Will the Vatican Really Host Pro-Abortion, Anti-Marriage Socialist Bernie Sanders? Help!
Normally I don’t stick around to talk to folks after church. For reasons you’ll see, I prefer a “surgical strike” approach to the sacraments, which sees me into an Uber as the closing hymn still echoes. But last night my ride was delayed, so I stood in the front of the church. I heard a fulsome fellow in his middle 30s talking to an older couple about politics. He was singing the praises of Texas Senator Ted Cruz. I mosied over and nosed my way into the conversation. (I’m a New Yorker, and so lack the chromosome for shame.)
I offered that I was a big fan of the Senator. The older couple’s eyes lit up. “So you’re a conservative?” the husband asked, in a tone that was approving and yet almost forlorn. I could see in their lined faces the traces of decades of hard, honest work, in their natty attire an old-fashioned respect for what happens inside a church. I told them about The Stream, and they got excited. Meanwhile, the younger fellow who’d been chatting with them dispensed a few more words of praise for Cruz’s views. I was glad that my ride wasn’t there yet.
The wife looked at me earnestly, and asked me, “Have you seen what the Texas Catholic” (our diocesan newspaper) “is saying about immigration, the minimum wage and welfare?” She threw up her hands.
“No, I don’t read that paper. I don’t see any point in listening to bishops talk about politics. Not when so many church agencies are dependent on massive federal contracts to fund their so-called good works. Immigration, health care, you name it — a huge percentage of the money the Church says it spends helping the poor is actually government money, redirected through Catholic channels. They really ought to rename ‘Catholic Charities’ something like ‘Federal Charities.”
Her husband nodded solemnly. “So what can we do?”
I remembered how back in the ’80s, ’90s, and ’00s, well-meaning people like these would send off letters to the Vatican, informing the relevant offices in the Curia about such abuses of power. And it may well have done some good, back when a cardinal like Ratzinger worked for a pope like John Paul II. But now — with a pope who asks about homosexuals, “Who am I to judge?” but denounces Donald Trump for favoring a border wall as “not a Christian”? There may be no one to write to. All that’s left to us is prayer.
I was silent for a moment. “It’s hard to say, when the pope’s man is inviting Bernie Sanders to the Vatican.” They’d heard about that, but in case you haven’t, one of the pope’s aides, Abp. Marcelo Sorondo, has invited to a conference at the Vatican socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders — who not only favors the forced redistribution of wealth at levels likely to destroy untold jobs, sap human initiative and sink our economy, but also champions partial birth abortion, same-sex marriage and other grave moral evils.
Now, when Georgetown University invites Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood, or Notre Dame welcomes pro-choice “Catholic” Vice President Joe Biden, Catholics are prone to complain. But when the Vatican itself brings in an equally appalling politician to speak at a major conference, a man who is trolling for Catholic votes to support his anti-Christian agenda — we mostly fall silent. What can we say?
We know what Abp. Sorondo said, when prominent Catholics such as Rev. Joseph Fessio and Rev. Robert Sirico appeared with him at a panel and disputed Pope Francis’ views on the science of climate change. He rebuked them in public, and said that Pope Francis’ take on science is part of the “Ordinary Magisterium,” the teaching authority he inherited from the Apostles, which it’s sinful for Catholics to publicly disagree with. An outrageous, idolatrous claim, it left those good priests speechless.
No pope can speak with authority, one way or the other, about scientific claims. Or on details about economics or wise immigration policy. But too few Catholics know that. They think that when it comes to listening to the pope, your choices are “all” or “nothing.” One well-meaning Catholic whom I encountered on Twitter on Saturday insisted that all Pope Francis’ decisions are “guided by the Holy Spirit.” Including, presumably, hosting the pro-abortion Senator Sanders. I asked her if previous popes were divinely guided when they dug up the previous pope’s body and tried him for heresy, denounced the Magna Carta or launched bloody crusades against Christian heretics. (No answer. She blocked me.)
And now, outside the church after mass, I turned to the couple and said, “You could write the bishop and threaten to withhold all your church donations, give it to other charities….” Finally I shrugged.
At this point the young fellow whom I’d first overheard piped in, and assured us that things weren’t quite as bad as I said, that our bishops are not entirely dependent on federal contracts, which anyway might dry up soon under policies like Obama’s. Then he asked my name, and told me his. It turned out we kind of “knew” each other. He had read my writing, and emailed me once.
And I knew all about him. He worked at an orthodox Catholic foundation. He had written to me once of how the pro-life movement needed to be more “holistic” — by lumping in immigration, the minimum wage, welfare benefits and other left-wing hobby horses with the struggle against abortion. That had sent me digging on social media, where I learned that this fellow loudly praised and promoted a self-styled “Catholic Communist,” had in fact gotten that Communist an internship with the as-yet still orthodox Catholic foundation.
And here he was with this sweet old Catholic couple, pretending to be a fan of Texas Senator Ted Cruz. And why not? His foundation is funded by thousands of small donations from hundreds of good conservative Catholics just like these. So buttering such folks up directly butters his bread. For once, I was speechless.
At that point God intervened: My ride arrived. I bade the couple goodbye, gave the young fraud a caustic look and jumped in that Lexus like a getaway car.