I’m a Catholic and my heart is broken, again.
An audio recording of a meeting between Catholic bishops and President Trump reveals a modern-day exchange of silver. Catholic school funding + defense of the pro-life cause = political support and Catholic votes.
Never mind this administration’s horrific, bungling, and careless late response to the pandemic, resulting in exponential loss of life. Never mind the hatred and mistreatment of immigrants. Never mind the lying, day after day. The open racism and misogyny. The profits he and his family continue to rake in from their position of power. The vitriol toward his perceived ‘enemies’. The complete lack of empathy or moral center.
When Trump claims to ‘attend’ a virtual mass, when he shows up at a ‘pro-life’ rally, when he says he’s never sought forgiveness from God for literally anything, when he pays lip service to ‘faith’ but can’t cite one Bible verse, see it for what it is. A purchase. A quid pro quo.
On the call, Trump uses his regular methods of self-congratulation and fearmongering to make his case for Catholic votes, but it’s the Bishops’ responses that have broken my heart yet again. Cardinal Dolan effusively praises the president and pumps him up with the flattery he craves. Cardinal O’Malley chimes in, seeking funding ‘now’ for Catholic schools, and Trump responds with the promises they seek: “We’re going to be helping you out more than you even know.”
No, he won’t talk to governors who aren’t ‘nice’, even in the midst of a pandemic that is killing people by the thousands. He sidesteps and derides the questions of challenging reporters as ‘nasty’. But for the promise of Catholic votes: “more help than you even know”. Sickening.
It seems many have forgotten what it is we Catholics actually profess: a preferential option for the poor, a servant mentality, death to self. Yet here are again, church leaders at the highest levels negotiating with the political leaders of the day for what and whom could and should be sacrificed for “the greater good”. You can almost hear the bag of silver as it drops to the ground.
But how can these votes be delivered, you ask? Isn’t there a range of thought within the Catholic church? Yes, and no. Sadly, I’ve seen local and national priests on social media already using their influence to gain votes for Trump. They’re using the same methods as the president, utilizing the same buzzwords. It’s about fear, manipulation, rising to the defense of a church “that will never be the same” after election day, as though that’s not something that’s already happening every day in real time.
No, this church will never be the same. It’s a church that clings to clericalism even in the wake of appalling abuse and mismanagement. It’s a church who has taken on the most myopic view of one issue as ‘The Cause’, while forgetting to mention that the rate of abortion declined through the last Democrat administration and that the heart of ‘pro-life’ philosophy in a faith context should really reach far beyond the birth of a baby – making sure children and families are cared for, fed, and together.
If there is such a thing as ‘The Cause’ when it comes to Catholics and our votes, I submit that it has little to do with the noise or manipulation we hear from the leadership of what sometimes seems like a deaf and dying church. Rather, it’s the rock upon which we build our lives, the reason for our hope, and the motivation for our action. As Jesus taught, it’s the truth on which everything else stands: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.
It’s how I, as a Catholic, seek to live and it’s certainly how I seek to vote. With not just a sliver, but with every part of my heart, soul, and mind, just like Jesus said.