A Stiff-Necked People

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As you may know, I live in the diocese of Colorado Springs and the bishop here, Rev. Michael Sheridan, was in the news lately. There was a great deal of national interest in his pronouncement, it was interpreted as being stronger than anything previously issued by any of the U.S. bishops.

There are some interesting aspects of the local reaction to Bishop Sheridan’s Pastoral Letter that I’d like to share with you.

First, the letter was issued at least a week before news of it hit the national headlines, possibly as much as 10 days prior to the time it received national attention. In that time, there was no notice of it in the local newspaper and I heard no comments on it from any Catholics I know. It seems to me that there are two possibilities for this local somnolence, either no one, anywhere around here, read the letter, or two, it was thought to be unremarkable. It was only after the story hit CNN and the wire services that the local news media picked up on it and people began talking about it. I find that fascinating. I’m not sure I can explain it, but it is fascinating.

Second, it seems to me the reaction to the Pastoral Letter among Catholics here has been largely unfavorable. The pastor of my parish, Fr. Steve (a great priest) noted in his homily last week that he had received considerable negative comment. I have heard a few folks speak out in support of the bishop, but the news coverage, and the general content of the letters to the editor in the paper has been negative. (I should note, I watch little TV and almost no local TV news, so I can’t comment on any local TV coverage on the issue.) The objections mostly fall into two camps, 1) the bishop should observe the separation of Church and state, and 2) “the bishop has no right to tell me what to do, he should mind his own business.” We are, indeed, a stiff-necked people.

I find this interesting, and perplexing, because Colorado Springs is hardly a community of left-wing, pinko, communists. We have a huge evangelical presence in the city – it is not at all unusual to walk into a Starbucks and see a small group enjoying lattes with their Bible study. It is not at all unusual, to see small groups praying in a Starbuck’s outlet. I don’t imagine you see that too often in Seattle. We also have a large military presence, a large retired-military community, and a number of large defense contractors in the area. So why is it that the Catholics in the area seem so “liberal?” Why does it seem there are so few Catholics who are willing to publicly support the bishop of the diocese when he simply restates Church teaching on a matter of faith and morals?

Third, one media outlet that I have heard that has reported positively on the bishop’s letter is the local, evangelical Light Praise radio station. How in the world does that make sense?

I don’t know how to put all this together so that it does make sense. One idea I have is that certain chickens are coming home to roost. For one thing, the Church, and the diocese of Colorado Springs, is beginning to reap the fruits of decades of poor, or non-existent catechesis of its members. There are too many Catholics here who are virtually, if not totally, ignorant of the Truth of their faith. This is how one liberal Democrat lawyer who lives in the northern part of the diocese, near Denver, can demand that the bishop recant his statement or else lose the $100,000.00 donation the lawyer pledged towards construction of a new parish church. The temerity of this demand is mind-boggling, as is the ignorance of the faith it evidences. This is how there are people who claim to be “good Catholics” can say that the bishop has “no right to tell me what to do, he should keep his opinions to himself.” This is how an evangelical radio station can broadcast favorable stories about Bishop Sheridan – those people understand the issues involved.

This poor catechesis has lead to a large number of Catholics present in the Church who do not understand that their faith must affect how they live their lives. Either what is preached on Sunday is true on every day including Election Day, or else it is false and should be abandoned altogether. There are apparently innumerable Catholics today to whom the faith is meaningless, only a matter of going through certain motions on Sunday morning. They have no idea of what it is that the Church teaches, and don’t care. They only care about the things of this world, not the next. Again, this has to be the result of poor or non-existent catechesis over the last 20-30 years. This is a serious failing on the part of the Church, and, to be honest, I don’t see it being rectified any time soon.

I was happy when I first read Bishop Sheridan’s letter, although I thought it did not go far enough. The conduct of certain politicians who claim to be Catholic but who support such things as the homosexual lifestyle and agenda, the “right” to abortion and illicit stem-cell research should be excommunicated, not just encouraged not to take communion. Their conduct is a scandal, and the ultimate in hypocrisy. I say they should be excommunicated, not a punishment, but as a wake up call. The problem with these people is that, not only are they putting their own souls in danger but through their popularity and influence they are leading countless thousands of misinformed Catholics to perdition. They are overruling the legitimate authority of the bishops on matters of faith and morals and they must be reminded of the price that is to be demanded of those who do such things but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Matthew 18:6 (ESV)


I hope Fr. Steve also pointed out that those who thought negatively about the statement may need to re-examine themselves in light of the Church's teachings.

How do you feel about the idea that people who help pay for abortions and stem cell research by paying their taxes should also be excommunicated or denied the sacraments? Isn't that the next logical step?


Obviously no. For there to be mortal sin the act must be willful, i.e. the person must choose to perform the act. The fact that taxes I pay (lawfully) go to fund things I believe to be sinful does not put me in a state of mortal sin. However, as Bishop Sheridan said in his letter, if I vote for politicians who support such things and make them possible, then I do commit a mortal sin. That is the reason why these folks should not take communion.

Ron Moffat

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This page contains a single entry by Ron Moffat published on May 20, 2004 6:58 PM.

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