By Dick Bernard
Editor's Note: This commentary was first published February 12, 2012, on Dick Bernard's Thoughts Towards a Better World blog.
Today at Mass at the Basilica [of St. Mary in Minneapolis] came the expected Declaration of War (my interpretation) by the Catholic Hierarchy against the majority of us in the pews and not, who do not buy the promulgated line. If you are not Catholic, or one of the two-thirds of Catholics who do not normally go to church, the declaration on contraception and on the so-called marriage amendment to the Minnesota Constitution, is worth a read, probably worth printing out. A copy of it is here. I gladly provide this information at no cost to the Archdiocese or my Parish, simply because it is information.
I’m under no illusions: the Catholic Hierarchy is a powerful adversary. It controls the money, the real estate, the employees and the microphone when it comes to the “Catholic” position on things. It is not a democracy. The 400+ Bishops, Archbishops and Cardinals in the United States are appointed, not elected, and their positions are set by a foreign principality, the Vatican. The local Archbishop has no popular referendum to indicate his support here. No one local can vote him in or out of his office. In many temporal ways he rules.
Still, oddly, assorted public officials, including non-Catholics who welcome his apparent ‘power’ on their issues, will give him and his brother Bishops great and undeserved deference.
The constituency I “represent” is likely an easy majority of the people in the pews at Catholic Church on any given day, including the few who attend daily Mass. But we do not get the attention. It is the other Catholic Church, the Hierarchy, that gets the attention.
As for me, I happen to be a lifelong Catholic and I like going to Mass and ushering, and I’ve never seriously considered bolting. It’s not fear or lethargy or anything like that keeps me coming. Mass on Sunday is part of my weekly routine. I like the Church’s traditional (and now flagging) attention to social justice.
Some suggest that I’m foolish to hang on. I’ve answered that question for myself long ago. You don’t make change by disappearing from the battlefield. And this is a battlefield.
First, some data (which seldom is seen, and when seen is spun to death): Best as I can gather, 25% of Americans are said to be Catholic. This is probably a very liberal estimate (conservatives can make very liberal claims if in their interest, and the Bishops are no different.)
Roughly half of that 25% might be to the right of center, the other half to the left, in all variations of those misused terms. So, one-eighth of the U.S. population might seem to generally subscribe to one or another of the Bishops positions.
Of that 12% or so, a very small fraction are the spear-carriers for the Church. They are the ones who purport to speak for the faith, usually filmed inside a Church. They are the images on the evening news.
As for me, all I can do is set my own beliefs in front of the one, two, fifteen or twenty who might be inclined to listen and think about the implications of all of this.
My thoughts have not been hidden from view: Enter the word “abortion” in the search box at [my blog] and you’ll find eight posts in which the word is mentioned. The most important is October 12, 2009, which is here. Judging from years of conversations with and reading of works by Catholics, my views are very moderate, mainstream Catholic. It is the Bishops who are the extremists.
Enter the word “marriage” and you’ll find it in 25 posts. The most important and relevant one is October 6, 2010, which is here. I notice that at the end of this post I make reference to a future posting on a 1730 Quebec marriage contract. That future posting is here, June 25, 2011, and the link is towards the end of the post.
The civil contract (which preceded the Catholic Church marriage by two weeks) is well worth reading and discussing to get some grounding on the issues at stake in this state and others.
There is a great deal at stake. The institution that is my Catholic Church claims it is being discriminated against, even persecuted. I disagree in the strongest possible way. A fringe is seeking to take control under the guise of freedom of religion: their freedom.
The debate will be interesting.
But remember, those Bishops are not local people, and there are only 400 or so of them.