loving the Church, or using her?

John Paul II once wrote that the opposite of love is not hate, but use.

That insight has haunted me during this last election cycle, as the spectacle unfolded of Catholic politicians and activists promoting themselves with adjectives such as ‘good,’ ‘ardent,’ ‘faithful,’ or ‘lifelong’ and then taking positions contrary to Church teaching. The whole game is becoming increasingly transparent.

First of all, do we really accept self-endorsements of faithfulness? Is there any credibility in such a claim?

Second of all, do these adjectives really mean anything? What, in the minds of these people, does it mean to love the Church?

One sometimes hears people speak of “faithful dissent,” but this is simply an insult to intelligence. There’s a difference between an oxymoron and a paradox. Some people claim to be “prophetic voices,” but a cursory glance over the prophets of the Old Testament makes this assertion laughable. I mean, when did the prophets ever champion the path of least resistance in the culture?

So why do dissenting Catholics in the public sphere often make claims of loving the Church? Let’s assume their sincerity for a moment.

Perhaps they mean they feel at home in the Church, that they have fond memories of growing up in the Church, etc. Could be. But this might simply be sentimentality, not love.

Maybe they feel a sense of belonging, a kind of allegiance because the Church educated them, formed their worldview, etc. Fair enough. But this might simply be tribal loyalty, and not love.

It could be that they recognize the Church as a valuable vehicle for communication — given its resources and network. But this might be simply opportunism, not love.

Love considers the good of the beloved. So the one who takes up the mantle of ‘good,’ ‘ardent,’ ‘faithful,’ or ‘lifelong’ ought to ask themselves: Do you really love the Church? What would you be willing to sacrifice to attend to her good? Has love led you to make her cause your own?

I can understand why bishops may feel a bit used by some Catholics in the public square after this election cycle. The question these Catholics need to ask themselves is this: have they been treating the Church like a beloved, or a personal escort?

This issue isn’t going away anytime soon…

Setting the stage for the US hierarchy’s first “Armageddon” with the Obama administration, transition sources have floated two pro-choice Catholics — Sebelius and former Senate majority leader Tom Daschle — as the leading candidates to head the Department of Health and Human Services, the agency with the Federal government’s lead responsibility for abortion policy (and, ergo, the official charged with shepherding the proposed Freedom of Choice Act through Congress). (source)

2 thoughts on “loving the Church, or using her?

  1. Excellent post, Clayton! Perhaps you could develop your points a bit more and post this on a number of Catholic sites like insidecatholic.com? Tragically, many Catholic Americans are now descending into deeply partisan bickering and recriminations that never move beyond ad hominem attacks and purely political points (sorry about the alliteration there!) The desire to shift blame seems to be a fundamental human need, and it’s seldom pretty. Your post here, developed a bit more, could reach a lot of people and re-orient that negative wave before it sweeps away all in its path. Just a thought!

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