Isn’t it odd when politicians are willing to wear the label of a particular religion, for the sake of gaining support among voters, but then choose to turn their backs upon the principles of that very same religion? As reported in Sunday’s Connecticut Post, a group of 18 House Democrats led by Connecticut’s Rosa DeLauro recently issued a statement that chides Pope Benedict XVI – taking him to task for being critical of Mexican legislators who voted in support of abortion. 

So what did the Pope say that caused such an uproar? I suppose it was his observation on “… the principle that the killing of an innocent human child is incompatible with going in communion with the body of Christ”. As further explained by the Pope’s spokesperson, Rev. Federico Lombardi, “legislation in favor of abortion is not compatible with participation in the Eucharist” and – when politicians act in a manner contrary to the Church’s teachings on this question – “they exclude themselves from Communion.” 

This hardly reflects any change in the Church’s teachings upon the sanctity of life, so why is it that DeLauro and other Democrats should feign to be offended? Probably they hope to lure other American Catholics into the mistaken beliefs that morality can be determined by the whims of popular opinion, and that the Church’s authority can be ignored with impunity. Their stance underscores a “catholicism of convenience” whereby they are willing to be identified by the name of the faith, as long as it doesn’t impair their ability to act in any way that they may see fit to govern. In other words, a faith that places no demands upon one’s conscience; a religion which is broad-minded, liberal and generally inclusive; and a point of view that fails to distinguish between good and evil, choosing instead to regard all as acceptable in the name of personal freedom. 

DeLauro is a master of doubletalk and deception. A superficial reading of the Feburary 28, 2006 “Statement of Principles” by House Democrats gives the impression that these legislators actually honor their faith: 

As Catholic Democrats in Congress, we are proud to be part of the living Catholic tradition — a tradition that promotes the common good, expresses a consistent moral framework for life and highlights the need to provide a collective safety net to those individuals in society who are most in need. As legislators, in the U.S. House of Representatives, we work every day to advance respect for life and the dignity of every human being. We believe that government has moral purpose. 

Yet buried within is the heart of the lie: 

In all these issues, we seek the Church’s guidance and assistance but believe also in the primacy of conscience. 

Essentially this is an assertion of the supremacy of the conscience above the teachings of the Church. And it is a bold-faced claim that morality is subjective rather than absolute. 

Contrast that with the Church’s actual teachings in the Catechism

Personal conscience and reason should not be set in opposition to the moral law or the Magisterium of the Church. 

Politicians such as these, who want to wrap themselves in the mantle of Catholicism while simultaneously flouting its authority, are duplicitous and blatantly rebellious. There is a reason we call the Sacrament of Communion by the name “The Lord’s Supper”, and not “The People’s Supper”. If you truly acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, then the moral teachings of the Church are not a burden under which you chafe and suffer. When people of faith use that word, “Lord”, it is a recognition of authority and power. 

Separation of church and state is not meant to be bi-directional. While government is restrained from endorsing a specific religion (the “anti-establishment” clause), individuals who serve within government ought to be free to allow their chosen faith to inform their conscience and their actions. It is amazing how some politicians will go to great lengths to disavow their faith, reassuring voters that they will vote based upon an independent mind and conscience. What they are really saying is that the professed religious beliefs are meaningless, and that they will act as they see fit – period. 

DeLauro’s record on abortion-related legislation is abysmal. For someone who signed onto a statement claiming “to advance respect for life and the dignity of every human being”, consider these votes: 

  • Opposed restrictions on interstate transportation of minors to abortions (04/27/05) 
  • Opposed criminalizing harm to a fetus during another crime (02/26/04) 
  • Opposed banning partial birth abortion (10/02/03) 
  • Opposed funding health providers that decline to refer patients for abortion (09/25/02) 
  • Opposed criminalizing harm to a fetus during another crime (04/26/01) 
  • Opposed banning partial birth abortion (04/05/00) 
  • Opposed restrictions on interstate transportation of minors to abortions (06/30/99) 

Moreover, DeLauro receives funding and endorsement from “Emily’s List” (a “pro-choice” political action committee) and her voting record is rated 100% by NARAL Pro-Choice America. 

If the Pope’s remarks get under her skin, maybe that’s a good thing. Her conscience needs to be convicted by the Word of God, in light of her actions. 

Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, goes one step further in saying that these 18 House Democrats should resign: 

If they cannot muster the will to protect defenseless children, they should resign. We don’t need public servants who can’t tell the difference between serving the public and killing the public. 

To which I’d add, if they’re not willing to step down from public office, perhaps they should consider voluntarily renouncing their Catholicism. While it’s true that they personally have freedom of religion, just as we all do under the Constitution, they do not have the freedom to unilaterally redefine the Catholic faith. They ought at least to admit that they cannot accept the authority of the Church, and stop pretending to be Catholic when their actions speak otherwise. 

3 Responses to “A Catholicism of Convenience”

  1. on 29 May 2007 at 12:11 pmDave

    Rev. Thomas Euteneuer, the president of Human Life International, commented in a manner similar to my own closing remarks above. In answering the House Democrats’ assertion that excommunication “offend(s) the very nature of the American experiment”, he said that the Pope answers to a higher authority than DeLauro and her supporters. In addition, he said:

    The truth is nothing threatens the American experiment more than the legal but unjust killing of human beings by abortion.


    If the Gang of 18 believe otherwise, honesty and integrity requires they find another church that tells them what they want to hear. If they have that much of a problem being Catholic, no one is forcing them to stay. We certainly don’t need their hypocrisy.

  2. on 29 May 2007 at 5:43 pmPaul

    One of the things that Jesus condemned repeatedly was religious hypocracy. Some politicians claim to have faith when it suits their purpose and then speak against it when put to the test. In Connecticut the majority of babies (approximately 70%) born very prematurely, say at 22 weeks, could be saved through the wonders of modern medical care. Also according to Connecticut law, babies can be aborted at 22 weeks. Ask DeLauro to reconcile those facts. Which babies do you murder and which ones do you save?

  3. on 29 May 2007 at 9:35 pmNaCN

    It never ceases to astound me to hear Catholic politicians state that the leader of their church is wrong. I am an outsider looking in so my understanding may be incomplete, but my understanding is that Catholics believe that their ecclesiastical leader is called of God, and speaks as directed by God. If one believes that, then rebuking that leader for theological teaching is tantamount to rebuking God. Not a wise course of action.

    An acquaintance, a Unitarian Universalist, once taught a class called “Creating Your Own Theology” at his congregation. If the Gang of 18 really believe what they say, it appears they would be more comfortable there.

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