The American Catholic Church has leaned left for so long that it’s hardly news any more.  This began way back when Cardinal Gibbon overruled Pope Benedict XV’s plea for peace during the Great War and pledged to President Wilson the undying fighting loyalty of millions of American Catholic boys (including my father, to whom Gibbon gave a personal pro-war pep talk at Catholic University in the winter of 1916-17).  Most Catholic bishops today grew up Democrats, so it has been easy for them to buy into the agenda of the Democratic Party, blissfully unaware of any contradiction between the party’s social agenda and the Catholic Church’s commitment to the defense of human life.  What Pope John Paul II called the “Culture of Death” is, in America, championed primarily by the Democratic Party—although the GOP is catching up fast—and the bishops are joined to it at the hip.

From time to time, however, reality intrudes, as it did, big-time, this past January, when Catholic Charities of Richmond, Virginia, actually arranged an abortion for a minor child that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had placed with them for safekeeping.  The responsible bishops managed to keep the tragedy secret for several months, but The Wanderer, a small Catholic weekly, broke the story in June, and all hell broke loose.

The bishops’ Washington headquarters is known as the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).  It had been angling for months to secure federal grants, amounting to several million dollars, to provide foster care for minor children.  (The Richmond case involved an illegal alien whose parents could not be located.)  This was nothing new.  The left in Congress is munificent in its largesse where the Church is concerned: Catholic Charities, USA, alone receives over two billion dollars in government funding per year.  Perhaps the bishops hadn’t noticed, but their USCCB bureaucracy has grown over the years to gargantuan proportions that mirror the left-wing federal and congressional bureaucracies with which it constantly works and which distribute its funding.

Naturally, when Richmond Bishop Francis DiLorenzo and his colleagues at the USCCB found out about the incident, they were shocked—shocked!—that their fine Catholic employees would allow such a travesty.  It was even worse when they discovered that, while the abortion’s facilitators apparently discussed the abortion at length with their bureaucratic colleagues in Washington before the fact, they never called a priest, much less the bishop, to ask what to do.  Poor Bishop DiLorenzo had to inform his brother bishops that “some members of . . . staff were not sufficiently aware of Church teaching.”  One exasperated Catholic official at HHS told me bluntly: “It’s come to this.  The U.S. government can’t trust the Catholic Church to take care of children.”

Here’s the nub of the problem: The Church bureaucracy has become virtually indistinguishable from its government counterparts.  Many Church bureaucrats aren’t even Catholic, but they are “experts” in social work and other fields typically funded by the government.  No wonder they are clueless when it comes to Catholic teaching: All Church employees have to take “abuse prevention” courses, but, ironically, the bishops refuse to include abortion in their definition of child abuse.  Now they are “shocked” by what happened in Richmond.

Theodore Cardinal McCarrick let the cat out of the bag just before his retirement in 2006.  When asked why the Church didn’t take more aggressive action regarding the “Catholic” politicians who vote for abortion but continue to receive the Eucharist, the cardinal daintily referred to “the need to work with politicians and other public officials rather than alienate them.  For example, money is needed for Catholic hospitals, charities, and education.”  In translation, eliminating the deliberately ambiguous passive voice, he said, “We’ve been bought.”

The Church has been in the hot tub long enough.  It’s time to shut the water off.  Only when they throw those golden handcuffs into the Potomac will our bishops be able truly to be bishops again.  Yes, it will require a renewal of sacrificial giving from the laity, but, if the bishops promise in return to do their jobs, spurning politics and embracing the Cross, it will be worth it.  We should pray that the tragedy in Richmond will bear some good fruit, after all the evil that it has exposed.