April 29, 2004

John F. Kerry & the CINO tag

It's always painful when one of your own urinates on Church teaching, as John Kerry does with regard to the life issues. I can listen to, and even enjoy, a pagan like Christopher Hitchens because his viewpoint naturally flows from his lack of faith. It's much more grating to listen to John Kerry who arrives at the same place from a different starting point.

Wanting to shame Kerry by calling him "Catholic in Name Only" is a temptation but a tag I think should be avoided like the bubonic plague. That's why I liked Mark of Irish Elk's line about Kerry believing in the divinity of bread but not the humanity of unborn life - there's a winsomeness in assuming Kerry believes in the Real Presence unless proven otherwise. Likewise Kerry is fully Catholic until proven otherwise (and not by us but by his bishop in a visible earthly way, though ultimately only by God).

But shaming does work. It's how the Amish, remnant though they be, have survived. It works in that it discourages bad behavior even though it might leave the heart unchanged. It can lead to works without faith because someone is doing a good action (such as going to church every Sunday) because of peer pressure rather than out of God's grace. But who knows how many souls have been saved by doing "A" (and being present for the action of God's grace) even if they were doing "A" for the wrong motives? And which of us does anything from entirely pure motives?

We know there are many "C & E" (Christmas and Easter) Catholics. My evangelical stepson recently used this an epithet in connection to Kerry. My stepson understandably likes that his church is full of fervent believers with accountability (a watchword often used), while implying, but politely not saying, that ours lacks accountability and has a lot of slackers. (The irony is that he thinks I'm not one of the slackers.) But what I want to point out, given the right opportunity, is that the wheat and tares are to grow together and we cannot pull the roots out without destroying the other. The Catholic Church is just that - catholic or universal - and that means you'll have tares. It's not a self-selecting group. A parish is defined by geographic boundaries, not by enthusiasm. (KTC made this point to me last year.) The 153 fish will strain at the net.

So I can't have it both ways. I can't despise Kerry and sing my stepson's tune while playing a different tune when holding to the wheat and tares theory and how the RCC will have people of every gradation of devoutness, or lack thereof.

Mark of Minute Particulars made a particularly (pun intended) powerful mention of how ironic it is that orthodox laypeople would de-emphasize the Sacrament of Baptism:
I suggest to you that this facile treatment (it is ironic that those laypeople who purport to be orthodox would treat the Sacrament of Baptism so glibly, presume so boldly, and suggest that being Catholic might be solely a matter of a few statements one makes) does a great disservice to those who take evangelization seriously...

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