Our Christian churches in the United States suddenly seem to not only tilt to the right, but rather slide down a hill to join the conservative Republican right wing.
This happened last week in the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptist Church which had a battle for power, and even in many evangelical churches in the South and Midwest who boarded the toboggan.
I watch the national scene, not the local scene, but even locally, I have yet to hear or read an outcry from Christian groups about this growing conservative right, or any Catholic parishes.
As a Catholic, I think I have the right to at least comment on my church, having read articles in the NYT, WSJ, and National Catholic Reporter (NCR) on this topic. I was shocked when I learned on Friday, June 17 that 73 percent of all eligible voting bishops attending the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on the Drafting of a Rules Document for Public Catholic Officials to receive communion. If approved in early November, as it will inevitably be the case, it will prevent the second Catholic president of the United States from receiving Communion because he does not condemn abortion, one of the litmus tests for Catholics to prove that ‘they are true Catholics. To qualify, the bishops hinted that politicians must believe in all the doctrines of the church, including the inherent suggestion that abortion is the greatest of deadly sins.
The hypocrisy and alleged righteousness of these conservative bishops is alarming. Of course, this new document being prepared is aimed at Biden – the committee that put this on the bishops’ agenda is made up of several Trump supporters. These majority bishops say their decision to go ahead with a draft document on the Holy Eucharist had nothing to do with politics, according to the RCN.
They were wrong. It had everything to do with politics and money put in their figurative pockets by an elite group of wealthy right-wing Republicans (as described in Katherine Stewart’s “The Power Worshippers”) and by NCR.
These are the same elderly men who are against same-sex marriage and the LGBTQ community, who have remained silent for years doing nothing while the widespread problem of pedophilia in the church was exposed (as they protected each other) . These are the conservative men who never criticized Trump’s harassment – no, the vitriolic attacks on minorities, immigrants, who jailed the children of immigrants seeking safety here, who paid his sex partners, etc. .
That 73 percent, mostly older men, sat around a virtual table to decide whether a pro-choice Catholic president can receive Communion when the Church has taken a strong stand against abortion. They are the ones who decide, they say. They were the silent ones during the Trump years.
Now they are attacking Joe Biden, who is a straight, decent and caring guy, a devout Catholic his whole life and a man who wants to help immigrants, the poor, and who supports women’s rights.
All this does not mean that there are very good, benevolent bishops in this country. Unfortunately, they were the minority voters at the bishops’ conference.
The position adopted by the majority bishops is embarrassing, short-sighted, closed-minded and politically motivated. It doesn’t sound moral or pastoral, just hypocritical.
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I think the Southern Baptists have an even bigger internal problem. Their church is not only divided on its moderate position versus a more conservative stance, but also on the position of women in the church, race relations. etc.
As the NYT described it: “A newly empowered ultraconservative faction in the already conservative denomination opposes a national leadership they describe as disconnected elitists who have drifted too left on social issues. Mainstream Baptist and far-right churches agree that the results of the convention will serve as a referendum on denomination priorities and could accelerate the fracture of an already declining institution.
At last week’s conference, moderate Baptist candidate Pastor Ed Litton won just 336 votes, or 4% of the vote cast. This vote came after months of fierce debates over race, gender and other cultural divides, with the gender issue focusing, among other things, on a man’s rights over his wife.
In some ways, the problems of the Baptists are akin to the concerns of the bishops of the Catholic majority. They worry that people are dropping out of the church, so they decide the church should have a stricter approach and more rules. The Catholic Church still does not allow women to become priests or deacons, and is also telling a woman through her stance against birth control and abortion what she can – and cannot do – with his individual body.
Southern evangelical churches, which surprisingly to me have supported Trump and appear to continue to be followers of Trump, are also wondering whether they should become a more conservative church.
This movement to the right is becoming more and more influential in our society, both politically and now religiously. The combination of politics and religion could become a powerful – too powerful? – strength in our country.
And as voters and practitioners, we need to speak up. I don’t want to be a silent sheep, I want my Catholic bishops to know that I (and I hope others) oppose their moralizing positions that our president, who is Catholic, should not take Communion because ‘he supports abortion. We must hold our bishops accountable.
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