Heed the warning of the Holy Father

LeftSidePositive pointed out yesterday that when Catholic archbishops prate of freedom of conscience they are bullshitting, because they don’t believe in or promote other people’s freedom of conscience to have nothing to do with Catholic rules.

This needs to be mentioned more often.

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a statement on religious freedom last April. It is of course that kind of bullshit from beginning to end. They don’t mean religious freedom in general at all; they mean only “freedom” for them to coerce everyone else, including non-Catholics.

We are Catholics. We are Americans. We are proud to be both, grateful for the gift of faith which is ours as Christian disciples, and grateful for the gift of liberty which is ours as American citizens. To be Catholic and American should mean not having to choose one over the other. Our allegiances are distinct, but they need not be contradictory, and should instead be complementary. That is the teaching of our Catholic faith, which obliges us to work together with fellow citizens for the common good of all who live in this land.

No it doesn’t. Their Catholic faith obliges them to obey rules laid out by the Vatican. It obliges them to obey what they pretend are commands from god. That’s a different kind of thing from working together with fellow citizens for the common good of fellow citizens. (And how about working for the common good of all people?) Obeying god is god-centered; working with people for the common good is human-centered. The Catholic church is god-centered. It tries to elbow its way into secular matters in the hope that we won’t hate it so much, but it doesn’t mean a word of it. It does not work for the common good of people. It says it does, but it doesn’t.

Freedom is not only for Americans, but we think of it as something of our special inheritance, fought for at a great price, and a heritage to be guarded now. We are stewards of this gift, not only for ourselves but for all nations and peoples who yearn to be free. Catholics in America have discharged this duty of guarding freedom admirably for many generations.

Some Catholics have, no doubt. The Catholic church and its hierarchy have not.

Catholics in America have been advocates for religious liberty, and the landmark teaching of the Second Vatican Council on religious liberty was influenced by the American experience. It is among the proudest boasts of the Church on these shores. We have been staunch defenders of religious liberty in the past. We have a solemn duty to discharge that duty today.

No. No, no, no. You don’t let your own nuns have religious liberty – you monitor them and call them in for a scolding and do your best to force them to obey you. You excommunicate a nun who approved a life-saving abortion. You browbeat healthcare administrators who refuse to sign an agreement never to save a woman’s life via an abortion even when the fetus is doomed anyway. You don’t believe in religious liberty at all. You believe in liberty for yourselves to coerce everyone else.

We need, therefore, to speak frankly with each other when our freedoms are threatened. Now is such a time. As Catholic bishops and American citizens, we address an urgent summons to our fellow Catholics and fellow Americans to be on guard, for religious liberty is under attack, both at home and abroad.

This has been noticed both near and far. Pope Benedict XVI recently spoke about his worry that religious liberty in the United States is being weakened. He called it the “most cherished of American freedoms”—and indeed it is. All the more reason to heed the warning of the Holy Father, a friend of America and an ally in the defense of freedom, in his recent address to American bishops:

Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.

There it is, you see – “liberty” understood as the unfettered ability to hinder other people’s access to medical treatment and contraception. “Liberty” to take away the liberty of other people.

Religious Liberty Under Attack—Concrete Examples

Is our most cherished freedom truly under threat? Sadly, it is. This is not a theological or legal dispute without real world consequences. Consider the following:

Catholic foster care and adoption services. Boston, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, and the state of Illinois have driven local Catholic Charities out of the business of providing adoption or foster care services—by revoking their licenses, by ending their government contracts, or both—because those Charities refused to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who cohabit.

Their cherished freedom to interfere with other people.

They are such operators.


  1. smrnda says

    I get tired of the nonsense that Catholic Charities was ‘persecuted.’ The state of Illinois (where I lived during the time of this debate) contracted out foster care placement to a number of different agencies. No agency is or was owed contracts simply because they wanted them. If the state finds that an agency is unwilling to service all eligible families, then by all means, drop that agency and find one that will handle everybody. If I got funding to run a food pantry or meal service and I excluded any demographic, out of the interests in serving all residents of the state they state should cancel my contract and give it to someone who won’t discriminate. It’s just inefficient and bad practice to waste time with agencies who want exemptions, beyond just being wrong.

  2. Rodney Nelson says

    The bishops quoting Benny Ratzi:

    Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.

    The bishops not only want Catholics to follow Catholic dogma, they want everyone to do it. Freedom of religion means freedom for the Catholic hierarchy to impose their rules on non-Catholics. It’s an attack on the hierarchy’s freedom to dissent from their fixation on contraception, abortion, and other sexual matters.

    The latest Jesus and Mo has some thoughts on this fixation.

  3. Acolyte of Sagan says

    Catholicism; embracing Mafiosa methods since the Borgia popes.

    @#5. There’s a shitload of difference between having sex with somebody who’s merely drunk, and somebody TOO drunk to consent. But what the fuck does your comment have to do with a thread on Catholicism?

  4. sailor1031 says

    I would like to re-echo a sign I first saw on a wall in a factory in Newhouse, Scotland some forty or more years ago. It simply said:


    I would only add to that “and the BISHOPRICKS too!”

  5. Ysanne says

    We have been staunch defenders of religious liberty in the past.

    Yeah, such great defenders that good numbers of people felt the need to move all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to America in order to escape this “liberty” and be able to practice their religion.

  6. Hythloday says

    Freedom of conscience is a central teaching of Catholicism. It. just. is.

    Isn’t it a bit spurious to cite cases of internal discipline as examples of penal coercion? You’re free to believe that the Catholic Church wants to introduce some sort of Sharia State, but if that — God forbid — ever happened, it would not be an authentic expression of Catholicism. It would be distortion and usurpation. Vis a vis the Spanish Inquisition.

    Sure, the Church styles itself as a moral teacher, and it will make declarations about right and wrong. But it doesn’t write penal laws enforcing those teachings. That’s a matter for the state, not the Church.

  7. says

    Saying “It.just.is” doesn’t convince me.

    If it’s a central teaching of Catholicism, why was the church so ruthless toward “heretics” for so many centuries? Why was there an Index? Why was there an Inquisition? Why are there encyclicals, why is the pope always telling everyone what’s what?

    No of course it isn’t spurious to cite cases of internal discipline as examples of coercion. (“Penal”? What’s that got to do with anything?) “Internal discipline” is not a concept that goes well with a genuine concern for freedom of conscience, is it. The model you want is the secular university, not the Vatican.

    I never said anything about a sharia state, but I did and do say that the church wants to impose its beliefs on everyone. Savita Halappanavar was not a Catholic, you know.

    The church doesn’t write laws, but it does run a lot of hospitals. It can do a lot of coercion that way. It runs other institutions too, such as schools and charities. It has many many ways of meddling with other people’s freedom of conscience.

  8. mnb0 says

    “Catholic foster care and adoption services.”
    Like this.


    Damned secularists – deny the RCC the religious liberty to kidnap babies!

  9. mnb0 says

    Here a fine example how religious freedom the catholic way works in practice:


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