The Catholic Both/And

Last July I was able to attend Archbishop Thompson’s installation last July and it was very moving for me. I was especially moved by listening to his homily, in which he addressed the increasing polarization in the Church and the mentality of either/or. Even among people I know and love, there is an attitude of either/or: ‘either you are for life or you are for the poor,’ ‘either you are for the refugees or national security.’ Instead of falling into these seeming dichotomies, Archbishop called us to bridge the gap of increasing polarization in the church on a number of issues and to adopt the mindset of the catholic both/and. He then listed a number topics that require the catholic both/and:

The Catholic Both/And necessarily requires sound catechesis and bold evangelization, if we are to make a difference in the progress of humanity rather than be mere bystanders pushed around by the winds of change, denial and criticism of irrelevance.  We must be concerned about both worship and service, Word and Sacrament, Scripture and Tradition, Head and Body, clergy and laity, commandments (as we heard in the first reading) and beatitudes, tone and content (what good is it for us if we speak the truth, but say it in a way that drives away the very souls we’re trying to save?), justice and mercy, doctrine and pastoral care initiatives, marriage and family, faith and reason, spirituality and religion, healing wounds and warming hearts, holiness and mission, personal prayer and communal prayer, formation and education, local and universal belonging, security and welcoming, rights and responsibilities, speaking and listening, cross and empty tomb, passion and resurrection, and as the Benedictines who taught me remind us, Ora et Labora, prayer and work. It all must matter to us. To be effective and credible witnesses to our Catholic faith and the Joy of the Gospel, we cannot make decisions or act with an “either/or” mentality of ignoring one for the other. In essence, as an example of the necessary balance, we must provide a fish or two as we teach people how to fish.

Archbishop Thompson has also released a pastoral letter to the Archdiocese this past Ash Wednesday. In it, he explores the various issues that affect the nation, as well as our local community in Central and Southern Indiana.

The first key principle of Catholic social teaching is respect for the dignity of each and every human person—regardless of race, sex, nationality, economic or social status, educational background, political affiliation or sexual orientation—as created in the image and likeness of God. All are equal in dignity. No one is “better” than anyone else. All deserve respect. All share basic human rights. No one is exempt from the responsibility to support and assist fellow human beings—whether they are from the same family/community, or they are strangers who are foreign to us in some way. Every human person, as created in the image of God, is a member of God’s family. For Christians, this also means that we are sisters and brothers of Christ and each other.

All sins against the dignity of persons, including the taking of a human life, sexual abuse and sexual harassment, rape, racism, sexism, nativism and homophobia, are violations of this fundamental principle. We can (and sometimes must) disapprove of the behavior of others, but we may never belittle, disrespect or abuse others simply because of our differences, no matter how serious.

The Gospel calls us to do radical things. We cannot reduce the Gospel to merely defending the unborn or merely a social justice movement. We are not conservative or liberal, we are Catholic. The same Lord who says “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” also says “I was hungry and you fed me”. Our salvation depends on how we treated ALL our neighbors. In Matthew 25, the Lord declares that the goats and the sheep will be sorted, not just on their vote for life or vote for a cost of living increase for food stamps, but what they personally did to him in the least of our brothers and sisters. In the book of Exodus, God tells his people through Moses “You shall not oppress an alien; you well know how it feels to be an alien, since you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt (Ex 23:9).”

Being Pro-Life does not stop at protecting the lives of the unborn, but at respecting life at every stage; from conception to natural death. This means that we must respect the human dignity of the elderly parishioner who is suffering from loneliness, the child who calls the family van “home”, the refugee who flees their home country, not to seek a better life, but merely to stay alive, or even the college student who lives in the fear of deportation and separation from his family merely because he accompanied his parents in pursuit of the dream of freedom and opportunity.

It is possible, and necessary, to take a stand for life at all stages. This is seen beautifully in the life of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  She devoted her entire life to taking care of the poorest of the poor and those rejected by society, while at the same time, denounced over and over again the heinous act of abortion. The same woman who said, “It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish” was the same woman accompanied the destitute, the lepers and the orphans. Her life’s work shows how the two can’t be separated without removing the heart and soul of each movement.

St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us.

Here are the links to Archbishop Thompson’s homily:

Thompson’s pastoral letter:

Poverty at the Crossroads (A document written by the Indiana Catholic Bishops on poverty in the state)

Cardinal Tobin’s statement on DACA


Liam Hosty

Liam Hosty is a seminarian studying for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis and a member of the class of 2020.


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