Condemning the Catholic Church’s Attack on Americans’ Freedoms

american bishopsIf you’re not tired of and worried about the Roman Catholic Church at this point, you ought to be, as my colleague RMuse wrote here recently with regards the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The Catholic Church is a group that for the better part of 2000 years has insisted upon the right to tell people what to believe, how to believe it, and punished them – severely – for failing to do so, including as I mentioned yesterday, burning these folks at the stake – ‘a holocaust very great and pleasing to God’. This is a group that for very legitimate historical reasons was feared in this mostly Protestant country (not that many of the Protestants who feared the Catholic Church didn’t turn around and behave in exactly the same fashion once on these shores).

There are sound (if ultimately hypocritical) historical reasons JFK was our first Catholic President.

This is not to say prejudice against somebody because of their religion is something that is okay or that should be permitted; it is not and should not and our Constitution is meant to protect us against this. But at the same time we have to recognize that there are reasons for most things and the prejudice against the Catholic Church comes from its long history of persecution of other sects as heretics. As recently as the sixteenth century they were burning French Protestants (Huguenots) and my ancestors on my father’s side were among those Huguenots who fled rather than burn. All these events were of fairly recent memory in colonial times, not half a millennium in the past.

Little has changed in 2000 years. The Catholic Church is still insisting upon the right to tell people, Americans in this case, what they can and cannot do. They are insisting that our having contraception violates their religion: therefore we can’t have it. They are also telling us that they have a right to spend our taxpayer dollars to persecute those who aren’t Catholic. So we have no right to our own taxpayer dollars because it violates their “rights of belief” but they can spend our taxpayer dollars to persecute because telling them no violates their “rights of belief.”

Never mind the Constitution. Nothing about our “rights of belief” even if that means there is no belief at all. People think fundamentalists are bad but folks, the fundies got nothing on the Roman Catholic Church. There is a reason the Catholic Santorum did so well with Protestant fundies: it’s the same song and dance, different costumes.

These people have been there, done that, many times over. Anything the fundies have done or can think of doing, the Catholic Church has already done.  It is no surprise at all that the Papacy has kept its office of the inquisition or that Pope Benedict XVI was its head before he was elevated to Pope. Wake up, America, and know your enemy.

I’m not arguing that individual Catholics – like JFK – are the enemy. Polls show that most American Catholics blithely ignore the ranting of the Church hierarchy. The enemy is the institution of the Catholic Church. It is the enemy now and it has always been the enemy of individual human rights. And so Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU.org) are right to warn us in a press release yesterday that the “Catholic Hierarchy’s ‘Fortnight for  Freedom’ Campaign Is ‘Thoroughly Misguided.'”

Personally, I’d say Barry Lynn is treating them with kid gloves. Here’s the details:

In a statement issued today, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called on every diocese in the country to engage in a “Fortnight for Freedom” during the two weeks leading up to the Fourth of July. Parishioners will be asked to study, pray and take action about alleged infringements on religious liberty.

As AU says (correctly), “The Catholic bishops’ new “religious liberty” campaign jeopardizes the rights of all Americans.”

This is the simple and absolute truth. Another simple truth is that the Catholic Church says their “rights of belief” trump the rights of belief of all Americans, no surprise again when you consider Pope Benedict’s book Truth and Tolerance  (2004), written as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, as head of Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – once known as the Holy Office of the Inquisition. Here Benedict insists that Catholic Truth (always a capital ‘T’) trumps tolerance. He even tries to make it sound reasonable, like how could anyone possibly disagree?

But back to the bishops. According to the AU press release:

Another topic is government defunding of church-affiliated agencies that refuse to comply with public policy mandates. The bishops’ statement complains that Catholic agencies have been denied government funding because they refused to provide adoption services to gay couples or reproductive health care to women who are victims of sex trafficking.

The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, said, “The bishops’ campaign is thoroughly misguided. What they want is massive taxpayer funding of their ministries without complying with the fairness rules that everybody else observes. Maybe their two-week venture should be called a ‘Fortnight for Taxpayer Funding.’

“The bishops want to maintain their privileged status,” Lynn continued, “even if it means that other Americans’ freedoms are infringed. It is imperative that President Obama and Congress refuse to cave in to this outrageous assault on church-state separation.”

Lynn is right to call out the Catholic desire for “privileged status”.  That is what is behind the fundamentalist threat to our democracy, a claim of privileged status. Remember: when they talk about “rights of belief” they aren’t talking about yours.

Lynn said the bishops’ religious liberty isn’t in danger but the freedom of other Americans is:

“When taxpayers are forced to support sectarian agencies that refuse to meet the needs of women, gay people and other communities,” concluded Lynn, “that’s a real violation of religious liberty. Public funds should go only to agencies that serve the public interest. If the bishops want to run sectarian social services, they ought to collect the money from their parishioners, not the taxpayers.”

Again, Lynn hits the nail upon the head. Fundamentalists complain about their tax dollars going to causes that violate their “rights of belief” but fully expect us to sign off on the expenditure of our tax dollars on things we don’t believe in. That’s where their privilege comes into play. That’s where Truth trumps tolerance.

These people don’t share; they don’t play well with others. They never have. I’ve used this quote before and I hope I can be excused if I use it again because it speaks so eloquently to where we are and why we are here – A.H. Armstrong relates for us the legacy of Christian intolerance:

The choice of the way of intolerance by the authorities of Church and empire in the late fourth century has had some very serious and lasting consequences. The last vestiges of its practical effects, in the form of the imposition of at least petty and vexatious disabilities on forms of religion not approved by the local ecclesiastical establishment, lasted in some European countries well into my lifetime. And theoretical approval of this sort of intolerance has often long outlasted the power to apply it in practice. After all, as late as 1945 many approved Roman Catholic theologians in England, and the Roman authorities, objected to a statement on religious freedom very close to Vatican II’s declaration on that subject. In general, I do not think that any Christian body has ever abandoned the power to persecute and repress while it actually had it. The acceptance of religious tolerance and freedom as good in themselves has normally been the belated, though sometimes sincere and whole-hearted, recognition and acceptance of a fait accompli. This long persistence of Theodosian intolerance in practice and its still longer persistence in theory has certainly been a cause, though not the only cause, of that unique phenomenon of our time, the decline not only of Christianity but all forms of religious belief and the growth of a totally irreligious and unspiritual materialism.

Armstrong concludes that “the triumph of Christianity carried in it, as perhaps all such triumphs do, the seeds of future defeat. The Church in the fourth century took what it wanted and has been paying for it, in one way or another, ever since.”[1] That Christianity has never learned this lesson can be proven through the simple act of opening your eyes to the world around you.

You live in a modern world only because you have insisted on living in a modern world, not because the Church has ever agreed to or condoned it, but simply because since the Enlightenment they haven’t been able to do anything about it. Never forget that, or what the price will be if you waver in your resolve. They haven’t forgotten what could be (and in their eyes should) – and you mustn’t either.


[1] A.H. Armstrong, “The Way and the Ways: Religious Tolerance and Intolerance in the Fourth Century A.D.” Vigiliae Christianae 38 (1984), 1-2.

10 Replies to “Condemning the Catholic Church’s Attack on Americans’ Freedoms”

  1. A referendum on property taxes should work nicely; let the entire citizenry “vote” as to whether or not paying ones fair share in taxes, regardless of individual or religious corporation (which they are) is “privileged”. Let’s see them bribe their way out of it…

  2. The RC church is bad, granted. They don’t hold a candle to the NAR or the Reconstructionists, who would take this country even further away from freedom than the RC church would. The RC church doesn’t call for stoning of disobedient children. They excommunicate people who don’t go along with their orders, but they don’t execute them (at least in modern times). Both the NAR and the Reconstructionists are calling for the death penalty for apostates (walkaways). The RC church doesn’t seek a nuclear war to force Jesus to return, many in the NAR do.

    Consider the fact you mentioned – that the people in the American RC church pews tend to ignore the hierarchy. That’s also true overseas – birth control is readily available and used in Italy, for instance. In the dominionist church pews, they don’t ignore the hierarchy (doing such could be very dangerous), and they believe on the personal level the rants of their masters and act as cannon fodder for them (you’ll rarely get proselytized by a RC, but a dominionist – you know how much of a pain in the ass the average dominionist is). The reason they (the dominionists) do the very things they say they oppose is their inherent hypocrisy. RCs do the things that their leadership is against because they don’t agree with them. That should show that the RC hierarchy isn’t quite as powerful, although they do have a big presence on the world stage.

    The fact is, I don’t really fear the RC church. The dominionists terrify me (if they gain control). Part of the reason is that I would be high on the list for their death penalty because I’m a vocal walkaway who has opposed them in public on many occasions, plus I’m friends with LGBT people and I refused to go along with the dominionist pronouncement that “God” told them I was meant to be single all my life plus that I had to give up everything I enjoyed (there is some evidence they haven’t forgotten that). I also fear them because of their addiction to war and violence, plus a significant portion of them believe that a nuclear war is necessary to bring back Jesus. I care too much for this planet and people to ever support those things.

    That doesn’t detract from the danger that Rome poses to all of us, it’s just that as bad as Rome is, the people in our midst, the dominionists, are far far worse.

  3. the Catholic Church is an ancient mausoleum filled with ancient leaders with ancient plans for its people. It’s not just my opinion that the Catholic church longs for the leadership it once had in Italy.

    I wonder if Armageddon is really the southern Baptist against the Catholics of this country

    The Catholic Church has far less to do with a God that does with its hold over people as noted in the article. They would love nothing more than to be able to punish people and not follow the religion religiously. As far as I’m concerned the Catholic Church should be banned.

    And finally I want to know why even a penny of my tax dollars goes to religious outfits No matter what stripe they wear on their back?

  4. Their idea of “religous freedom” is to impose their beliefs on everyone else, and the GOP thought it would be a winning argument.

  5. The Catholic Church is using the Citizens United argument – that organizations have the same rights as individual citizens.

    Texas has not executed a Catholic Church.
    They cannot produce a birth certificate or a tax return.
    They do not have a government issued ID.

    I KNOW that have never had a legislatively ordered trans-vaginal probe.

    I doubt they have ever been groped by TSA.

    Ergo, the Church is not a citizen, and has no standing in a court of law for a suit claiming loss of ‘freedom.’ Except the corrupted Supreme Court, of course. And that loony, Judge Moore.

    Women have a standing to sue for redress from the pandering of government to religion, barred under the Constitution.

    We used to say of the Church’s illegal demands: “You no play’a da game, you no make’a da rules.”

  6. The Southern Baptists vs the Roman Catholics? That’s going to break up quite a few marriages.

    I think that the Pentecostals hate the Roman Catholics even more than the Southern Baptists (and they’re allies with the Baptists). Maybe the two groups against the one?

  7. Good points well put.

    I welcome the Bishops’ political play as an opportunity to ‘splain to them and their flock how thoroughly mistaken the Bishops are. Their arguments, for instance, for a “religious employer” exemption have gone from wrong to ridiculous.

    Questions about the government requiring or prohibiting something that conflicts with someone’s faith are entirely real, but not new. The courts have occasionally confronted such issues and have generally ruled that under the Constitution the government cannot enact laws specifically aimed at a particular religion (which would be regarded a constraint on religious liberty contrary to the First Amendment), but can enact laws generally applicable to everyone or at least broad classes of people (e.g., laws concerning pollution, contracts, fraud, negligence, crimes, discrimination, employment, etc.) and can require everyone, including those who may object on religious grounds, to abide by them. (E.g., http://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/494/872/case.html http://www.aafcp.org/cplm/files/12.pdf.)

    When the legislature anticipates that application of such laws may put some individuals in moral binds, the legislature may, as a matter of grace (not constitutional compulsion), add provisions to laws affording some relief to conscientious objectors.

    The real question then is not whether the First Amendment precludes the government from enacting and enforcing the generally applicable laws regarding availability of health insurance (it does not), but rather whether there is any need to exempt some employers in order to avoid forcing them to act contrary to their consciences.

    Those demanding such an exemption initially worked themselves into a lather with the false claim that the law forced employers to provide their employees with health care plans offering services the employers considered immoral. The fact is that employers have the option of not providing any such plans and instead simply paying assessments to the government. Unless one supposes that the employers’ religion forbids payments of money to the government (all of us should enjoy such a religion), then the law’s requirement to pay assessments does not compel those employers to act contrary to their beliefs. Problem solved–except perhaps for an employer who really desires not just to avoid a moral bind, but rather wants to retain control of his employees’ health plans, limit their choices to conform to the employer’s religious beliefs, and avoid paying the assessments that otherwise would be owed. For that, an employer would need an exemption from the law.

    Indeed, some continued clamoring for just such an exemption, complaining that by paying assessments they would be paying for the very things they opposed. They seemingly missed that that is not a moral dilemma justifying an exemption to avoid being forced to act contrary to one’s beliefs, but rather is a gripe common to most taxpayers–who don’t much like paying taxes and who object to this or that action the government may take with the benefit of “their” tax dollars. Should each of us be exempted from paying our taxes so we aren’t thereby “forced” to pay for making war, providing health care, teaching evolution, or whatever else each of us may consider wrong or even immoral? If each of us could opt out of this or that law or tax with the excuse that our religion requires or allows it, the government and the rule of law could hardly operate.

    In any event, those wanting an exemption put up enough of a stink that the government relented and announced that religious employers would be free to provide health plans with provisions to their liking (yay!) and not be required to pay the assessments otherwise required (yay!). Problem solved–again, even more.

    Nonetheless, some continue to complain. They fret that somehow the services they dislike will get paid for and somehow they will be complicit in that. They argue that if insurers (or, by the same logic, anyone, e.g., employees) pay for such services, those costs will somehow, someday be passed on to the employers in the form of demands for higher insurance premiums or higher wages. They counter what they call the government’s “accounting gimmick” with one of their own: the “Catholic dollar.” These dollars remain true to an employer’s religious beliefs, it seems, even after paid by the employer to others, e.g., insurers or employees, in that they can be used only for things the religious employer would approve. The religious employers’ aim, we are assured, is not to thereby control the actions of others, oh no, but rather is merely to assure that the employers themselves do not somehow act contrary to their own beliefs by loosing “their” dollars into hands that would use them for things the employers themselves would not buy. Their religious liberty, the employers say, requires not only that they be exempted from the law, but further that anyone to whom they pay money also be exempted and thus “free” to act according to the employers’ desires.

    I wonder what they would think of their tag-the-dollar theory if they realized that I have loosed some of my “atheist dollars” into society and they have some in their wallets. Those dollars can be used only for ungodly purposes, lest I suffer the indignity of paying for things I disbelieve. Whatever they do with them, for god’s sake, don’t put them in the collection plate.

  8. @Shiva, you said it… “The Catholic Church has far less to do with a God that does with its hold over people as noted in the article.”

    @A Walkaway: like you, I also see the Dominionists as a great threat. Excellent point about the power that the individual “preachers” carry – and don’t forget they have made full use of all forms of media, and use it well.

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