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Will the Real Catholic please stand up?  

Mary Jo Anderson

Sacramento Bishop William Weigand is making headlines doing what bishops are supposed to do, calling the faithful back to the teachings of the faith. Gov. Gray Davis of California and other "Catholic" politicians like Nancy Pelosi or John Kerry who trumpet their support for abortion "...put their souls at risk and are not in good standing with the church", said Weigand.

Governor Gray Davis

Bishop William K. Weigand

Sacramento, California's Bishop William K. Weigand stated the obvious this week: The emperor has no clothes.

Gov. Gray Davis parades about pretending he is covered in a Catholic mantle because he " is an active Catholic who attends mass in Southern California with his wife, Sharon." Davis wants to snuggle up to Catholic voters. But Davis adamantly defends abortion a personal and political position that cannot be sustained by a practicing Catholic. And his bishop said so publicly. That's what bishops do call the faithful back to the definitive teachings of the faith.

"As your bishop, I have to say clearly that anyone politician or otherwise who thinks it is acceptable for a Catholic to be pro-abortion is in very great error, puts his or her soul at risk and is not in good standing with the church " said Weigand.

Nothing excites Catholics like a bishop on the march. Hundreds of Catholic blog pages and cyber-lists jammed my e-mail: "A bishop who actually functions as a bishop is called to do! Let's pray John Kerry's bishop speaks up next."

The governor's defenders tossed a silly salvo, chiding Bishop Weigand for "telling the faithful how to practice their faith."

Yes, Virginia, the bishop is supposed to tell the faithful how to practice their faith.

That's why we have bishops not to fund-raise, not to be a decorative addition at Christmas masses, not to be an avuncular photo-op for every ambitious politician. It seems Gov. Davis lacks even an elementary understanding of a bishop's job description.

A bishop shepherds his flock from the cathedral, taken from cathedra, a Greek and Latin word for "chair." It means that the one who speaks from this chair has the authority to teach and instruct on matters of faith and morals. Jesus Himself instructed the apostles to pay heed to what the Pharisees taught when they sat upon "Moses' seat" even though the Pharisees themselves did not "practice what they preach" (Matthew 23).

Bishop Weigand counseled Davis and any abortion advocate to "abstain from receiving Holy Communion until he has a change of heart." Stung by the bishop's directive, the governor's office fired back: "There are a lot of Catholics who are pro-choice. Does the bishop want all Catholics to stop receiving Holy Communion? Who's going to be left in church?"

The answer, governor, to the first question is, yes if you are no longer in communion with the teachings of the Church, stay in your seat. Receiving Holy Communion is serious business. St. Paul taught that those who receive communion unworthily drink judgment upon themselves (I Corinthians 11). A Catholic receiving communion signifies his union with Christ and the Church.

Gov. Davis and other "Catholic" politicians like Nancy Pelosi or John Kerry who trumpet their support for abortion are not in union with the Church. Their reception of communion is like reciting your wedding vows while having an affair. Such politicians seek respectability by claiming a religious affiliation, but they have sanctioned the legal killing of millions of children. Let them attend a partial-birth abortion on Saturday afternoon and see, then, if they can approach the altar on Sunday.

The answer to second question "Who's going to be left in church?" is: faithful Catholics. The governor has confused political power and the Church, worrying about how many people (votes? dollars?) would be left in the pews if abortion proponents who attend Catholic parishes staged an exodus.

A lesson from the Bible applies: Gideon was instructed by God to defeat the mighty Midianites who preyed on Israel. Gideon raised an army, but God told him to "send home anyone who is afraid," and 22,000 departed forthwith (Judges 7). Gideon accomplished his feat with just 300 men and the power of God.

What use to the Catholic Church are members whose fear is greater than their faith? If you are fearful of the secular ridicule that is heaped on Catholic teaching, depart with our blessings, for you will bear no fruit.

Many politicians, including Catholic politicians, are afraid of the abortion industry. Oh, they claim allegiance to the faulty ideal of a "woman's rights," but that is because they cannot admit that they fear the loss of the money provided by the abortion cabal. Such politicians believe that the abortion juggernaut will flatten their political dreams unless they bow before the merchants of death.

Perhaps the time has come to fear the power of real Catholics not the Catholic-lite crowd. The Catholic political wind is blowing in a new direction. The "Catholic vote" is 25 percent of the voting public. That's a powerful voting bloc that has been split in recent years over the issue of abortion. The Vatican released a document that will narrow the gap.

Two weeks ago, Pope John Paul II issued the "Doctrinal Note on Some Questions Regarding the Participation of Catholics in Political Life." In this document, Catholic laity are instructed that "a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals."

No wiggle room.

A "political program" includes a party platform. You simply cannot claim to be a faithful Catholic and support abortion laws or a political candidate or party that supports abortion policies. As the document is digested, fewer and fewer Catholic voters will be at ease with a direct assault on this teaching. Catholic politicians cannot wrap themselves in Catholic externals to attract the Catholic vote and expect to be issued a get-out-of-jail-free-card by his or her bishop. Bishop Weigand has set a standard not only for laity and politicians, but also for his brother bishops.

There are those who will attempt to slither under the wire by claiming freedom of conscience. That excuse will not stand: St. Paul taught that a conscience must be formed in doctrinal purity, and those who fail to do so make a "ruin of their faith" (I Timothy 1).

But, some will say, the Vatican cannot enforce compliance with its doctrinal teachings. Perhaps. But don't forget about Stalin's boast to FDR: "How many divisions does the pope have?" Stalin misunderstood the distinction between raw power and legitimate authority. Truth is its own authority. It touches the recesses of man's heart where no tank or law can follow.

Bishop Weigand spoke the truth when he taught that life is not for killing. He admonished the powerful and the powerless alike that anyone who supports abortion is in "very great error, puts his or her soul at risk and is not in good standing with the church " The time has come for those who claim to be Catholic to stand up for life.


Mary Jo Anderson. "Will the Real Catholic please stand up?" (January 28, 2003).

Reprinted with permission of Mary Jo Anderson.


Mary Jo Anderson is a contributing editor for Crisis Magazine and contributing correspondent for A frequent conference speaker and radio guest her assignments cover the United Nations and global threats to religious freedom, Catholic practice and national sovereignty. Mary Jo Anderson has been married for 34 years and is the mother of three children. She was a busy businesswoman and civic volunteer before becoming alarmed at the assault on the Church.

Copyright 2003



Copyright 2004 Victor Claveau. All Rights Reserved