One of the modern forms of idolatry is to view everything through the prism of politics, and to treat all matters as if they were essentially matters of power and partisanship. The result of this is the subordination of all things to politics — even those things that properly belong to God.
Three recent news stories have brought this disturbing trend to my attention, and have gotten under my skin.
Same-Sex “Marriage” Activists Attempt to Politicize the Eucharist. A group of students at a purportedly Catholic university (St. John’s Abbey in Minnesota) showed up at a Mass being celebrated at the school by their local ordinary, Archbishop Nienstedt. They came adorned with a rainbow sash, a political symbol that conveys a very clear message: “we reject the Church’s teaching on the morality of homosexual acts, we reject the Church’s teaching on the nature of marriage, and we reject the Church’s authority to make public comments about moral matters that affect public policy”. Despite wearing a badge that proclaims their breach of communion with the Church, these students presented themselves to receive the Eucharist.
To his credit, Archbishop Nienstedt properly denied them Communion, since they were trying to make a political statement out of the central mystery of our faith. The lesson taught by the good Archbishop is not difficult: if you don’t believe what God teaches us through the Church, and if you have no intention of living as God desires as He has communicated to us through the Church, then you are not properly disposed to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. You need to make a choice: politics or God.
Calls for a “Catholic Tea Party”. From another front, there have been calls for what one advocate terms a “Catholic Tea Party”, directed against some of our bishops, due to their alleged indifference towards heresy by some activist clergymen. I certainly have no problem with people contacting their pastors about matters that concern their own spiritual good and the spiritual good of the Church as a whole. The Code of Canon Law says that laypeople “have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons.” (Canon 212.3)
I note especially that phrase, “with respect toward their pastors”. In the case of a call to a “Tea Party”, I cannot see any way that this shows “respect towards their pastors”. The original “Tea Party”, after all, was a (justified) violent rebellious act against an oppressive government. Is that really the image we want to use when lay people address their pastors, especially when we address a bishop, who is a successor of the Apostles?
No, just no. The Church is not a political entity, but the Body and Bride of Christ. If people believe that there is a problem within the Church, they need to address the matter in the appropriate way. The Bride of Christ should not squabble and wrangle in public like a bunch of unruly delegates on the floor of a political convention.
The Hypocrisy of the Media. Complaining about a double standard from the mainstream media has become a bit tiresome, because it is like constantly pointing out that 2+2=4. But I have rarely seen such a clear example of it, centered on politics and churches. Consider two cases: Case #1: Catholic bishops in Minnesota speak out to defend marriage and the media questions their “meddling” in politics. Case #2: New York politicians go into churches to make campaign speeches from the pulpit, and are given glowing, unquestioning profiles that talk as if this is just a nice bit of local curiosity.
I don’t know how other Churches justify to themselves being used by politicians. But Catholic churches cannot allow politicians into the sanctuary for a very simple reason. Not just that it’s against the Internal Revenue Code (which it is, even if we’re the only ones who obey the law). But there’s a deeper reason, and it’s the fundamental truth that lies beneath each of these recent stories.
Polarizing secular politics have no place in the Church, particularly in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We need to recall that the Mass is not just a gathering of like-minded people, or just a group of voters. The Mass is the assembly of the People of God, come into the presence of the King of Kings, whose eternal sacrifice on Calvary is being opened up for us anew for our participation. We are there to worship and adore the Eternal One, and to grow in holiness and intimacy with Him, in an anticipation of the heavenly liturgy described in the Book of Revelation.
With that awesome task on the agenda, you can see why I think there’s no room for politics in the Church.