Francis Cardinal George, in his most recent column in Catholic New World, reflects on the nature of religious freedom in the United States, and masterfully connects a number of important, related points in doing so:
In this country, we do not fear being killed for our faith. What, then, are we afraid of? We are afraid that the institutions that perform the works of mercy that have been integral to the church’s mission for centuries will be forced to become, effectively, government institutions, given permission to exist only if they do not act as Catholic. At stake are Catholic hospitals, Catholic universities and Catholic social services, precisely as Catholic. At stake also is a society that once permitted many different voices and faiths to contribute to the common good without compromising their collective conscience.
The issue has clustered around the HHS mandate that insists that any institution serving the public must treat women’s fertility as an enemy to be suppressed for the sake of women’s freedom. In fact, the government has made many exceptions to this rule, but has steadfastly refused to exempt Catholic institutions. The issue is therefore in the courts.
The imposition of a definition of marriage that destroys the natural meaning of marital union is becoming another test case for religious liberty. The law now holds that men and women are interchangeable in marriage, as if children did not need both a mother and a father to be born and raised with some security. These are laws that mark societies in decline, demographically as well as morally.
What has happened to our vaunted American liberties? Except for property rights, they are all being traded off in favor of freedom of sexual expression. That “freedom” has become the trump card in almost every social dispute. While the public conversation plays the game of liberal versus conservative, there is really only one issue: freedom versus tyranny, a tyranny masquerading as compassion and suppressing legally differences that seem to threaten abstract “equality.”
Americans are concerned about the economy, and rightly so. We are concerned with the loss of our place in the world, and rightly so. We should also be concerned that we are on the wrong side of what nature teaches us and therefore, at least over the long run, headed for historical failure as a society.
Read the entire column at www.CatholicNewWorld.com.
The reference to being on the “wrong side of what nature teaches us” is a pointed rebuttal to the inane—but maddeningly common—claim that those who stand up for marriage and family are “on the wrong side of history.” Especially since, as Cardinal George notes, being on the wrong side of what nature teaches us leads to historical failure. History is not a sort of Hegelian progression toward fulfillment in this world, but consists of the free decisions and choices of men and women, here and now. It brings to mind the Catechism‘s statement, “The Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatalogical judgment” (par. 676). That statement is usually (and rightly) understood in political terms, but it is more than just political, for trying to find final fulfillment and completion in this world is ultimately bound up with a deeply false understanding of who and what man is, and for what (and Who) he is created.
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