Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, the Preacher to the Papal Household, did not mince words during his homily on Good Friday this year.
“Fraternity among Catholics is wounded! Divisions between Churches have torn Christ’s tunic to shreds, and worse still, each shredded strip has been cut up into even smaller snippets….What is the most common cause of he bitter divisions among Catholics? It is not dogma, nor is it the sacraments and ministries, none of the things that by God’s singular grace we fully and universally preserve. The divisions that polarize Catholics stem from political opinions that grow into ideologies after being given priority over religious and ecclesial considerations. In many parts of the world, these divisions are very real, even though they are not openly talked about or are disdainfully denied. This is sin in its primal meaning. The kingdom of this world becomes more important, in the person’s heart than the Kingdom of God.”
This distortion of Christianity with politics was on full display during the January 6th riot at the Capitol. A illustrative example of this came from a professor at a Catholic university who defended the former president and his administration on a public Facebook post shortly after that event: “to be welcomed in the halls of power and protected by the people in them is something I will forever be grateful for, not repent of.”
At the time, a friend and I wrote:
“What the world saw on display this past week in the mob at the U.S. Capitol building was a clear example of Christians not recognizing anything as definitive in order to serve their egos and desires. This was an example of Christians allowing themselves to be transformed by their political party—to the point of denying truth and reality—and is sadly what the world has seen on social media throughout the pandemic and presidential election.”
Given the current situation in the culture and in the Church, I think the cardinal’s homily was incredibly timely and much needed. I don’t know if anyone has given a truer or clearer assessment of the Church at this moment.
Although the cardinal accurately diagnosed the challenges ahead of us, he didn’t propose a specific path forward. The path forward, of course, is laid out in Fratelli Tutti. In this encyclical, Pope Francis shows us the steps necessary to build a better future.
[Image Credit: Ave Maria, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons]