God and mammon
About a month ago, I read an interesting and somewhat disappointing article written by a particular Catholic senator on his view of the relationship between President Biden and the bishops of the USCCB. At one point in his article, the senator says, “Just as I don't believe Catholic clergy should dictate how I do my job representing a pluralistic society, I don't presume to suggest what church doctrine should be.” This line, and ones similar to it, have been used by numerous politicians throughout the years to try to justify votes and actions in support of issues that are contrary to the teachings of their faith. Ultimately, however, it is a weak defense and a misunderstanding of the Church’s position and its teachings.
It is true that the Church should not and will not tell people exactly how to do their jobs. It does not really have expertise or opinions on the best way to pave a road or how to keep your finances. What the Church does and will do, is to teach us how we are to live in the fullness of grace as people of God. The teachings of our faith help us to form good consciences that guide us to understand right and wrong, good and evil. And the Church will (or should) clearly proclaim particular actions that are always wrong – such as the taking of an innocent life. It will point out actions that cause great harm to human dignity and attack the value of the person or family.
So while the Church might not specifically tell you how to do your job, it will say that if your job involves causing harm to others in ways contrary to the good revealed by faith, then you are either doing your job wrong or you should probably find a different job. It is not really possible to “personally oppose” but still support something. You cannot serve both God and mammon at the same time. You will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other (cf. Mt 6:24). An attitude such as that is an attack at the very core of the person who holds it, and is contrary to the integrity we are called to have in Christ.
Trying to hold those two contrary viewpoints at the same time will undermine one or the other. The person’s faith and soul are in serious risk, and we should pray for them and do what we can to bring them back from such dangerous trails. It is quite telling in this particular instance, how immediately after saying he would not presume to suggest what Church doctrine should be, that senator in the very next line of the article suggests what the Church should do in regards to its doctrine of withholding the Eucharist from those who persist in manifest grave sin.
A soldier who contributes to genocide while simply “following orders” will not escape prosecution. Nor will a politician escape judgment who contributes to moral and physical harm to innocents while claiming to follow “the will of the people.” It is true that legislators and other politicians do represent a pluralistic society, and seeking to meet the needs and desires of the many is often complicated and challenging. But we should be representatives of God first before others. We should be witnesses of truth, and beauty, and goodness as revealed in faith which benefit the whole human person rather than indulge base desires which harm the person and endanger society and souls.
Let us pray fervently for all our politicians (and voters), and especially for those who are Catholic. May they have a true conversion of heart and seek to do the will of God from the heart rather than be merely people-pleasers (cf. Eph 6:6).
Fr. Timothy Gapinski