NCReporter Expels All Laity from “the Church”

Anathema Sit, Laity!

In his latest attempt to persuade the U.S. Bishops to stop defending the religious freedom of all believers, Michael Sean Winters today went so far as to declare that faithful lay Catholic employers “are in no sense a part of the Church,” in which he goes on to include even the Knights of Columbus.

Winters contends that in fighting the federal HHS mandate, the bishops must only protect magisterial institutions, not faithful lay Catholics who as employers do not want to be forced to provide intrinsic evils. Winters further explains his constricted view of who is “really” the Church by going on to assert that Knights of Columbus halls should not claim conscience protection from such things as pro-abortion groups renting their halls. This is similar to Winters’ previous assertion that the lay evangelization of EWTN has no conscience claim against the HHS mandate.

Winters’ “argument” goes to a new and shocking extreme to co-opt the bishops’ effort for religious freedom, openly rejecting the Second Vatican Council’s teaching that the laity are the Church and they share her relgious freedom. Ironically, in his same article today Winters insists that the bishops must include Muslims in their campaign for religious freedom, while they must exclude faithful lay Catholics. I have no problem supporting the religious freedom of Muslims, but Winters’ position is simply incoherent.

His position is also completely disconnected from Church teaching. It is no surprise that Winters does not even try to cite a Church document to justify his excommunication of the laity. Winters cites only himself for the view that the faithful laity “are in no sense a part of the Church.” But when one examines Church teaching one finds exactly the opposite: not only are the faithful laity fully and really “the Church,” but they share the same religious freedom of the Church.

Winters claims that the Catholic faith “calls us not only to worship on Sunday morning but to care for the poor.” But the Catholic faith calls for far more, as yesterday’s reading at Mass about the call to the rich young man shows: our faith calls for following Christ in every aspect of our lives. This includes not only Sunday morning and not only charitable endeavors. The Holy Spirit seeks to animate the Church in everything: daily work, family life, community activity, EVERYTHING. But to Winters, Christ reigns only over Sunday morning and volunteering. Everyone else is acting “in no sense a part of the Church.” He even contradicts the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace’s recent document insisting that Catholic business women and men must infuse their activities with Catholic ethics precisely as part of the spiritual vocation of the laity. Winters decimates the Second Vatican Council’s teaching that the laity are the Church and that they are called to embody Christ every moment of every day, including when the government commands otherwise.

The U.S. Bishops have not listened to Winters’ un-Catholic view, but all along have insisted on the religious freedom not only of magisterial institutions but also of faithful laity, which is consistent with decades of American law protecting “religious and moral” objections in health care provision. Since Winters’ position has zero grounding in Church teaching (by his own implicit admission since he cites none), and since he in fact contradicts the Second Vatican Council’s assertions that the laity are the Church and share her religious freedom, I am certain the bishops will continue to follow Pope Benedict’s call to protect the religious freedom of the entire Body of Christ.



  • DPierre

    The National Catholic Reporter is a disgraceful publication.

    And as someone who had a very unpleasant experience with them, I have concluded that they are truly loathsome people over there.

    Believe me, knowing what I know about that awful group makes the “love your enemies” commandment very, very difficult.

  • RHC

    Well, Mr. Winters, I’m so glad to know that I’m not part of the Church! Good to know, although I wish you’d told me that several years ago, before I lost friends and business for converting to the Catholic faith. I could have told them, “Well, I just go there on Sunday, but I’m not really Catholic – Mr. Winters says so.” /sarcasm

    As a Catholic, self-employed businesswoman, I am offended by Mr. Winters’ assertions. His argument is specious, at best.

  • TOM P

    If the Bishops said the sky was blue Winters would argue that its red.

    • russell

      Would that be anything like when the Church declared the Earth was flat and was the center of the universe that the sun and planets revolved around? In that case, it seems the argument against authority was correct.

      • Joe M

        russell. Can you point to where/when the Church “declared the Earth was flat”?

  • Bruce

    HAW! HAW! HAW! First, liberals declare they are the Church without the clergy. Then, they declare that only the clergy are the Church. It is to laugh.

    • Joe M

      I would love for Winter’s to change or at least clarify his position. As it stands, this is apparently his interpretation of Church “theology”: “We urge you not to distance yourself from God by being complicit with contraception. At the same time, if Democrats require you to be complicit with contraception, a person has to do what a person has to do!”

  • Julie T.

    The case Mr. Winters makes begs the question, “Has he, or anyone in his camp, ever read the Catechism of the Catholic Church—in its entirety?” It is very sad to see Catholics supplant the Church with a political ideology as their religion.

    • Joe M

      It is sad. Boiled down, Winter’s position suggests the absurd notion that the Church condones sin if it is asked of us by secular society.

  • Anna

    A series of these passages immediately jumped into my mind.

    The laity, Mr. Winters, are the Church. We cannot be separated from our doctrine as we are part of the whole. We are a singularity…the singularity of faith. It is as though you are trying to remove a leg from a healthy person, and pointing out that the person has a spare on which he or she can still get around.

    The answer is no. We are one…or as it says in the Creed…”I believe in one, holy, Catholic, apostolic church.”

    It does NOT say ‘one holy’ but rather ‘one, holy’. That singularity is God, and we cannot be parted from Him by any words. To parse words in an attempt to divorce souls from God is the hallmark of only one creature under heaven. I urge you not to side with such a beast.

    • The Dude

      Eighty-two percent of U.S. Catholics say birth control is morally acceptable. The laity has spoken.

      • RHC

        Regrettably for your argument, Dude, the Church is not a democracy. It’s a theocracy. The Head of the Church is Christ Himself, and He works through His Vicar on earth, His Holiness, the Pope. The pope works in conjunction with the other bishops in the teaching office of the Magisterium. The religious and laity make up the Body of Christ, His Holy Catholic Church.

        However, it is not up to the laity, or even the Magisterium itself, to contradict what the Head of the Church decrees. This is no democracy. Popular vote doesn’t win the day.

        *As a side note, where is your source for your numbers?

      • Joe M

        The Dude. For Catholics, what is sinful is not subject to popular vote.



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