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.





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