Q - Shouldn't the Bishops do something more to those Catholic politicians (and other famous Catholics) who say they are Catholic but rarely, if ever, go to church and are living their lives in public scandal - sometimes even supporting abortion? I am frustrated by them because they seem to be at odds with the Catholic Church about all Catholic doctrines and they don't even really know what they are, yet the Bishops don't seem to do much at all!
A - Thanks for the question. I can tell you are frustrated. I hope I can help ease some of your frustration. There are many approaches and opinions on how to handle Catholics who don't act Catholic. I won't offer my own in this space, because it matters little. This is up to the Bishops, not me. I understand how the Church works. But, an important part of how the Church understands herself is the teaching of John Paul II that "the Marian dimension of the Church precedes the Petrine". This means that the Church is contemplative and receptive to God's grace and guidance before she exercises her authority and apostleship.
With that being said, there are some Catholics who clearly reject what the Church teaches, and it isn't hard to find examples in almost any area of public life - politics, entertainment, etc.
A while back I read an article by a Catholic journalist who clearly stated that he rejects the hierarchy, the teachings of the Church, the authority of the Pope, and wants to "impeach" the Pope because he is upholding centuries of apostolic teaching.
Amazingly bad. But, here is what I want you to understand. This man clearly doesn't understand the Church's teaching. I can gaurantee that he has never studied the Church's teachings on birth control, the Theology of the Body, or women. When we form a dogmatic understanding of our own opinion, which is based on ignorance of the opposition, we do ourselves a disservice. Again, I ask, what should the Church do about Catholics such as this man?
Some say kick him out. I think this is the worst response. It serves no good. Oh, yes we could "purify" the ranks of bad Catholics all day long, but that isn't what the Church is for. We aren't the place where only holy people should be members - we are the place the sick go to get well! Being as good a sinner as I am, I might be the first to go.
Also, while the Church must try and make sure that doctrine is taught properly, we can't kick out all the Catholics that have a teaching incorrect. What we need to do is pray and catechize. We need to love them into understanding what the truth really is about sex, marriage, contraception, life, salvation, etc. They have never truly heard the "good news" if they believe the Catholic Church is hateful to women and just wants power. What a shame! What a call to be merciful! Do we really see those in the Church that we disagree with as our true brothers and sisters? Really? Just as much as some of my siblings have hurt my parents by their sins, I have never wanted them "kicked out" of my family. In the same way, I repent of ever wanting to kick out a brother or sister who just doesn't understand or believe in what the Church teaches - or better yet, what they believe her to teach.
Some want to excommunicate Catholics who disagree with the Church in such a public way. One of my former profs argues that it is a possibility that the Bishops should look into. I am not so sure. I think it should be a last resort in this instance. There are other ways of addressing it before getting into canonical penalties. If those don't work, then excommunication could be a possibility.
NOTE: excommunication is a medicinal penalty that bars one from active participation in the sacramental life of the Church. It is meant to serve as a way to call back into the fold, the wandering sheep. It is NOT getting kicked out of the Church or being damned to hell.
Pray for our bishops and those Catholics that do not understand the Church and reject what they believe she teaches. But, evangelize them with mercy as well. Lastly, thank God that you and I are not bishops that have to make these decisions.