Am I Catholic…and does it matter?

A Father Altman created this smooth political infomercial in 2020. The proclamation that took off was if you vote Democrat, your not Catholic. Worse, your going to hell. The video is here:

How to Spot A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing

I am, by his definition, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, according to Altman, I am not Catholic. I apparently have a lot of company – any democrat (lay person or clergy) is not Catholic! I have by reciprocity without authority to do so dropped his title. If you research his statements on women, clergy, and politics you will see he is priest who has lost his way.

Now, several months later his Bishop is seeking to remove Altman from his post. Father Altman doubled down with another media creation: Re: Who is the wolf now! Probably neither of us – but there are wolves in waiting ready to use holy words to their advantage, or even clergy like Altman.

What Is Worse Than A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing? A Good Laugh | PM Notes

The reality today is the church has lost many Catholics who proudly call themselves ex-Catholics or even Recovering Catholics! They still believe in God, but left the church due to the hypocritical and incoherent spiritual teachings of priest like Father Altman, or worse, those that have abused their position of trust in the most abhorrent ways (sex abuse scandal, orphanages scandal, crusades, and other atrocities).

That does not mean the participation in a democracy does not sully our souls. The Republican and Democrat platforms have huge spiritual deficits built into their popular platforms. Using Altman’s litmus test anybody who voted is not Catholic.

The Democrats lose hands down on the abortion issue by Catholic fiat despite most do not support abortion, they support not criminalizing access to abortion or the women who make that complicated moral choice. Democrat Catholics are by and large pained by the number of abortions performed worldwide. They would counsel, if asked, about the moral consequences, physical consequences, and life ending finality abortion presents. They would also be attuned to the traumatic experience that abortion presents to the mother. They tend to be more focused on fighting abortion by providing true access to a dignified life for women and the unborn child by improving access to education, food, healthcare, housing, meaningful employment, and cultural riches of our society. They intuitively know criminalizing abortion is a superficial moral get of jail card that simply puts the blame on the most vulnerable people (mother and unborn child) without addressing the larger issue.

The Republican Party, especially Trumpism, loses hands down on caring for the poor in the areas of education, housing, healthcare, taxes, and fair wages. Hands down on support of death penalty. Hands down on immigration. Hands down on global participation in defending human rights globally and fighting world poverty. Hands down the Republican Party is built on (these days) a selfish credo of “America First” and “American” being defined by a minority of Americans (loyal to a perverted definition of nationalism).

Of course this high level criticism of Democrat and Republican Catholics does not accurately define all Democrats and all Republicans as to their intensity of political beliefs along the continuum – however each member belongs to the whole party and is responsible for the policy and party outcomes.

On a higher level, our Quasi-Capitalist system promotes wealth distribution in a manner that is fundamentally anti-Christ teaching. We have not witnessed a government or economic system that puts Christ teachings first with regard to sound economic principles that provide for the dignity of life of all – though several developed nations are doing much better then America today. As Americans, we prefer to put on blinders regarding other countries successes with human rights issues and equality issues.

Blinders—Good For Horses, Bad For Manufacturers - FELT
Blinders good for horses, bad for people!

Perhaps being American today is anti-Catholic. There is no doubt that our western beliefs of individualism, excessive wealth attainment, greedy materialism, national pride and hubris, and systemic social class and racial divisions is contrary to Christ teachings.

To be even a little Catholic today genuinely is a radical task if we were to truly live a Christ centric life. Instead I fear we cling to aspects of Christianity that serve us well – and disregard or ignore the rest.

That begs the question…am I still a Catholic? Are you still a Catholic? And does it matter?

To be Catholic is to be imperfect. No one to my knowledge today has lived a Christ-like life. Apparently it is not an easy road to officially not be Catholic once you have been baptized:

Sebastian T. attempted to deregister his belonging and sent a 5 page letter condemning the church as “cruel on abortion, euthanasia and suicide; as malign on contraception; recalcitrant on women; degenerate and prurient on gays and sex; and as criminal on child sex abuse.” He met with resistance but eventually had his baptismal certificate amended with a statement that he no longer considers himself Catholic.

I would think that such a letter would be grounds to ex-communicate a baptized Catholic. Why the word game of responding with noting “desire to leave” rather then renounced, left, or officially ex-communicated? “Today, a Catholic who lapses to the extent of becoming an apostate, a heretic or a schismatic is automatically excommunicated,[20] and, until the excommunication is lifted, is forbidden to have any ministerial part in the celebration of Mass or other worship ceremonies, to celebrate or receive the sacraments or to exercise any Church functions.[21] This is an obligation that binds the excommunicated person.” But they are still Catholic!

How weak is the Catholic Church today? How many Catholics living are in a state of ex-communication, renounced the faith, or simply are lapsed Catholics (not practicing Catholicism)? Of those left in the pews how many are practicing their beliefs outside the church? How many of those disagree vehemently with one or more of Catholic teachings today? Of those that are left standing strong on Catholic idealism and practice, are they confident the Church itself has not taken a position in error?

One can see very quickly how Altman’s position is untenable as a declarative statement. As much as we Catholics hate relativism we are left at the end of the day weighing human decisions and actions through very human lenses, often corrupted by all too human motivations.

I have not renounced my Catholic faith, though I did renounce my belonging to the Knights of Columbus. Both institutions are represented by many very devout and holy people. Both have people that fall way short of the bar to be able to call themselves sincere followers of Christ.

When does an institution itself become irrelevant or unworthy of carrying the Cross? Did not Christ come to deliver a new covenant to replace or build a new church on top of the Judaic institution? What is next if Catholicism fails it’s role in humanities spiritual evolution?

Catholicism is not dead, but it faces a reckoning within itself to find spiritual coherence or face yet again another schism or continued decline in influence and world relevance. These days when you see a church in America you cannot be sure if it is still a church. I have seen churches converted into apartments, restaurants, and even a nightclub.

Between 2000 and 2017 Catholic Churches have disappeared by 11 percent. Between 1970 and 2010, the number of Catholic schools in the US dropped by 37%. Church attendance across Catholic Western Europe and the United States has been in steep decline for the last 60 years. Still Catholicism as a whole is growing: “Catholicism is now confronted with a new world demography. In the 20th century, Catholics, like most Christian denominations, made huge strides in both Africa and Asia. Between 1900 and 2000 about half the population of Africa converted from primal religions to either Christianity (40 percent) or Islam (10 percent).” The cynical among us will see is as predatory religion – winning converts in underdeveloped nations where poverty and suffering is high.

Pope Francis has consistently guided avoidance of extremes (politics, religion, or economics) and focused on humanness and godliness. He has also struck conciliatory tones on issues mentioned by Sebastian T., but shy of the kind of radical action that might be required to restore a church to a humble institution that leads by attraction and action-oriented love of all people – as opposed to its 2000 year legacy of traditions and enormous wealth. The Vatican’s wealth in 2019 was about 4 billion euros. Local churches however continue to struggle.

Without change the Catholic Church itself maybe subject to being called a “primal religion” or perhaps to a lesser extent, weakened by yet another schism or continued decline in world recognition. This evokes anger and blame among typical dividing lines in the church. Believers and the clergy themselves feel threatened by loss of status as well as perhaps, an inability to explain seemingly incoherent church positions.

It does matter that I am Catholic – though not as much as it matters that I treat people with mercy, compassion, and love. When my church ignores this precept – I must be a dissenting voice, even if I am labeled a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Environmental groups sue Trump administration for delisting gray wolves |  Navajo-Hopi Observer | Navajo & Hopi Nations, AZ

Sadly we pick on the wolf family to make our points here while we are the real villains’ of this story. Especially the Grey Wolf:

  • The grey wolf has been the notorious villain of fables and fairy stories for centuries, yet this highly intelligent and sociable animal has done little to warrant its terrifying reputation.
  • Once widespread throughout North America, Europe and the Far East, the grey wolf is, sadly, now only found in large numbers in specific parts of the USSR, North America and Eastern Europe.
  • The grey wolf has always been feared by man and has probably been persecuted more than any other animal. Did you know that centuries ago, wolves were ‘tried’ by people and burnt at the stake? However its intelligence and flexibility have saved it from extinction.

Environmental groups recently sued the Trump administration for delisting this family of wolves from the protected species list. Love them or hate them – we really treat these wolves poorly literary wise in fables and literally with bullets. We even hide in camouflaged clothing with hunting guides and sophisticated weapons – who is really the sheep in wolves clothing?

I cry, for my sisters, for my brothers, for the deaths of all others.

I would be remiss to not offer you information on how to help save Grey Wolves:

Saving Catholicism will take a little more work!

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