There are no winners in the national debt debacle. As a result of the eleventh-hour deal, which Congressman Emanuel Cleaver memorably dubbed a “sugar-coated Satan sandwich,” our elected leaders have their lowest approval ratings ever. Financial markets worldwide are reeling from the credit downgrade. Even though we’re all suffering to some extent, as usual, it will be those with the least to lose who lose the most.
Echoing Cleaver’s concerns, retired auxiliary bishop Peter Rosazza highlights the unfair burden the agreement places on the poor—and reminds us that the poor should not be an afterthought.
But one has to go searching for this perspective. If you want to find out what Catholics are really concerned about, the news tells a different story. For example, some folks in Boston are so upset about the closing of their parish church that they’ve defied the archbishop and occupied the building—for six years. The diocese of Orange County has stirred controversy with its $50-million offer to buy the Crystal Cathedral, of televangelism fame. We have high-profile Catholics telling us that the most important issues of our day are altar girls, people showing up to Mass in Hooter’s T-shirts, or arguments over whether Thomas Merton would be a conservative if he hadn’t died sometime around the middle of the last century.
If arguing over these issues is at the core of how we live out our faith, we don’t deserve to call ourselves Catholic. If using divisive terms to castigate one another is how we express the truth of our convictions, we damage ourselves, one another, and the institution we’re purporting to defend.
The Church is not its buildings. It’s not the decorum (or lack thereof) of its members. It’s not a machine built to crush women. It’s not an institution designed to promote or condone abuse of any kind.
The Church is the presence of Christ in the world. And it is us.
And for the breadth of the gap between those two statements, we alone are responsible.