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So's Your Mother

A number of commenters on our brief, initial response to the bishops statement Our First, Most Cherished Liberty, accused Commonweal of being partisan for warning that the bishops statement and initiative run the risk of making the church appear to be aligned with one political party. For expressing concerns about partisan entanglement, Commonweal is accused of being partisan. That is a tiresome rhetorical tactic as well as a misreading of the magazines position. If our critics remain skeptical of Commonweals motives and unpersuaded by our arguments, we urge them to read a letter to the editor in the May issue of First Things from noted First Amendment scholar Douglas Laycock of the University of Virginia. Laycock represented the church in the recent Hasanna-Tabor case, winning a resounding affirmation from the Supreme Court of the right of religious bodies to determine who is or isnt a minister. In responding to an article by O. Carter Snead (subscribers only) attacking the Obama administration, Laycock sets the record straight by noting that the president has been bad on some religious-liberty issues but very good on others. And it is dangerous to religious liberty to see it as a political club with which to beat up the other side. As we argue in our latest editorial (Partisan Dangers), and Laycock warns in his letter, Religious liberty is in danger of becoming just another left-right political issue, and if that happens, the cause is lost. Laycocks letter is well worth reading in its entirety.At National Review online, George Weigel, who has been known to have the ear of influential bishops, has responded to Commonweals cautions about partisan entanglement by claiming the following: Would that we had two political parties that honored religious freedom in full. But we dont. And this argument will not be resolved at some mythical 50-yard line where all of us learn to just get along. Someone is going to win this debate over the future of civil society, and someone is going to lose it.No one could accuse George Weigel of ever wasting his time at the 50-yard line in either religion or politics, although he has on more than a few occasions mistaken failure for mission accomplished. But if Weigels call to battle and demand for unconditional surrender is in fact the view of the bishops, we fear their cause is already lost.

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Thank you. This document and issue is spiraling somewhere and I fully expect some pastors are going to cross the proverbial line of quasi-endorsements and then it will be the question of tax exemption revoked. I recently read George Weigel's diatribe against Jimmy Carter in our dioscesan paper and wrote to say that this manner of attack -- insult and sarcasm and arrogance - is not worthy of a so-called respected journlist. Has the present climate caused us all to expect that clever insult is better than reason and respect? I know we have examples from the nation's earliest days that are far worse, but it seems like we're steadily running downhill in intelligent arguments. Exccpet here, of course!

Sadly, the whole "GOP is all about religious liberty" is as fallacious as many other drives of the "right" within the Church. It ignores all the time when those of the GOP oppose religious liberty, when those of the "right" have worked to hinder it (all those attacking Muslim liberties are one example, but of course, all the anti Native American policies, all the state-run policies which are similar to the HHS established by Republicans, etc). It is always "We are right, even when we do that which we claim is bad." It really seems as if this kind of diatribe is written by people who want to fail so as to have another perpetual issue to bring up.

My sense is that Weigel is essentially correct in his assessment of the lay of the land: We are at one of those crossroads Americans periodically find themselves at re the definition of "religious liberty," and one POV will prevail over another. The U.S. has historically wrestled with what "religious liberty" actually entails: Prayer in school, rights of conscience for nurses and doctors re abortion, whether mind-altering (illegal) substances can be used in traditional religious ceremonies, whether the Amish can get out of the draft, etc. etc.These debates will continue so long as we have religious diversity.

JeanIt is much more than that. The Native Americans found, until Jimmy Carter (that's right, Carter) all kinds of religious practices of theirs were outright forbidden in the US. This is not just the question of peyote but rituals like the Sun Dance and the Sweat Lodge. In this regard, I do not think Weigel is correct, because the argument being used is really on a question of indirect compliance with evil, a question which really is not a religious liberty issue, because religions have all long realized there will be such in order to have any relationship with the state. What I see is a mask for control. "We don't like X, so you must make sure X doesn't happen. And we are a religion. So if you make X happen, you violate religious liberty." That argument doesn't hold water -- for, as many others have pointed out, religious tradition 1 and 2 will have complete opposite views of X. One will have their liberty "violated" if one thinks of religious liberty along those lines. And indeed, this is what I find problematic with the bishops -- they are acting like there is a demand for actions (to force contraceptives on women) instead of allowing for those actions in our society. As St Thomas Aquinas showed with prostitution, we might not agree with certain acts, but sometimes society is better to allow such acts than not. Was St Thomas against religious liberty by allowing prostitution? Following the bishop's logic, it would seem he is. In other words, "religious liberty" is itself a shell game. That's the problem with this debate and why I find it troubling and why I find it important to keep pointing out that experts on this subject (from a theological/religious studies point of view) are not involved with the discussions from the bishops. They are ignoring history and basic moral theology and making outrageous exaggerations as to the problem we are facing. Yes, I think it would be better if the HHS police was revised. But I think the question of "religious liberty" isn't so central to the policy itself, and it is not as if the HHS and Obama are seeking to create a war against Catholics (as so many are saying).

"Would that we had two political parties that honored religious freedom in full."Neitehr party does and our entire system fo governemtn doesn't either. As a result the bishops are bound to lose that debate.As Jean Raber notes, there is a historical tension regarding just how much religious freedom will be permitted in a pluralistic and secular society. I don't think the Catholic bishops realize how much religious freedom is circumscribed and who makes that decision. (Hint: it's not the religious organization.) Despite Weigel's claim, it's not a black and white issue.

One of the commenters expressing some relatively strong disagreement with the editorial is one of its own regular bloggers: Robert Imbelli. The other is a well-regarded blogger not known for brandishing partisan shrillness: Charles Camosy. I don't think either one of those people are easily paintable as Weigel-esque. The same goes, I respectfully submit, for those commenters at Mirror of Justice, particularly Rick Garnett who is a lay consultant to the bishops' committee that produced the document, and has written extensively on both the jurisprudence and policy developments. But nothing gets some Catholics lathered up more than the words "George Weigel".SO I guess this means it's destined to become a "my expert versus your expert" battle. But it strikes me as short-sighted to try to paint the critiques of the editorial as just so much partisan blather itself.

I read the Weigel article about Jimmie Carter. It's the rudest, nastiest thing I've ever read on the net. It's time for conservatives to invite Weigel out of their in-group.

For the past several election cycles, I have observed the following pattern:1. The Democratic Party and/or Democratic politicians stake out positions contrary to Catholic teaching.2. Bishops come out against those positions.3. Commonweal and similar publications express concern that the bishops statements will be perceived as partisan.I have tired of this particular dance, and will no longer play my part in arguing against it. You are who your record says you are, regardless of whatever the lastest thing George Weigel or Bill Donohue or whoever has said.

JohnWhat I have observed is1. Republicans do something for a long time2. Some Democrat does something similar, all hell breaks loose3. The nuances of the Democrats are ignored, the history behind the decisions are ignored, idealized grounds are staked out -- but only when dealing with Democrats. The Republicans are still capable of doing the same thing (HHS mandate vs what Romney did; the health care mandate vs the Heritage Foundation's plan for health care reform; religious liberty vs Scalia; etc). Sorry, as long as it is all "The Democrats are evil" the real story is not being discussed. As I have said many times, what I see going on now is the consequence of history, where the social structures set up often by those of the GOP are now coming to roost. And like usual, the Republicans ignore their relationship with the problem. Think of how much of the debt coming up during the Obama administration came from Bush policies which put the cost of the polices off until Bush was no longer president. Suddenly, all that Obama inherited is Obama's fault. The same comes in play here. Look to the way religious liberty has played out the last few decades -- especially by those of the right. Then you will begin to realize the context from which we exist today. The Constitution has never been interpreted the way people want to interpret today. Never. Ask the Mormons, the JW's, the Native American, the followers of many so-called "cults," and the like. Religious liberty has always been seen within a context; it is not a free for all as the current discussion is trying to make it.

Suppose the wife of a presidential candidate reported that women aren't interested in contraception or abortion. This wife would be bearing news that the U.S. bishops think, and certianly hope is untrue.Then suppose a woman in the other party said that wife is no authority, that she never held a real job -- and that a kerfluffle resulted. Whose side would we expect the bishops and those who speak in their name (with or without portfolio) -- the wife who contradicts what they say and hope is true, or the woman who disagrees with the wife?The question might be interesting if we didn't already know which woman is an R and which is a D. But knowing which is which, answers the question. Which raises some interesting questions about how intellectual decisions are reached in political America.

HK,The context of this discussion was the USCCB's statement on religious liberty, and the Commonweal editorial response to it.That statement may be worthy of criticism, but "The Democrats are evil" is not an apt summary of it, particularly in a post pleading for nuance.These threats to religious liberty are either or real or they are not. However much debt George W. Bush racked up is irrelevant. I understand it can be frustrating to have to account for your own side's sins when it seems like the other side does not have to, but that's life.I don't give a damn whose fault it is. Maybe I wasn't paying close attention before. Shame on me. But that doesn't mean we all have to shut up now.

TB,Can you please point me to a bishop's statement taking a side in the Ann Romney - Hillary Rosen tempest last week?

Religious liberty? Amish fathers were jailed for not sending their kids for religious reasons to high school. Millions of other parents were NOT jailed for NOT sending their children to high schools in the inner cities.

JohnYou made it an issue of "Democrats" staking out a position. That's dishonest. You made it partisan just by that. And the whole discussion of what is going on now can't take place if we ignore what preceded it, and the role of the GOP in creating the situation. Basically, your claim was "Democrats staked out on evil position." That is what you just did.

A number of commenters on our brief, initial response to the bishops statement Our First, Most Cherished Liberty, accused Commonweal of being partisan for warning that the bishops statement and initiative run the risk of making the church appear to be aligned with one political party. For expressing concerns about partisan entanglement, Commonweal is accused of being partisan. However tiresome that argument may be, it rings true enough that it obviously hit a nerve. Look, if the bishops produced a document specifically on immigration laws, most of the criticisms would be aimed at Republicans. That's not because the bishops are anti-Republican, but because it is objectively true that most of the laws that unfairly restrict immigration come from Republicans. A Republican who tried to dismiss the bishops as partisan would be engaged in an act of projection. The same is going on here. After all, there's nothing in the bishops' statement that is objectively partisan at all -- it complains of Republican threats to religious liberty too (immigration laws). But of course, one can deduce from it that most of the governmental threats to Catholics' religious liberty right now proceed from Democrats. That's because it is objectively true that Democrats are more hostile to the robust exercise of the Catholic faith. The true partisan is someone who tries to dismiss religious liberty claims out of fear as to how it would affect the Democrats' electability.

HK,My statement was that, in each election cycle, the Democratic Party and/or Democratic politicians staked out positions contrary to Church teachings. The specific examples I had in mind were John Kerry's support for legalized abortion and embryonic research during the 2004 election, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden's comments on abortion and Catholicism during the 2008 election, and the HHS mandate in this session.These were the statements that brought about criticism from the bishops, and expressions of concern about perceived partisanship from Commonweal.I don't see the dishonesty in claiming that:1. These positions are contrary to Church teachings.2. These positions were staked out by the Democratic Party and Democratic politicians.Nor do I think that, in these particular cases, the GOP played a large role in leading the Democratic Party or these politicians to these particular position, so I don't think the honesty requires importing some GOP context.If I had to name a culprit, I would say it is that the Democratic Party relies on groups like Planned Parenthood and Emily's List for support, and thus feels the need to being its campaign by pandering to them, similar to how the GOP candidates have pandered to some of their less savory elements. In neither case should Catholics keep quiet about it.--My point is that we don't seem to be in a better place than we were in 2004 on any account, so something's going to have to change. For my part, I'm not going to repeat the role I played in 2004 and 2008, and spend more time in prayer and less time in comment threads.

In light of the anti-abortion zealotry of conservative religionists, in light of the anti-contraception zealotry of conservative religionists, in light of the anti-same-sex-marriage zealotry of conservative religionists, in light of the teaching-of-evolutionary-theory-in-public-schools zealotry of certain conservative religionists, and in light of the anti-science zealotry of certain conservative religionists, I find it very hard to imagine why Democrats in the Democratic party would want to rally around freedom of religion.For it sure appears that conservative religionists have been exercising their freedom of religion and their freedom of speech as American citizens in the public arena over the last four decades or so.It also appears that Republican politicians and the Republican party have been paying lip-service to the positions espoused by conservative religionists as a way to get them to vote Republican, as many conservative religionists have done over the last three decades or so.

A fine post folowed by a dreadful thread of partisan comments.see the thread below on blogging - it just gioes on.

Is Commonweal NOT partisan? Not proud to be liberal?I've been under the impression for over fifty years that Commonweal was liberal. I thought Commonweal and NCR were the sole surviving liberal Catholic publications. (Since the slapping down of America.)

TF,The beneficiaries of many civil liberties (freedom from search, right to a fair and speedy trial right to a lawyer, etc.) are those who are criminally accused, who in many cases are in fact criminals.I don't think observing this is a valid reason not to rally around these rights, just because they happen to benefit people we don't like.I would think Democrats would want to rally around freedom of religion because they are basically decent people who recognize it as a fundamental principle of our country. And one that leads to true institutional diversity.

JohnOf course, Bush staking out embryonic stem cell research and bragging about it in 2004 is ignored by you. QED.

One question I have for both the GOP and for those bishops who are against the mandate as a violation of religious liberty is whether this policy violates the First Amendment as it would be understood in 1789. The Amendment was a response to centuries of religious war and disenfranchisement of minority religions in both Europe and America, and was meant to protect the free expression of conscience for both believers and unbelievers both in public assembly and private discourse. I think that when they thought of religious liberty, they were thinking of persecution that resulted in arrests, burnings, censorship and other overt attacks on the religious character when they were crafting an Amendment to make sure that all religious people would be essentially safe in the profession of their belief (or unbelief, as it were). I just find it hard to accept the premise that indirectly participating in a health plan that supports the dissemination of birth control is on the same level as the levying of taxes on a dissenting church, the prosecution of minority faiths in court, or the denial of office based on one's religion. Not to mention the fact that this law can be construed as giving non-religious employees rights that happen to clash with our own and not as an exclusive attack against the Church or those of the evangelicals. I just find this characterization of the mandate as an all out assault on religious liberty to be hyperbolic and an insult to those who truly cannot express their faiths in countries less religiously tolerant than ours. This to me is at least part of the reason why I find it difficult to support the bishops in their campaign, and why it is easier for me characterize it as partisan, because it does not seem to square with other more dire examples of both historical and contemporary persecutions. Somehow I imagine the souls killed by the Emperor Julian must be ruefully wishing they had encountered such threats to their liberties.

Looking at Weigel, Garnett, Dolan and the bishops, etc. Obama and the democrats cannot be any happier. It used to be the Democrats who would self destruct. I know that those at the EPPC are anxious to get their Washington jobs back, and the bishops want funds with no strings, along with the power and the patronage. But this is ridiculous.

"I would think Democrats would want to rally around freedom of religion because they are basically decent people who recognize it as a fundamental principle of our country. And one that leads to true institutional diversity."Generally, this would be true, but "religous freedom" requires some definition. "Religous freedom" is not a "blank check." Unfortunately, the bishops seem to be using it as a blank check. That check won't be cashed. What the bishops are claiming is that their idiosyncratic determination of a close moral question trumps all other religious and non-religious determinations of the same question and only their determination is to be legally protected. That's not religious freedom--it's theocracy prohibited by the first amendment.

Gerelyn, have you ever seen U.S. Catholic?

"In light of the anti-abortion zealotry of conservative religionists, in light of the anti-contraception zealotry of conservative religionists, in light of the anti-same-sex-marriage zealotry of conservative religionists, in light of the teaching-of-evolutionary-theory-in-public-schools zealotry of certain conservative religionists, and in light of the anti-science zealotry of certain conservative religionists, I find it very hard to imagine why Democrats in the Democratic party would want to rally around freedom of religion.For it sure appears that conservative religionists have been exercising their freedom of religion and their freedom of speech as American citizens in the public arena over the last four decades or so.It also appears that Republican politicians and the Republican party have been paying lip-service to the positions espoused by conservative religionists as a way to get them to vote Republican, as many conservative religionists have done over the last three decades or so."--------"Looking at Weigel, Garnett, Dolan and the bishops, etc. Obama and the democrats cannot be any happier. It used to be the Democrats who would self destruct. I know that those at the EPPC are anxious to get their Washington jobs back, and the bishops want funds with no strings, along with the power and the patronage. But this is ridiculous."And we're quickly off into never-never land.

Did you ever notice how when people walk back from something they've written, they like to retroactively characterize it as either "brief", or "initial", or both? I only wish it had been characterized as such from the get-go, so I would then have known it was really a very rough first draft, and not something to consider too seriously.

Hi, Angela:Yes, I've seen it. Not for many years. Is it liberal? (I know of a few Catholic periodicals that I consider liberal, but they have a very limited circulation -- mainly to alumnae/i of Catholic colleges or to friends of religious congregations.)

It's telling that the Commonweal editorials don't quote a paragraph or even a sentence or phrase from the bishops' statement that is in their view partisan. And I imagine the editors scrutinized the statement very closely. Instead of offensive statements we are warned about potential perceptions. All of which, in my view, indicates that the bishops did a pretty good job in writing the document.The E.J. Dionne critique of the administration's health care fumblings is apparently within bounds, if I read my Commonweal editorials correctly. An acceptable critique, per Commonweal, goes like this: Obama, or perhaps it was only his advisors, needlessly embarrassed Sr. Carol and other Catholic progressives. The administration's initial ruling was worse than a crime, worse than a mistake, it was "tone-deaf." Fortunately it can be easily fixed by encouraging insurance companies to provide free contraceptives.But whenever bishops warn of larger dangers not yet seen by Dionne et al they run the risk of perhaps possibly being perceived by at least some observers as more than a little bit too partisan, which would be among the worst political offenses imaginable. Thus Commonweal has created aperceiver's veto, which like a heckler's veto, is gratuitously given precedence over any vigorous defense of religious freedom, letters to the editor if First Things notwithstanding.

"Laycocks letter is well worth reading in its entirety."I fully agree. As is Snead's response in the same issue. A very civil exchange without a trace of "So's Your Mother."

"Religious liberty has always been seen within a context ..."Yes, I think that's true, Henry. And that was my original point: that "religious liberty" is redefined as more groups come to the table asking for liberty to practice what they believe their religions dictate, particularly when those dictates run afoul of the state.I also think that what is construed as "religious liberty" changes, to some extent, based on public opinion or social norms at a given time. Before World War I, it would have been considered idiotic to give pacifists any kind of leeway on the ground of religious beliefs. Now it's not. In these various clashes between church and state, somebody comes out a "winner," as Weigel says. And that's the only thing I think he's right about. He is conveniently framing the "conflict" as one between Republican and Democrat. I refer anyone who wants to understand Weigel's insidious argument style to Peter Steinfels' excellent deconstruction of Weigel's treatment of Cardinal Bernardin that appeared last year in the CWeal pages.

I don't think it is even close when it comes to the question of whether the bishops are so off base in making HHS a religious liberty issue. How the bishops and people like Weigel, Garnett and Co. make the imposition of a health law a matter of religious liberty really is a fantasy if one examines the matter closely. In a country which allows witchcraft, for which the church has had people killed, it would be really laughable if it were not so polarizing that the bishops are making a war out of this. I suggest that the religious liberty, of all those who are employed by the church or are convinced that the bishops are infallible and even those dissenting Catholics who would welcome inspiring leadership from the bishops, are infringed upon by this stance of the USCCB. So all the people who blindly follow the bishops, wherever they meander, really have less religious liberty today than those who practice witchcraft. Think about it. They certainly do not have the "freedom of the Children of God" which Paul the Apostle writes about, but rather they are slaves of the bishops and the call to them the bishops might make if they divert from the party line. It is akin to the actions of John Paul II who propounded for liberty for everyone except those who are inside the Catholic church.

Bill,It's clear that you disagree with the bishops and those who support the Bishops' view on the HHS mandate (among other things). But is it really too much to ask that you accord these views a bit more respect than asserting that we "blindly follow" the bishops' "meander[ings]" into some kind of (in your view) religious slavery?You have falsely asserted that Rick Garnett is associated with the EPCC. He is not. He is employed as a professor of law at the University of Notre Dame. Additionally, he has a law degree from Yale and clerked for a term for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Yet, in your view, his views are reducible to the assertion that he is doing no more than simply pimping for a new job in a Republican administration. Certainly, whatever you think of his views, they should be accorded a bit more respect, no?

"I recently read George Weigels diatribe against Jimmy Carter in our dioscesan paper and wrote to say that this manner of attack insult and sarcasm and arrogance is not worthy of a so-called respected journlist."What about the journalistic and Catholic integrity of said diocesan rag (and most of them are just that - rags. Check out the Oakland Catholic Voice and San Francisco Catholic for good examples of bad rags)?

HK,1. My claim, which I thought was uncontroversial, was that the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates had staked out positions that are contrary to Catholic teaching. Noting that Bush's position on embryonic research was also contrary to Catholic teaching, or that I failed to note it, does nit refute that.2. I acknowledge that Bush's s actions and positions on embryonic research were contrary to Catholic teaching. Nevertheless, I think it was fairly clear in 2004 that if embryonic research was your issue, on either side, which candidate you should support. It was discussed extensively during the debates. http://www.npr.org/templates/text/s.php?sId=4078320&m=1 I think it's within the pale to, 8 years later, to summarize their positions as Kerry in favor and Bush opposed, even if that doesn't capture every nuance if their positions.L3. But if we accept that you're right, I'm curious what you think you gave proven with your QED . That U am some kind of hypocrite for noting Democratic divergence from Church teaching without also noting Republican divergences? If that "victory" makes you happy, you can have and enjoy it.But I'm not sure what that does for discourse or truth. The Democratic position on embryonic research is and was unacceptable. We can work to change that, or hide behind the excuse that the GOP isn't much better. And Republicans can do the sane thing by saying the Democrats are so much worse on abortion.And we can all congratulate ourselves that we're not like those hypocrites over there and never change anything.I think the world deserves better.

Jeff, I appreciate that you want to communicate on some points. You can appreciate that I, like many others, was in that mileiu, which I believe you and others are in, which sacralized the clergy and bishops so much that objectivity was lost. Certainly only God can assess us completely. But I have been there. Vatican II showed us how the so called "Triumph of Christianity" was really the demise of Christianity. Yet that view prevailed, at least officially for 1700 years. There are compelling and serious issues with the bishops. The paradox is that they should not be followed when they go against the Church of the Crucified Jesus which was the center of Paul's ministry and should be ours. Origen. amd others, did not understand that this Jesus came before dogma and domination. Today there is no excuse for not following our conscience. We will not be excused for following the bishops over our conscience. As for Garnett he admitted he was associated with the body that put the Bishop's declaration together. I realize my wording might make it look like I was associating him with the EPCC. At the same time Garnett, as I sees it loses his customary powerful reasoning when he talks about issues with the bishops. There are alarm bells which go off with him, as with several others here with their sudden lack of reasoning and objectivity when it comes to issues with the hieararchy.

Jean Raber 04/17/2012 - 4:12 pm SUBSCRIBERMy sense is that Weigel is essentially correct in his assessment of the lay of the land: We are at one of those crossroads Americans periodically find themselves at re the definition of religious liberty, and one POV will prevail over another.The U.S. has historically wrestled with what religious liberty actually entails: Prayer in school, rights of conscience for nurses and doctors re abortion, whether mind-altering (illegal) substances can be used in traditional religious ceremonies, whether the Amish can get out of the draft, etc. etc.These debates will continue so long as we have religious diversity.

Well said. Yes, and that's very good. May the debates continue and thrive.

John McG Yes, you are trying to make it as if it were a Democrat thing and they were "staking out" positions contrary to the Church's teaching. However, by saying this while ignoring the same thing happening with the GOP, and often the same things being complained about coming from Democrats, makes a false representation of what is going on. That's all.

"May the debates continue and thrive."Amen. These debates get pretty intense because they all have a whiff of Gott-mit-uns self-righteousness on the one hand and keep-your-religious-nut-ideas-to-yourself self-righteousness on the other. The theater these debates generate always generates sideshows like the Billy Graham Crusade, the PTL Club, and "Elmer Gantry," and drama queens like Madelyn Murray O'Hair and Pat Robertson. And what American doesn't eat that stuff up!?But for all our love of media theater and hype, I think most Americans care deeply about the extents of religious freedom and toleration (if not always religion itself). When we don't get agitated about religious ideas, we can say we've truly lost our national character.

FWIW - Laycock's point that the Obama Administration has actually been pretty good on protecting religious liberty is one that needs to be made. That doesn't exempt the administration from just criticism when it errs, but it's important to have an accurate context.

Instead of this bishop-bashing, should we not instead congratulate our episcopacy on its recent conversion to a belief in religious liberty? To quote the USCCB document, "As Catholics, we know that our history has shadows too in terms of religious liberty, when we did not extend to others the proper respect for this first freedom. But the teaching of the Church is absolutely clear about religious liberty. . . "One might quibble a bit and say that those "shadows" include century after century of persecution in which the Church has been fully engaged. Or that while the teaching of the Church about religious liberty has indeed been "absolutely clear," by and large until very recently that teaching has sturdily maintained that religious liberty (at least in the sense the USCCB document uses it) is been a very bad idea indeed. See the various treatments by, for instance, Gregory XVI (Mirari vos), or Pius IX, and others. Or, if that is simply ancient history, one might examine the more recent treatment of John Courtney Murray by his ecclesiastical antagonists prior to Vatican II.I will leave it up to the bishops and their theologians to consider how their current views mesh with the unchanging magisterial teachings of the past, and merely extend to them a heartfelt Welcome, as they join the rest of us in our views of religious liberty.

"There are alarm bells which go off with him, as with several others here with their sudden lack of reasoning and objectivity when it comes to issues with the hieararchy."Apparently, you believe ANY agreement with "the hierarchy" entails a sudden lack of reasoning and objectivity. Ever stop to think that maybe, instead of taking his cue from his religious slavery, it's he and other like-minded well-qualified lay Catholics who are advising and informing the bishops? That certainly seems like a reasonable possibility, and one envisioned by Vatican II to boot. Not to mention it certainly assumes a more well-balanced and good faith understanding of many of our fellow Catholics.But since you view anyone agreeing with the bishops as enslaved to an intellectual conformity and laziness (their academic and professional expertise and training notwithstanding), I'm certain you will preemptively dismiss any progressive Catholics from seizing on the letters published yesterday by certain of the USCCB committee chairs criticizing the Republican budget. After all, if they agree with the bishops on THAT opinion,too, they would likewise be suffering from a "lack of reasoning and objectivity when it comes to issues with the hieararchy", right?

anyone agreeing with the bishops as enslavedI'd also like to remember Matthew 16:18: "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church." and our apostolic tradition.

Tradition, yes. Truth? ?????

" --- the Democratic Party and Democratic candidates had staked out positions that are contrary to Catholic teaching."In a pluralistic society, the role of political parties and government in general is not to adhere to certain partisan confessional positions. The role is to foster the greatest good (you can argue over what THAT is til kingdom comes) for the greatest number of people, as codified by elected legislators and validated/invalidated by courts of law in the case of controversies.The Catholic Church's role is to teach what it believes to be the truth and try to persuade the greatest number of people that its teachings are indeed a truth worthy of adoption.

Nicholas C. --Wittgenstein distinguishes *saying* something and *showing* something. The bishops say they believe in religious freedom, but they show, by essentially ignoring the religious/civil rights of non-Catholics, that they believe their own rights are absolute. They simply don't seem to understand that honorable people can honestly disagree with them. Such hysterical reaction ("Hitler", "Stalin") can only make rational discussion with them more difficult.

"The bishops say they believe in religious freedom, but they show, by essentially ignoring the religious/civil rights of non-Catholics, that they believe their own rights are absolute."- On what possible logical basis do you deduce this conclusion?"They simply dont seem to understand that honorable people can honestly disagree with them. "Respectfully, it's not the bishops who are frothing about "zealots" and "slavery."

Jeff, but it is the bishops who are frothing about an assault on religious liberty by the administration in ways that go beyond simply this mandate controversy. Most of us do not see everyday evidence that our religious liberties are being threatened, i.e. we are still allowed to worship as we please without interference by the state. It is true that the bishops ability to reject participation in what it calls an intrinsic evil is being limited, but to call this an example of an all out assault on religious liberty is simply hyperbole. One side froths as well the other, from what I can observe.

Nicholas Clifford: It was US bishops who defended J.C. Murray when he was silenced by the Holy Office; it was they who insisted that the issue of religious freedom remain on the conciliar agenda; it was because of them that the text was considered "the American document" at Vatican II; and without them the conciliar declaration on religious freedom would never have passed. Defense of religious freedom is not something new to the U.S. bishops.

Yes, of course you're right; it was indeed the American bishops who came to the defense of Murray. You obviously know the chronology here far better than I do, but did the bishops rise to his defense when his first articles, in the early 50s, aroused the ire of Father Fenton, Ottaviani, and others of that sort? Or when Murray was forbidden, in 1954, to publish on the subject of religious freedom, and Rome quashed one of his article? Perhaps so, and if so, good for them. But I was under the impression that it was only later, as preparations for Vatican II began to get going, that the bishops overrode Ottaviani, so to speak, and in 1962 insisted that Murray be brought on board.

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