Politics from the Pulpit
By Fr. Jerry Pokorsky ( bio - articles - email ) | Sep 19, 2022
Practicing Catholics often suggest that even a faithful priest is “too political” from the pulpit. The comment is distressing to a thoughtful priest, prompting an examination of conscience. He knows there is always room for improvement. Politics belongs to the laity. Why does it seem that preaching Catholic morality is political? How does the new secular moral code claim the power of cultural affirmation and render the religious authority of the Decalogue inconsequential?
Natural law includes precepts of Godly morality that coincide with man’s nature and lead us to heaven. The first tier of natural law is straightforward: “Do good, avoid evil.” The second tier includes the Ten Commandments, the law of God written on our hearts. The third tier identifies more difficult teachings that often require Church guidance for clarity (e.g., the Church’s teaching on contraception). Historically, in Western Civilization the authority of the Decalogue was culturally unassailable because God is the Author. Disobedience had distinct religious connotations.
A preacher is on solid religious ground when proclaiming natural law truths and the Decalogue. Natural law affirms that a nation’s borders are extensions of family borders, for example. But the details of immigration policy—applying Christian principles to concrete historical circumstances—belong to the laity. Politics is not only the art of the possible. Politics is also the essential art of applying religious and reasonable Christian principles to the concrete circumstances of life.
Direct political transgressions of the natural law are also legitimate concerns of the clergy. Pro-life politicians may fall short in crafting morally-correct legislation due to political constraints (the politically expedient rape and incest exceptions, for example). But the clergy remain free to critique flawed legislation for the offending portions.
Many bishops and priests violate the (usually clear) distinction between Catholic principles and prudential judgments with impunity. The USCCB—and state conferences of bishops—intemperately overstep religious boundaries, insisting that they weigh in on almost every aspect of social policy. Hence, the USCCB supports most pork-barrel social programs and open-border immigration policies. They thoughtlessly undermine the rights of the laity. These acts illustrate clericalism and play into the agenda of the new secular moral code guiding politics and assailing the Ten Commandments. The lack of clerical restraint in maintaining the distinction separating religious principles from political prudential judgments advances the false sense that “everything is politics.”
The culture has replaced the religious and authoritative precepts of the Decalogue with the political dogma of “diversity, equity, and inclusion.” For many, the slogan has become sacrosanct, self-evidently true. It may seem true, with constant repetition—and a failure of people to challenge it. But the imperative of diversity and inclusion calls for false unity, blurring the distinctions between right and wrong, good and evil, normal and abnormal. The ambiguous use of “equity” is a vain effort to achieve equality (rather than an equitable application of the law). Equality is a myth; the evidence against that myth begins with DNA characteristics fixed at conception.
The culture often shames Catholics and others into silence. Those who violate the politically-correct strictures are “judgmental.” We spontaneously recoil when charged because we have tacitly accepted the new moral code as self-evident. We endeavor to find “common ground” by interpreting the “diversity, equity, and inclusion” slogan in presumably benign ways. So even good Catholics—bishops, parishes, chanceries, and laity—try to reconcile their policies with political catchphrases and surrender the vocabulary of Catholic morality. Result? Ideology eclipses Catholic teaching as the “light of the world.” (Mt. 5:14).
We have a right and duty to judge sinful actions. God created us to make rational judgments when we have sufficient evidence. We stop when the traffic light is red. We accelerate when the light is green. God’s law requires us to judge violations of the Commandments correctly and respond with justice and charity. Without proper evidence, our judgments are “rash.” When Jesus teaches, “Judge not and ye shall not be judged,” He means we do not have sufficient evidence to judge the soul of anyone. The only transgressions scorned with the label “judgmental” are those that violate diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Alas, those who promote “diversity, equity, and inclusion” are much more confident in their politics than we are in our religious rules. As any experienced priest can attest, many of the best Catholics cannot enumerate the Ten Commandments. The lack of confidence enables the culture to silence dissent as we yearn to be “inclusive,” recognize the false notion of “equity,” and “celebrate diversity.” In false humility—but mostly fear—we remain silent about violating God’s law and prefer that pastors also remain silent. The result is spiritually devastating.
Unable to distinguish between God’s law and legitimate political judgments, we reduce Catholic morality to political policy statements. Distressed with the perception of politics in religion, devout souls grow impatient with Catholic morality and prefer platitudes that appeal to emotions (“Smile, God loves you!”). Many seek Confession for therapeutic consolation rather than forgiveness for sins.
The goal of diversity, equity, and inclusion is not to heal. The aim is to conform (deform) minds and hearts, disrupt families, and manipulate institutions to a materialistic, atheistic, and empty vision of humanity. The ideology rejects the order of nature and assaults creation; diversity divides rather than unites; inclusion excludes the marriage of faith and reason and basic biology. Equity is a counterfeit substitute for God’s justice we owe each other, made in the image of the Triune God Who gave us the Decalogue.
The politics of diversity, equity, and inclusion reject the order of nature. The ideology devastatingly opposes created realities and demands the dissolution of man as a rational, relational being: a body and soul composite created for communion. The Decalogue is the foundation of healing and perfecting human nature, not only for each human person but also families, communities, and nations. Divine Love created us for love: to love God with all our heart, mind, and strength and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
Consider a Catholic church full of people carrying the scars of self-mutilation and the inner scars of terrible sins. Many may bear the tattoos of gangland violence or the tattoos of dissolute living. But they will all be converts to the Catholic faith, grateful for the Decalogue that rejects the political tenets of diversity, equity, and inclusion. They were lost, but in Jesus, found.
Dare we hope? Preach the Commandments we must.
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Posted by: tjbenjamin -
Sep. 20, 2022 11:17 PM ET USA
“… the USCCB supports most pork-barrel social programs and open-border immigration policies.” I may be cynical, but are these social programs supported because Catholic social service groups receive government money? Some years ago, my parish priest told me, approvingly, that the Church and government are in a “partnership” to provide charity. And are open borders supported because most illegals are at least nominally Catholic, and we need new parishioners? I hope I’m wrong.
Posted by: miketimmer499385 -
Sep. 19, 2022 11:50 PM ET USA
The issues you've identified here are a strong second to clerical neglect of dogma. I hope you have the ability to sway your off the rails brethren to sort themselves out. I for one don't relish contributing via the collection plate to the opposition in battles that are simply political in nature. The sooner the USCCB is scrubbed, the better. In the meantime I have better ways to utilize my charitable giving. The issue isn't new, but some of these guys just rub it in our faces.