Archbishop Chaput: About Those Unthinking, Backward Catholics

By Archbishop Charles Chaput, Archdiocese of Philadelphia:

Back in 2008, in the weeks leading up to the Obama-McCain presidential election, two young men visited me in Denver.  They were from Catholics United, a group describing itself as committed to social justice issues.  They voiced great concern at the manipulative skill of Catholic agents for the Republican Party.  And they hoped my brother bishops and I would resist identifying the Church with single-issue and partisan (read: abortion) politics.

It was an interesting experience.  Both men were obvious flacks for the Obama campaign and the Democratic Party — creatures of a political machine, not men of the Church; less concerned with Catholic teaching than with its influence.  And presumably (for them) bishops were dumb enough to be used as tools, or at least prevented from helping the other side.  Yet these two young men not only equaled but surpassed their Republican cousins in the talents of servile partisan hustling.  Thanks to their work, and activists like them, American Catholics helped to elect an administration that has been the most stubbornly unfriendly to religious believers, institutions, concerns and liberty in generations.

I never saw either young man again.  The cultural damage done by the current White House has – apparently — made courting America’s bishops unnecessary.

But bad can always get worse.  I’m thinking, of course, of the contemptuously anti-Catholic emails exchanged among members of the Clinton Democratic presidential campaign team and released this week by WikiLeaks. A sample:  Sandy Newman, president of Voices for Progress, emailed John Podesta, now the head of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, to ask about whether “the bishops opposing contraceptive coverage” could be the tinder for a revolution. “There needs to be a Catholic Spring, in which Catholics themselves demand the end of a middle ages [sic] dictatorship,” Newman writes.

Of course, Newman added, “this idea may just reveal my total lack of understanding of the Catholic church, the economic power it can bring to bear against nuns and priests who count on it for their maintenance.” Still, he wondered, how would one “plant the seeds of a revolution”? John Podesta replied that “We created Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good to organize for a moment like this . . . likewise Catholics United” (emphasis added).

Another Clinton-related email, from John Halpin of the Center for American Progress, mocks Catholics in the so-called conservative movement, especially converts: “They must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely backwards gender relations and must be totally unaware of Christian democracy.” In a follow-up, he adds “They can throw around ‘Thomistic’ thought and ‘subsidiarity’ and sound sophisticated because no one knows what . . . they’re talking about.”

On the evening these WikiLeaks emails were released, I received the following angry email myself, this one from a nationally respected (non-Catholic) attorney experienced in Church-state affairs:

I was deeply offended by the [Clinton team] emails, which are some of the worst bigotry by a political machine I have seen.  [A] Church has an absolute right to protect itself when under attack as a faith and Church by civil political forces. That certainly applies here . . .

 “Over the last eight years there has been strong evidence that the current administration, with which these people share values, has been very hostile to religious organizations.  Now there is clear proof that this approach is deliberate and will accelerate if these actors have any continuing, let alone louder, say in government.  

 “These bigots are actively strategizing how to shape Catholicism not to be Catholic or consistent with Jesus’ teachings, but to be the ‘religion’ they want.  They are, at the very core, trying to turn religion to their secular view of right and wrong consistent with their politics.  This is fundamentally why the Founders left England and demanded that government not have any voice in religion.  Look where we are now.  We have political actors trying to orchestrate a coup to destroy Catholic values, and they even analogize their takeover to a coup in the Middle East, which amplifies their bigotry and hatred of the Church.  I had hoped I would never see this day — a day like so many dark days in Eastern Europe that led to the death of my [Protestant minister] great grandfather at the hands of communists who also hated and wanted to destroy religion.”

 Of course it would be wonderful for the Clinton campaign to repudiate the content of these ugly WikiLeaks emails. All of us backward-thinking Catholics who actually believe what Scripture and the Church teach would be so very grateful.

In the meantime, a friend describes the choice facing voters in November this way: A vulgar, boorish lout and disrespecter of women, with a serious impulse control problem; or a scheming, robotic liar with a lifelong appetite for power and an entourage riddled with anti-Catholic bigots.

In a nation where “choice” is now the unofficial state religion, the menu for dinner is remarkably small.

Life! The Greatest Social Justice Issue

Archbishop Chaput, “There is no Equivalence”

by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, CatholicPhilly.com:

Here’s a simple exercise in basic reasoning. On a spectrum of bad things to do, theft is bad, assault is worse and murder is worst. There’s a similar texture of ill will connecting all three crimes, but only a very confused conscience would equate thieving and homicide. Both are serious matters. But there is no equivalence.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

The deliberate killing of innocent life is a uniquely wicked act. No amount of contextualizing or deflecting our attention to other issues can obscure that.

This is precisely why Cardinal John O’Connor, Bishop James McHugh and others pressed so hard for the passage of the U.S. bishops’ 1998 pastoral letter, Living the Gospel of Life. As Cardinal Joseph Bernardin once wisely noted, Catholic social teaching is a seamless garment of respect for human life, from conception to natural death. It makes no sense to champion the cause of unborn children if we ignore their basic needs once they’re born.

Thus it’s no surprise that — year in and year out — nearly all Catholic dioceses in the United States, including Philadelphia, devote far more time, personnel and material resources to providing social services to the poor and education to young people than to opposing abortion.

 But of course, children need to survive the womb before they can have needs like food, shelter, immigration counseling and good health care. Humanity’s priority right — the one that undergirds all other rights — is the right to life. As the American bishops wrote in 1998:

“Opposition to abortion and euthanasia does not excuse indifference to those who suffer from poverty, violence and injustice. Any politics of human life must work to resist the violence of war and the scandal of capital punishment. Any politics of human dignity must seriously address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing, and health care … But being ‘right’ in such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life. Indeed, the failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages renders suspect any claims to the ‘rightness’ of positions in other matters affecting the poorest and least powerful of the human community. If we understand the human person as the ‘temple of the Holy Spirit’ — the living house of God — then these latter issues fall logically into place as the crossbeams and walls of that house. All direct attacks on innocent human life, such as abortion and euthanasia, strike at the house’s foundation. These directly and immediately violate the human person’s most fundamental right — the right to life. Neglect of these issues is the equivalent of building our house on sand. Such attacks cannot help but lull the social conscience in ways ultimately destructive of other human rights” (22).

A case is sometimes made that abortion is mainly a cultural and moral issue, and politics is a poor solution to the problem. The curious thing is that some of the same voices that argue against political action on the abortion issue seem quite comfortable urging vigorous political engagement on issues like health care, homelessness and the environment.

 

Christians Can’t Avoid Political Engagement

In practice, politics is the application of moral conviction to public discourse and the process of lawmaking. Law not only constrains and defends; it also teaches and forms.Law not only reflects culture; it shapes and reshapes it. That’s why Christians can’t avoid political engagement. Politics is never the main content of Christian faith. It can never provide perfect solutions. But no Christian can avoid the duty to work for more justice and charity in our life as a nation, a task that inescapably involves politics.

Thus the recent Senate vote to defund Planned Parenthood was not only right and timely, but necessary. And the failure of that measure involves a public failure of character by every Catholic senator who voted against it.

Memory is important: Two years ago Kermit Gosnell was stripped of his medical license and convicted of murdering three infants born alive from abortion procedures. He operated a Philadelphia abortion center that more closely resembled a butcher shop than a medical clinic.

His clinic environment was uglier than the pleasant restaurants and offices captured on recent Center for Medical Progress (CMP) undercover videos. Those videos show a face of Planned Parenthood — senior staffers chatting blithely about the dismemberment and sale of fetal body parts — that can only be called repugnant. But it’s not surprising: If aborted children are simply lumps of potentially useful (and profitable) tissue, what’s the problem?

Again, memory is important: Thirty years ago “pro-choice” groups tried a strategy of using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act to shut down certain forms of pro-life witness. The strategy ultimately failed but — maybe it’s God’s sense of irony — the word “racket” very quickly comes to mind in watching Planned Parenthood staff on the CMP videos.

I’ll close with a word of thanks to Ruben Navarette, Jr. Navarette is a veteran “pro-choice” voice, but his August 10 column at the Daily Beast is worth reading and sharing for its honest revulsion at the whole, ugly, system-wide barbarism of Planned Parenthood’s fetal trafficking. And his column’s best lines come in quoting his pro-life wife:

“Those are babies that are being killed. Millions of them. And you need to use your voice to protect them. That’s what a man does. He protects children — his own children, and other children. That’s what it means to be a man.”

Amen.

Wake Up Catholics!

When are Catholics going to Wake Up and Start Fighting Back?

By Archbishop Charles J. Chaput:  Let’s begin this week with a simple statement of fact.  America’s Catholic bishops started pressing for adequate health-care coverage for all of our nation’s people decades before the current administration took office.  In the Christian tradition, basic medical care is a matter of social justice and human dignity.  Even now, even with the financial and structural flaws that critics believe undermine the 2010 Affordable Care Act, the bishops continue to share the goal of real health-care reform and affordable medical care for all Americans.

Archbishop Charles J.Chaput

Archbishop Charles J.Chaput latest book is A Heart on Fire: Catholic Witness and the Next America. Here is his other books.

But health care has now morphed into a religious liberty issue provoked entirely – and needlessly — by the current White House.  Despite a few small concessions under pressure, the administration refuses to withdraw or reasonably modify a Health and Human Services (HHS) contraceptive mandate that violates the moral and religious convictions of many individuals, private employers and religiously affiliated and inspired organizations.

Coupled with the White House’s refusal to uphold the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, and its astonishing disregard for the unique nature of religious freedom displayed by its arguments in a 9-0 defeat in the 2012 Hosanna-Tabor Supreme Court decision, the HHS mandate can only be understood as a form of coercion.  Access to inexpensive contraception is a problem nowhere in the United States.  The mandate is thus an ideological statement; the imposition of a preferential option for infertility.  And if millions of Americans disagree with it on principle – too bad.

The fraud at the heart of our nation’s “reproductive rights” vocabulary runs very deep and very high.  In his April 26 remarks to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the president never once used the word “abortion,” despite the ongoing Kermit Gosnell trial in Philadelphia and despite Planned Parenthood’s massive role in the abortion industry.

Likewise, as Anthony Esolen recently noted so well, NARAL Pro-Choice America’s public statement on the conviction of abortionist Gosnell was a masterpiece of corrupt and misleading language.  Gosnell was found guilty of murdering three infants, but no such mention was made anywhere in the NARAL Pro-Choice America statement.

None of this is finally surprising. Christians concerned for the rights of unborn children, as well as for their mothers, have dealt with bias in the media and dishonesty from the nation’s abortion syndicate for 40 years.  But there’s a special lesson in our current situation.  Anyone who thinks that our country’s neuralgic sexuality issues can somehow be worked out respectfully in the public square in the years ahead, without a parallel and vigorous defense of religious freedom, had better think again.

As Mollie Hemingway, Stephen Krason and Wayne Laugesen have all pointed out, the current IRS scandal – involving IRS targeting of “conservative” organizations – also has a religious dimension.  Selective IRS pressure on religious individuals and organizations has drawn very little media attention.  Nor should we expect any, any time soon, for reasons Hemingway outlines for the Intercollegiate Review. But the latest IRS ugliness is a hint of the treatment disfavored religious groups may face in the future, if we sleep through the national discussion of religious liberty now.

The day when Americans could take the Founders’ understanding of religious freedom as a given is over.  We need to wake up.

Source:

Sanctity Is The Only Necessity In A Person’s Life!

Catholics In America Are Indistinguishable From The General Population…  Archbishop Chaput Paints A Stark Picture Of The Catholic Church In America, and Calls Catholics To Repentance.

Philadelphia, Pa.(CNA/EWTN News).– At a conference on faith and evangelization, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia told participants that sanctity is the single necessity in a person’s life.

“The only thing that matters is to be a saint. That’s what we need to be. That’s what we need to become,” he said at the Nov. 16 Catholic Life Congress in Philadelphia.

Archbishop Chaput began his talk, titled “Renewing the Church and Her Mission in a ‘Year of Faith,’” by discussing the nature of faith. He said the Nicene Creed, recited at every Sunday Mass, is the “framework and fundamental profession” of Catholic belief.

“The less we understand the words of the Creed and revere the meaning behind them, the farther away we drift from our Catholic identity – and the more confused we become about who we really are as Christians.”

The archbishop discussed the importance of personal integrity, and the role of Sunday Mass in forming our lives throughout the rest of the week.

“We need to give our hearts to what we hear and what we say in our public worship. Otherwise, little by little, we become dishonest.”

Faith, he told his listeners, “is confidence in things unseen based on the word of someone we know and love – in this case, God…only a living encounter and a living relationship with Jesus Christ make faith sustainable.”

Archbishop Chaput then reflected on the present state of the Catholic Church in America, painting a stark picture.

“More than 70 million Americans describe themselves as Catholics. But for all practical purposes, they’re no different from everybody else in their views, their appetites and their behaviors.”

This state, he said, was part of the “legacy” left by the baby boomer generation “to the Church in the United States.”

“In a sense, our political and economic power, our addictions to comfort, consumption and entertainment, have made us stupid.”

In response to that state of affairs, Archbishop Chaput urged every one to repentance and to conversion. In the face of a Catholic population indistinguishable from the general public, he proposed a sort of examination of conscience.

“So we need to ask ourselves: What do I want my life to mean? If I claim to be a Catholic, can I prove it with the patterns of my life? When do I pray? How often do I seek out the Sacrament of Penance?  What am I doing for the poor? How am I serving the needy? Do I really know Jesus Christ?”

“Who am I leading to the Church? How many young people have I asked to consider a vocation? How much time do I spend sharing about God with my spouse, my children and my friends? How well and how often do I listen for God’s will in my own life?”

From there, the archbishop reflected on what we need to become, and took Saint Thomas More as an example.

More was an English lawyer and statesman, and chancellor of England under Henry VIII. His Catholic faith made him oppose Henry’s divorce and re-marriage, and separation of the Church of England from the Catholic Church. His integrity led him to be martyred in 1535.

Archbishop Chaput gave his audience a “homework assignment.”  He asked that people watch – “with your family” –  the 1966 film on St. Thomas More called “A Man for All Seasons”

He said that “above all, More was a man of profound Catholic faith and practice. He lived what he claimed to believe. He had his priorities in right order. He was a husband and a father first.”

The archbishop then said that More is an example for all Catholics.

“We’re all called to martyrdom. That’s what the word martyr means: It’s the Greek word for “witness.”  We may or may not ever suffer personally for our love of Jesus Christ. But we’re all called to be witnesses.”

Archbishop Chaput concluded his talk by emphasizing that becoming a saint, like St. Thomas More, is the one thing necessary in everyone’s life

Be A Catholic Before You Are A Democrat Or Republican!

Catholics Must Make Distinctions Between Intrinsic Evils And Other Election Issues!

By:  Carl Bunderson/Matthew Rarey

(CNA/EWTN News).- As the country approaches election day in two weeks, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia is encouraging Catholic voters to place their faith above their allegiance to political parties.

“I’m always encouraging our people minimally to vote, maximally to run for political office, and make sure that they’re Catholic prior to being Democrat or Republican and that they put that into practice politically,” he told CNA in Rome on Oct. 22.

Archbishop Chaput echoed the calls of other American bishops to have their flocks consider their faith in the voting booth.

“We do believe in the separation of church and state, but we don’t believe in the separation of faith from our political life,” he said.

“It’s very important for Catholics to make distinctions when voting that they never support intrinsic evils like abortion, which is evil in all circumstances. That’s a lot different from different economic policies” that people can reasonably disagree on, the archbishop explained.

His remarks come as an Oct. 22 Gallup poll shows the “economy in general” is the issue rated most important by Americans as the election nears.

“But people who are practicing Catholics cannot have alternate views on abortion,” he stated. “Such foundational issues have a huge impact and it’s important that Catholics make those distinctions.”

“A person (candidate) might be right on a lot of secondary issues but wrong on the foundational issues. And if that’s the case, it would be very difficult for a Catholic to vote for someone who, for example, favors unlimited access to abortion … undermines the meaning of marriage or supports policies that really undermine the foundation of our culture.”

Archbishop Chaput sees Philadelphia as a great example of both Catholic and civic virtue. He noted that it both produced two canonized saints, John Neumann and Katherine Drexel, and was the location of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the writing of the U.S. Constitution.

“I’m standing on the shoulders both in terms of the Church and the civic community,” the archbishop pointed out. “We have to produce new saints and be really good citizens.”

He also connected patriotism with love of parents and family, saying that “loving our country is really participating in love of our families.”

And “the meaning of family,” he asserted, is “hugely important for the future health of our country.”

“Having mothers and fathers who love us and love one another provides security for the healthy growth of children. Confused family life leads to confused participation in the broader life of the community.”

The Catholic vote has tended to follow the rest of the electorate in recent years, but with the current campaign for president running neck-and-neck, Gov. Romney and President Obama are vying for every segment of voters they can.

The latest polling from Gallup suggests that Romney has 51 percent of the Catholic vote while Obama has 49 percent.

In the 2008 election, 53 percent of Catholic voters supported Obama, and 47 percent supported GOP candidate John McCain.

Archbishop Chaput noted that “Catholics who go to church vote quite differently than Catholics as a group, and that Catholics who take their faith seriously, for them it’s much more than a cultural affiliation – it’s a very personal affiliation with Jesus Christ and his community.”

Archbishop Chaput: I Certainly Can’t Vote For Someone Who Is Pro-Choice!

The Archbishop of Philadelphia draws a sharp distinction between “prudential judgments” about care for the poor, and intrinsic evils like abortion.

Chaputsmiling2.jpeg

By: Patrick B. Craine

PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 17, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – As the November general election approaches, America’s Catholic bishops have been walking a fine line as they strive to avoid appearances of partisanship while at the same time they wage a high-profile battle against the Obama administration over religious freedom.

Earlier this month, one of the leading lights in the U.S. episcopate insisted he “certainly” could not vote for Obama, while not specifically endorsing his Republic opponent Mitt Romney.

Asked whether a Catholic could vote for Obama in good faith, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia replied: “I can only speak in terms of my own personal views. I certainly can’t vote for somebody who’s either pro-choice or pro-abortion.”

In a wide-ranging interview with John Allen, Jr. of the National Catholic Reporter, published Friday, the archbishop drew a sharp distinction between a candidate’s “prudential judgments” about how we care for the poor, and his position on an intrinsic evil like abortion.

Responding to concerns over the budget proposed by Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, which some Catholic bishops and other critics had called immoral because it cut programs to the poor, the archbishop pointed out that people of good faith can legitimately disagree over the role of government in providing aid to the poor.

“Jesus tells us very clearly that if we don’t help the poor, we’re going to go to hell,” he insisted. “But Jesus didn’t say the government has to take care of them, or that we have to pay taxes to take care of them. Those are prudential judgments.”

“You can’t say that somebody’s not Christian because they want to limit taxation,” he continued. “To say that it’s somehow intrinsically evil like abortion doesn’t make any sense at all.”

The archbishop, while noting he is a registered independent, said he has “deep personal concerns about any party that supports changing the definition of marriage, supports abortion in all circumstances, wants to restrict the traditional understanding of religious freedom.”

Chaput also said the bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom campaign in the summer was a success in raising greater awareness among Catholics about the grave threat to religious freedom facing America.

“The history of the world demonstrates that if we aren’t always on guard about religious freedom, we’ll lose it. It happens everywhere, and it could happen in the United States,” he observed.

“I would never have thought, even ten years ago, that we would be dealing with it so quickly,” he added.

On the HHS mandate, Chaput said he “can’t imagine” the courts would not overturn it. “If we don’t win, I’ll be astonished, and I’ll be even more worried about the future of religious freedom in our country,” he said.

“Those who oppose us on the mandates are very insistent. I thought they would back down by now, but they haven’t,” he continued. “We have to fight as vigorously in opposing them as they are in imposing them. Who’s going to win? I don’t know. It will be whoever fights the hardest and wins the hearts and minds of the people.”

Christianity Demands More Than Just Freedom To Worship!

“A Nation Based On License, Not Freedom, Will Have No Claim On Virtuous Hearts”

Catholic Culture.org

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia delivered an urgent call for Catholics to take action to protect the American tradition of religious freedom, in a July 26 address to the Napa Institute in California.

The archbishop questioned whether America has “crossed the Rubicon” on religious-freedom questions, reaching a point at which political confrontation is inevitable. Without answering the question directly, he challenged the members of his audience to answer for themselves.

Catholics have always shown a deep love for the US, and the hierarchy has supported the country fully, Archbishop Chaput said. “So if the bishops of the United States ever find themselves opposed, in a fundamental way, to the spirit of our country, the fault won’t lie with our bishops. It will lie with political and cultural leaders who turned our country into something it was never meant to be.”

Later in his talk, the archbishop summarized his concerns by saying that “the America of Catholic memory is not the America of the present moment or the emerging future.” He continued:

 Sooner or later, a nation based on a degraded notion of liberty, on license rather than real freedom—in other words, a nation of abortion, disordered sexuality, consumer greed, and indifference to immigrants and the poor—will not be worthy of its founding ideals. And on that day, it will have no claim on virtuous hearts.

Archbishop Chaput said that all Christians must reject the secularist argument that religious freedom requires only the freedom to worship. Christianity makes greater demands on believers, he said:

 Christian faith demands preaching, teaching, public witness, and service to others—by each of us alone, and by acting in cooperation with fellow believers. As a result, religious freedom is never just freedom from repression but also—and more importantly—freedom for active discipleship.

5 Crucial Components of Religious Liberty

 

We Are The Worst Enemies To Religious Liberty

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

Archbishop Chaput Talk to Catholic Journalist

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. First Things

First, religious freedom is a cornerstone of the American experience. This is so obvious that once upon a time, nobody needed to say it. But times have changed. So it’s worth recalling that Madison, Adams, Washington, Hamilton, Franklin, Jefferson–in fact, nearly all the American founders–saw religious faith as vital to the life of a free people. Liberty and happiness grow organically out of virtue. And virtue needs grounding in religious faith.

Gertrude Himmelfarb, the historian, put it this way: The founders knew that in a republic, “virtue is intimately related to religion. However skeptical or deistic they may have been in their own beliefs, however determined they were to avoid anything like an established Church, they had no doubt that religion is an essential part of the social order because it is a vital part of the moral order.”

Here’s my second point:

Freedom of religion is more than freedom of worship. The right to worship is a necessary but not sufficient part of religious liberty. Christian faith requires community. It begins in worship, but it also demands preaching, teaching, and service. It’s always personal but never private. And it involves more than prayer at home and Mass on Sunday–though these things are vitally important. Real faith always bears fruit in public witness and public action. Otherwise it’s just empty words.

The founders saw the value of publicly engaged religious faith because they experienced its influence themselves. They created a nation designed in advance to depend on the moral convictions of religious believers, and to welcome their active role in public life.

Here’s my third point:

Threats against religious freedom in our country are not imaginary. They’re happening right now. They’re immediate, serious, and real. Earlier this year religious liberty advocates won a big Supreme Court victory in the 9-0 Hosanna-Tabor v EEOC decision. That’s the good news. Here’s the bad news: What’s stunning in that case is the disregard for religious freedom shown by the government’s arguments against the Lutheran church and school.

And Hosanna-Tabor is not an isolated case. It belongs to a pattern of government coercion that includes the current administration’s HHS mandate; interfering with the conscience rights of medical providers and private employers, as well as individual citizens; and attacks on the policies, hiring practices, and tax statuses of religious charities and ministries.

 

Why is this hostility happening?

A lot of it links to Catholic teaching on the dignity of life and human sexuality. Catholic moral convictions about abortion, contraception, the purpose of sexuality, and the nature of marriage are rooted not just in revelation, but also in reason and natural law. Human beings have a nature that’s not just the product of accident or culture, but inherent, universal, and rooted in permanent truths knowable to reason.

The problem, as Notre Dame law professor Gerry Bradley points out, is that critics of the Church reduce all these moral convictions to an expression of subjective religious beliefs. And if they’re purely religious beliefs, then–so the critics argue–they can’t be rationally defended. And because they’re rationally indefensible, they should be treated as a form of prejudice. In effect, 2,000 years of moral tradition and religious belief become a species of bias. Opposing same-sex “marriage” thus amounts to religiously blessed homophobia.

There’s more. though. When religious belief gets redefined downward to a kind of private bias, then the religious identity of institutional ministries has no public value–other than the utility of getting credulous people to do good things. So exempting Catholic adoption agencies, for example, from placing kids with gay couples becomes a concession to private prejudice. And concessions to private prejudice feed bigotry and hurt the public. Or so the reasoning goes. This is how moral teaching and religious belief end up getting hounded as hate speech.

Here’s my fourth point:

Unless we work hard to keep our religious liberty, we’ll lose it. It’s already happening in other developed countries like Britain and Canada. The U.S. Constitution is a great document–historically unique for its fusion of high ideals with the realism of very practical checks and balances. But in the end, it’s just an elegant piece of paper. In practice, nothing guarantees our freedoms except our willingness to fight for them. That means fighting politically and through the courts, without tiring and without apologies. We need to realize that America’s founding documents assume an implicitly religious anthropology–an idea of human nature, nature’s God, and natural rights–that many of our leaders no longer really share. We ignore that unhappy fact at our own expense.

Here’s my fifth and final point:

Politics and the courts are important. But our religious freedom ultimately depends on the vividness of our own Christian faith–in other words, how deeply we believe it, and how honestly we live it. Religious liberty is an empty shell if the spiritual core of a people is weak. Or to put it more bluntly, if people don’t believe in God, religious liberty isn’t a value. That’s the heart of the matter. It’s the reason Pope Benedict calls us to a Year of Faith this October. The worst enemies of religious freedom aren’t “out there” among the legion of critics who hate Christ or the Gospel or the Church, or all three. The worst enemies are in here, with us–all of us, clergy, religious, and lay–when we live our faith with tepidness, routine, and hypocrisy.

Religious liberty isn’t a privilege granted by the state. It’s our birthright as children of God. And even the worst bigotry can’t kill it in the face of a believing people. But if we value it and want to keep it, then we need to become people worthy of it. Which means we need to change the way we live–radically change, both as individual Catholics and as the Church. And that’s where I’d like to turn for the rest of these brief remarks.