Distinctly Catholic

Berg on Religious Liberty


Thomas Berg is one of the most balanced writers on legal issues, and his reply to an editorial regarding a North Dakota religious freedom statute is well worth reading. He debunks authoritatively the idea that religious liberty an issue only conservatives should care about. Alas, it is a sad day for liberalism when liberalism think defending the First Amendment is beneath them.

Muslims & Religious Liberty


I mentioned yesterday the very disturbing fact that the Catholic Governor of Kansas, Sam Brownback, signed an “anti-sharia” bill into law last week. I can scarcely make the case too strongly: The credibility of the USCCB on the issue of religious liberty is contingent on many things, but none more important than their willingness to loudly and repeatedly speak up on behalf of the religious liberty of our Muslim fellow citizens.

Sadly, the Kansas Catholic Conference has been AWOL, at least publicly, in the effort to beat back these outrageous laws. If you go to their website, there are lots of items pertaining to the HHS mandate. There is a rally planned at the state capitol. There is praise for religious liberty and conscience protection laws the state legislature passed which, strangely, only look at the issue through the lens of the HHS mandates which seems to put the lens behind the camera rather than the other way round. The USCCB has also neglected to mention the anti-sharia laws in its otherwise ample comments, suggestions and prayers for the Fortnight for Freedom.

NYTimes Wrong Again


Every time I go to the New York Times editorial page, I feel like Charlie Brown running towards the football, held by Lucy, hoping for a connection. And, like Mr. Brown, every time, I come away feeling pained by the effort.

Yesterday's Times' editorial regarding the lawsuits filed last week by a host of Catholic institutions against the HHS mandate was a new low even by the Times' low standards. It was not just wrong, it was dumb.

For example, they write: "But the First Amendment is not a license for religious entities to impose their dogma on society through the law." Huh? Which side in this fight is defending a "mandate" and in "impos[ing] their dogma on society through the law"? It is the government, not the Church, that has imposed the mandate here. The Church is looking for an exemption. Even the obvious meanings of the words should have tipped off the Times' editors.

Another Culture Warrior?


I do not want to judge the appointment of Bishop Samuel Aquila based on a single, unfortunate statement he made in the past. Nonetheless, regular readers may recall this post of mine when Bishop Aquila rolled out the Nazi analogy.

I was especially pleased to note then, as I note now, that while I do not think the bishops are engaged in a war against Obama, comments like Aquila's make it hard not to believe that the White House thinks negotiating with people who compare the president's actions to nazis and communists are not people with whom it is worthwhile to negotiate. Yes, the White House has made a mess of the HHS mandate and nothing anyone else has said excuses that mess.

Let's hope the cool mountain air of Colorado will clear the bishop's mind and memory and he will be able to find more proximate analogies to make his points. And it is time for the Congregation for Bishops to think about the long-term effects on the U.S. Church of routinely promoting culture warrior bishops to prominent sees.

Is religious liberty being hijacked?


The U.S. bishops are facing some choices in the weeks ahead. In June, their annual summer meeting may not be the most well attended event, in part because many bishops absent themselves from the summer meeting in any event and this year because the meeting coincides with the International Eucharistic Congress in Ireland. But, two issues must be faced: First, in the subsequent “Fortnight for Freedom,” scheduled for the end of June, in their efforts to rescind the mandate, will they focus on the rights of Catholic institutions to be free from government interference or will they over-reach and continue to claim a conscience right for individual, non-ecclesiastical and, in some instances, for-profit employers. Second, will the bishops be focusing on the issue of religious liberty in all its variety or exclusively on the HHS mandate.

Garnett Responds to MSW


Rick Garnett has posted a response to my writings this week on the subject of religious liberty at the great blogsite "Mirror of Justice." I will offer a more thoughtful reply subsequently but will say this at the outset: Garnett and I probably agree on about 90% but the other ten percent is very important. I will also say that it is an honor to be engaged in disagreement with someone like garnett who is smart even when he is wrong and respectful even in disagreement.

Catholic (Un)Cultured


Dr. Jeff Mirus, writing at CatholicCulture.org, castigates Bishop Stephen Blaire for be willing to secure the Church's freedom "at the expense" of the conscience rights of individuals. The key point of his argument is this: "it is not enough that the institutional Church should be exempt from immoral insurance requirements. Nobody should be forced to financially support immoral practices."

Certainly, I am sure Mirus would allow that the Church has a First Amendment claim that an individual does not: The text of the First Amendment guarantees the freedom of religion, religion is a word derived from the Latin meaning "to bind," and it certainly means to us Catholics, and it certainly meant to most of the Founders, a binding not only to the moral law and its Author but to each other in some sort of religious community.


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In This Issue

April 21-May 4, 2017