Friday, June 21, 2013

Fanfare for the Fortnight for Freedom

NY Archbishop Timothy Dolan
Today is the start of the second Fortnight for Freedom as urged by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops.  It is a period of  prayer, fasting, education and action to preserve the fundamental natural right that is enshrined in the Bill of Rights–the Freedom of Religion.  This effort was started last year by USCCB President New York Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan

Appreciating the First Amendment is particularly poignant as there are so many challenges to religious liberty and the freedom of conscience, such as the HHS Qualified Health Plan Mandate (a.k.a. the Contraception, Sterilization and Abortifacient rider), the exclusion of non-compliant adoption organizations who will not service same-sex couples, states which have approved , states co-ercing traditional marriage believers to conform to same-sex so called marriage, the military labeling Catholics and Evangelicals as extremist groups for upholding their moral beliefs, military chaplains being forced out of service if they did not tow the new Politically Correct line on homosexuality.

When President Obama marked Religious Freedom Day in 2013, he framed religious liberty as the “freedom to worship as we choose.”  That might have been acceptable public policy shorthand, but such a charitable assessment is not borne out by the actions of the Obama Administration.   This is especially exemplified in the HHS contraception mandate.

 After the initial hue and cry when the Obama Administration aborted religious liberty with the Obamacare requiring free contraception, Mr. Obama supposedly backtracked by rescinding this reviled regulation.  But as it turned out, the Obama Administration was just obfuscating authority regarding religious liberty.  The rule for “free” contraception  supposedly would not be applied to objecting churches themselves but would be effectively passed along by the insurance companies who were forced to pick up the tab for the unconscionable inclusions.  However, this so called contraception compromise did not cover religiously affiliated groups, like religious orders, parochial schools etc...  Moreover many of these organizations self-insure, so it still passed along these contraception costs for them.  Furthermore,  the same day that President Obama gave the public remarks about the contraception compromise, the Federal Register published the final rule for the Qualified Health Plan mandate with language that was unchanged from August 11, 2011.  Mr. Obama’s contraception compromise did allow religious organizations to delay implementation for one year, or as Cardinal Dolan joked that: "We were given an extra year to change our morals."

Pope Francis
While some may dismiss the contraception controversy as it seems like a Catholic thing, those who care about religious liberty need to delve deeper.  These regulations are defining what qualifies as a church in a narrow and strangling manner To receive First Amendment protections, the Obama Administration believes that an entity serve only who hold the same creed and serve only those professing the same faith.  Aside from the absurdness of having a government bureaucrat defining what “Church” is, this understanding of freedom of worship misses the point.  As Baltimore Archbishop William Lori points out : "Religious freedom protects more than the freedom to worship on Sunday; it also  protects our ability to live out our faith the other six days of the week."  Pope Francis also extolled: “We are not called to be part-time Christians...[W]e’re called to live our faith at every moment of every day.”

Religiously affiliated adoption agencies in three states and DC- the District of Calamity (sic)  have been forced out of business because their organizations will not work with same-sex couples. Catholic charitable organizations have been criticized for withdrawing from immigrant programs which endorse Gay Marriage.   Religious hospitals who maintain their ethical values will either need to serve their own flock or close down if they do not accede to the abortion requirements of Obamacare.

But it is not just faithful Catholics who are under assault for upholding their faith in America.  The Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School had to go to the United States Supreme Court to receive approbation to fire a called minister.  Despite the 9-0 ruling from the nation’s high court in January 2012, the Obama Administration foisted the contraception clause on America the next week.

The assault on religious liberty is being waged by more than the Obama Administration.  New York City instituted a new policy which prevented the Bronx Household of Faith and other small religious groups from renting space in public schools on weekends even though other non-religious groups could do so. Christian groups on college campuses are being denied recognition (and funding) when they require their leaders to be Christians and strive to live a chaste life as being discriminatory.

Great Maryland Seal
Rhode Island 1st Gov. Seal

The Puritans were Englishmen who were self-exiled to Holland at the beginning of the Seventeenth Century so that they could have religious liberty.  They decided to come to America so that they could raise their children as Englishmen who could have religious liberty in the New World. Roger Williams was a theologian forced out of the Massachusetts Bay Colony who founded what became “Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” in 1636 which separated church authority from religious authority.  Maryland was settled by Cæcilius Calvert, the 2nd Lord Baltimore and others as a refuge for English Catholics.  The Maryland Religious Tolerance Act of 1649 was  first law ever to guarantee the right to worship regardless of denomination.

Secular society has been championing a concept that America was founded on a separation of church and state and that religion was ancillary to education of the times.  While it is true that there is not a state religion, history shows the profound motivation of our founders to pursue religious liberty.   The Fortnight for Freedom should remind us of our proud history of religious liberty and point out how state incursions are strangling this fundamental freedom.  Part of this education about religious liberty should include how sweeping state regulation of secular values will end vital social services in adoption, immigration, adoption, feeding the destitute and health care by religious groups which are serious about their core beliefs.

Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty

O God, our Creator:
from your provident hand we have received
our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You have called us as your people and given us
the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God,
and your Son, Jesus Christ.

Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.

We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.

Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be "one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Pelosi Makes a Mockery of the Magisterium on Abortion

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA 12th)

In the wake of the capital convictions of notorious Philadelphia late term abortionist Kermit Gosnell, House Minority Leader Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA 12th) was asked a hard moral question.  A journalist who was not content to just do public relations for the former Speaker asked her what was the moral difference between the abortions that Dr. Kermit Gosnell could legally do at 23 weeks and an medical abortion performed at 28 weeks or even a live birth.

House Democrat Leader Pelosi refused to directly answer the question.  First, she snarkily noted that the journalist savored asking the hard question.  She later refused to answer the inquiry as the question had an agenda.  But in the alluvia of excuses in between, Nancy Pelosi managed to use her Catholic faith as a shield to defend why she supports what she euphemistically refers to a “woman’s right to make decisions about her reproductive health.”   

Nancy Pelosi contends that she would not answer the question since “[A]s a practicing and respectful Catholic, this is sacred ground to me when we talk about this. I don't think it should have anything to do with politics." 

Father Frank Pavone published an open letter to Ms. Pelosi on behalf of the Priests for Life noting that her June 13th answer makes a mockery of the Catholic faith and is reprehensible.  Pavone elaborated: 

Fr. Frank Pavone, Priests for Life

You speak here of Catholic faith as if it is supposed to hide us from reality instead of lead us to face reality, as if it is supposed to confuse basic moral truths instead of clarify them, and as if it is supposed to help us escape the hard moral questions of life rather than help us confront them.
Whatever Catholic faith you claim to respect and practice, it is not the faith that the Catholic Church teaches. And I speak for countless Catholics when I say that it's time for you to stop speaking as if it were.
Abortion is not sacred ground; it is sacrilegious ground. To imagine God giving the slightest approval to an act that dismembers a child he created is offensive to both faith and reason.

Last year, when Rep. Pelosi pontificated that the entire Catholic Church was not against the HHS Mandate, just 43 Catholic organizations, and that these Bishops had not spoken ex cathedra, there were calls for Pelosi to be excommunicated from the Catholic Church. Ex-communication is not a punishment per se, but is a protection of a person’s immortal soul from unworthily receiving the Body and Blood of Christ and the unity of faith.

But as Pelosi has persisted in invoking the Catholic thing to justify policy positions on abortions which are so counter to the Magesterium that is creates scandal among the faithful, it might be time for San Francisco Archbishop  Salvatore Cordileone to invoke Canon 915, which denies the Eucharist to someone who obstinantly persists in grave sin.  

If Pelosi was a person of good character, she would either align her abortion positions with the Church when executing her office or follow the Priests for Life’s suggestion to be honest enough to renounce her Catholicism.    What is more likely to occur is emulating the example of Episcopalian Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts-Schori who keeps the pageantry of high church while eviscerating the underlying ideals by applying self-serving human secularist faith.

Stephen Colbert Eulogizes His Mother

Last week, Stephen Colbert lost his 92 year old mother. Before returning to his satirical schtick, he offered an amazing brief eulogy for the woman who made him the man who he is today. 

Colbert put his finger on an important lesson from his mother's life was that dedication to family and faith allowed her to love life without bitterness despite tragedies which may beset us. 

 Late in Mrs. Colbert's life, she sometimes needed prompting to keep her mentally grounded. One question which was always easy to answer was her favorite prayer, which was a children's prayer in German which she taught several of her eleven children while living in Munich in the late 1940s.  That memory certainly seems to summarize Lorna Colbert's raison d'etre as well as giving a glimpse of heaven.

Jesukindlein kom zu mir,mach ein fromes Kind aus mir.Mein Herzerl ist klein,kann niemand hinein,als du, mein liebes Jerulein. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Breakdance Messiah?

A new 30' mural in Bristol, England was recently unveiled.  The piece was painted by London street artist Cosmo Sarsen after winning a competition. 

A spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Clifton praised the mural of the Breakdancing Jesus as artwork that will get people talking about religion and would appeal to youths and the multi-ethnic populous. 

Clifton Youth Ministry coordinator David Wheat observed: “It helps to bring Christ out of our multi-ethnic Church and into the lives of religious and non-religious people, as Pope Francis urges us to do.”

Artwork need not be photo realism and the imagery can be evocative to deeper meaning.  In the early Catholic Church, the Greek tradition was to depict Jesus as being a youthful shepherd, which touched upon his Davidic lineage as well as being the Good Shepherd.  Salvador Dali painted some challenging surreal spiritual pieces, like the Ascension of Christ (1950), in which the Messiah is heaven bound in a prone position with his soiled feet prominent to the viewer.  Other modern depictions of Biblical themes are more troubling than a Breakdancing Jesus, like Henning vonGlerken's  rendering of the Last Supper that is displayed in the Cathedral Museum in Würburg, Germany.

It would be interesting to learn what message Cosmo Sarsen intended to give in his Breakdance Jesus mural.  Was it simply a contemporary outreach to youths with an anachronistic image of the Son of God dancing or was there something more?  

While people taking about religion in this age of aggressive atheism should be welcomed, I shudder to think that the message from "What Would Jesus Do?" and hip-hop salvific history is "So You Think You Can Dance?".