A galling op-ed in the National Catholic Reporter last week proclaimed that Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is “the future of the Catholic Church.” If executive editor Heidi Schlumpf is correct that a pro-abortion socialist who insulted one of the most courageous and compassionate modern saints is the new poster child for Catholics, God help us.
Our Lord entrusted the church to St. Peter and the apostles, and its teachings have been faithfully passed down over generations. Centuries of saints, martyrs, and missionaries have modeled a love of Christ, ministered to the needy, and sacrificed their lives for the faith. The idea that this church is now best represented by Ocasio-Cortez is preposterous and unworthy of any serious Catholic publication.
The late Archbishop Fulton Sheen warned that the church’s greatest temptation moving forward would be a glorification of the social and political order in place of the divine. We need to stop relativizing Jesus and deconstructing faith and scriptures to suit cultural context and political trends. Prioritizing radical-left, “rock-star” politicians over scripture and two millennia of teaching allows confusion and mischievous distortions of the truth to scatter and divide Christians.
AOC’s Speech Wasn’t Catholic At All
Schlumpf’s article is a response to Ocasio-Cortez’s recent address to the House regarding sexist slurs reportedly made by Republican Rep. Ted Yoho of Florida. Listening to the speech, Schlumpf claims to have been “struck” by its frequent Catholic references. While the address was certainly valid to the extent that it condemned the use of aggressive language toward women, distinctly Catholic it was not.
Yes, courage, integrity, dignity, and respect are themes that underpin Catholic social teaching, yet they are not exclusive to Christianity nor any religion at all. Atheists can resonate with these principles.
The Christian faith is not about being respected or respecting others. It is a several thousand-year-old story, the climax of which is the incarnation of the God-man, Jesus Christ. In a famous passage from First Corinthians, St. Paul articulates one of the earliest and most important creeds: Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day.
Jesus’ crucifixion was the ultimate ransom for human sinfulness, and his resurrection was the guarantee that violence, darkness, and death don’t have the last word. This is the Christian faith. Rewriting it to fit a 21st-century political narrative is a fraudulent sham.
The earliest church fathers called out various gnostic sects that wanted literally to write their own gospels. These innovations were often an attempt to compromise with the prevailing Roman culture and so avoid persecutions. But tweaking the faith to fit trends and politics was as invalid then as it is today. As John Paul II said, not even the pope himself can change God’s inviolable law.
AOC Supports Deeply Anti-Christian Policies
Schlumpf’s analysis exemplifies modern cafeteria Catholicism and the absurdities that ensue. She ignores Ocasio-Cortez’s disregard for the rights of the unborn, pointing instead to her stances on economic disparity and climate change. But a zero-sum game that pits the church’s condemnation of abortion against issues such as poverty and the environment, important as these issues are, is disingenuous and divisive.
The defense of the unborn is not some minor issue of liturgical detail. It goes to the heart of how we love one another and therefore God, by protecting the weakest and most vulnerable. Mother Teresa of Calcutta highlighted this in her 1979 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech and again at the 1994 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C.
She argued, “The greatest destroyer of peace today is the cry of the innocent unborn child.” A country that allows women to murder their own babies in their own wombs teaches both women and men to reject God’s plan and use violence to get what they want. This robs society of love and human dignity at the most fundamental level.
Protection of the unborn has always been central to church teaching. The earliest Christian communities condemned the pagan practice of abortion and even infanticide. The Didache, a Christian text written within decades of Jesus’ life, makes clear that early Christians regarded abortion as murder. Today, late-term abortion laws in states such as New York are not progressive. They are taking our civilization back to the most destructive trends of the ancient world, a grim world into which Christ brought a message of truth, life, and hope.
Schlumpf’s ode to Ocasio-Cortez is similarly silent on her outspoken support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) organization, the agenda of which cannot be reconciled with Catholic teaching on family, sanctity of life, dignity of the individual, original sin, and redemption.
The Marxist revolution BLM has spawned, spurred by socialists such as Ocasio-Cortez, has led to widespread rioting, attacks on police and citizens, and the desecration of Christian statues and churches. Last month, statues of Spanish missionary St. Junipero Serra were toppled. The historic San Gabriel Mission in California and the Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Ocala, Florida, were set on fire. Statues of Jesus and Mary at churches in Boston, Miami, Tennessee, and Colorado Springs have been set alight, beheaded, and defaced. In Portland, BLM protesters burned Bibles.
Ocasio-Cortez Even Slanders Catholic Saints
Indiana Republican Rep. Jim Banks recently demanded a federal investigation into these disturbing attacks. What has the “future of the Catholic Church” said about all this? She has been launching a verbal assault on the statue of St. Damien of Molokai in the U.S. Capitol, condemning it as an example of “patriarchy and white supremacist culture.”
Bishop Robert Barron described Ocasio-Cortez’s comments as an “outrageous” and “colossally misguided” attack on a saint revered by the people of Hawaii. Damien’s experience ministering to the leper colony on the Hawaiian island of Molokai during the mid-19th century is a particularly moving story of sainthood.
The Belgian priest went knowing full well he most likely would never return. After a decade lovingly working with and tending to the hundreds of lepers of Molokai, Damien eventually succumbed to the disease. In a letter home, he wrote that he had become a leper so that all might be gained to Jesus Christ.
Barron correctly argues that such a man should be reverenced as a hero by anybody of any race, background, and creed: “To associate this man in any way with colonialism or white supremacy is so ridiculous and insulting.”
AOC’s disregard for the rights of the unborn, support for a Marxist organization like BLM, and ignorant contempt for Catholic saints inevitably boosts her popularity among radical leftists. It makes her utterly unfit, however, to be inspiring a new generation of faithful Catholics. Distorting our faith to fit political preferences undermines sacred teaching and threatens the unity of the church.