Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

Beware when Church leaders manipulate the language: Part II

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | May 27, 2021

Yesterday I wrote about “the abuses of language…that I see in many recent pronouncements from our Church leadership,” with my focus on two recent Vatican announcements. Now let me turn to a few noteworthy American examples.

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Sometimes the misuse of language is downright Orwellian. When Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich announced that unvaccinated Catholics must not be allowed inside churches without masks, he stipulated that each parish should have officials at the doors to check every individual for proof of vaccination. These people—who will block the doors to those who are unmasked and undocumented—are identified as “the parish’s greeter/hospitality team.” Some greeting; some hospitality.

Unless I’m much mistaken, these “greeters” will not be asking parishioners to show the results of their latest tuberculosis tests. They won’t quiz people about other legitimate public-health concerns (“Do you smoke? Take intravenous drugs? Engage in sexual practices known to spread disease?”). They will have one, and only one, medical concern: the single test ordered by Cardinal Cupich in his capacity as a public-health official. But the cardinal is not a public-health official. He is a bishop of the Catholic Church, who should have other concerns.

So if the parish guards (let’s use honest language) are deciding which people should be allowed into the church, aren’t there more important questions that they might ask? For instance: “Are you party to an invalid marriage?” Or: “Have you voted to support legal abortion?”

Ah, there’s the rub! Because Cardinal Cupich has also recently been leading the charge to block a discussion of Eucharistic coherence, currently scheduled to take place at the US bishops’ meeting in June. He and other bishops have argued that the discussion should not take place, because the American bishops lack the “high standard of consensus” that would be required for a strong statement on the issue.

Now explain to me, please, how the US bishops’ conference can develop that “high standard of consensus,” if there is to be no discussion of the question. Clearly Cardinal Cupich and his allies are not being entirely forthright about their reasons for wanting to avoid the topic.

There are other signs of dissimulation here, too. Although in theory Cardinal Cupich strongly supports Pope Francis in his call for decentralized decision-making, in practice he lobbied energetically for Vatican intervention to curtail an open discussion among the American bishops. Although he complains that the discussion might cause divisions, he and his allies deepened the fractures within the episcopal conference by urging a late change to the agenda—the elimination of a topic that had already been approved by the usual process.

Above all, Cardinal Cupich and his allies do not want “dialogue” on this issue. For all their insistence on open discussion, it is an open discussion that they are doing their utmost to thwart. The incessant calls for “dialogue” are a smokescreen: an attempt to ensure that the issue will remain unresolved indefinitely.

The proponents of this inauthentic “dialogue” argue that instead of upholding the perennial teaching of the Church, instead of fulfilling the clear demands of canon law, pastors should engage in quiet, personal conversations with those prominent Catholics who support the slaughter of the unborn. There is, of course, no reason why a pastor cannot undertake that dialogue and fulfill his canonical duties. But again there is a deeper point at issue.

In nearly 50 years since the Roe v. Wade decision, some of this country’s most prominent Catholic politicians have grown steadily more forthright in their support for unrestricted legal abortion on demand. While bishops trumpet the need for ever more “dialogue,” politicians scoff at the Church’s moral law, and denigrate those who uphold it. Show me one case of an active Catholic politician who has repented of his support for abortion, and embraced the pro-life cause, after a quiet conversation with his bishop. Just one case, and I’ll take the argument for “dialogue” a bit more seriously.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: benhorvath5187 - May. 28, 2021 10:28 PM ET USA

    In case Cardinal Cupich reads this: I'd suggest those of use who've chosen to avoid the miracle jab be forced to huddle outside the church with a little bell and to shout "Unclean Unclean!" in the off chance anyone approached. You can't be too safe. (Under pain of ecological sin.)

  • Posted by: frjimt9455 - May. 28, 2021 6:54 PM ET USA

    Simple: self-identify as vaccinated and wear a lmnop+ pin... You are in like a 'blaise'

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - May. 28, 2021 6:32 PM ET USA

    To ask a question about a person's medical situation in a church context sounds to me like a violation of HIPAA. Or maybe any context.

  • Posted by: eallenteach8722 - May. 28, 2021 7:09 AM ET USA

    Thank you for this. I was greeted at the door on Pentecost Sunday by the "have you had your vaccine?" question. The greeter was obviously chagrined to be required to ask it and I felt bad for him. It felt and looked like a division between the sheep and goats.