Dolan is attempting Re-defining “Religious Liberty” for America

I live in a heavily Jewish neighborhood in Los Angeles. Every Friday I see many of my neighbors walking (it is not permitted to drive on the Sabbath) with their families. Some of them wear clothing that would have been used in nineteenth century Eastern Europe. Some men simply wear conservative suits and yamaka their wives dressed in black or dark blue ankle length dresses.

My next-door neighbor is an Evangelical Protestant. Every Sunday, he and his wife, dutifully climb into their SUV and drive to their church for worship. The Buddhists down the block own a Thai restaurant and have a neatly manicured lawn. There is a gay couple a few doors down the street, one is an agnostic and the other is an atheist. There is a Church of Religious Science located at the end of our street. The Minister and his partner (a Roman Catholic) came to dinner a few weeks ago.

When I think of “Religious liberty” I think of my neighborhood in LA. Religious Liberty for me, and many Americans, means that you are free to follow your own conscience on matters of belief. That no one, no institution and most certainly not the government have the right or the power to dictate to you what you may or may not believe, or what dietary or adult consensual sexual practices you may or may not engage in predicated on those beliefs.

The Buddhist couple, although they are vegetarians, serve meat dishes to their customers who wish to purchase and eat meat. The local supermarket stocks and sells both kosher foods and bacon. When the city repaved our street, the Religious Science Church down the block offered its parking lot to local residents, so that they had a place to park their cars. They did not require us to convert to Religious Science for that convenience. Occasionally Jehovah Witnesses ring the doorbell, I am polite but have absolutely no desire or intention of joining their religion. The Hasidic Jews have not threatened to burn down the Religious Science Church because the Minster is gay and has a male partner.

I would be offended and vocal, if any of my neighbors were attacked or maligned because of their beliefs, or if some entity attempted to force them to change their beliefs. I hope my neighbors would also stand by me, if I were attacked or maligned due to my beliefs, or some entity attempted to forcibly change my beliefs. That is my understanding of “Religious Liberty.” However, Archbishop Dolan of New York City, the current president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops [NCCB] has a radically different understanding of “Religious Liberty.”

“Citing the famous preamble to the Declaration of Independence, Dolan wrote that the rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are now “increasingly and in unprecedented ways under assault in America” because of administration policies.”

He goes on to list six items he believes impinge on “Religious Liberty.” These include:

1. Proposed regulations that requires private health insurers to cover contraceptives for patients who wish to use contraceptives.

2. Proposed requirements those religious aid groups, who accept federal money, to include condoms in their HIV prevention campaigns.

3. Dolan claims that “the religious conscience exemptions” in the proposals from the Department of Human Services “are not broad enough.”

4. Dolan also cites the administration’s challenge to the “ministerial exception” rule, which will be argued Wednesday (Oct. 5) at the U.S. Supreme Court, which could determine whether churches have to conform to employment discrimination laws for workers who are not clergy.

5. Dolan also blasted the White House’s decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

6. Dolan voiced frustration that neither he nor the previous USCCB president, Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, received responses to private letters sent to Obama. Dolan said that’s partly why he decided to take the feud public.

Essentially, Dolan wants,

1. For your health insurance NOT to cover the cost of contraceptives that you chose to use.

2. To use your tax dollars as he wishes, without requirements attached for the use of public funds.

3. To be able to invoke “religious conscience exemptions” at will and at his personal discretion.

4. To apply “ministerial exception” not only to clergy, but also to secretaries, gardeners, custodians, bookkeepers, choir directors, musicians, housekeepers, accountants, security guards, and any other person employed by the Church. That means these employees, as a condition of their continued employment, had better agree with the NCCB.

5. The NCCB not elected representatives, to decide policy decision and civil law.

6. The President of the United States (and all other elected officials and Judges) to “consult” privately with the NCCB in the formation/implementation of laws.

Where did the Roman Catholic Hierarchy get the idea that they have the right and the power to do all of this stuff? The Emperor Constantine and fifteen centuries of dictating moral laws in Europe and Catholic colonies. Oh, and that little exercise of over ruling the California State Supreme Court on Prop 8 (with a huge check written by the Mormon Church’s leadership in Salt Lake City).

Thankfully, President Obama and the Federal government are choosing to follow the example of most Roman Catholics (and many Catholic theologians/priests) and simply ignore Archbishop Dolan, the NCCB and the Vatican. True Religious Liberty grants religious entities the freedom to make the laws of their religion, which may be voluntarily followed by their believers, but it does not grant them the power to dictate the law of the land, so far.

Full Article HERE!

MN diocese declares majority of Catholics “not in good standing” because they support teh gay

Catholic? Supporter of marriage equality? The Minnesota Catholic Conference (MCC — humorously, the same acronym used for the Metropolitan Community Church) and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis have some bad news for you. You are not “in good standing with the Church.”

In response to the formation of Catholics for Marriage Equality (CME), a group of Catholics opposed to the marriage equality ban set for the ballot in 2012, the MCC and the Archdiocese have issued a joint statement for-shaming these Catholics for not hating gays as much as the Church. From the statement:

A group calling itself “Catholics for Marriage Equality MN” seeks to confuse Catholics and the public about authentic Church teaching related to matters of marriage and sexuality. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Minnesota Catholic Conference wish to make it known that this group does not speak for the Catholic Church, is not an agent or entity of the Archdiocese, MCC, or the universal Church, and has no authority to determine what does and does not constitute Christian doctrine and morality. The Archdiocese asks that Catholics avoid associating themselves with this group, and not be deceived by its messages, which are in conflict with the fundamental teachings of the Church.
“Catholics for Marriage Equality MN” attempts to convince Catholics that they can be in good standing with the Church and oppose Church teaching about human sexuality and marriage, which centers on the complementarity of the sexes and the mutual self-gift of loving spouses in marital union. The group also misleads people by proposing a false ecclesiology that undermines the legitimate authority of the bishops and the Magisterium as the authentic guardian, interpreter, and teacher of the faith handed to the apostles by Jesus Christ.

Full Article HERE!

Tasmanian gay marriage vote disappoints Archbishop

The Archbishop of Hobart, Adrian Doyle, has expressed his disappointment with the vote on the floor of the Tasmanian Parliament, supporting marriage equality for gays and lesbians, the archdiocese said in a statement.

A motion backing same-sex marriage was passed by the Tasmanian House of Assembly, the first time an Australian parliament has voted for marriage equality for gays and lesbians, reports The Mercury.

The Greens’ motion calls on the Federal Government to change the Marriage Act.

“The opposition of the Catholic Church in Tasmania isn’t about being anti-gay, as we acknowledge and accept the current arrangement with civil unions but the real debate relates to the broader issue of marriage and equality in Australian society,” Archbishop Doyle said in his statement.

“There are other groups in Australian society who have different cultural and religious beliefs towards marriage and want their position also adopted under the Marriage Act. Therefore, my question is that should we, as a society, continue to dilute our institutions to accommodate select groups based on social, cultural or religious beliefs?”

“We have seen this occur over the past years, particularly in the lead-up to the 2007 election, when the Islamic community spoke about Australian marriage laws being changed to include polygymous marriages and actively lobbied the Rudd Government to change the Marriage Act.”

“While polygamous marriage is accepted across the Islamic community, the practice is not acceptable under Australian law and nor would arranged marriages as practiced in other cultures.”

“Both the State and Federal Governments are reluctant to enter the broader debate. Hence the vote in the Tasmanian Parliament was relevant to one section of society and therefore could not really be labelled as equal.”

“Our position on maintaining the current meaning of marriage is well known and the Church will continue to lobby both State and Federal politicians to ensure the Act is not changed.”

The Mercury reports Greens leader Nick McKim saying the motion provided hope.

“By voting in support of marriage equality, Tasmania has written itself into this country’s history books, as a national leader in advocating a compassionate and progressive society,” he said. “It is now time for the Federal Government to act to remove legally entrenched discrimination.”

Mr McKim said that if the Federal Government did not reform marriage laws by the end of the year, he would push on with plans for state legislation.

Premier Lara Giddings said the vote was a great day for the state.

“Tasmania has come a long way since 1997 when we rectified the terrible situation of having homosexual relationships considered illegal in this state,” she said. “We’ve come a long way to show we are in fact a tolerant and compassionate community.”

Full Article HERE!

Bishops warn of ‘national conflict’ over gay marriage

The nation’s top Catholic bishop issued a stern challenge to the Obama administration’s decision not to support a federal ban on gay marriage, and warned the president that his policies could “precipitate a national conflict between church and state of enormous proportions.”

In a letter sent Tuesday (Sept. 20), Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, who heads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said he and other prelates have grown increasingly concerned since the administration announced last February that it would no longer defend the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act in court.

The Obama administration says it believes the law that defines marriage as between one man and one woman is unconstitutional.

Dolan said the bishops are especially upset that the administration and opponents of DOMA are framing their argument as a civil rights issue, which he said equates “opposition to redefining marriage with either intentional or willfully ignorant racial discrimination.”

He also argued that traditional marriage is best for society, and that treating gay marriage as a civil right would lead to discrimination against believers and against church agencies that could not, for example, accommodate gay couples as adoptive parents.

“The administration’s failure to change course on this matter will … precipitate a national conflict between church and state of enormous proportions and to the detriment of both institutions,” Dolan warned.

The two-page letter was followed by a three-page analysis from the USCCB’s legal staff that charges the administration with “hostility” to traditional marriage and a “new, more aggressive position” on behalf of gay marriage. In especially strong language, it also argues that the administration treats millions of Americans who oppose gay marriage “as if they were bigots.”

The tenor of the bishops’ warning appears to signal an escalation in their battle against gay marriage, as well as a hardening of their opposition to Obama just as the 2012 presidential campaign gets underway. The bishops’ new hard line was welcomed by conservatives, and it comes as Obama is facing record-low opinion ratings.

The bishops’ stance carries risks, however, as voters appear to be focused on the state of the economy more than gay marriage. Moreover, polls show a steady erosion of opposition to gay rights of all kinds among the U.S. population, with Catholics more open to endorsing gay relationships than many other faith groups.

The bishops have been careful to frame their opposition to Obama’s policies in the context of religious freedom and defending the right of individuals and religions to act according to the dictates of their conscience.

On Monday (Sept. 19), the day before Dolan sent his letter to Obama on gay marriage, the bishops of Washington, Maryland and Delaware sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that strongly objects to proposed regulations mandating health care coverage of contraception.

For the Catholic Church, which considers the use of artificial birth control a sin, the mandate is “a radically new and unprecedented attack on religious freedom,” said Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Baltimore Archbishop Edwin O’Brien and Wilmington Bishop W. Francis Malooly.

Full Article HERE!

Are gay-straight alliances contrary to Catholic teaching?

The next time a news story surfaces on the subject of gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in Catholic schools, see if the following formula applies.

First, some students attempt to establish a GSA (or run some event as a GSA). School officials judge the group or event to be contrary to Catholic teaching, although they arrange some compromise (i.e. naming groups “anti-bullying” instead) so that service to students fits with Catholic teaching. Nonetheless, the GSA members find this decision illogical, and are sufficiently frustrated that they contact the media.

The story finally ends at an impasse: Church teaching on homosexuality is unchangeable, while the students remain steadfast in their initiative to provide a safe space at school for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer (LGBTQ) students.

At this point two questions arise:

1) Is establishing a GSA really contrary to Catholic teaching?

2) If LGBTQ students wish to have a GSA, why don’t they simply leave the Catholic school and enrol at the secular school, where GSAs are supported?

The answers to both these questions bring forth some new considerations that Catholic school officials and students should take seriously if they wish to keep their conversations from hitting an impasse.

The subject of GSAs being contrary to Catholic teaching raises the fact that the Catholic Church loves LGBTQ persons, but disapproves of non-heterosexual acts. If Catholic schools are unwilling to sponsor GSAs on this basis, then one must ask whether GSAs really promote sexual acts. If they did, they would certainly be contrary to church teaching. But these groups limit their scope to promoting peace and safety, providing emotional support, and resisting homophobia and bullying in the name of justice, all of which are in agreement with Catholic teachings on love and human dignity. Being LGBTQ is apparently not a problem in some Catholic schools, but organizing LGBTQ groups is.

So it appears that in some cases there is reluctance to admit the presence of LGBTQ persons because it would send a message that the school also approves of sex acts that are contrary to Catholic teaching. Instead, they are hidden under the heading “anti-bullying” (as is the case in Halton Catholic schools).

In these cases, probably the best argument that the pro-GSA students have at their disposal is to point to inconsistencies between their treatment and the way the school serves students who are pregnant and unmarried parents. The Catholic Church also disapproves of heterosexual acts outside marriage, but currently unmarried students who are pregnant or have children are openly welcomed in Catholic schools, and sometimes are even placed in programs specifically designed for them.

Their public presence is not denied, and any suggestion that the school approves of their sexual activity outside marriage is remarkably absent from public discussion. Priority is instead properly placed on helping these students and their children. Students who are hoping to establish GSAs might ask why their social and political effort to reduce homophobia and bullying fails, but a solidly Catholic reason exists to serve students who have (or are having) children outside marriage.

On the other hand, one could ask why students continue to press unsuccessfully for a GSA in a Catholic school when they could simply enrol instead at a secular school. For most of these students, such a step is simply too drastic. The Catholic school is their community of friends. They desire and deserve Catholic schooling just as much as their heterosexual neighbours and leaving the school is simply not an option. For those students who are Catholic and L, G, B, T or Q, this issue therefore raises serious questions about how they see themselves in the church, and how the church and school see them.

But repeating church teaching to LGBTQ students looking for a mature engagement with their church is insufficient, and is bound to return to the impasse of frustration. Intellectual freedom requires that students who are interested should be introduced to Catholic thinkers who offer reasonable criticisms of church teaching.

Many in the church will not agree with this suggestion, but in addition to working for peace, emotional well-being and justice, Catholic schools also have an obligation to help all LGBTQ students understand themselves in the church. Perhaps a GSA is just the intellectual and social environment that can encompass all these needs.

Full Article HERE!