A few years ago, around the time of the last presidential election, a friend told me a story.
She was at Mass in the Philly suburbs, and when the homily began, the priest started to tell the congregation why they could not vote for Joe Biden and still be consistent with Catholic doctrine.
He told them that while he was not telling anyone to vote for Trump, he could not in good faith remain silent about Biden’s support for abortion. The priest said if Biden were not a self-professed “practicing Catholic,” he would have kept silent. But he was angry the message of our faith was being distorted, and served up to non-Catholics as if this was legitimate.
My friend told me that she welcomed the message, but that at least 20 people stood up and left the church in protest. It was a very obvious exodus – they were angry that the priest was making a political statement from the pulpit.
I wasn’t surprised to hear that story. In my own life, I’d experienced similar reactions when I mentioned to friends that I thought Biden was, if anything, a very flawed representative of our faith.
Two friendships ended around that election, because the idea that Catholics must oppose abortion was considered an “imposition” by women who had gone through the same Catholic school training that I had. One told me I’d been “brainwashed,” and the other simply called me a Trumper.
The idea that Catholics are a monolithic bloc was shattered over the past few decades, as polls have shown increased support for birth control, same-sex marriage, stem cell research, and even abortion among the so-called faithful.
We are still much more likely to oppose abortion than to support the procedure, and we are particularly attuned to the fallacy of calling it a form of reproductive health care, but we are not your grandmother’s Catholics.
In fact, most of us are indistinguishable from the average American voter, unlike our ancestors who stood out like sore, sacred thumbs with their immigrant accents, their crucifixes, their meatless Fridays and their gruesome pictures of pierced hearts, dripping sanctified blood.
But my larger point is that for the most part, Catholics don’t really consider ourselves to be “others” in this society.
That is, at least until recently.
With the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade and the shift in rhetoric and policy on trans issues, including what is dishonestly called “gender affirming” care for minors, there has been an increase in attacks on my faith.
Earlier this month, Joe Biden, the guy who got elected despite that priest’s pleas to the contrary, invited a group of trans activists to the White House to celebrate Pride Month.
The Catholic-in-chief had no problem letting drag queens prance around on the White House grounds, shoving their identities in the faces of whomsoever might be interested, and whomsoever might not be.
One of them started baring his/her breasts and exclaiming how amazing it was to be able to do this at the nation’s capital. And the Catholic in chief seemed to have absolutely no problem with it, unless of course he was unaware of what was going on, which is not exactly improbable.
That’s not persecution, of course. It’s just really bad taste, but when the host is a Catholic, you have to wonder about motivation.
Much more troubling was what happened in Los Angeles.
Earlier this month, the Dodgers decided to honor the “Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence,” a group of queer folk who have existed for decades and who generally mock the church, including Catholic nuns.
When word got out, Catholics politely suggested that this was inappropriate, and the Dodgers backed down.
Then, somewhat less politely, the LGBTQ community started calling the baseball team homophobic, and the Dodgers backed down and apologized for insulting men who dressed up as nuns.
However, on the day of the game honoring the queer group, thousands upon thousands of Catholics showed up at the stadium in protest.
They were polite, nicely-dressed, well behaved and carrying signs that called for prayer and respect. No blood was thrown, no pictures of aborted babies were carried, no insults were shouted. And virtually no one was in the stands when the Sisters were given their award.
It was beautiful, a demonstration of the power of prayer, messaging and pent-up anger. Those Catholics, my brothers and sisters were saying: screw with us, and these are the consequences. Amen.
Whenever I write about attacks on Catholicism, I average at least 10 emails telling me to just suck it up, Christine, since so many other groups have suffered more.
Perhaps. But as someone who regularly passes by Old St. Augustine, the church that the Know Nothings burned down in the 1800s, I am keenly aware about what happens when you let bigotry fester.
It’s important to note those moments when we defuse the conflagration.
Copyright 2023 Christine Flowers, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Delaware County Daily Times, and can be reached at [email protected].