Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Filling the cafeteria

With the canonization of St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II, Pope Francis sent a clear message that it is time for the silly in-fighting between so-called liberal and conservative elements in the Church to end.

One of the most common insults hurled from right to left is the phrase "cafeteria catholic", the accusation being that liberals pick and choose from the churches teaching what suits them.

In today's first reading we hear

The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common.

With the move to from the agricultural to the Industrial Age the Church found itself having to apply the principles of our faith to a new circumstance, and on May 15, 1891 Pope Leo XIII issued Rerum Novarum, literally about New Things. Here the church began to address issues like the rights and obligations of workers and employers.

While many remember how fiercely St. John Paul II railed against communism, we in the west like to forget that he was equally critically of unrestrained capitalism. As May 15 approaches it might be the time to take a look at Centissimus Annus, the encyclical issued by St. John Paul II, on May 1, 1991, the Feast of St. Joseph the worker. The sad truth is that here is where the so-called conservatives head for the cafeteria, and start trying to explain away why Catholic social teaching isn't binding.

St. John Paul II teaches that:
Furthermore, society and the State must ensure wage levels adequate for the maintenance of the worker and his family, including a certain amount for savings.
[the State here refers to all government and not state in the us sense of the word]

Are we ready to read this when we are having the minimum wage debate?

He moved us from a mere living wage, to the concept of a just wage.

The truth is we can all be cafeteria Catholics. This weekend reminded us that we cannot be people who play pick your favorite century or pick your favorite Pope. We are people of faith who believe that the same Holy Spirit that was poured out at Pentecost is the same Holy Spirit that guided the election of Pope Francis and all his successors. We may well look back and wonder about some of the choices, but I would say just look at the Bible and see the leaders God chose in both the Old and New Testament. They are a rag tag lot.

Somehow it all fits together to form a picture that only God can see. Our task is to live as a Church here and now, we the Pope, bishops, priests and deacons we have. We proclaim a Church that is one, holy catholic and apostolic, not perfect. It's time for all of us liberals and conservatives to march out of the cafeteria together, embrace all of the Church's teaching, and proclaim that good news to the ends of the earth.

Let us pray for the intercession of our two newest saints to help end our fighting with each other so that together we can fight all that is truly evil, all that that degrades the dignity of human life around our world.