As  a cradle Catholic born before World War II I am greatly disturbed by the changes in my church since Vatican II and John 23rd. I am chiefly bothered by the positions taken by Church leadership  starting with Rome and the apparent effort to return the Church to the pre Vatican II status. Here are some examples of leadership action which is very troubling. 

In some European countries like Germany, traditionally there is no separation between church and state. In these countries, in addition to paying a tax to the country, they are also taxed a surcharge when they are required  to state their religious affiliation and register as a Catholic. The collected funds are sent directly to the church. According to the National Catholic Reporter, in Germany from the 19th century, a tax of up to 9% on income was imposed on registered Catholics. This produced about $5.14 billion annually for the German Catholic Church. To avoid paying tax, Catholics could file with the  taxing authorities they were no longer Catholics. In 2010
VATICAN 2some 180,000 Catholics took that step resulting in substantial loss  of tax revenue to the church.

The reaction of the German bishops to this increasingly popular device to avoid the tax was to respond by denying such people the sacraments or any participation in church affairs. The bishops explained this by issuing a statement that said:

"Whoever declares their withdrawal or whatever reason before the responsible civil authority always violates their duty to preserve a link with the church, as well as their duty to make a financial contribution so the church can fulfill its tasks."

The German bishops decreed that these Catholics could no longer receive the sacraments of penance, communion, confirmation or anointing of the sick and even would be denied church funerals.  Nor could they belong to parish councils or even act as godparents at baptism. Marriages of these Catholics could be allowed only with the bishops consent. Bishops instructed  parish priests to write to these Catholics and warn them of these sanctions. 

Critics call this the "pay to pray" decree. Critics note that the German bishops are still trying to recover from their coverup of the sexual abuse scandals when they took this position. They pointed  out the bad timing of this move and the failure of the same bishops to investigate the disatisfaction of Catholics instead. 

I have no doubt the majority American bishops would like to have the government impose the same tax as Germany and would impose the same sanctions for any Catholic who opted out of the tax.Why? Well, consider the dramatic changes in distancing the Church from the teachings of  Vatican II since it ended in December of 1965.

That year, the saintly John XXIII, who had called the council, had died and a new pope, Paul 6th, had been elected. John's view, adopted by the council, of collegiality of bishops and pope in shared communion was in conflict with the traditional view that the church was a pyramid with the Pope at the apex. In fact, the French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, announced the Council was the work of the devil and he left the church taking followers. (See Commonweal October 12th for an excellent history of Vatican II by John Wilkins) This conflict of views about shared authority vs a royal monarchy made the Council conclusions an area of theological and political dispute within the church. There was no way those who saw the Vatican as a monarchical papacy could accept the idea of a college of equals: bishops and pope.

The popes following the death of John, made clear their view of dispute. For example, the 1968 encyclical, Humane vitae, imposed a ban on contraception without any input from theologians or bishops. When the first Polish pope, John Paul II, was elected he made it clear he had no doubt that artificial birth control was greatly sinful. He also made it clear to the bishops where they stood: he was fully in charge and they were to accept his authority. He brought a German theologian, Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope, to Rome. Joseph Ratzinger, now pope, had "switched parties." Originally he was a member of those theologians who accepted Vatican II and favored a liberal interpretation of the pronouncements. But, now he had a change of heart and was an outspoken conservative. The pope appointed him to head the powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith where he ruled  with a heavy hand and imposed his conservative power regarding theologians, books, bishops and priests whose views about Vatican II differed from his.

When John Paul 2nd died in 2005, the Cardinals chose Joseph Ratzinger as his successor. From the start it was clear that collegiality would not be a part of his papacy. Without consulting the bishops college, he authorized, in 2007, the permanent use of the Tridentine liturgy (the pre Vatican II Latin Mass) along side of the ordinary mass. This was the first time in the history of the church that it has had two universally valid forms of the Latin rite for mass and was a  step back, before Vatican II, in the history of the Church.

Then, In 2009, he lifted the excommunication of the bishops who were followers of Marcel Lefebvre even though their movement is in direct opposition to Vatican II. The result of the Vatican power grab and rejection of collegiality has been the appointment world wide of bishops and cardinals who, for the most part, accept the conservative pre Vatican II view of the church. They accept the role of the pope in relationship to the bishops and cardinals.This conservative leadership along with the idea of central power in Rome with ever widening ideas of papal infallibility has  consequences. These are not just the number  of Catholics leaving the Church or the decrease of priests and nuns.

One of the consequences of the conservative take over is the philosophy of American Bishops. Most, like the evangelical's, would favor no separation of church and state in America. Instead they want government which imposes Christian moral beliefs (theirs) on everyone by the government passing laws. They have demonstrated this repeatedly by the attempts to pass laws which would impose their Christian beliefs on everyone  even though we live in a society of very differing moral beliefs, religions and athesist beliefs. The most recent examples deal with same sex marriage  and abortion, but also include contraceptive devices. (It's interesting that almost no similar concern is shown for  war and capital punishment nor poverty)

Worse, is the American bishops attempt to tell Catholics how they must vote  or suffer committing serious sin and even lose salvation. According to them a Catholic must vote for Romney/Ryan. They must also vote  for other Republican candidates who claim they are opposed to freedom of choice and same sex marriage or suffer the risk of loss of their souls.

What is particularly dishonest and fradulent is that the do this while insisting they are not telling Catholics how to vote. Instead, they say they are just outlining creteria to guide them in voting, but these criterial give one no choice of how to vote. Take Bishop Thomas  Paprocki in Illinois who has established criteria for Catholics which clearly means those who vote for president Barack Obama,or any other pro-choice politician, risk the loss of their souls by committing serious sin. There is nothing new about this kind of heavy handed intimidation. During the last presidential election Bishop Joseph Martino of Pennsylvania was threatening to bar from receiving communion any candidate or Catholic who voted for them who favored pro-choice. He accused such a candidate and those who voted for them  as endorsing murder.

However, in this election, apparently the ends justify the means, at least as to candidate Ryan. Previously the US conference of Catholic Bishops issued press releases saying that the Ryan budget failed to meet the criteria for a moral document due to its exclusion of the poor and needy. However, now that he is a candidate for vice president and in agreement with them about same sex marriage and freedom of choice, they claim it would be a sin to not vote for his ticket. As to his budget, well now they have  decided it's OK because now they say social philosophy is a matter of "prudential judgment."

The blatant hypocriscy is  that bishops like  Paparocki insist they are not telling Catholics  how to vote. At the same time, bishop Paparocki has gone so far as to tell Catholics their salvation  is in serious jeopardy if they vote  for candidates like president Obama and  others who favor freedom of choice  or same sex  marriage, but then, with a straight face, goes  on to say "I'm not telling you which party which candidates to vote for or against , but I am saying you need to think and pray very carefully about your vote" Anyone who can't see the dishonesty in these claims probably shouldn't be voting  or driving  a car for that matter. I think this sort of dishonest sidestepping is probably because they fear their tax exempt status might be taken away it they are found guilty of politics from the pulpit. And shouldn't it?



  1. The Democratic Party is the party of abortion. Face it. If you vote with them, you will suffer whatever God has prepared for those who destroy his little ones. Do not pretend to be a good Catholic, PLEASE. Don’t disgrace us! And Vatican II was a disaster as evidenced by the shambles the Church and the world is now in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *