Archbishop of Chicago Francis Cardinal George's superb essay, with my commentary.
Religious liberty and its discontents
In a TV interview on Christmas Day, I said that I feared the Chicago Gay Pride Parade this year might grow into a demonstration disruptive of Catholic freedom to assemble and worship God in the local parish church. My words surprised many and wounded others. When one says something hurtful, the only decent response is to apologize. I am particularly sorry to have hurt not only those who feel they have been personally affronted but also members of families who are struggling to maintain strong family ties with gay or lesbian sons or daughters. This is a situation I have known in my own family.Cardinal George expressed concern that a Gay Pride Parade that passed in front of a Catholic Church during scheduled Mass might interrupt the services with acts of vandalism or violence. He said "You know, you don't want the gay liberation movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism. So I think if that's what's happening, and I don't know that it is, but I would respect the local pastor's, you know, position on that."
He's right. There have been acts of anti-Catholic and anti-Christian vandalism, mockery and hatred by homosexuals (here, here, here, here, here) and actual disruption of worship (here, here, here, here).
Imagine if such tactics were used against Jews in synagogues or against blacks.
Cardinal Georges' analogy to the KKK is obvious and justified. Catholic haters even share terminology.
He explains further:
What concern prompted my remarks? Of what am I afraid? What lies behind words I am sorry to have spoken is my deep-seated concern for the liberty of the Catholic Church in our country. Is this a false fear or is our liberty becoming more restricted? Let me bring to mind a few cases in point.
If someone a year ago had told me that Catholic social service agencies in Illinois would be forbidden by law to arrange adoptions or place children in foster homes, I would have said that he or she could not be serious. If others had said that a well-established Catholic college in the archdiocese would be told by a government agency that it is no longer Catholic, I would have thought that impossible. If two years ago I had been told that Catholic hospitals and universities and other institutions that are securely part of the church’s ministry would have to insure their employees for medical “services” that are immoral, I would have thought that we were still protected against a decree that would force our institutions to close or to secularize themselves. If I had imagined that the church could not go to the aid of women who have been trafficked or of refugees needing care without offering them “the full range of reproductive services” (including abortion and sterilization), I would have dismissed the thought as a mere fantasy. If the thought had occurred that the U.S. government would attack in court the right of a church to determine who are its properly recognized ministers and who are not, it would have been dismissed as pure fancy. Similarly fanciful would have been a law, actually introduced in a State legislature, revising the church’s internal governance, taking it from priests and bishops and vesting it in committees dictated by State law. These developments have made me anxious. The church’s work with the poor and the disadvantaged, the sick and the uneducated, the hungry and the homeless has never been threatened before. Loss of these ministries, as well as a weakening of our right to govern ourselves and to worship God in an orderly and regular fashion, will affect not only Catholics but also our whole society.The history of the West has been deeply intertwined with church-state relations. Western statutory and constitutional prohibition on entanglement between church and state was enacted primarily to protect religious independence from state power. The great totalitarian regimes of the 20th century have understood that crushing the church was essential for the consolidation of secular power.
Notice how atheists and other worshipers of state power never invoke the Establishment clause to protect religious exercise from state power. Atheists invariably use the First Amendment to suppress religious expression, never to defend it.
In previous generations, Catholics were protected against individual and organized prejudice by an exemplary legal system. In a society that is pluralistic in its moral standards, the law always provided religious exemptions and conscience clauses that protected both individuals and religious institutions. These traditional safeguards of liberty can no longer be taken for granted. Now it is the law itself that has become, in some instances, our adversary. This is a new development for Catholics in America: the legal system is being changed to remove protections for our faith and our religious liberty. Catholics risk being once again excluded from the American consensus. That is my fear.It is a justified fear.
Bishops swear to teach and uphold the Catholic faith and to defend the liberty of the church. There have been many reasons to oppose the Catholic faith and the church that teaches and practices it. The calendar of martyrs bears witness to this opposition from age to age. Recently, Pope Benedict XVI spoke to the diplomats accredited to the Holy See about contemporary situations where Catholics’ freedom of religion is endangered: “In many countries, Christians are deprived of fundamental rights and sidelined from public life; in other countries they endure violent attacks against their churches and their homes. In other parts of the world, we see policies aimed at marginalizing the role of religion in the life of society, as if it were a cause of intolerance rather than a valued contribution to education in respect for human dignity, justice and peace.”Anti-Christian hatred and suppression is a tapestry, woven differently in different societies, but all of the same cloth. We need to recognize it for what it is. The incessant "separation of church and state" litigation and the legally-mandated violation of the conscience of Christians by the encroachment of laws based on Civic Atheism and its ideological spin-offs are mere anti-Christian bigotry, applied. It is another expression of the hate that has claimed the lives of tens of millions of Christian martyrs in the past century. In many Western countries this hate is rendered less violent (but no less fervent) by the inheritance of Christian tolerance that remains, for the time at least, in (formerly) Christian cultures.
This non-violent inheritance will not remain forever, and in many societies it will be superseded by more direct means of suppressing Christianity as moral relativism and loss of Christian ethics encroaches. It has happened in many cultures, and there is no reason to believe that we are immune from anti-Christian violence. There will, I fear, be blood.
In our age and in our country, opposition to Catholicism stems mainly from the rejection by many of our moral teaching and of the anthropology that underlies our understanding of the gift of human sexuality. The church’s moral teaching is based on the preservation and encouragement of moral goods; in our society, morality is addressed through the legal defense of individual rights. Catholics, in both private and public life, have generally worked to keep the two visions compatible with each other. Religious liberty is both a moral good and a legally protected right. Strengthening religious liberty and refraining from playing rights off against each other will help keep everyone in the American consensus. That is my hope. God bless you.
Cardinal George's warning needs to be taken seriously. We must not forget that de-Christianization is always repressive, and is often a sanguinary affair.