The Dispatch: More from CWR...

“Inclusion” and Catholicism

Like contemporary woke culture, Cardinal Robert McElroy’s recent article about synodality seems to regard gender theory as a secular form of revealed truth.

Then-Bishop Robert W. McElroy of San Diego speaking at the University of San Diego's Frances G. Harpst Center for Catholic Thought and Culture Feb. 6, 2020. McElroy was appointed to the College of Cardinals by Pope Francis in May 2022. (CNS photo/Ryan Blystone, courtesy University of San Diego)

Back in the day, kiddie-Catholics learned that the Church had four “marks:” the Church is one, holy, catholic (as in “universal”), and apostolic. These marks derived from the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, which we recite at Mass on Sundays and liturgical solemnities. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the Church “does not possess” these “inseparably linked” characteristics “of herself;” rather, “it is Christ who, through the Holy Spirit, makes his Church one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, and it is he who calls her to realize each of these qualities” (CCC 811).

You will note that “inclusive” is not one of the marks of the Church given by Christ, although “universal” is. Distinctions, as ever, are important.

Universality must characterize the Church’s evangelical mission, for the Lord commanded us to go and “…make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19). And a certain kind of inclusivity denotes a crucial ecclesial reality: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Moreover, the Church is called by the Lord to serve everyone, not just the Church’s own; as historical sociologist Rodney Stark has pointed out, paleo-Christian care for the sick who were not of the household of faith attracted converts in classical antiquity, when the sick were typically abandoned, even by their own families.

Those expressions of ecclesial inclusivity (or catholicity, or universality) are not, however, what contemporary woke culture means by being “inclusive.” As typically used today, “inclusion” is code for accepting everyone’s definition of self as if that self-definition obviously cohered with reality, was inherently unchallengeable, and thus commanded affirmation.

It is worth noting in this context that the Lord Jesus practiced some serious exclusion on occasion. Thus his exclusion from beatitude of one kind of sinner: “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness…” (Mark 3:29). And his condemnation of the pitiless: “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). And the fate of the one who tempts the innocent: “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea…” (Luke 17:2). And his determination to cast “fire upon the earth” (Luke 12:49) and burn out all that was contrary to the Kingdom of God.

The question of “inclusion” and the Church’s self-understanding was recently raised by an article published in America by Cardinal Robert McElroy, because the sensibility on display in the cardinal’s article is not that of the Bible, the Fathers of the Church, the Second Vatican Council, or the Catechism. It is the sensibility of woke culture’s obsession with “inclusion.”

The article suggests, if elliptically, that, because of concerns about inclusion, the ordination of women to the ministerial priesthood and the moral integrity of gay sex are open questions. But that is not the settled teaching of the Catholic Church. How can a highly intelligent man who has taken solemn oaths in which he accepted that teaching and promised to uphold it think otherwise?

Like contemporary woke culture, the cardinal’s article seems to regard gender theory as a secular form of revealed truth. In fact, theories of culturally-constructed “gender” and “gender fluidity” flatly contradict divine revelation: “…male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).

The article makes extravagant (and unsourced) claims about widespread “animus” against “the LGBT communities,” deeming such “visceral” attitudes “demonic.” But Cardinal McElroy has nothing to say about the severe (and readily documentable) cultural, professional and legal pressures brought to bear on those who refuse to go woke about the proper ordering of human love.

Woke inclusion-mania’s anthem is Frank Sinatra’s childish concept of freedom: “I did it my way.” Burning incense at the altar of such infantilism is not going to bring men and women to the Christ who linked freedom to truth: “…you will know the truth and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32). The Catholic Church is a communion of men and women, all of whom struggle with human weakness when confronting the vicissitudes of the human condition.

But that communion of disciples has also been given the truths that truly liberate by the Lord himself — truths that are not subject to affirmation or denial by discussion groups. As the biblical author reminded his readers (and us), “Do not be led astray by all kinds of strange teaching….” (Hebrews 13:9), which imperils evangelization.

Woke “inclusion” is not authentic catholicity.

If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

About George Weigel 438 Articles
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies. He is the author of over twenty books, including Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (1999), The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II—The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy (2010), and The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered Itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform. His most recent books are The Next Pope: The Office of Peter and a Church in Mission (2020), Not Forgotten: Elegies for, and Reminiscences of, a Diverse Cast of Characters, Most of Them Admirable (Ignatius, 2021), and To Sanctify the World: The Vital Legacy of Vatican II (Basic Books, 2022).


  1. Your reference to Sinatra triggers a wider foray into the big-tent (!) entertainment world…

    Wondering here about “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and whether his Eminence Cardinal McElroy is channeling the robotic Nurse Ratched or the lobotomized and amnesiac Randel McMurphy (Jack Nickolson)?

    If the Church itself is to be made into the patient Randel–surgically rendered forgetful of our entire history and identity as you summarize, then might we surmise that his version of “synodality” can be finally defined simply as anesthesia?…“Walking together” and counting backward from one hundred to memorialize the 99 percent non-participation rate.

  2. I would like to hear from our good and faithful bishops. I would like to hear a resounding condemnation around the world from them. I would like to see their strongly united condemnation end this synod on synodality foolishness before it goes any further.

    • Marie, perhaps by now you have seen this, but is Excellency Archbishop Aquila of Denver has written a reply in the Denver Catholic. I pray that many more like this will come!

  3. Mr. Weigel (I’m a long-time fan, BTW!), you wrote, “Like contemporary woke culture, the cardinal’s article seems to regard gender theory as a secular form of revealed truth. In fact, theories of culturally-constructed “gender” and “gender fluidity” flatly contradict divine revelation: “…male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).” Mr. Weigel, from what I’ve seen, there are plenty of “experts” who say that “gender fluidity” and “same-sex attraction”, etc. are “proven facts” according to medical science. Frankly, Mr. Weigel, I can’t believe, that considering all the other work that needs to be done by scientists (e.g., we’re still looking for cancer cures and cures for other deadly and debilitating diseases and disabilities, as well as legitimate research that needs to be cone about the theories of climate change and its deleterious effects), there is actually serious scientific research about “gender fluidity”, etc. and funding for such research. I’m waiting for the Telethon–entertainment by drag queens and tearful appeals by various “out” gay celebs begging the public to “please give money to protect us from dangerous religious fanatics who deny the “science” about our sexuality.” Thanks for all your good writing, Mr. Weigel. It’s my goal to read all your books.

    • The “serious scientific research” is in name only. Research is so closely tied to funding and who is providing that funding, that everyone needs to see where bias may be present. Ironically, in time, science catches up to the truth of the Catholic Church

    • Dear Mrs. Whitlock,
      Your observation that “there is actually serious scientific research about “gender fluidity”, etc. and funding for such research” being unlikely overlooks another kind of support that is more powerful than money, namely the full throat-ed validation coming from the current White House. In Biden’s State of the Union speech last year he assured “transgender youth” that he “has their backs.” What is happening to our country? Why this lunacy? I think encouraging children to remove their sex organs has a lot in common with calling abortion a “social good.” Both are an administration’s strategy for dealing with the ostensible population explosion, and both are as cynical as they are convenient. It’s eugenics with a prettier bow on top. Even into the 70’s people, mostly black, indigenous and poor whites, were sterilized without their knowledge or consent under the guise of “health care” – they were given free examinations and told, for instance, their appendix needed to come out. Their appendix was fine, but while under they were sterilized. Bad optics. Bad for political careers. Smacks of fascism. But with pushing for abortion and sex change operations they’re just giving people what they want, and defending their civil rights to boot!

  4. Please delete prior incomplete comment.

    “Back in the day, kiddie-Catholics learned that the Church had four “marks:” the Church is one, holy, catholic (as in “universal”), and apostolic.”

    Q. 548. Has the Church any marks by which it may be known?

    A. The Church has four marks by which it may be known: it is One; it is Holy; it is Catholic; it is Apostolic.

    Q. 549. How is the Church One?

    A. The Church is One because all its members agree in one faith, are all in one communion, and are all under one head.

    Q. 550. How is it evident that the Church is one in government?

    A. It is evident that the Church is one in government, for the faithful in a parish are subject to their pastors, the pastors are subject to the bishops of their dioceses, and the bishops of the world are subject to the Pope.

    Q. 552. How is it evident that the Church is one in worship?

    A. It is evident that the Church is one in worship because all its members make use of the same sacrifice and receive the same Sacraments.

    Q. 553. How is it evident that the Church is one in faith?

    A. It is evident the Church is one in faith because all Catholics throughout the world believe each and every article of faith proposed by the Church.

    Q. 554. Could a person who denies only one article of our faith be a Catholic?

    A. A person who denies even one article of our faith could not be a Catholic; for truth is one and we must accept it whole and entire or not at all.

    ~Baltimore Catechism No. 3

    However, there are also the three attributes of the Church. They can be read about in the link above.

  5. Card McElroy is not the apex of the issue. His appointment, his views are the features, indications of a moral sea change managed from the front office, the early vision of a new paradigm Church addressed early on by Pope Francis, and his theological consigliere Fr Anthony Spadaro SJ.
    Their idea is of a Church that makes one requirement, faith, as the entry ticket. Recently worded by His Holiness as the garment of faith alone as justification to receive the sacraments. Practice need not conform to rules [doctrine] because the priority is perceived as non judgmental inclusion of persons with varied beliefs and practices.
    For those of us who hold to Apostolic tradition this perceived more realistic, compassionate embrace separates the revelation of Christ from the person of Christ and his revealed identity within the Mystical Body. Literally, the Church of Christ without Christ.

  6. Catholic “Inclusion” or as some might conjecture, Catholic illusion!

    Those who love Christ and His bride the church, want t exclude the “wolves” that are bringing the church down. The church is absolute and her godly pattern, ordained by Christ. Ungodly men wish to change that for they want no opposition to their depraved agenda. Some say Papa is not upholding the permanent/invoilable!

    If men won’t change and honour Christ, they have no place in the church.

  7. We pray for the four principles of the Church to be saved away of impurity forever.

    Being LGBT is a sin need love and compassion to save the person as Jesus came to call sinners to repentance, it’s hard but The Bible said it all in says and acts of Jesus toward others in the great commission of Evangelization.

  8. “Woke inclusion” – seems they are in panic to fill the pews. This Vicar of Christ said: If you get to heaven you might see a Buddhist there! No, Father, Christ said “I am the Gate” and “I am the WAY” and “No one gets to the Father but through ME”. If admitted into heaven you are a child of God that lived in faith of His Truth, in Christ and through Christ, in love of Christ Jesus, not a Buddhist anymore!

  9. Thank you, George. Agree completely with your views and especially liked the reference in your penultimate paragraph to Hebrews 13:9, where the Holy Spirit instructs us not to be led away by the teachings of false prophets like McElroy and the other friends of Uncle Ted.

  10. Earlier in my lifetime homosexuality was not a subject of ordinary conversation. It has been made so by constant reference by the media, entertainment industry, deliberately.
    Ultimately those who do not conform to not only acceptance but participation will be the outcasts of society.

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. THVRSDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.