Have you ever seen “The Godfather Part II”? If you haven’t you can stop reading now. You weren’t exposed to one of the greatest movies of all time and it’s a concerning situation that needs to be remedied. As a friend I’m telling you: go watch it. Seriously… Stop what you’re doing. Go. Now. Also, watch/re-watch the original “Godfather” while you’re at it! (Feel free to skip part III)
Now, for those of you with outstanding cinematic taste that have seen “The Godfather II,” perhaps you’ll remember a certain scene in the beginning part of the movie. Michael Corleone, our hero/antihero, meets with a corrupt Nevada Senator Pat Gerry. (Here’s the scene **Warning, the scene contains an expletive**) The Senator knows of Michael Corleone’s criminal empire and wants a payoff in exchange for letting the Corleone family expand their fronts of casino hotels. However while he is willing to engage in “business” with the Corleone family, he makes his disdain of them clear. “I despise your masquerade, the dishonest way you pose yourself. You and your whole [expletive] family,” he says. To which Michael replies (in one of the most awesome movie lines ever!) “We're both part of the same hypocrisy, senator, but never think it applies to my family.”
Boom! Mic drop.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the character of Michael Corleone is no saint. He’s the ruthless head of a criminal empire who has no qualms about lying, murdering and doing a number of other things in the name of “protecting” his family. But he does offer an honest and insightful point: the acknowledgement that he is, in fact, a hypocrite. He is a criminal posing as a legitimate business man. A fact Senator Gerry blindly ignores in himself.
What Michael Corleone exhibits in this interaction is something I find lacking when I look at the world around me. Scratch that. It’s not just lacking in the world, but in the very Church I love and am a part of. Catholics lack the admission of hypocrisy.
I want to be clear: when I speak of hypocrisy, I’m not speaking about the admission of sin or the fact that we are all sinners. Fortunately, I hear this admission often (Even in an awesome blog on this site!). Rather, the hypocrisy I speak of concerns the common actions we carry out in the name of the faith, and the attitudes with which we do them.
We live in a divided world. We have a divisive culture, politically and socially, and it has become easy for these divisions to seep into our Church. Everyone has an opinion, and everyone is geared up to defend it. We elevate those opinions that line up with us and demonize those that disagree. We draw the tired old battle lines of “left” and “right” and dive into our trenches ready to fight.
And yet, the Church is not “right” or “left”. The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is not divided, though her children might be. The Church is wholistic in her approach, and calls us, her children, to be wholistic as well. She calls us to embrace her all-encompassing approach to life, not just embrace a few issues and ideologies. And still, many of us refuse. We become hypocrites choosing one opinion, one issue, one ideology (as well-meaning as they might be) above the fullness of truth found in Mother Church.
It’s a hypocrisy that can be seen all the time: the pro-lifer fighting for unborn babies, yet scandalized by the teenage girl pregnant out of wedlock; the humanitarian raising awareness of children starving in the third world, yet refusing to acknowledge the death of millions of unborn babies in this country; the “armchair theologian” who reveres the documents of Church councils past, but refuses to acknowledge the teaching authority of their bishop today; the intellectual who loves the “great Catholic tradition”, but pays no mind to the moral dogmatic teachings of the Church; the pastor who preaches God’s love and mercy on Sunday, but only offers confession for 30 minutes on Saturday; the priest who is loved by his people for his care and relatability, but does not instruct them in the teachings of Mother Church; the head of the parish council who donates massive amounts of money, but hasn’t been to confession in years; the parishioner who has received all of their sacraments from the parish, but only puts a solitary dollar in the collection basket; the blogger of an upstart Catholic website who passionately talks about the faith (can you guess who?), yet falls silent at the bar when issues of morality are brought up; the blogger’s friend(you know who you are) who wants to see the Church become more relevant, but has yet to support his friend’s new endeavor. All of us Catholics, all of us with the best of intentions, and all of us hypocrites.
The fact that a ruthless crime boss (albeit a fictional one) can offer this honest assessment of himself and many of us in the Church cannot is troubling to me. “We’re both (you and I) part of the same hypocrisy” and to claim otherwise is to be dishonest.
Does my hypocrisy make me less Catholic than you, or your hypocrisy less Catholic than me? No. The truth is we’re all part of this Church. We are all on this “Ark of Salvation”, animals of all kinds and sizes, animals clean and unclean. “We’re both part of the same hypocrisy” and both part of the same Ark, the Church.
It’s good that we have different opinions and issues that speak to us. We are all called to different roles. We need pro-lifers, we need humanitarians, we need all different kinds of clergy and laity. However, we are also called to collaborate on this “Ark” with those that think, behave and act differently. We cannot become entrenched in our own ideologies and reduce our faith to simply that. When we equate, whether in practice or attitude, our own personal ideology with the fullness of the faith, we all lose. As Pope Francis has reminded us, “ideology frightens, ideology chases away the people, distances, distances the people and distances the Church of the people. But it is a serious illness, this of ideological Christians.”
We are called to more. Yes we’re hypocrites, but the first step is admitting our shortcomings. Then we can begin to practice greater charity and understanding with our fellow brothers and sisters in the faith. We take our solace and strength from the fact that though we may be hypocrites, the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is not.
“We're both part of the same hypocrisy…but never think it applies to my family.” Never think it applies to my Mother the Church.