This week at the Democratic National Convention, two people who are (in one way or another) leaders in the Catholic Church addressed the Convention. The first was Sister Simone Campbell (what religious order is this woman a part of????) who gave a brief 7 minute speech about her experience as one of the "Nuns on the bus." She explains what they did on the bus as part of her speech. You can find her speech here, by the way. To give a brief synopsis, she explained that nuns on the bus group was formed to protest the Ryan budget. She was quick to point out that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops protest the budget as well, a point which seemed to draw applause from some in the group. She then went on to tell three stories of people she helped along the bus tour. As she told each of the stories, I could just imagine Bill O'Reilly screaming at the top of his lungs that she was proving the point that Republicans would make that charities should be providing for the needs of the least of these not the federal government. But, after this, she said that these examples proved that we need to listen to each other and take care of each other and rejoice in President Obama's Affordable Care Act. I couldn't help but notice that the ongoing controversy between the aforementioned USCCB and the Obama administration on forcing the Church to provide contraception, sterilization, and abortifacients were not mentioned in Sister's closing remarks.
At the end of the convention, Timothy Cardinal Dolan was asked to give the closing benediction. You can listen to his five minute benediction here. He starts off slow, at first I thought he was nervous but I think he was trying to think of a way to quiet people down. He started off talking about justice for the poor and the suffering and talked about the weakest and neediest among us. All of this would be in the Democrat's wheelhouse. However, he didn't stop there. He prayed for the respect of human life from natural conception until natural, dignified death. He prayed for freedom and asked for protection of the troops. He prayed for respect for nature and nature's God (challenge) and respect for immigrants (wheelhouse). He asked for blessings on all leaders and potential leaders and finished with the benediction of all present.
To me, this is the real divide in the Catholic Church right now: You have those who believe that the Catholic Church should be anarm of the Democratic party and others (who I think are far fewer in number) who believe that real Catholics can agree with everything in the Republican platform. And then you have those who believe that the Catholic Church should be fiercely independent, standing up for the rights of the poor AND the unborn, welcoming the immigrant AND protecting the nature of marriage. If we go the way of Sister Simone, we run the risk of becoming Sadducees, a group of Jews who sold their souls to Rome in return for riches and power. If we run too far to the Republicans, we run the risk of becoming Pharisees, a group of Jews who wanted to throw the bums out but who were so fixated on rules and laws that they often lost sight of compassion. True Christians challenge both Sadducees and Pharisees, both Republicans and Democrats, which is why in a time when so many self appointed Catholic "leaders" are willing to sell their soul one way or another to political parties, we are so blessed to have such a clear voice in Cardinal Dolan to show the connections and the deep distinctions between what it means to be a Christian and what the political parties push.