Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

God, I thank thee that I am not like devout Catholics

By Fr. Jerry Pokorsky ( bio - articles - email ) | Oct 24, 2022

The famous Gospel passage has many applications: “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, I give tithes of all that I get.’” (Lk. 18:9-14)

The Pharisees took sinful pride in abiding by visible religious observances disconnected from virtue, and/or ruined their goodness by taking pride in it. All of us can become Pharisees, especially when we claim “devout Catholic” status, and comply with the external practices of the faith, but pay no attention to authentic Christian virtue.

Here are some carefully assembled facts.

President Joe Biden

President Biden has announced that if Democrats win the House and Senate in the midterm elections this November (2022), the first bill he would send to Congress would codify the so-called abortion rights established by Roe v. Wade.

  • He promised he will be “appointing judges that respect foundational precedents like Roe.”
  • He rescinded the pro-life Mexico City Policy, which ensured that foreign aid would not go to organizations that perform or refer for abortions.
  • The Washington Post called Joe Biden a “president who has been called the most pro-transgender in history.”
  • Retired Archbishop Chaput said Biden “is not in communion with the Catholic faith.” The archbishop added that “any priest who now provides Communion to the president participates in his hypocrisy.” Biden attends Mass, receives Communion, has met with the Pope, and has received Communion at papal Masses.

Joe Biden identifies as a devout Catholic.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi is pro-abortion, pro-transgender, and pro-gay agenda. Consequently, her archbishop denies her Communion because her politics manifest the scandal of grave unrepented sins. Pelosi ignores the decree. Cardinal Gregory and his two predecessors, Cardinal Wuerl and then-Cardinal McCarrick, have remained unmoved. Cardinal Wuerl said denying Communion according to canon law is not his “pastoral style.” Pelosi attends Mass, receives Communion, has met with the Pope, and has received Communion at papal Masses.

Nancy Pelosi identifies as a devout Catholic.

Department of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra

Biden’s Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services supports legislation that:

  • Permits partial-birth abortion—killing a baby up until its birthday;
  • Forces every healthcare plan to pay for abortions;
  • Requires pro-life pregnancy centers to advertise abortions;
  • Forces the Little Sisters of the Poor to pay for contraception and abortion drugs; and,
  • Allows assisted suicide.

Xavier Becerra identifies as a devout Catholic.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin

An official website of the Defense Department reports: “Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III signed a memo today designed to ensure that service members and their families can access reproductive health care [abortion] and to support Department of Defense health care providers concerned about potential risks while providing federally authorized care.” Austin adds, “The Dobbs ruling ‘has impacted access to reproductive health care [abortion], with readiness, recruiting and retention implications for the force.”

NBC News summarizes the details: “The Defense Department [taxpayers] will pick up travel costs for service members and their dependents forced to cross state lines for reproductive healthcare [abortion] needs.”

Lloyd Austin identifies as a devout Catholic.

Mariana Mazzucato

Among the newest members of the Pontifical Academy for Life appointed by Pope Francis is an outspoken advocate of abortion rights, who shared her opposition to the overturning of Roe v. Wade on Twitter. Italian-American economist Mariana Mazzucato was among seven academics appointed by the Pope on October 15, 2022, to serve five-year terms with the academy.

Although Mariana Mazzucato identifies as an atheist, Pope Francis is a devout Catholic and the Vicar of Christ.

The preceding accounts merely report the facts. Now the Gospel application.

It’s dangerous to declare devout Catholic status.

Jesus indicts the Pharisees and—mutatis mutandis—devout Catholics who claim their devotion as they publicly deny by word and deed the teachings of Jesus through His Church. Let us count the ways (cf. Matthew 23:13–39):

  • “But woe to you, devout Catholics, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.”
  • “Woe to you, devout Catholics, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”
  • “Woe to you, devout Catholics, who say, ‘If any one swears by the Church, it is nothing; but if any one swears by friends in the hierarchy, he is bound by his oath.’”
  • “Woe to you, devout Catholics, hypocrites! for you tithe, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy for the unborn… You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!”
  • “Woe to you, devout Catholics, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.”
  • “You serpents, you brood of vipers, you devout Catholics, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets, some of whom you will disparage as racist and homophobic, and some of you will arrest using FBI swat teams and persecute them from state to state….”

Yet, all of those people listed above are potential tax collectors. All they would have to do is say with sincerity, “O God be merciful to me, a sinner,” and make a good Confession. May an ordinary—not a “devout Catholic”—priest be at their bedsides before they cross the threshold to eternity.

In the meantime, we may do Pharisaical spiritual posturing of our own:

“God, I thank thee that I am not like devout Catholics, woke, inclusive, and advocates of LGBTQ, or even like pro-abortion so-called devout Catholics. I go to Mass on Sunday, say my prayers, and support the Church. I am not particularly devout, but I am a practical Catholic.” I also mind my business, keep my head down, avoid controversy, usually comply, and curse the madness—but only in private.

Fr. Jerry Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington who has also served as a financial administrator in the Diocese of Lincoln. Trained in business and accounting, he also holds a Master of Divinity and a Master’s in moral theology. Father Pokorsky co-founded both CREDO and Adoremus, two organizations deeply engaged in authentic liturgical renewal. He writes regularly for a number of Catholic websites and magazines. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: michael1138 - Nov. 22, 2022 10:46 AM ET USA

  • Posted by: jalsardl5053 - Oct. 26, 2022 10:46 PM ET USA

    Brilliant application the Gospel passage in the paragraphs at large and the final one for which I, sadly, must raise my hand.

  • Posted by: jonesd1936 - Oct. 26, 2022 8:30 AM ET USA

    We MUST pray that all of these political skin-of-the-soul wrappings hide the spark of grace at the Core of their souls and that at the hour of their death, God grants the final act of Mercy and that they embrace it before His Just Judgment !!!