men and women may have fellowship with us and with the Trinity (cf. 1 Jn 1:3). Our own joy would not be complete if we failed to share this Gospel with others but kept it only for ourselves.
The Gospel of life is not for believers alone: it is for everyone. The issue of life and its defence and promotion is not a concern of Christians alone. Although faith provides special light and strength, this question arises in every human conscience which seeks the truth and which cares about the future of humanity. Life certainly has a sacred and religious value, but in no way is that value a concern only of believers. The value at stake is one which every human being can grasp by the light of reason; thus it necessarily concerns everyone.
Consequently, all that we do as the "people of life and for life" should be interpreted correctly and welcomed with favour. When the Church declares that unconditional respect for the right to life of every innocent person-from conception to natural death-is one of the pillars on which every civil society stands, she "wants simply to promote a human State. A State which recognizes the defence of the fundamental rights of the human person, especially of the weakest, as its primary duty".136
The Gospel of life is for the whole of human society. To be actively pro-life is to contribute to the renewal of society through the promotion of the common good. It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop. A society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized. Only respect for life can be the foundation and guarantee of the most precious and essential goods of society, such as democracy and peace.
There can be no true democracy without a recognition of every person's dignity and without respect for his or her rights.
Nor can there be true peace unless life is defended and promoted. As Paul VI pointed out: "Every crime against life is an attack on peace, especially if it strikes at the moral conduct of people... But where human rights are truly professed and publicly recognized and defended, peace becomes the joyful and operative climate of life in society".137
The "people of life" rejoices in being able to share its commitment with so many others. Thus may the "people for life" constantly grow in number and may a new culture of love and solidarity develop for the true good of the whole of human society. [Evangelium Vitae, 82, 101]