Back in 2006, Catholic writer Vic Biorseth coined the term “Crony Catholicism” to describe how the American branch of the Roman Catholic Church has been working hand-in-glove with the Obama administration, even assisting in what he calls “the advance of Islam in America at the expense of Christianity.” Biorseth was among a growing group of American Catholics who have become disillusioned with the liberal trends in the church and have turned to the use of new media, including blogs, to sound the alarm. That was then and this is now. But even in 2006-2009, Biorseth could see that the policies of the Obama Biden administration were not in line with the teachings of the Catholic Church.
Biorseth, a self-described “old time Catholic” called for in the late 20th century a major renewal in faith by the anti-communist Pope John Paul II, He wrote a little over seven years ago a book, Culture = Religion and Politics: Who Are We?, describing the decline of America and how the country can be saved from the Marxist, atheist and Islamic forces trying to destroy it. He dedicates the book to the truth, his wife, and “to the America that was, and that can be again.”
Now, I call for us to relook at the concept of Crony Catholicism. Are they actually punishing some people by withholding their sacraments for not following the rules of the Church and then extolling the virtues of others when they do not follow the rules of the Church? Is this not the definition of crony Catholicism? Does this not make you wonder, brothers and sisters? Is the Church pulling a double standard here? In 2008, they claimed the Banks and many big businesses were too big to fail. Are we doing the same by denying people the Eucharist if they are living in sin without marriage, yet allowing politicians who run round opening breaking many of God’s commandment-Carte Blache when it comes to any denials of sacraments. Many of our National Politicians are Catholic. Yet they vote, sponsor, advocate, rule of pieces of legislation, and sign bills into law that legalize the murder of human life. Is this right? Is this what God wanted? Is there an asterisk on the Commandment- Thou shall not kill. Is this an universal right to life or is this conditional to the status of the people who claim it? If this is universal then we should quit practicing crony Catholicism right this minute. If the leaders of the Church are not up to change so we can get back into the good graces of God’s will, maybe we should change the leaders? It does not make sense to go on like this forever. It is not good for the Church or our society.
I have nothing to add to the ongoing debate about whether Joe Biden is a good Catholic, a bad Catholic, or not Catholic at all. Enough ink has been spilled on this point. What I do think is useful, though, is looking at the major point that both sides of the Joe Biden faith debate miss: Joe Biden’s liberal American Catholicism. Without question, Joe Biden is a liberal American Catholic, and it is exactly because of his liberal American Catholicism that his outward actions are sometimes so hilariously inconsistent with Catholic orthodoxy, while at other times they are not so much. Most of those who end up on either side of the Joe Biden rock-throwing experience are liberal American Catholics, too. If Joe Biden is a Catholic maybe the better question should be what are we? If you believe in the Bible, believe in the Commandments, believe in the Church, and believe in what the Church teaches is true, how can you practice something that is against what the Church teaches? How do you advocate for laws that allow people to break the laws of the Church? How can the Church not take this matter up and sweep it under the rug? These are questions that need to be asked by all members of the Church, today, tomorrow, now and forever? I am not asking these questions because I am questioning the Church, I am asking these questions because I agree with Winston Church who in a 1948 speech said, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” Churchill was right- and this point is important here. Many of us do not realize that the same thing happened to the Jewish faith about 160 BC. The Greeks were trying to Hellenize the Jews and take their faith away from them by having them adopt their beliefs. If they had succeeded- then there would have been no Jews and no Christ. The Jews were saved when a small group of the Jews rose up and stood up to the people who were suggesting that they give up their beliefs. No, no, no. Do not give up your beliefs. Not now, not ever. Do not listen to this idea. It did not work then and does not work now. Read 1st Maccabees-is this why Martin Luther did not want you to read it? Could it possibly be because it contains history that we tend to forget and need to be reminded of constantly?
Since I’m sure this has left many readers flummoxed, I want to be clear that I’m not arguing that the president is a liberal Catholic in the sense that most modern Americans understand the word—as interchangeable with “progressive” on issues of doctrine and morals—although he may very well be that, too, as many have argued. I claim instead that President Biden, like practically all Americans and most American Catholics, subscribes to a fervent and undying faith in liberalism and that it is this liberalism that drives his, and their, Catholic faith. However, liberalism in politics is not the same as liberalism in the Church. Many liberals have one thing in common- they are liberal with other people’s money and they are conservative with their own.
Liberalism, though obviously a sociopolitical philosophy too nuanced both in its theory and its application to be fully analyzed here, generally holds that the individual is the center of society and that all political efforts should be made to prioritize individual freedom of choice. Instead of seeking first the common good, communal tradition, and shared values, we pay homage to an individualistic creed that orders the created above the Creator, the temporal over the eternal. Liberalism speaks of “liberty” and “rights” as things the government has the power to give and take, and it does so in a way that ignores objective truth. Anything that makes someone “happy” or wealthy is to be encouraged, affirmed, and then labeled a “right.” At bottom, liberalism posits that no authority—no matter how just or true—outside of the individual is binding on how one lives. We should be judged on how we do here on earth. We are not to be judged as a collective but as individuals. We are going to be judged on our faith and our works not just on our faith alone. We must be able to exercise our beliefs.
The American liberal condemns authoritative restraint or direction of any kind, whether on the matters of faith, on the market, or on sexuality. Liberal American Catholics are no different. Instead of asking what the Church actually teaches and then forming their consciences accordingly, they first ask what they want to do and believe—usually what is convenient and comfortable. Then, after they have decided what end they wish to achieve, they pick the teachings that align with that end and discard the inconvenient rest. Often called “cafeteria” Catholicism, this picking and choosing leads to some hilariously inconsistent positions, and it happens with Catholics on both the “right” and the “left” of American politics. This inconsistency is symptomatic of, and indeed encouraged by, most Americans’ undying faith in liberalism as the basis for all religious, political, and cultural thought.
Given the strength of culture, it is no surprise that most American Catholics are liberals first, Catholics second. Because liberalism so disdains restraint and even rightful authority, it empowers those living under its rule to be their own authority—to pick and choose which aspects of truth they wish to adhere to. It encourages a “personal faith,” but it does not condone “religion.” A personal faith allows you to select portions of the truth, to modify it to your ends, and to discard it if it no longer proves useful or is inconvenient to express in public. But religion? That would require a system of unchanging, collectively shared values, rules, and obligations and thus a level of restraint on the individual that is entirely unacceptable in a liberal society.
In this vein, Joe Biden’s “personal Catholic faith” is uniquely American and undeniably liberal. Indeed, his compartmentalized faith should make perfect sense to any keen observer of American culture. On the one hand, President Biden claims that he’s a “practicing” Catholic, and hard evidence suggests that he is in fact a regular Mass-goer and that his faith has been incredibly important in his life. At the same time, his many outward actions and policy positions are flatly inconsistent with the Church’s long standing teaching on the immeasurable dignity of the human person and the purpose of human sexuality. We must treat all people equally and if you are going to be consistent and deny the sacraments to the lowest among us should we not do it everyone? It only makes sense?