The Crisis of a Second Obama Administration

President Obama’s re-election and the prospect of a second Obama administration, freed from the constraints imposed by the necessity of running for re-election, have created a crisis for the Catholic Church in the United States. In the thought-world and vocabulary of the Bible, “crisis” has two meanings: the conventional sense (a grave threat) and a deeper sense (a great moment of opportunity). Both are applicable to the Church in America these next four years.

The immediate threat, of course, is the HHS (Health and Human Services) mandate requiring Catholic institutions and Catholic employers to include coverage of contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacient drugs in the health insurance offered to their employees. The legal challenges mounted against this obvious violation of the first freedom, religious freedom, may well be vindicated. But with Obamacare now seemingly set in concrete, the Church will face a host of such implementing “mandates” and it will be imperative to contest those that are morally unacceptable, time and time again. Authentically Catholic health care in America is now in mortal danger, and it is going to take a concerted effort to save it for future generations.

A further threat comes from the gay insurgency, which will press the administration to find some way to federalize the marriage issue and to compel acceptance of the chimera of “gay marriage.” Thus it seems important to accelerate a serious debate within American Catholicism on whether the Church ought not pre-emptively withdraw from the civil marriage business, its clergy declining to act as agents of government in witnessing marriages for purposes of state law.

If the Church were to take this dramatic step now, it would be acting prophetically: it would be challenging the state (and the culture) by underscoring that what the state means by “marriage” and what Catholics mean by “marriage” are radically different, and that what the state means by “marriage” is wrong. If, however, the Church is forced to take this step after “gay marriage” is the law of the land, Catholics will be pilloried as bad losers who’ve picked up their marbles and fled the game—and any witness-value to the Church’s withdrawal from the civil marriage business will be lost. Many thoughtful young priests are discussing this dramatic option among themselves; it’s time for the rest of the Church to join the conversation.

Yet another threat to the integrity of the Church comes from the re-election of a vice president of the United States who has declared “transgender discrimination” to be “the civil rights issue of our time;” who has openly celebrated the abortion license; who has grossly misrepresented the Church’s teaching on the life issues; and who is, in myriad ways, an ecclesial embarrassment. So are Catholic members of the House and Senate who not only vote against truths known by moral reason, but then have the gall to justify their irresponsibility by a faux commitment to “pluralism” or, worse, by recourse to what they are pleased to call “social justice Catholicism.”

Thus pastors and bishops must continue to explain why the life issuesare “social justice issues,” and indeed priority “social justice issues.” And some effective way must be found to make clear, publicly, that men and women like Vice President Joe Biden and Representative Nancy Pelosi are living an auto-defined Catholicism so incoherently that their communion with the Catholic Church is severely damaged. Absent such clarity, ill-catechized Catholic voters will continue to misunderstand both the nature of discipleship and the responsibilities of citizenship.

As for the opportunity embedded in this crisis, it is nothing less than to be the Church of the New Evangelization, full-throttle. Shallow, tribal, institutional-maintenance Catholicism is utterly incapable of meeting the challenges that will now come at the Catholic Church from the most aggressively secular administration in American history. Only a robustly, unapologetically evangelical Catholicism, winsomely proposing and nobly living the truths about the human condition the Church teaches, will see us through the next four years. Radically converted Christian disciples, not one-hour-a-week Catholics whipsawed by an ever more toxic culture, are what this hour of crisis, in both senses of the term, demands.

This article was originally published  at the Denver Catholic Register.

George Weigel


George Weigel is an American author and political and social activist. He currently serves as a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Weigel was the Founding President of the James Madison Foundation.

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  • javajoe

    You are awesome, George!

  • Frank

    Let us pray for clear leadership from our priests and bishops, and for those of us in the the pews to realize it is up to us to act as well!

  • chaco

    History shows that God reveals His Glory through a remnant church. When the Obama administration forced The Church to act against it’s own beliefs, I compared the strong reaction of catholics, both orthodox & less committed, to a rebellious teenager who defends it’s mother despite their disobedience (Similar to the scenario in the “Blues Brothers” movie where Belushi & Ackeroid help to save the catholic school of their youth). As we disobedient children act on our inner consciensious impulse to defend “Mama”, seemingly outnumbered by Govt. power & popular opinion, let’s remember that God + 1= a majority. [ I’m also reminded of a “Uriah Heep” song of old; “Lady in Black” lyrics; “For She the mother of all men did counsel me so wisely then… there is no strength in numbers & no such misconception but when you need me be assurred I won’t be far away.” ]

  • Peter Nyikos

    Let’s not leave one of the worst offenders, Kathleen Sebelius, the “point woman” for the HHS mandate, off the list of nominal Catholics who have done the Church great damage.

  • rrr

    Let us not ignore the hierarchies’ contribution that has led our country to such a presidential administration. Specifically, the horrible catechesis over the last 40 to 50 years, which, by the way, continues today. If you don’t believe me go to your diocese’s office of catholic schools and examine who is in charge. You will find ” progressive”, I.e., left leaning, if not outright leftist “Catholics” in positions of leadership – I’m talking ex-nuns and ex-priests – as superintendents, principals, directors of religious education, Religion department heads in catholic head schools, and so on. Under their leadership we now have two full generations that have been improperly catechized, and if this continues with this leadership’s misguided desire for state and federal money via voucher programs, we may lose forever Catholic education. There is no free lunch and that state/federal money is, or will come with strings. I think it would be wise for Catholic schools to opt out completely from all government funding, and get back to teaching the faith.

  • Last Sunday, one of our deacons gave a profound and powerful homily. He included the responsibility of every Catholic to protect life from conception to end. He mentioned how we will all suffer now because some Catholic’s voted against Religious Rights by voting for the current president. He was bold in defining what this vote means to us as Catholics. We need more priest to take the same bold and courageous step in their homilies. They need to teach how the scriptures inspire and connect in our life today.
    When the homily was complete, about 1/2 of the church clapped–they others must have voted for Obama. How sad.

  • Annamarie

    I have always cringed at the term “social justice,” as if “social” justice can be separated from justice! The first time I heard it, years ago, I thought it sappy and just a way for the lazy bishops to do an end run around having to actually take a stand against all the things that WERE sapping the strength of the United States and Holy Mother Church (which are certainly not always one and the same) by wasti ng time and energy so that they could do something really sneaky such as joining the Democrat Party without having to say so! Well, now the buzzards have come home to roost!

    Laughing and acting all buddy-buddy with a President who, if not THE Anti-Christ, he is certainly one of them, will not spare the Church from the horrors that are piling up as Obozo diligently works (when not playing golf) to show his true elitist colors by taking the rest of us down the drain! We should instead, be praying that the predictions of Our Blessed Mother be not fulfilled, just yet. The dead will certainly consider themselves the lucky ones if they don’t have to go through all that!

    I know I don’t usually get this unwrapped, but things are not GETTING serious, they ARE serious, folks! We had best start praying harder than ever!