With the arrival of the Pope in the US this weekend, I’ve turned a little pensive.
I am concerned with America’s Catholics, in particular, the 60+% who don’t think it’s important to attend Mass. Given our (or at least, my) particular beliefs in our dogma, skipping out on Mass is skipping out on communing with the Creator. Effectively, it’s like saying, “Hey, Jesus, thanks for all you’ve done, but hey, I was up last night drinking, so I can’t come to hang out.” Hey, we’ve all missed Church for various reasons, and I can understand that our educated, prideful culture doesn’t like getting “preached to”, but if you’re going to call yourself a Catholic, at least go to Church.
I know many, many Catholics of various stripes. I’ve know priests and nuns from various orders, and my Confirmation sponsor is currently the Bishop of Utah (I can’t wait until he’s Pope). And I have noticed a definitive leaning towards a socialist government that provides basic needs for everyone in society, be it welfare, education, or health care. Many of the priests and nuns are products of the 60s and 70s, so it’s not surprising their influence is usually heavy into more liberal interpretations of Vatican II and the faith in general. However, many of the Catholic clergy are educated and, for the most part, familiar with the tenets of the catechism of Catholicism. But what’s clear is that the laity have no idea what that dogma is. I remember having an argument with my high school religion teacher over New Testament scripture and having to correct her because she mixed up two scripture passages. I also lose patience with Catholics who somehow think it’s OK to disagree with the Church on abortion & stem cell research. At that point you really have to stop calling yourself Catholic, folks.
But the big gripe I have now is a row with well-meaning but short-sighted members of the faith who want to see more government involvement in our lives to better assist those in need. Catholics need to stop voting with Democrats because they feel the Democratic social agenda is better aligned with the teachings of the Church. In fact, nothing can be further from the truth. I’m not saying Republicans are Popes-in-disguise, either. Both need to totally reevaluate their platforms, and Catholics need to disassociate themselves with the notion that Government is somehow responsible for taking care of its citizens.
John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic president, a Democrat, acted more like a Republican than a Democrat, and he had a great grasp on how the citizenry should respond to their government. “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” is a call to service from the citizenry. It’s a call for smaller government and greater participation in Democracy by the individual. Since the 60′s, our government has gotten far larger, our politicians gain popularity with government handouts, and our citizenry demands more and more “freebies” from the government. In the meantime, many expect a large government role as a caretaker of its citizens. Catholics, especially those who want to participate in the faith, should flee from this idea.
St. James (James 2:14-17) talks of faith and works in his letter, and this particular letter should be recognized as a call against socialism:
What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
Catholics who trust in government to deliver what’s needed to their neighbor are just like the man who does not give charity to those in need. A government is not a body of God, but a body of man, as it has no call to anything greater than itself, it is prone to corruption. However, the individual is responsible, especially the Catholic individual, to God and to Jesus. If the person puts his faith into institutions of man to deliver charity, then it is completely misguided. “Give unto God what is Gods, and give unto Caesar what is Caesar” was not talking about revamping the tax code, but instead a call to separate manly institutions from Godly institutions. The individual needs to be charitable, and alone give of their time, treasure and talent to those in need.
Our government allows for tax deductions to charitable organizations, which I find to be complete folly because it contradicts the nature of charity. Charity is selfless giving of oneself. If you give and then turn and expect reward from the government, it is not “charitable giving” and should not be deducted from any tax because nothing was truly given by the individual. In addition, many “charities” receive money from the government for their mission. Charities such as Planned Parenthood are antithetical to the dogma of Catholic faith, and trusting in a government to correctly deliver those funds to Catholic-approved charities is foolishness on the part of the taxpayer. Socialist constructs do not differentiate between non-profit organizations, except for some of those that have relgious connections! While many people feel good about the government providing assistance to those who are needy, the truth of the matter is the government is far more likely to deliver those monies to organizations that are secular or antithetical to the mission of the Catholic Church!
In addition, when the government takes your money (read: taxes), it is by force. By requesting the government to increase its spending amongst the population, there has to be rise in revenue of the government as well, and that is through taxes. Effectively, to make sure the need for “charity” is met by well-meaning Catholics, they are demanding all people, even those who may oppose such giving, to give to the government to accomplish the goals of their religious beliefs. Charity isn’t a vehicle of force, it’s a vehicle of will to assist others. Let there be no intermediary between the Catholic and those in need, for that is the nature of charity.
Social programs provided by the government at the cost of our tax dollars is not what Catholicism is about. JFK didn’t think so, St. James didn’t think so, and I don’t think Christ even thought so. What’s clear to me is that the Catholic faith is about the rallying of the individual to something greater. Voting for candidate who promise more social programs saps Catholicism of its strength in charity and delivers that muscle to the government, an amoral body run by the amoral.
Let the people dictate to the government. Let us as communities focus our efforts on Charity to those in need in our communities. How can a bureaucrat in D.C. possibly understand the needs of the people in your neighborhood? Stop waiting on the welfare check, and take help from your neighbors. Who better to help you and your family?