|Tradition, Family and Property is another of those right wing Catholic groups who freely mix monarchical political philosophy with traditional Catholicism.|
The most important reason I personally have trouble with the USCCB Fortnight for Freedom is the strategy the bishops are using to promote this campaign. It seems to me that they are attempting to twist guarantees for individual human rights and freedoms away from the individual towards an understanding that places the institutional rights above the individual. I don't find this all that surprising since the exact same strategy is mirrored when corporations or political Super Pacs argue for their own collective rights on similar reasoning. This is one reason I find the US Supreme Court decision in the Citizen's United case abhorrent. Institutions, religious or not, and corporations are not individuals and do not have 'consciences'. It is frightening that they are in some cases arguing successfully that they are individuals, and that the USCCB is taking this further and insisting they do have consciences. Individual rights are getting steam rolled in this process.
Religion Dispatches has an article about the just recently held World Congress of Families in Madrid, Spain. Written by Gillian Kane, this article expands on my own thinking, drawing similar conclusions. This clever campaign is purposely designed to decrease individual rights in favor of institutional rights when it comes to the issues of sex and gender. This is seen in the novel, but powerful idea, that 'traditional rights' supersede 'new' individual rights centered in sexual reproduction for women and children:
One concern undergirding the varied topics covered by the speakers was that the protection of individual rights (youth rights, gay rights, reproductive rights) was taking place at the expense of “fundamental” religious, cultural, and parental rights. The idea of Christian persecution, or Christianophobia, was echoed throughout and the human rights framework was frequently misappropriated to serve the needs of a given speaker. Human rights were oppressive when they protected reproductive and gender rights (or “new” rights), whereas, when it came to protecting “traditional” rights to freedom of religion and speech, they were suddenly fundamental. New rights, they argued, cannot supersede traditional human rights. When they do, these rights violations must be redressed. (These 'traditional' rights are not human rights, they are patriarchal rights.)
This very argument is being used in the debate over the Obama health care reform law, one of the main objections to which is access to reproductive health care. Lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the mandate, however, do not directly confront abortion and contraception, but are based on the purported violation of the First Amendment. Stand Up For Religious Freedom, one of the lead networks agitating against health care reform, explicitly states that: “the American ideal of religious liberty is at stake. This isn’t really about contraception—it’s about the First Amendment.”
If readers take the time to read the linked article, they will find familiar names pop up on the Catholic side of this issue. The Ave Maria Law School created by Tom Monoghan features prominently. Another familiar legal group is the Alliance Defense Fund, whose creators were the big evangelical names of the moral majority, but whose major contributors include Edgar and Elsa Prince Foundation--(Eric Prince ring any bells?), An allied legal group is the Thomas More Law Center, and finally, the Tradition, Family, and Property group whose members seem to think society could use a good dose of rule by a benevolent Catholic elite who can own as much of the world as they want.
It would be easy to dismiss all of this as far right agitation from groups who are totally disconnected from modern reality, but that is a mistake. These groups feel disenfranchised from modern reality more so than disconnected, and they are backed by some of the world's most powerful political and religious organizations, and funded by very wealthy individuals. This is far from a joke. It's a very well organized attempt to dominate global politics by using secular argumentation against itself and providing specific targets for the generalized fear permeating global societies. We should all be taking this very very seriously if we care about individual rights and representative democracy. Religious Freedom can not become an excuse to exterminate individual rights because that path leads to precisely what we have in the Roman Catholic hierarchy, a closed leadership structure which considers itself above any meaningful accountability to any outside authority. That would not be good.