By Father Leonard Peterson

I relished the baseball analogy that came with a parishioner’s compliment on a homily I recently preached: “Father, you hit one out of the park.” Such praise doesn’t come every Sunday, rest assured. But I want to pay the same sport language tribute to Archbishop Jose Gomez, the recently installed coadjutor archbishop of Los Angeles, on what he said in a recent interview. It too went out of the park.

In response to a reporter from Catholic News Service, the Mexican-born archbishop replied to the reporter’s query about the most serious problem Hispanic Catholics face in the U.S. The archbishop’s answer: “The dominant culture in the United States, which is aggressively, even militantly secularized. This is a subject that unfortunately doesn’t get much attention at all in discussions about the future of Hispanic ministry. But it’s time that we change that.

“‘Practical atheism'” has become the de facto state religion in America. The price of participation in our economic, political and social life is that we essentially have to agree to conduct ourselves as if God does not exist. Religion in the U.S. is something we do on Sundays or in our families, but is not allowed to have any influence on what we do the rest of the week.” {{more}}

I would only add that the problem so well defined by the good archbishop is not limited to our Hispanic sisters and brothers. “Practical atheism” is everywhere. It is made manifest in a variety of ways. One of them might mainly be known by confessors. Quite simply, it is anger and even in some cases raw hatred for President Obama. Granted, there was some of the same sentiment held by many for President Bush, but this time it seems more vitriolic than simple disagreement with our president’s policies. The penitents I’ve met who confess this sin (and ultimately in the light of Christ’s standards that’s really what this is) have told me it affects their everyday outlook.

Now this little corner of your favorite newspaper is hardly the locale for unqualified lauds to the current president. I remain very saddened by his pro-abortion stance and am still puzzled over Notre Dame’s decision to give him a platform to speak and a medal to wear. Yet when all is said and done, this is the man who not only won election, but also is the president of our country. Being a symbol doesn’t make him sinless. But he is not Satan, nor the beast of the Apocalypse. I think the president has the hardest job in the country. In degree of difficulty, he is second only to our Holy Father, Pope Benedict, who does indeed have the most difficult job in the world.

Friends have told me how concerned they are with other friends who spout verbal dittos to the constant daily downgrade of the president by certain talk radio hosts. Like George Bush did by his opponents, now Barack Obama gets blamed for just about everything but cloudy days.

Just criticism and fair questioning of our leaders are necessary components of a democracy. We Americans want no king with absolute sway over everything and everyone. But somehow, and in some places, a line has been crossed with this unabashed hate, and it’s not healthy for inspaniduals or for the country.

“Practical atheism” sees no contradiction on Monday with whatever is prayed on Sunday. It couldn’t care less about God when “real life” starts with the work week. Yet for us who try to live our faith, there is a need to remember for the balance of the week what we say in the act of contrition at the start of Sunday Mass, and, more poignantly, at the Our Father before Communion. At those times, we make some powerful admissions and serious commitments to none other than Jesus Christ. He is the same “yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).

Returning to that ballpark analogy, isn’t it true that every player gets an even chance until he strikes out? Don’t you think our outlook on both the president and all other people in leadership positions should be accorded the same in life beyond the outfield?

Father Peterson is pastor of St. Maria Goretti Parish in Hatfield.