|If I become a Catholic protester on July 4th, I'll be carrying the sign on the right.|
When I read this article at the NCR on Friday I was completely astounded, so much so that I initially laughed. Then I got angry. Then this morning I read this post by Betty Clermont at Open Tabernacle and got even more angry. If any bishop thinks Catholics are going to take to the street in their millions to protest in the name of the bishops religious freedom, when most of us know it's really a protest in favor of their religious tyranny, they are mistaken.
Catholic Bishops Start 'Fortnight For Freedom' Initiative, Issue Rallying Cry For 'Religious Freedom'By David Gibson - Religion News Service - 4/12/2012
(RNS) The nation's Catholic bishops are calling on the faithful to pray and mobilize in a "great national campaign" to confront what they see as a series of threats to religious freedom, and they are setting aside the two weeks before July 4 for their "Fortnight for Freedom" initiative.
The exhortation is contained in a 12-page statement released Wednesday (April 12) by the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, and its chief concern is the Obama administration's proposal to provide contraception coverage to all employees with health insurance, including those who work for religious groups. (No, it is not about religious 'groups'. It is about secular enterprises run under religious auspices, taking tax money, to engage in charitable, educational, and medical endeavors. These endeavors are not the sole property of the Roman Catholic Church.)
The statement represents the hierarchy's latest effort to overturn that policy, and it includes an explicit threat of widespread civil disobedience by the nation's 67 million Catholics. (And when less than 250,000 of that 67 million partake in this exercise, will the media still insist they represent the entire Catholic perspective?)
"If we face today the prospect of unjust laws, then Catholics in America, in solidarity with our fellow citizens, must have the courage not to obey them," the statement says. "No American desires this. No Catholic welcomes it. But if it should fall upon us, we must discharge it as a duty of citizenship and an obligation of faith."
The document cites a number of other perceived threats to religious freedom besides the contraception policy, such as harsh immigration laws that could impede the church's social ministry and university policies targeting campus student religious groups.
The statement also makes a concerted effort to portray the Catholic campaign as bound up with the fight to defend American values from an overbearing central government. (Oh please, we are to exchange an over bearing central government for a over bearing theocracy controlled by Roman Catholic bishops?)
The "Fortnight for Freedom" covers the period during which the church calendar recalls "great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power," as the bishops put it -- such as John the Baptist, who was killed by Herod; the apostles Peter and Paul, who were killed in ancient Rome; and Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More, who were executed under England's King Henry VIII.
Religious progressives and church-state watchdogs quickly pushed back.
The Rev. C. Welton Gaddy, head of the Interfaith Alliance, argued that while he agrees there are genuine threats to religious freedom, the bishops' fight against contraception coverage means that "the Catholic Church's definition of religious freedom is one that is only concerned with its own beliefs and practices and makes no room for those whose views differ."
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, noted that many church-affiliated agencies operate on taxpayer dollars and therefore should follow public policy guidelines.
"When taxpayers are forced to support sectarian agencies that refuse to meet the needs of women, gay people and other communities that's a real violation of religious liberty," Lynn said. "If the bishops want to run sectarian social services, they ought to collect the money from their parishioners, not the taxpayers."
In their statement, the Catholic bishops deploy both the soaring rhetoric of American patriotism and the vivid examples of Catholic martyrs in calling for two weeks of parish activities, devotions and public rallies that would begin on June 21 and conclude on July 4. By invoking martyrs and saints, the bishops aim to recall the church's sacred history of "resistance to totalitarian incursions against religious liberty." (Notice how they do not recall the numerous examples of saints who lost their lives in dissent with Church leadership. St Thomas More was just as disgusted with the Church hierarchy of his time as he was with Henry VIII.)
The bishops have grown increasingly concerned about the advancement of laws promoting or protecting gay rights, for example, and fear that churches and affiliated agencies that use taxpayer dollars will have to comply with nondiscrimination policies.
But it was the Obama administration's release of a policy mandating that all employers provide free birth control coverage in their health care plans that sent the hierarchy into overdrive. The bishops have couched the fight as a battle for religious freedom because they say they know Americans -- including the vast majority of Catholics -- do not agree with church teachings against contraception. (Exactly, which makes this ploy an attempt to get Catholics to coerce the State into enforcing institutional Church doctrine they don't agree with and to essentially work against their own individual consciences. Nice trick.)
The White House has proposed modifying the mandate so that insurance companies would provide the contraception coverage separately to employees and with no cost to the faith-based employer. But the bishops -- as well as their conservative allies in other denominations and the Republican Party -- say that accommodation is insufficient. (The agenda is much deeper and wider than birth control or dubious appeals to religious freedom. See Betty Clermont's post.)
I would hope there is a huge Catholic push back on this 'exercise' in defending the religious freedom of our erstwhile bishops. If the idea is to germinate a sort of civil war inside the Catholic Church this is one way to accomplish it. Real Christian leadership would be concentrating on their own egregious failures, you know, the ones all over the news right now as demonstrated in spades in Philadelphia and Kansas City. But no, American Catholics are being called to follow these corrupt criminal bishops and protest against our own consciences, especially the interests of Catholic women, and against an administration that has put more tax money in the hands of Catholic institutions than any other government before it.
I can't help but think back to the protests of the 60's, in which Roman Catholic leadership was front and center on the immorality of the Viet Nam war and the military draft, in civil disobedience against racial discrimination and Jim Crow laws, and advocated for the influence of Catholic social teaching on the war on poverty. I can't help but remember the 80's when the USCCB issued letters against Reagan's nuclear build up, US secret military incursions, and for an inclusive and coherent pro life stance. It's almost like all of this was from another world. Of course in some senses it was. All of this came directly after Vatican II and before the crackdown on regional bishops conferences by the papacy of JPII and the CDF of Cardinal Ratzinger.
The real fruit of the 'reform of the reform' is not about liturgy or doctrine. It's about regaining power and centralizing authority so the men of the Vatican can keep playing their oh so Traditional political power games on the world stage. Our US bishops are blatantly engaging in this behavior in their mad pursuit to prove their uber loyalty in order to join the clan of the red beanie.
Good thing today is Divine Mercy Sunday. American Catholics could use some Divine Mercy. They are getting utter nonsense from their bishops.