First Published: Thursday, April 17, 2008
I've been watching - and really enjoying - Showtime's The Tudors series on Sunday nights. We all know that Henry VIII broke away from the Roman Catholic Church, establishing himself as Head of the Church in England. We know that he did this for ostensibly personal reasons - he wanted to divorce and remarry (repeatedly). But there was a climate of religious rebellion in Europe at the time that went far beyond Henry's willful actions.
Watching this series, I am caught up in the intrigues, the politics, and the power plays that lived behind the scenes, both on the side of the Church, and the various nationalities involved in what would later be known as The Protestant Reformation.
And then I happened to read an article this morning about how Nancy Pelosi and other wayward "Catholics" intend to humiliate the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, and the Church, by presenting themselves to receive Holy Communion when he offers Mass in Washington, D.C. Here's the story:
"Benedict's stance on abortion and Communion has been painful for elected officials who inhabit the troubled zone where Catholicism and their political beliefs intersect.
Pelosi was one of 48 Catholic lawmakers — some who support and some who oppose abortion rights — who signed a letter in 2004 complaining about statements by "some members of the Catholic hierarchy."
"If Catholic legislators are scorned and held out for ridicule by Church leaders on the basis of a single issue, the Church will lose strong advocates on a wide range of issues that relate to the core of important Catholic social teaching," they wrote. "Moreover, criticism of us on a matter that is essentially one of personal morality will deter other Catholics from entering politics, and in the long run the Church will suffer." (So in other words, if Catholic legislators are asked to live up to the rules of their religion, they will quit the Church? And if they want to avoid the scorn and ridicule, all they need do is not show up for Holy Communion!)
None of the Catholic lawmakers interviewed Wednesday said they hesitated to attend Thursday's celebration of Mass. This event, they said, is about bigger themes and values, such as hope and compassion."And it dawned on me that I am watching a power play no less enormous than Henry's when he demanded that the clergy of England swear fealty to him, above their oath of allegiance to the Church. They caved. The question is, what will Benedict do?