Tuesday, May 24, 2016

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Catholic Education Daily


Archbold: Commonweal's "But"

The editors of Commonweal want you to know that they're all for religious liberty but (and this is a big "but") they believe the bishops are behaving in too partisan a manner and are actually hurting the struggle for religious liberty. The editors today scolded the bishops for what they term "the partisan" nature of the bishops' statement, Our First, Most Cherished Liberty, which calls on Catholics to engage in the struggle for religious liberty. Oddly, while chastising the bishops, the editors can't bring themselves to admit that religious liberty is actually under attack from the Obama administration. They refer to the threat as "what the bishops characterize as unprecedented threats to religious freedom" or "the supposed efforts of government to curtail the free exercise of religion." Supposed? What's "supposed" about forcing Catholic institutions to provide abortifacients that kill little humans -- you know, the ones that some characterize as babies? The greatest threats acknowledged by the editors are vague "influential currents of opinion today that advocate restricting the presence of religion in public life." Some call it "influential currents of opinion," while others call it "the President of the United States." The editors write:
There should be considerable room for government to cooperate with religious groups as with other non-governmental bodies in serving the common good. Unfortunately, the argument made by the bishops as well as their proposed tactics for public action undermine their case. Worse, the tenor of the bishops’ statement runs the risk of making this into a partisan issue during a presidential election in which the leaders of one party have made outlandish claims about a “war on religion” or a “war against the Catholic Church.”
They worry that the fight for religious liberty seems partisan, but whose fault is that? It’s one party that’s attacking religious liberty right now. Should the bishops also attack the political party that’s defending religious liberty? Isn’t that a bit like shooting the guy in the foxhole with you, just so the enemy thinks you’re being fair? Then the editors, fresh from their call to moderate the rhetoric, accuse the bishops of "exaggerating." That's "lying" to you and me.
The USCCB’s statement vastly exaggerates the extent to which American freedoms of all sorts and of religious freedom in particular are threatened. Church-state relations are complicated, requiring the careful weighing of competing moral claims. The USCCB’s statement fails to acknowledge that fact.
Funny how all those complicated competing moral claims survived those 200-plus years before the Obama administration, huh? Then, the editors, likely realizing that their arguments aren't very strong, attempt to distract by accusing the bishops of ignoring other pressing problems.
Worse, strangely absent from the list of examples provided by the bishops is the best-documented case of growing hostility to religious presence in the United States: hostility to Islam. Unless the bishops correct that oversight, their statement will only feed the impression that this “campaign” for religious freedom has been politically tailored. This silence is especially striking in view of the parallels between anti-Muslim sentiment today and the prejudice encountered by Catholic immigrants in the nineteenth century.
This is a distraction. It's like the editors just yelled, "Look over here! It's a shiny Muslim thing." Here's the issue. The bishops are fighting for religious liberty rights for all, not just Catholics. That's the thing about human rights. They're for all humans. You don't actually have to single out each person or religion. And are the bishops really not allowed to speak about other issues without bringing up protecting Muslims? It seems to me that in this country right now, Muslims have more legal protections than polar bears, while it is open season on Catholics -- with some of the hunters among the ranks of Commonweal. Finally, the editors lament that the bishops' partisanship is actually hurting the cause of religious liberty. Yes, the bishops should just stand down and leave defending religious liberty up to the editors of Commonweal, the "supposed" magazine which some "characterize" as a Catholic publication. You see, it turns out that Commonweal doesn't actually have a problem with authority. It's just been the wrong authority all these years.

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