How to Destroy a Church in Eight Easy Steps

The Federal government is here and eager to help.

By John Zmirak Published on March 11, 2015

As some of us remember, Catholic bishops were among the leading advocates for Obamacare. (There were also Protestant churches involved in the effort, but let me stick with my specialty.) Conflating the church’s “preferential option for the poor” with one for the federal government, or even “for liberal Democrats, except on social issues,” bishops and their lobbyists worked the phones and Capitol Hill — just as they are doing today on behalf of Obama’s amnesty for immigrants. In both cases, there were financial incentives as well — tens of millions of dollars that would benefit Catholic hospitals, whose indigent clients who would then gain health insurance, and millions in federal contracts granted Catholic agencies that aid illegal immigrants. Of course, where there are incentives, there are potential penalties.

We know how Obamacare worked out for the bishops: With astonishing bravado, their “social-justice” allies stabbed the bishops in the back, imposing the HHS mandate that requires coverage for contraceptives and abortifacients — on the pain of crippling fines affecting every Catholic institution from Notre Dame to the Little Sisters of the Poor. It turns out that the loss of liberty can harm everyone, even clergy.

Now the daggers are out on the immigration issue. The Obama administration didn’t even wait for the courts to unfreeze its unconstitutional power-grab over amnesty before it rubbed the bishops’ noses in their mess of pottage: New regulations will require any social service agency, including religious ones, to steer its “refugee” clients toward abortionists and the abortion pill. At stake is millions of dollars in federal money. Such agencies must also “train their staff in ‘LGBTQI’ and to identify ‘transgender and intersex’ unaccompanied minors.”

Again, as with Obamacare, the church faces a choice between retreating from part of its mission, or abandoning fundamental Christian moral principles. It is unclear how the bishops will choose.

But how did they dig themselves into such a hole in the first place? How will they, inevitably, dig the next such hole and then the hole after that? I have analyzed both issues, and come up with an eight-step process for destroying a church’s witness.

  1. Distort your church’s doctrine, by pretending that it clearly supports just one side and one solution in a complex political issue that balances the interests and rights of millions of citizens. Instead, side unconditionally and unthinkingly with . . .
  2. A particular “victim” group that includes millions of voters, potential church members, or potential clients that can serve as magnets for federal money. Insist that the government help this group by . . .
  3. Growing the government and taxing the middle class, while also . . .
  4. Directing federal funds to church agencies or institutions. Now instead of performing the “corporal works of mercy” as Christians, they are simply working for pay as federal contractors. This has the added benefit that it will . . .
  5. Make the churches partly dependent on the whims of the federal government, whose bureaucrats and leaders are firmly opposed to Christian moral teachings on the sanctity of life and of marriage. Soon these secular leftists will . . .
  6. Impose laws and regulations that would force the church to abandon core moral principles. At this point church leaders will . . .
  7. Whimper, and flail around, pretending that the First Amendment protects their right to spend federal money however they wish, regardless of the federal government’s preferences. After this, look for . . .
  8. One of three results:

a) Church officials and agencies cave completely, and do not even pretend to put up resistance. This happened when the Obama administration decreed that Catholic agencies receiving federal money had to hire gay and “transgender” employees.

b) Church officials and agencies find a loophole through which they can fulfill the letter of church law, while flouting its spirit — for instance, through the HHS “compromise” accepted by the Catholic Health Association, which created a formal “buffer” between Catholic employers and the abortifacients they were effectively paying for.

c) The Church stands up prophetically against the real evils (#6 above) that would be required to obtain federal money (#4 above), and renounces the distortions of doctrine (#1 above) that dug them this hole in the first place.

I wish I had a news link to illustrate option 8c in action.

For such a prophetic witness to actually happen, churchmen would have to admit that it is not Christian to farm out the works of the Gospel to the government, to pretend that mercy is justice and use the state as a bully stick for dubious schemes of economic and social engineering. They would have to buy back their freedom of conscience by spurning millions of dollars, and ask their congregations to give from the heart in order to serve the poor and the vulnerable in an honest Christian spirit. They would have to run Catholic agencies along the lines of crisis pregnancy centers — those embattled and underfunded places that really do fight on the front lines against injustice, staffed by volunteers and fed by private charity. You know, like St. Benedict’s monasteries, St. Vincent de Paul’s soup kitchens, and all those parochial schools which we Catholics built in the teeth of an openly hostile government.

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