Thursday, December 29, 2011

Church and State (of siege)

As Advent dawned in the Archdiocese of New York I heard about a war from 4 different Catholic pulpits. A war is being waged on religion by the secular society. While it was not uttered, the take home message seemed to be "we better fight back," if only by wearing buttons that say "It's alright to wish me Merry Christmas."

Today's NY Times article by Laurie Goodstein, Bishops Say Rules on Gay Parents Limit Freedom of Religion may be viewed as another salvo. The article describes how Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, closed diocesan adoptive services rather than comply with a legal mandate to place children in the homes of gay couples, as these Catholic agencies received state funds. Presenting the Church's position, the article quotes Anthony R. Picarello Jr., general counsel and associate general secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, as saying “It’s true that the church doesn’t have a First Amendment right to have a government contract,” he said, “but it does have a First Amendment right not to be excluded from a contract based on its religious beliefs.” The opposing view argues that "no group has a constitutional right to a government contract, especially if it refuses to provide required services." In the course of relating this ideological standoff, Ms. Goodstein observes, "The idea that religious Americans are the victims of government-backed persecution is now a frequent theme not just for Catholic bishops, but also for Republican presidential candidates and conservative evangelicals." Shortly after hearing about the war on religion from 4 pulpits, I heard it on a Sunday morning news show from Newt Gingrich. Worst of all, we heard it from Cardinal Egan's attorney and Fox News consultant Peter Johnson, Jr.

After the New York State Court of Appeals ruled against Our Lady of Vilnius, Mr. Johnson presented the ruling as an affirmation of religious freedom and an able defense of the Constitution.

The parishioners of Our Lady of Vilnius are not enemies of either religious freedom or the Constitution. They are Roman Catholics that believe that the Church would serve itself better by opening its doors instead of circling the wagons.

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