I know a “Catholic charity” (it collects its revenue at Masses) that does little more than refer poor folks who ask for aid to local state welfare offices. And while state aid may be friendly to our stomachs, it is not always friendly to our souls. A Catholic family recently told me of a time when they were directed to sign up for a seemingly innocent welfare program. In exchange for food, their children were subjected to a degrading examination to determine whether they were sexually active and, more explicitly, whether they had been engaged in any violent sexual activity. During this examination, the father of the family was made to leave the room. Even in a sleepy New England town like St. Johnsbury, there is no mistaking the systemic philosophy of entitlement-dependence that pervades the welfare system. Along with food, shelter, and medical treatment, welfare officers are also eager to connect the poor with “counselors” and “women’s health” professionals who preach an ideology of promiscuity and a dependence on the State, which is always ready to help them abort the consequences of their actions.
Just at the moment when the Church begins to undergo a full-on persecution under an overgrown State, an unprecedented number of Catholics have united in a rallying cry for more power to be put in the hands of that State. This Catholic brand of Statism is thrust into the public square in the name of the poor. But the poor have for some time been undergoing a process of moral reeducation in the welfare state. They have been catechized by an enemy church that reduces their consciences into selfish subservience from birth. In Depot Square, St. Johnsbury, tenants are encouraged by low-level bureaucrats (some of whom are Catholic) to vote in the interests of big government. Meanwhile, public discourse worldwide is dominated by an ideology that is characterized by ruthlessly anti-life statism and a hatred of Christianity. Since the Catholic Church is all but defeated in this regard, I’m not surprised that Judas has arrived on the scene, and that some are making the damnable decision to cooperate with the all-but-triumphant State rather than stand up for the dignity of the poor.
During the government shutdown last October, there was an outcry from some Catholic quarters. It was not the battle-cry of a unified Church, joining in the charge against the oppressive Affordable Care Act. Rather, it was the whine of the dependent and their disingenuous advocates. They weren’t outraged by a law that permanently criminalizes the Catholic conscience in this country; their complaint was that those who were attempting to thwart the HHS mandate might cut off the flow of material goods to the dependent class. At that moment, these Catholics revealed themselves as having more in common with the secular than the Catholic world. Quite simply, this is how people are corrupted.
Only recently, with the coming of the statist crown jewel of Obamacare and the HHS Mandate, have Catholic institutions become major players in the fight to maintain our liberties as outlined in Catholic Social Teaching. Faced with the manifestly anti-Christian and tyrannical nature of the Affordable Care Act, the Catholic bishops have begun to take a stand, joining forces with the many long-suffering American conservatives who have extended a helping hand to a Church suffering under a persecution that it largely brought on itself. During the dark time since the HHS mandate, the Catholic Church’s alliance with the American right has given us some hope of retaining the liberty to practice our faith in the future. The Christian conscience now has representation on the national stage and in the Nation’s Capital, with Catholic bishops speaking out and their cause being taken up by hundreds of conservatives, from Congressmen to lobbyists to popular voices like Rush Limbaugh and Mark Steyn. The alliance of political and religious forces pushing back against the welfare state is overdue, and the challenge is enormous. It has also created a new and terrible temptation for the Church. Though for many years big-government Catholics have gained little traction among the orthodox laity and little attention from the secular left, they may now have something to offer to the State that they never could have offered before: the surrender and collaboration of a defeated Church.