Following the teachings of the Church is an important aspect of any member’s daily life. If it is so important for mere regular members of the Church, what would it be for our leaders? This is a question that should be asked in today’s society.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2272 states, “Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of ex-communication to this crime against human life. "A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae," 77 "by the very commission of the offense," 78 and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law. 79 The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.
In a society where the leaders of our faith are also major political leaders, how can the members of the Church look up to their leaders if they can clearly see that those leaders are promoting or creating laws that directly go against the Church’s teachings? Are they not complicit in the problem? After all, the problem would not exist if the politicians wouldn’t create laws that allow people to go against the teachings in the first place, correct?
In a Newsweek magazine interview published on (Dec. 21, 2009), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked about her disagreements with the United States Catholic bishops concerning Church teaching. Speaker Pelosi replied, in part: “I practically mourn this difference of opinion because I feel what I was raised to believe is consistent with what I profess, and that we are all endowed with a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And that women should have the opportunity to exercise their free will.”
Archbishop George H. Niederauer of San Francisco and the man who was Nancy Pelosi’s Bishop stated this about Pelosi’s statement, “However, human freedom does not legitimate bad moral choices, nor does it justify a stance that all moral choices are good if they are free: “The exercise of freedom does not imply a right to say or do everything.” (The Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1740) Christian belief in human freedom recognizes that we are called but not compelled by God to constantly choose the values of the Gospel—faith, hope, love, mercy, justice, forgiveness, integrity, and compassion.
The concept that we can choose to not follow the Church's teachings and still be in harmony with the Church may not be exactly what Nancy Pelosi was referring to when she did that interview. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, No 1742 states, “ Freedom and grace. The grace of Christ is not in the slightest a rival of our freedom when this freedom accords with the sense of the true and the good that God has put in the human heart. On the contrary, as Christian experience attests especially in prayer, the more docile we are to the promptings of grace, the more we grow in inner freedom and confidence during trials, such as those we face in the pressures and constraints of the outer world. By the working of grace, the Holy Spirit educates us in spiritual freedom in order to make us free collaborators in his work in the Church and in the world.” Now, it becomes apparent that we have the free will to do something that may be against the Church’s teachings, the Church has the responsibility and the ability to correct our actions. This is true no matter who you are or what your position in the Church or society may be.
The USCCB in 2004 received an interim report from the Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians, (Catholics in Political Life was developed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Task Force on Catholic Bishops and Catholic Politicians in collaboration with Francis Cardinal George, OMI, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFMCap, and Bishop Donald W. Wuerl) this report suggested some directions for the voters, Church, and Politicians:
We need to continue to teach clearly and help other Catholic leaders to teach clearly on our unequivocal commitment to the legal protection of human life from the moment of conception until natural death. Our teaching on human life and dignity should be reflected in our parishes and our educational, health care, and human service ministries.
We need to do more to persuade all people that human life is precious and human dignity must be defended. This requires more effective dialogue and engagement with all public officials, especially Catholic public officials. We welcome conversations initiated by political leaders themselves.
Catholics need to act in support of these principles and policies in public life. It is the particular vocation of the laity to transform the world. We have to encourage this vocation and do more to bring all believers to this mission. As bishops, we do not endorse or oppose candidates. Rather, we seek to form the consciences of our people so that they can examine the positions of candidates and make choices based on Catholic moral and social teaching.
The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors, or platforms that would suggest support for their actions.
We commit ourselves to maintaining communication with public officials who make decisions every day that touch issues of human life and dignity.
Why does this become such a problem? To more fully understand, let us look at some specific policy issues. Here we can clearly see that Catholics are often more aligned with their political party than with the teachings of the Church. On abortion, for example, 77% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning Catholic adults say they think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 63% of Republican and Republican-leaning Catholics say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, according to a 2019 survey. This divide exists despite the Church’s formal opposition to abortion.
Partisan dynamics also are at work regarding views about climate change. Pope Francis has expressed a need to act on the issue, and like Pope Francis, eight-in-ten Catholic Democrats (along with 78% of Democrats overall) agree that the Earth is warming mostly because of human activity, such as burning fossil fuels. But just 22% of Catholic Republicans (and 24% of Republicans overall) say they believe the Earth is warming because of human activity.
Maybe our spiritual direction should again point us to the eternal and not the earthly issues which weigh us down every day. We need climate change but it does not deal with the weather, it deals with whether. Whether you will follow the teachings of the Church or not? Next time they talk about Climate Change- please agree with them and think-are we are about to follow the teachings of the Church or not? Remember, Climate Change is our problem-it is not the weather that needs to change it is whether you are going to change so that you are truly following the teachings of the Church. Amen