As the Erosion of Religious Liberty Continues, the Bishops Speak Out

The Bishops of the Maryland Catholic Conference recently issued a a document: The Most Sacred of All Property: Religious Freedom and the People of Maryland. The Catholic Bishops of the United States are also discussing the erosion of Religious Liberty at their meeting. The matter is becoming increasingly serious, not only for Catholics, but for peoples of all faith, especially other Christians.

When I have discussed this matter here on the blog before I am surprised a bit a the reaction. While a few accept the invitation to be alert and concerned, many have commented that such notions are alarmist and exaggerated, arguing that Constitutional Law is clear and there is no real threat. While I expect this sort of response from more secular readers here, I do not expect it of Catholic readers and find it surprising.

The Church is already spending increasing time and money battling many attacks on religious liberty, as we or the programs we run are sued for not complying to secular and neopagan civil norms demanding we provide abortions services and contraception, in our hospitals and health plans, and facilitate Gay adoptions, etc. We win some the suits and lose others.

But here is the point, our religious liberty is steadily eroding. Religious exemptions to newly imposed secular norms are being taken away, or interpreted so narrowly that no one can comply. This is becoming a serious matter and will have a larger effect on our ability to evangelize as well as care for the poor, run school, hospitals and even staff parishes. Pay attention. This is becoming a serious problem.

Before giving a few excerpts from the Bishop’s Document, lets review a few things that were in the news just this week.

1. CNA Reports Illinois Dioceses Must End Adoption Services: Bishops in three Illinois dioceses announced Nov. 14 that they have dropped their lawsuit against the state and will shut down their adoption and foster care programs, after a civil union law required them to provide their services to same-sex couples.

“The decision not to pursue further appeals was reached with great reluctance, but was necessitated by the fact that the State of Illinois has made it financially impossible for our agencies to continue to provide these services,” said Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki of Springfield, Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, and Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of Joliet. …

[This demonstrates that] legislators promising ‘religious protection’ in same sex marriage and civil union laws may not be able to deliver on those promises.

Robert Gilligan, executive director of the Illinois Catholic Conference, summarized what he believes to be the underlying problem in remarks to CNA on Nov. 11. What “you’re seeing at the state level in Illinois, what you’re seeing at the national level in Washington, D.C., is a consistent promulgation of policies and laws that are making it very difficult for faith-based agencies that believe that marriage is between one man and one woman,” Gilligan said…..[1]

2. Michael Gerson Writing in the Washington Post Yesterday in the Opinion Pages  [President] Obama Turns his Back on Catholics notes that Catholics no longer need apply for grants to serve the poor:

….The conscience protections of Catholics are under assault, particularly by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

[In 2008] The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts brought suit against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), seeking to eliminate a grant to programs that aid victims of human trafficking. Because Catholic programs don’t refer for abortions, the ACLU alleged that public support amounts to the establishment of religion.

The Obama Justice Department defended the grant in court. But last month, HHS abruptly ended the funding.

The main victims of this assault are not bishops but the poor and vulnerable. USCCB-sponsored human trafficking programs, for example, provide employment assistance, legal services, child care and medical screening. [2]

But because case managers won’t refer for abortions, HHS would rather see these programs shut down in favor of less effective alternatives. This form of anti-religious extremism counts casualties. [3]

3. Gerson also reports in the same article that pro-lifers need not apply:

It is now standard procedure in the Obama administration to deny funding to some Catholic programs based solely on their pro-life beliefs. [4]

4. In terms of the Obama Healthcare Legislation Gerson writes:

Broadly applied, the [new] HHS [Healthcare] policy would amount to systemic anti-Catholic bias in government programs…..HHS has drawn conscience protections so narrowly that Catholic colleges, universities and hospitals — any Catholic institution that employs and serves non-Catholics — will be required to offer health coverage that includes contraception and drugs that cause abortion. [5]

In global health grants, new language is appearing that requires the integration of family planning and “reproductive health” services, effectively barring the participation of Catholic institutions. [6]

Gerson goes on to wonder: How will the White House respond? More specifically, how will the Catholic chief of staff and America’s first Catholic vice president respond? They gave up their own adherence to Catholic teaching on abortion long ago. But are they really prepared to betray their co-religionists who still hold these beliefs? [7]

Drip, drip, drip.

The pro-abortion lobby, the homosexual rights activists and the secularists in general had all marched into town under the banner of tolerance, freedom of conscience, and “choice.” It is clear enough that they and/or their advocates in the Government have no interest in any of these supposed values, and the lie of their “tolerance” is on full display.

The message is increasingly clear: Comply or leave the public square. And if we do not succeed in forcing you to comply the first time, we will continue to sue you and hail you into court with our well funded legal teams, and make you spend all your money and time defending our attacks until you have to leave, simply from financial exhaustion.

Some Catholics argue with me, “We shouldn’t depend on any government money.” Perhaps, but that is beside the point. We are no less deserving of grants because of our faith than some secular or pro-abortion group, or some pro-homosexual group. Further, this erosion is not simply about obtaining grants. It is about Government, Federal, State and local, trying to force us to provide healthcare plans with anti-life, anti-traditional family agenda.  There are also increasing attempts to insist on who we must hire and what we must fund and recognize and even how we structure our parishes.

Pay careful attention: drip, drip, drip. You may say, “It’s just a drip” but the water is collecting and getting deeper.

More recent threats to religious liberty are listed in the document just below.

To conclude, here are some excerpts from the Maryland Bishop’s Conference document The Most Sacred of All Property: Religious Freedom and the People of Maryland.

  1. Religious freedom is not merely a civil right afforded us by our government, but, more fundamentally, it is a natural right due each person because of his or her human dignity….Each person is made in the image and likeness of God….Christ came to convince, not to compel. He offers us His love but He does not force us to accept it. The Lord respects our freedom to accept Him or to reject Him; so too must government and society.
  2. Religious freedom…is also integral to the establishment of a good and just society.  Individuals who are free to exercise religious liberty are free to live out their faith in service to others and to build up the common good. For example, faith groups and religious organizations often are the largest providers of private social services, including hospitals and health clinics, schools and universities, shelters and food pantries….. Workers’ rights have long been a concern of the religious community in the United States….But perhaps the most striking example of the good fruits of religious liberty was the civil rights movement. In many ways, the civil rights movement was a religious movement.
  3. Rev. King also explained the proper role of churches in society: “The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. . . . It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool.”
  4. Threats: In November 2009 the Baltimore City Council passed a bill regulating the speech of pro-life centers by requiring them to post a sign listing services they do not provide (abortion and contraception) or face a daily fine. The Montgomery County Council soon approved a similar regulation. The Baltimore ordinance has been declared unconstitutional by a federal court…[but] Even as courts overturn these laws, they place a huge time and financial burden on these charitable organizations and are a distraction from their mission.
  5. Threats: 600 Catholic  hospitals are finding themselves under increased scrutiny for providing care in accordance with their – our – religious  beliefs. The American Civil Liberties Union has asked the federal government to investigate Catholic hospitals for declining to provide abortion and emergency contraception. The ACLU alleges that Catholic hospitals are violating federal law by adhering to their religious beliefs.
  6. Threats: the [DC City Government] informed Catholic Charities that it would no longer be an eligible foster care and adoption partner. The reason? Because, as a Catholic organization, Catholic Charities was devoted to placing children in homes with both a mother and a father. Moreover, when District residents appealed to bring the issue of marriage before voters so that they could have a voice in the debate, their request was repeatedly denied by the D.C. Board of Elections.
  7. Threats: Sadly, there has been a growing trend of government intrusion into the institutional and administrative life of the Church.  One of the most alarming illustrations of this trend occurred in 2009, when a bill was introduced in the Connecticut legislature that would have allowed the state of Connecticut to mandate the structure and organization of Catholic parishes (and only Catholic parishes; it applied to no other denominations). The measure, which ultimately failed, would have removed many administrative and pastoral responsibilities from the pastor and placed them instead in the hands of committees whose membership was defined by the state legislature.
  8. In closing… Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religious belief. No one should be subject to coercion because of those beliefs…..Society as a whole benefits when all citizens in our pluralistic democracy – including religious citizens and institutions – remain free to participate in public life and to do so in accordance with their sincerely held beliefs.

83 Replies to “As the Erosion of Religious Liberty Continues, the Bishops Speak Out”

  1. Eternal law rules, just say no and defend what is right and true unto death! St. Michael pray for us.

  2. Amen. I watched the USCCB Fall Conference on EWTN AND religious Freedom is a concern of the Church but how do you ignite that cconcern at the local level is a challenge. I too, never give it thought unless I am faced with it.

      1. As Pope Benedict recently stated it is time for Catholics to PRACTICE what we PREACH!

  3. Why are Catholic Bishops shutting down needed services? Why flee from suffering for Christ?

    1. Rather, why are civil authorities removing our accreditation to perform these services. Read the Illinois an Washington DC siyuation more carefully Nick. It is the state that is removing our accreditation to perform adoption services. As for the poor in general, we continue to help them but we no longer qualify for federal or state funds in a lot of places, so until we can replace the funds we will be able to help far fewer.

      How about you Nick, are your going to go out and lead the charge to raise private money? We could use your help. We need billions, by the way. Or are your just going to say the bishops should do something? Bottom line Nick, this is not about the what the bishops are doing. We in the Church haven’t moved. This is about what the state is doing.

      1. Well, I can give more money to my parish, and help out more at the food drives.

        But above all, Msgr., we need more prayers and penances. Though it takes repentance.

  4. Monsignor,

    You said,

    “Some Catholics argue with me, “We shouldn’t depend on any government money.” Perhaps, but that is beside the point. We are no less deserving of grants because of our faith than some secular or pro-abortion group, or some pro-homosexual group”

    The problem with acceptance of government money can be boiled down into two tired cliches:

    – With Shekels come Shackles

    – The Golden Rule: He who has the gold, makes the rules.

    Sir, you say, “We are no less deserving of grants…”

    I would submit that this is the wrong question. Perhaps the question should, instead, be: “Should the State be involved in this in the first place?” Or, perhaps, this should, instead, be the function of society…Pope Bl. John Paul II was pretty smart when he wrote Centesimus Annus 48.4 and 48.5.

    For what it’s worth.

    1. Well, what’s it’s worth depends on you Mark. You can talk about theories of money and subsidiarity and to some extent I agree with such concerns. But my big beef with my fellow conservatives is how do we get to this rarified place of subsidiarity and clean money? Whats the plan? it’s easy to sit in an armchair and say we shouldn’t take this money or that or that subsidiarity should be more respected. Fine, meanwhile, what about the poor? And the oddest thing of all Mark is that the bishops are doing what you want, because they have been forced and you still criticize. what are your plans to help the poor other than saying it serves us right? Are you prepared to give more persoanlly and to lead the charge to help the bishops raise billions so we can go wholly private? I like the idea, Mark but some of clergy are waiting for some real alternatives from folks like you who are long on criticism and short on solutions. I live for the day when the laity when take their rightful place ini the renewal of the temporal order. But for now Catholics are hopelessly divided on just about every moral and social issue. It’s like herding cats. And no matter how great the threat is, there is always going to be someone who, as you have done here, likes to turn inward and criticize rather than join with the quarterback and fight for yardage. Too bad really. But I recall that Gideon did better with 300 committed soldiers that with 30000 nay sayers. So as for me I’ll gather with the shepherds and heed their call to moved the ball. And when you get that plan together to raise billions in clean money to help the poor, money with no strings etc I’ll say wow Mark is the man!

      1. There is no justification for denying the Church public funds when the Church is providing a public service. Nor should the Church decline to accept public funds as long as the funds do not come with unacceptable conditions.

        1. I believe it was St. Teresa of Avila who said that the only way of avoiding the conflict between giving to Caesar and giving to God was to make sure you had nothing that belonged to Caesar.

          1. Well OK but remember Jack, this isn’t just about taking money to do services, this is also about increasing Govt meddling in our private affairs, such as what we offer in our healthcare plans, how we structure pensions and other benefits in our private benefits packages, what we say in our pro-life clinics, there have even been attempts to interfere with how we run our parishes. Check the threat list more closely. There is interference even when we have nothing that belongs to Caesar.

          2. “I believe it was St. Teresa of Avila who said that the only way of avoiding the conflict between giving to Caesar and giving to God was to make sure you had nothing that belonged to Caesar.”

            We simply cannot surrender the task of helping the poor and disadvantaged to the secular government. And as Msgr. points out, this is not simply a question of the government cutting off funds. The HHS regulations that discard conscience protection for Catholic institutions are an outright act of aggression.

          3. Caesar is Caesar. And we should not be surprised when he acts like Caesar, rather than acting like Christ.

            Having invited Caesar to usurp the charitable function of the Church with the welfare state — and continuing to invite Caesar to do so, continuing to advocate for more government action and programs, etc.– we are reaping what we sowed.

            “SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.

            Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one: for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence.”
            Common Sense

    2. We are not trying to restructure the whole system. That could and maybe should be done as the state sees fit. What is happening is the old system is being changed to exclude Catholics. That is all that is changing. Catholics were getting the work and doing it very well. Now they are being refused because they are adhering to Catholic principles. Whether or not the program is perfect is beside the point. The change being made is wrong and needs to be reconsidered.

  5. Very interesting post. I hope that our bishops form alliances with other religious groups who will also be under attack, such as Orthodox Jews, etc.

    I think we can predict that this is just going to keep getting worse and worse, and we will have to retreat further and further. I imagine faithful Catholics will be like the Amish one day, perhaps in size as well as nature. We will live quietly and just hope that no one takes any notice of us.

  6. I agree with the great cause for concern here. Having said that it warrants noting that “Catholic” doctors serving in the “Catholic” hospitals are the very ones writing the birth control prescriptions and referring the abortions. Once again, we can’t have it both ways… How serious can anyone possibly take our teachings if we the “Catholics” don’t uphold them ourselves?

    Now the Muslim faith seems to get their rights recognized and get respect they demand…how is that? Even in “Catholic” institutions!!!!!!!

    Yes, there definitely is a SERIOUS problem!

      1. Will do Msgr. I am in total agreement with the issue at hand. However it seem there are a few fumble the bishops have to deal with. As I was watching the conference on EWTN it is quite clear to me the work and areas that the bishops desire to work toward and are focused on and addressing. Great job! Since the church’s teaching will remain intact, common sense would indicate that there have been a few too many fumbles internally that are having a far reaching affect on the entire team.

        As Cardinal indicates, our religious freedom is in jeopardy. My point is … if we as Catholics are not upholding our own values and religious convictions how can we possibly expect them to be recognized by the rest of the world? We are clearly under attack…drip, drip, drip… one drip for neglect, one drip for abortion, one drip, for contraception use, one drip for lack of mass attendance, one drip for abuse, one drip for not speaking the truth for fear of offending, one drip, one drip. You are right on when you speak of the depth of the drips. Surely makes for a lot a fumbles. Too many fumbles, the whole team loses. We need to reclaim ourselves first and fast. Meet you at the goal post?

  7. I must say this article reads like a war cry, to me. A call to arms. It is obvious that Msgr. Pope believes the Catholic Church to be under attack from special interest groups.

    I can certainly understand that feeling. After watching Mississippi’s Initiative 26 even make it on the ballot I felt that I was under attack by the political activists with a religious, specifically Christian, agenda.

    I continue to feel increasingly alarmed about a lot of what I see happening in what is supposed to be a secular society in which separation of church and state is a foundational tenet.

    Speaking as a secularist tax payer I must agree with your constituency that would advise your endeavors become private rather than receiving government grants. While you are espousing your right to practice within the constraints of your belief system, I as a tax payer who finds your policies discriminatory do not care to support that discrimination. We are at an impasse. I do not begrudge your right to conduct your business according to your religion, but I do not wish to support the portion of your actions I find unequal. I don’t wish to force you to accept my ideal of equality, or balanced services, but I don’t care to pay for your ideal either. If you can not provide services to all people regardless of their adherence to your religious doctrine then your organization is not qualified to receive public funds.

    1. Respectfully stated. Thank you. I would take issue in your statement that we are supposed to be a secular society. Separation of Church and State is not a phrase in the Constitution. Rather, it is the establishment of a particular sectarian branch that is set aside in the establishment clause. All the founding fathers however referenced God and saw an active place for religious perspective in the daily discourse even of official Govt business, and public prayer was engaged in (and still is in many legislatures and in the US Congress).

      That said, I understand your aversion to public monies going to institutions you do not support. However I have a similar question for you as I do for some of my more negative confreres: “How do walk this thing back in a way that does not harm the poor?” For the fact is, in most larger cities where the Catholic Church is prominent, Catholic Charities and our Social Service agencies are the largest single private provider of social services. The Government has traditionally worked with us because we are good at it. We run good hospitals, care for immigrants efficiently, serve the poor well at the lowest cost of any provider. Kicking us to the curb as some insist on doing may feel politically thrilling, but is this what best serves the poor. Who or what is stepping in to fill the gaps? In there any more graceful way to privatize the care of the poor that does not crash the system and result more from politics that what is best for the poor?

      Beyond social service dollars, I hope you also see there is more of a problem, where Government is beginning to intrude even where there is no money in question by requiring us to provide abortion referrals, contraceptives etc. The requirement comes not on account of money received to provide services, but rather the club the govt swings in the accreditation club. This is far more pernicious that the refusal of grants.

        1. The adoption situation in Illinois is a good example of this. There were 45 other adoption agencies in Illinois that gay couples could have worked with to pursue adoptions. Why was it necessary to close down the Catholic agencies?

      1. Msgr. Pope,

        Thank you for your thoughtful response. I suppose both of us could find a plethora of quotes and examples validating our own positions and opinions on whether or not the founding fathers were religious, Christian, or intended the separation between church and state, that Thomas Jefferson later mentioned in his letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, when drafting the 1st Amendment. We should probably agree to disagree on this point so we might move on.

        In response to the rest of your arguments I have but one statement. It is entirely in the purview of the Church to decide whether its charitable works are more important than its doctrine. What I do know is that if the Church decides for its doctrine over its works then it will, inevitably, leave a hole. No one can deny that the Church has often done great works for many. It is also inevitable that eventually something will fill that hole, because that is the way of things. It’s up to the Church to decide what its agenda is.

        For me, in my ideal world, I would love to see the Church focus on respecting and loving all individuals regardless of their obedience or acquiescence to doctrine, and being there for them to help them through whatever choices they make for themselves and their own – rather than attempting to make the choices for them because it believes it knows what is best. This is the lesson being a parent has taught me. It’s a difficult lesson, and requires a lot more inner fortitude than attempting to control, but I do think it was part and parcel of the lessons brought to us by a very important man who walked about 2,000 years ago.

        It’s possible to simple refuse to participate in the things you do not wish to participate in. It’s a very difficult kind of tough love, but its doable and it is among the Churchs’ options.

  8. Well spoken Monsignor once again.

    Here in the UK we have had to deal with issues such as same-sex adoption causing Catholic agencies to close rather than risk litigation.

    Another change to take place is with the introduction of the right for ‘same-sex’ couples to have their ‘civil partnerships’ held in Church premises in Spring 2012.

    Although the Equalities Minister, Lynne Featherstone responsibile for these changes is quoted as saying this will be optional, however this voluntary aspect will likely increase expectation and fuel demand for these ceremonies to take place in Church.
    There is also the likelihood that litigation against churches that refuse, using either the Equality Act or the Human Rights Act to claim discrimination, if they are not allowed to form a civil partnership in those premises.

    Already another MP, Mike Weatherley, has written to Mr Cameron our Prime Minister, suggesting that any Church refusing to provide for these civil partnerships ceremonies must be banned from performing any marriage services at all.

    Slowly, slowly our Christian rights are being eliminated and many in the Church Hierachy as well as priests and lay people, have a just ‘wait and see’ attitude and simply shrug their shoulders.

    A long slow descent to outlawing the Faith eventually.

    Where is Thomas More and John Fisher in today’s society when we need them?

    Keep up your excellent work. It really is needed.


    1. American Catholics like to claim this could never happen here because of the First Amendment. However, the argument you now see being made by the government is that First Amendment protections should have to give way when in conflict with “important societal goals.” At the very least, the Church may have its tax exemption revoked because it is not considered to be advancing the public good due to its “discriminatory” policies.

      1. I suspect it may, and I for one would not miss it from a pure point of view. I will say however that to pay taxes on my buildings valued at between 7-10 million would be daunting, so from that view I pray we keep it!

  9. How much blame can be laid at the doorstep of this administration? Do you think a more friendly White House can go far in reversing this trend? That, to me, seems the great advantage of a democracy.

  10. If the American people elect a Republican in 2012, will the measures brought on by the Obama administration be reversed?

    I’m not asking hypothetically. The way I see it, having Obama for another 4 years is a real nightmare.

  11. Hopefully this will lead to the Church ending its reliance on secular programs and funding. The whole socailized welfare system will collapse and better that the Church does not collapse with it. Render unto caesar and let the Church do its business without being enslaved to the fed government.

    1. Well OK but remember trad, this isn’t just about taking money to do services, this is also about increasing Govt meddling in our private affairs, such as what we offer in our healthcare plans, how we structure pensions and other benefits in our private benefits packages, what we say in our pro-life clinics, there have even been attempts to interfere with how we run our parishes. Check the threat list more closely. There is interference even when we receive no money from the FEDS

  12. Unfortunately, I find too many of the church’s arguments illogical. For instance: Why should taxpayers of all persuasions fund the church’s programs–no matter how worthwhile–without any strings attached? If the church does not believe in abortion, then it needs to have a national registry where its believers can sign up to fund & provide other assistance to women who are considering abortions. Whining about the erosion of Christian rights will not bring about a solution nor will pointing a finger at the government convince the faithful to work for the ideals of the church.

    Is there a Monsignor brave enough to set up the national registry I suggested?

    1. No dollar of government spending is without dispute. Those without school-aged children resent money spent on education; those secure financially resent money spent on welfare; those who work for small employers resent money spend on public employees’ benefits.

      Should we toss out the IRS altogether, and leave services and programs to be funded only by “registries?”

    2. I am not entirely sure I know what you mean, by a national registry. But I do know that Catholic Hospitals are committed to pre and post natal care for mothers and their babies free of charge if necessary. Further, we have the national Project Gabriel that assists women in difficult pregnancy situations. If this is what you mean.

      As for “Church programs” they are not per se church programs, they are Church-State partnerships where the Church provides social services for the community, Catholic or not and the state provides some or all the funds to the Catholic or other private agency to run the program so it doesn’t have to.

      As for whining – I am no more whining than you are. I am speaking up for what is right and alerting people to threats against religious liberty. So go buy your own box of tissues if needs be, I don’t need any myself.

  13. @Suz: “I don’t wish to force you to accept my ideal of equality, or balanced services, but I don’t care to pay for your ideal either. If you can not provide services to all people regardless of their adherence to your religious doctrine then your organization is not qualified to receive public funds.”

    I understand your wish to not support taxpayer funded Christian programs, but your argument must then have to acknowledge the Christian’s right to not want to support secularist policies that go fundamentally against our moral teachings and values. Yet, if we were to compare taxpayer monies spent on these types of programs, I would bet that we are forced to support more of your programs than you do of ours. How is this fair?

    Just because a society is “secular” does not mean that it’s laws and rules do not venture into the realm of morality (right and wrong). In fact, most laws do. As a society, what most people consider to be bad for the common good is legislated into laws prohibiting and criminalizing that behavior. Thus, we have laws against murder and theft (ironically also a part of the 10 Commandments – a religious code of law).

    Using your standards, we should not support any group or organization with taxpayer money that violates anyone’s moral code (or lack of). Somehow, I think Christians could probably live with this a lot easier than secularists. What do you think?

    1. @Jenny,

      You said: “I understand your wish to not support taxpayer funded Christian programs, but your argument must then have to acknowledge the Christian’s right to not want to support secularist policies that go fundamentally against our moral teachings and values. Yet, if we were to compare taxpayer monies spent on these types of programs, I would bet that we are forced to support more of your programs than you do of ours. How is this fair?”

      Please provide statistics, examples, and references to support this claim. Also please make sure that they include the funds that have been diverted to “Faith Based Initiatives” since the Bush administration’s change in Federal policy.

      Remember that whether you agree with the law of the land is not germane to whether you are obligated to abide it (ask anyone who is currently in prison). By living in the society you agree to live by its laws. This is true of any group, there are no exceptions whether secular or religious.

      I do not begrudge you your morality. I begrudge your forcing your morality on other people.

  14. The USCCB has only itself to blame. For 200 years the Amercian Catholic bishops have been playing the game of tolerance with our non-catholic compatriots. American Catholicism has been intentionally divested of its militancy. This was apparent at the more than 100 years ago when Americanism was condemned. More recently, when the fruit of this vaccuous Catholicism is apparent, the bishops still fail to reign in dissidents. Are pro-choice Catholic politicians publicly excommunicated? Are they denied holy communion? This is also a failing of individual priests who do not need the permission of their bishop to act to prevent scandal. How many vocations have been destroyed by insidious bishops running seminaries full of behavior that cries to God for vengeance.
    A religious persecution is coming. It is deserved. It is the only way to purify God’s Church of Her enemies within. The Catholic Church will lose Her property but she will regain the Faith pure and entire.

    1. Peter Chabot – Self loathing Catholic who is happy that seculars, homosexual activists and pro abortion activists, et al. are gaining in our society.

      If only we had done things Peter Chabot’s way we’d be on top!

      But wait a minute….Peter is not a bishop. I wonder why God never called and anointed Peter Chabot a bishop? Doesn’t God know we’d all be in great shape if guys like Peter had been bishops for the past 200 years? I wonder what God could be thinking in appointing and anointing bishops unlike Peter Chabot? Maybe God should talk to Peter Chabot so Peter Chabot can set God straight.

      1. This reply cannot actually be from Msgr. Pope. … mischaracterization of Peter’s points, then an ad hominem attack? Peter raises some arguable points – don’t kill him for being the messenger.

  15. Unfortunately, I find too many of the church’s arguments illogical. For instance: Why should taxpayers of all persuasions fund the church’s programs–no matter how worthwhile–without any strings attached?

    Why should there be strings attached when the Church is providing a public service? We are not asking for money to fund Corpus Christi Processions.

    If the church does not believe in abortion, then it needs to have a national registry where its believers can sign up to fund & provide other assistance to women who are considering abortions.”

    Such institutions already exist all over the country.

    1. “Why should there be strings attached when the Church is providing a public service? We are not asking for money to fund Corpus Christi Processions. ”

      Let’s take religion out of the equation. Let’s say that I wish to have a banquet catered. I wish to offer two vegetable dishes, a chicken dish, and a meat dish. I put a call out for catering bids for same.

      Among the responses is a bid from a caterer who only does vegetarian cuisine. They find carnivorous eating immoral and against their beliefs, and can site a plethora of ancient documents to support their claims that it’s just better for you to be a vegetarian. Their bid for the contract only includes four vegetarian dishes. When they do not get the contract, because they haven’t actually bid on the services requested, they then decry the process as being impartially balanced against them because of their beliefs. They say that if they are forced to cook and serve meat it will go against their beliefs. Yet nobody has required them to cook and serve meat, they have only refused to pay them for services they refuse to offer.

      This is what the church sounds like when whining about federal grant money in the same breath it refuses to offer the services needed, impartially to all within the law. Nobody is making you change your belief, but you have to accept responsibility when your beliefs make you unable to adequately provide what’s needed.

  16. Thank you Msgr. The challenge is before us now. Pray, know what the Church teaches and why, speak out, be involved, or one day you or your children may find that you’re not allowed to live your Catholic faith.

  17. The Diocese of Arlington has a website for advocacy of Catholic based social teaching called the VA Catholic Conference:

    The purpose of this site it to keep parishioners informed of hot social justice issues comming up for vote in the house and senate. It allows you to send an e-mail to your representatives encourging them to make the right decision when they vote just by clicking a link and entering your address. You can send the pre-wriiten letter already addressed to your particular representives or modify it anyway you would like.

    I’ve found this site extremely helpful at keeping me informed of impending legislation regarding Cathollic social issues and upcomming votes, but more importantly it allows me to keep involved by sending my legislative representatives e-mails regarding how I’d like them to vote and why at the click of a link.

    I don’t know how labor intensive or expensive this site is to maintain, but it’s very helpful in knowing who my representatives are and keeping in touch with them. Bishop Leverde is a great supporter and encourages all parishioners to sign-up and stay involved. I would hope to see this program imitated in every Diocese through out the country.

    Who can join the Virginia Catholic Conference Advocacy Network?
    The Virginia Catholic Conference Email Advocacy Network is for parishioners, Catholic school parents, and anyone interested in legislative advocacy based on Catholic social teaching.

    What are the Network Features?
    •Easy, quick, timely advocacy for life, family, social justice and common good
    •Regular alerts on critical issues being considered by state and federal lawmakers
    •Pre-drafted email messages members can send “as is” or edited to elected officials within minutes with just a few mouse clicks
    •Periodic updates on progress and outcomes of advocacy items
    •Announcements about periodic Conference advocacy events, including Catholic Advocacy Day
    •Free membership
    •A guarantee that members’ contact information will not be shared with others.
    Join the Network Now!Vir

  18. This wasn’t such a serious problem until Obama took office. He may claim to be a Christian all he wants, but when the rubber hits the road, he has demonstrated that he is truly an anti-Christian biggot.

    1. Chris, this has been a problem in the making for a long time that has only escalated since the current administration took the reins.. You are accurate in your description of his character!

  19. Some Catholics argue with me, “We shouldn’t depend on any government money.” Perhaps, but that is beside the point. We are no less deserving of grants because of our faith than some secular or pro-abortion group, or some pro-homosexual group. Further, this erosion is not simply about obtaining grants. It is about Government, Federal, State and local, trying to force us to provide healthcare plans with anti-life, anti-traditional family agenda.

    The point about grants is true. But the subsequent point merely goes to show rather compellingly why is it such a grievous mistake for some in the Church — including those in the Vatican curia — to call for some governmental authority as the answer to socio-economic woes.

    Church agencies are just as entitled to participate in government programs as any secular group, but perhaps now those agencies will stop promoting government — and government grants — as being part and parcel of social justice.

    When Church agencies, etc. advocate for more government action to advance social justice they really cannot then complain when government does what is intrinsic to government — oppress.

    1. In light of what went on in Europe in the 19th Century between secular states and the Church, I am always amazed when I see these calls for more government involvement. However, I still think we have a right to complain because there is no rational reason for the government to seek to exclude the Church from tasks traditionally handled by the Church.

  20. Some of Msgr. Pope’s comments are elegantly superb; other comments bring to mind the term “Jesuitical sophistry.” However, I understand his problem with Peter Chabot’s turning back issues onto the church. This pointing at the church is as vacuous as pointing at the administration and Msgr. Pope is wise to snark about it. I agree that we need to focus on the present and not on the past. And I agree that doing something is better than whining which is why I made the suggestion about a registry. Msgr. Pope needs to use those tissues on the drip, drip, drip! 🙂

    1. Please be precise when you decide to summarize another’s ideas.
      I have in no way blamed the Church. She is perfect.
      I am not dwelling in the past, rather recognizing the source of the problems as something historical and ongoing.

      A future persecution is inevitable we just can not say exactly when:
      1. We know from history that God purifies his Church through persecution.
      2. The hierarchy of the Catholic Church in America have betrayed the Church and the Faith abominably and continue to do so with impugnity. I will grant that there are several exceptions.
      3. God requires prayer, fasting, and sacrifice to atone for the sins of the faithful. In the past this was provided by individuals who gave their lives to offer this service to the Church.
      4. The Church has only a fraction of the number of these dedicated souls to atone for the apostasy now rampant.
      5. The faithful are largely unaware of the necessity of prayer and fasting. They can’t even fast during Lent. They therefore can not be counted upon to transform the Church through heroic sacrifice.

      So if atonment for sins against the is necessary, and heroic souls are unavailable to make that sacrafice, there is only one option left for God — persecution. Our duty as always is to pray, fast, learn the Faith and prepare ourselves for possible martyrdom.

  21. Some immediate actions to be taken: 1. Don’t vote for anti-Catholic politicians (even – or, rather, especially – if they are self-proclaimed “Catholics” like Joe Biden). 2. If there is nobody left to vote for, don’t vote at all but make your reasons known (for example, by officially refusing the ballot). 3. Enter into alliances with other morally unspoiled religious groups, especially Muslims, Mormons and orthodox Jews. 4. Pray for the Divine help.

  22. Well, Monsignor it looks as though you have filled the bucket today. Good job! Unfortunately an issue that has been creeping on us for a while. Hopefully the bucket catching all the drips has a leak in order for us to buy some time to fix the dam…

  23. Monsignor you are so right. I watched the USCCB conference as well. If I remember correctly it was the Catholic Church who started the hospitals. The government would be only too happy to take over our hospitals and then what
    happens wherever government runs programs. They are grossly over staffed with lots of levels of beaurocrats(sp),
    insurmountable fraud, waste and inequity. There would soon be forced abortions, forced euthanasia for all the altheimer’s patients and terminally ill (to be merciful) and save money and on and on. The so called “tolerant” society
    of ours is tolerant of everything from defecating in the streets an at Occupy protest to the most deviant social and sexual
    behavior yet they are intolerant of anything Christian or moral. They have taken Jesus from a Divine Being and made
    him into a human just as they are. “They have turned away from their Creator and are worshipping creatures instead…”. Thank you for your columns everyday which many of us thrive on amidst all those who voceriferate at you.

  24. The much more fundamental point that the comments ignore is the questionable basis for any derogations from the law for any group. In that regard I found Mr. Gerson’s article to be terribly short-sighted, counter-productive, and conceited. Why do Catholics believe that we merit or otherwise deserve derogations? If we carve out a legal exception to one law, will we support another group’s legal exception to a different law? What if that exception is contrary to our teaching? I can understand perfectly well why a government would seek to enfore laws equitably.

    I think Catholics have to do much, much better to convince people why we are so special. “Religious liberty” is nowhere near a good enough argument. My religion does not mandate me to offer publicly funded health services. It does not mandate me to offer publicly funded adoption services.

    1. The Church has been taking care of the sick and the orphaned for almost 2,000 years. The fact that the government has managed to arrogate the major sources of funding for these activities does not entitle the government to dictate morality to the Church when the Church is providing a public service.

      Does it really make sense to you that the Church is excluded from providing care to the victims of modern slavery, despite the Church’s acknowledged expertise in providing that care, just because the Church refuses to provide abortions to those victims?

      Does it make sense to you that the Church is excluded from handling adoptions, especially in light of its acknowledged expertise in placing disabled children, just because it refuses to place children with unmarried and same-sex couples?

      Does it make sense to you that Catholic institutions are being told they have to provide health care plans that include coverage for contraception and abortion when such a requirement has nothing to do with the quality of the health care or the employment itself?

      The governments “argument” on these issues basically comes down to: “Do it because we say so.” You consider that reasonable?

      1. Brian, you miss my point. The Church can continue to take care of the sick and orphaned in whatever manner it wants as long as it is in line with the law. If we are deserving of special attention and derogations, then so are other groups. I do not think you mean to argue that Catholics and Catholics alone should be exempt from certain legal requirements?

        Instead of futile and totally counter-productive requests for some sort of special status (again, for which any group could make a reasonable claim), we should focus on changes to the laws that are contrary to Natural Law and the Catholic expression of morality.

        Finally, it seems eminently reasonable for governments in democratic countries to expect citizens to uphold the law.

  25. i agree with every thing you say about the erosion of religious liberties, In fact on some issues the effort ot ghettoize religion and Catholicism is the unstated agenda. I was heavily involed in the embryonic stem cell research debates a few years ago, and can say with certainty that the folks promoting this have as part of their agenda, the hope that if something like ESC research produced a treatment or cure that becomes accepted therapy that is the end of Catholic health care. ( some of these folks detest the Church as much as the Al Pacino character in Devils Advocate). We see this pattern whenever they have a big win in the culture. It is no accident that the acceptance of gay marriage has lead to the closure of Catholic adoption agencies. Did any one really think that in a society with only 1% of the population homosexual this battle was because of a overwhelming desire for a group well known for having multiple partners to suddenly “settle down” and have a white picket fence? It is really a desire to undermine the idea of tradtional marriage and destroy those aspects of society that still honor it. To a large extent the complete acceptance of of the culture of death makes participation in normal “life” problematic if you are a commited Catholic . You can not imagine the pressure on a Catholic nurse, or pharmacist. In fact It is literally close to impossibe for a Catholic physician to muddle through, especially during training. Back in the day I recall a Catholic Anesthesia resident trying to “hide” whenever he knew there was an abortion scheduled so he could avoid the fallout from declining to assist. This was 20 odd years ago, things have only gotten worse.

    With that in mind the game starts at the election booth. We are a country of laws if you want to fight this Change the people who are making the laws, period. It is long past time to worry about the effect of agressive preaching calling the IRS dogs out . You can bet a fair amount of cash, that if the current crew continues to hold power the IRS will be used as a weapon against the Church and/or her allies with time regardless of what she preaches. Memo to the Bishops :if you are serious, you must make it clear to the people in the pews who is doing what to whom. Memo to the good Archbishop Dolan :If you are really “at peace” after talking to Obama about this you need a reality check, Obama is a left wing atheist whose minions are at work marginalizing you and will do so more aggressively when he does not need to worry about reelection. If you are serious about stopping this, he must lose in 2012.

    1. Those comments by Archbishop Dolan were disturbing. Obama is big on saying one thing and doing the opposite. You would think Dolan would realize that by now.

      1. I too am disturbed by Archbishops Dolan’s remarks. There are thousands of faithful Catholics who are not at peace because they walk a dangerous walk of being able to work in their profession and support their family or being in a state of mortal sin. I am talking about pharmacists, nurses, medical students, physician assistants and others who are put in the moral line of fire everyday. What advice can Archbishop Dolan give them? Most are not canon lawyers who could finely analyze every situation that presents itself in a work day. They worry about their culpability and are caught in the fire day after day.

  26. “And the kings of the earth, who committed fornication and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning; they will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say,
    ‘Alas, alas, the great city, Babyon, the mighty city! For in one hour your judgement has come.’ Rev 18:9

    “Rejoice over her, O heaven, you saints and apostles and prophets! For God has given judgement for you against her.” Rev 18:20

  27. As the late Eddie Chiles used to tell us in his radio spots, if you don’t like what your politicians are doing, fire ’em. One thing politicians and their appointees fear is a mobilized and angry electorate. Our first problem is to be able to speak as one voice at the polls, and to do that we need to re-evangelize ourselves. It will take a long time, but in our political system that is our most effective weapon (backed by a lot of prayer.)
    Sometimes, litigation works, but it is incredibly expensive, which is why people try to avoid it.

  28. Catholics stop voting for Democrats!

    Catholics stop voting for Republicans!

    Catholics start praying more and ask God to correct this mess.

    Then trust Him.

    1. We have to both pray and act, and the most immediate action must be getting Obama and his crew out of power. Beyond the direct damage he could do with four more years, the thought of him appointing two or three more members of the Supreme Court is terrifying.

      1. Amen! We can’t afford to avoid the polls. That just makes our position worse than it is now, and it’s irresponsible. If there are no good candidates, then we need to encourage good ones to run and and then support them. Our elected officials need to know that we’ll
        “remember in November”, as Ross Perot once said.

        And above all, pray.

  29. Alarming article– thank you Msgr.

    I have worked in human services administration and finance since 1971. From the beginning I was always disturbed by the alarming number of bureaucratic requirements piled into federal grants to the city I worked for. State grants are likewise encumbered with these conditions. Politicians and the laws they pass, and the bureaucrats who carry out the laws, all have their agendas, and these turn into regulations, terms and conditions that come with the grants. I would offer that, if human service providers literally followed all the terms of their contracts, they would be so hamstrung and inefficient that no humans would be served by the programs. It is like all the cooks in the kitchen have thrown something into the recipe until the food is unrecongnizable, and inedible.

    This is what happens when subsidiarity is ignored, when the folks in Washington imagine they are the saviours of the world, and think they can do this work better than the locals. This government dominance of every aspect of life, to the point where taxpayer’s pockets are emptied, churches cannot raise money to do charity and cannot get government money to help with this work without being ordered to sin in the process– this is called a ‘structure of sin’ by our church. If the feds would get out of this business and let the citizens do it, we would all be better off. If they reduced federal taxes it would allow the states and cities to increase taxes, and give ordinary folks more money for charity through their churches.

    Lack of subsidiarity gave us abortion on demand. It has foisted birth control and abortion into healthcare. It has required catholic adoption agencies to support perverted acts. It has entangled its fetid tentacles in our lives and has simply gone too far.

    I am not a fan of libertarianism, but I think Ron Paul is the only presidential candidate who has been willing to tackle this abuse of power head on.

    If we think that taking the federal government out of the charity business will harm people, because no one else will pick up the ball, then we have no faith in our people to be charitable. We have more faith in the state than we do in the people it rules.

  30. Those who feel that as Catholics we cannot demand to follow truth as we know it if we must insist on an exception to this law or that are not looking at the long term big picture. On Al Kresta’s show yesterday his guest (I forget his name, sorry…I was driving in traffic at the time) commented on a case currently before the supreme court involving a mainline protestant denomination in a religious freedom issue. The representative of the Obama administration was arguing against the church and religious freedom by pointing out that the government had a duty to ensure that church groups and others observe the “rights” of certain groups as defined by federal mandate. During the course of presenting his arguments one of the justices asked the solicitor the following question: “If it is the government’s duty to enforce the rights of these groups, would you envision the government intervening in the practices of the Catholic Church to require that women be given the same rights as men and be ordained priests?” (paraphrased) After a pause to consider the question, the solicitor responded, “We are not at that point yet…” Our situation as Catholics and other religious groups is imperiled whether we choose to recognize it or not. All of the threats to the church are but a part of an ongoing and bigger concept…and that’s not merely the words of a chicken flapping about the sky falling!

  31. Archbishop Dolan has found Obama, after an extrodinarily friendly meeting with him in the Oval Office on November 14, to be “very open to the sensitivities of the Catholic community that were worried about an intrusion into religious liberty.” “I left there feeling a bit more at peace about this issue than when I entered.” Great news!!! Or not so much? any thoughts?

  32. I’m not sure that the government’s rules will be a permanent problem. To paraphrase Margaret Thatcher, the problem with Caesar is that eventually he runs out of other people’s money. Meddling in the lives of others – either to benefit them or to burden them – is an expensive habit. Given the spendthrift habits of our current political class, there will be a fiscal reckoning very soon, and Caesar’s money will no longer have the pull it has now, whether because of cuts to social services as an austerity measure (cf. Greece, Italy, etc.), because the conditions attached to such programs grow so onerous that charitable organizations start turning down the money, or simply because Caesar’s currency has been debased through “quantitiative easing” and other fancy names for printing money.

  33. Here’s a way to respond to the secular culture that has only one god, namely money: When you make your selection for exchange of gifts this Christmas, when you get to the check-out line and offer the clerk a cheery ” Merry Christmas ” and you get a blank stare, simply walk away from the purchase. No offense, just ” business.” Then take that money you would have spent on exchanging gifts and donate it to Priests for Life or your local Crisis Pregnancy Center. I think if we try to recall the first Christmas, what it must have been like, and Christmas as it has become, you’ll see the wisdom in this effort. If every Catholic did this, we could make a sudden and relentless change on the world’s attitudes about: child murder, spending, children, families, taxes, money management, government, holiness, unity, angels sending messages to mankind, motherhood, fatherhood,and the BLESSING that ALL children are to EVERYONE. Just like the first Christmas, where all of the above themes were given reality and flesh and where Joseph couldn’t purchase a place for Mary to give birth to the Son of God. Merry Christmas.

  34. All well spoken but at the end of the day young Catholic women who slip and sin are left without adoptive homes for their babies, our elders are forced into nursing homes that rival the poorhouses of Dickens, and the families of the working poor are hungry. Beyond that, the day will come when our pastors will be prosecuted and imprisoned for speaking God’s truth. These are basic human rights our government has a responsibility to protect. Not one of us working alone can change this; but tworking together, and with God as our guide we can change the world. We know the battle cry what is the battle plan? Where do we begin?

  35. Didn’t anyone watch and listen to the USCCB mtg on Mon 11/14/11 – when Bishop Lori of Conn gave his electrifying speech on this very subject. It held the audience of Bishops spellbound and brought tears to my own eyes. Although I knew of all the things Bishop Lori mentioned in this speech, the totality of them together in one speech was stunning. It was reminiscent of FDR’s speech on that Sun morning, Dec 7, 1941 “Pearl Harbor has been attacked this morning by the Japanese. We are NOW at war.” Bishop Lori not only listed all the signs over these past years of “war” by also spoke of the Church being attacked on two fronts – by the culture, and the government. And he spoke of means to defend and protect our faith, and that of all people of faith, who are threatened by these 2 forces of evil threatening us all. Check Bishop Lori’s speech out as it is astounding in it’s assessment of the stunning reality which NOW exists. He insisted all people of good of whatever faith are to be enlisted to combat these tremendous evils if we are to survive as Church and as a nation.

  36. I must admit you had me floored with the observation “… many have commented that such notions are alarmist and exaggerated, arguing that Constitutional Law is clear and there is no real threat.” Perhaps these people are thinking of the German constitution? Or perhaps the Japanese constitution? They certainly can’t mean US Constitutional law, which is becoming ever more driven by extra-constitutional agendas.

    The acme of judicial activism, of course, is Roe v. Wade, in which the Burger Court used the tendentious construct of an unwritten “right of privacy” and an arbitrary definition of “viability” to strip the unborn of their 5th and 14th Amendment due-process rights. In 1986, SCOTUS couldn’t find a right to gay sex in re Bowers v. Hardwick; seventeen years later, that right magically surfaced in re Lawrence v. Texas. As far as religious rights go, Associate Justice Thomas recently complained, when SCOTUS turned down a 1st Amendment case, that its rulings on the “establishment clause” were confused, inconsistent and arbitrary; my complaint is that recent interpretations of the clause have come at the expense of the “free-exercise clause”, which legal theorists now minimize even unto ineffectuality.

    “Constitutional law is clear”? What it clearly says today can be denied tomorrow, as the justices of the Court regularly engage in results-first-premisses-to-follow rationalizations for their decisions. No, that ancient document can protect religious freedom no further than our public servants allow it to.

  37. A lot of (very appropriate) talk about the right to religious freedom and support of a special interest group on one side of an issue while suppressing another special interest group on another side. For instance, the one who places adopted children with the biological standard of a male and female parent being pushed aside from funding which is supposed to be used to help the children while another (which goes to the lopsided view like a battery with two positive or two negative poles) being maintained in their access to these funds.
    However; let us not continue to drift into this political sectarian vs secular to the point where we forget the highly vulnerable humans whose lives are being taken before they experience the natural change from life support of pre oxygenated blood to actually breathing air and … the somewhat older, but still vulnerable, ones who have two; or possibly more; “parents” (adoptive or natural) who can only mentor from one lopsided gender viewpoint.
    Perhaps this is the point. More things which contribute to progressively more dysfunctional generations which can be manipulated by such things as “Alinsky socialism” as founded by Saul D Alinsky, who openly stated that his role model was Lucifer.

  38. Oh course it’s happening because these same Bishops and those before them refuse to hold Catholic politicians and public figures accountable for their actions and stances! If the Bishops don’t seem to care that Palosi, Biden, Kennedy, and the others promote abortion or gay marriage why should I? If public figures can have affairs and push immorality, why can’t we?
    Take away some government money from the Bishops charity and it’s “whoa, we need to do something about this”.
    I know I sound harsh, but the truth is painful at times.
    Our Lord and God prunes when it’s needed. May He have mercy on us all!

  39. The Los Angeles Times has just published an op-ed mocking the bishops’ concern about religious persecution. ( I can personally attest to the veracity of the bishops’ concern, having personally been denied positions because of refusal to perscribe abortifacients)

    Perhaps our greatest persecuters, though, are those ersatz catholics, like Sibelius and Biden, who while proclaiming their “faith’, are wolves in sheep’s clothing”, pushing thru regulations that are directly antagonistic to the tenants of our religion and of natural law.

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