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  • The Slide Toward State Control

    by Donald DeMarco

    meeting-with-pope-benedict-xvi-at-the-vatican-on-july-10-2009

    During his Apostolic Visit to the United States, on April 16, 2008, which was also his birthday, Pope Benedict XVI was welcomed to the White House by President George W. Bush.  The Pope expressed the hope that his visit would be a source of renewal to the Church in the United States. Early in his remarks, he noted the important role that religion has played in shaping American history:  “From the dawn of the Republic, America’s quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator.” Later in his address, he underscored that positive relationship that can exist between Church and State:  “The Church, for her part, wishes to contribute to building a world ever more worthy of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God” (cf. Genesis 1:26-27).

    Less than five years later, under the presidency of Barack Obama, Benedict’s words of hope are undergoing a severe test. In the last month of the Holy Father’s pontificate, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, expressed an altogether different outlook:  “There remains the possibility that ministries may yet be forced to fund and facilitate … morally illicit activities.  In obedience to our Judeo-Christian heritage, we have consistently taught our people to live their lives during the week to reflect the same beliefs that they proclaim on the Sabbath.  We cannot now abandon them to be forced to violate their morally well-informed consciences.”

    President Obama, has made his disregard for the consciences of Christians as well as his disregard for religious freedoms, sufficiently clear.  His stance on these issues has provoked a blizzard of lawsuits.  The President does not mind Christians worshipping on Sundays, but he strenuously objects to them practicing their religion during the rest of the week.  He wants to separate worship from practice, thereby rendering nugatory, the contribution of religion to civil society.

    One of the merits of the separation of Church and State is to insure that the State does not take over the Church. Over the past decades, however, Christians have been surrendering to Caesar, piece by piece, what belongs to Christ.  As a direct result, religion has become more and more a private matter and less and less societal.  The logical end of this series of surrenders is a totalitarian State.  T. S. Eliot warned against this phenomenon in his 1965 book, The Aims of Education:  “The assertion that a man’s religion is his private affair, that from the point of view of society it is irrelevant, may turn out in the end to lead to a situation very favorable in the establishment of a religion, or a substitute for religion, by the State.”

    The widespread acceptance of divorce, co-habitation, contraception, abortion, pornography, indecent language, embryo research, an array of reproductive technologies, and same-sex marriage, together with a growing hostility toward pro-life advocates and those who support traditional marriage, has widened the gulf between the secular world and people of religion.  This separation has set the stage for a culture war between the Culture of Death and the Culture of Life.

    At the close of Pope Benedict’s pontificate, the hopes that he expressed during his visit to America have been contradicted by an increasingly intolerant secular world.  What will Pope Francis say to Americans when it is his time to visit the United States?  It will have a different ring than the kind message that Pope Benedict XVI presented in 2008.  It may have more in common with the address that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn gave in 1983 when he received the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.  On that occasion, he lamented the fact that “men have forgotten God,” and have replaced Him with vanities:  “The concepts of good and evil have been ridiculed … they have been replaced by political or class considerations of short-lived value.  It has become embarrassing to appeal to eternal concepts, embarrassing to state that evil makes its home in the individual heart before it enters a political system.” Today it is increasingly common for “liberals” to call those who defend intra-uterine life as “fanatics,” those who defend marriage as “bigots,” and those who oppose same-sex “marriage” as “homophobes.”

    Politics cannot correct sins of the heart.  Christianity is realistic in that it recognizes the fundamental problem of sin. Moreover, it has a remedy in the form of forgiveness and offers the light and the grace for rehabilitation. By excluding religion, the root problem of sin remains unattended and left to fester. As a result, God and His Wisdom are excluded from politics.  But this exclusion leads to a series of additional exclusion, as we are currently witnessing on the plane of everyday life:  morality from life, marriage from sex, the family, from marriage, and reality from thinking. We are becoming ever more relativistic and ever less realistic. As Jorge Cardinal Medina Estévan of Chile has said, “This sort of division is leading us to what could be called a condition of moral schizophrenia with fatal consequences for society.”

    Archbishop Charles Chaput, toward the end of his important book, Render Unto Caesar, makes the following comment:  “The world would be very different today if Catholics had ‘stayed out of politics’ in Poland under the Communists, or the Philippines under Marcos, or Malawi under Banda.  Would we really be better off if those regimes had endured because Catholics decided that good manners prevented them from speaking up?”  Timidity, deference, non-involvement, and faithlessness do not comprise what this archbishop regards as the cardinal virtues.  In answering the question he posits, Archbishop Chaput urges American Catholics to work together to overcome the facile acceptance of the evils that mar the contemporary American landscape:  “violence, greed, vulgarity, abortion, and rejection of children.”

    The survival of America depends on the survival of religion, which embraces the very values that are its legacy, its leaven, and its lifeblood.

    The views expressed by the authors and editorial staff are not necessarily the views of
    Sophia Institute, Holy Spirit College, or the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts.

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    • tom

      Nancy Pelosi, who waltzed to the communion rail in St. Peter’s Basilica, with Joe what’s His Name, mocks the Church and it’s “conscience thing”. Our bishops do…well…er…nothing. How ill-informed is the collective conscience of our bishops? They seem lost, confused and dizzy…oh sooo dizzzzy.

    • John O’Neill

      With Dolan in charge the future of the American Catholic Church is in doubt. Dolan is a product of the urban Irish American ethos which believes that we should render to Caesar the things that are God’s.

      • tom

        With his support of the Immigration Bill, he’s letting 40,000,000 illegals and their families come here to steal our jobs and depend on our tax dollars. He’s forgotten, “Thou Shalt Not Steal”, too. Now, he calls stealing a form of ‘justice”…sounds Marxist to me!

    • Alecto

      And yet, when faithful Christians bombarded during the week by every evil, every misconception, every falsehood look to Sunday as a refuge, a bulwark against the onslaught, what have they heard?

      The appeals for money never end, and every effort made to accommodate Hispanics with every kind of outreach to them, to gays, to the divorced, to this group or that group. The appeals to live a Catholic life? I have yet to hear a homily in the past 6 years that explicitly condemns abortion, contraception, cohabitation, any of these. I long ago gave up on the clergy. It seems that many are there simply because of a career choice made long ago. I no longer care what they say or think. They’re cowards, buffoons, opportunists.

      • tom

        No one will confuse them with Christ. At least most of them won’t have to reduce their hours below 30 to avoid Obamacare penalties. I think 20 hrs./wk. is their limit. It’s called “CAtholic Inaction”.

    • jaymis

      Cardinal Dolan is precisely the wrong bishop to be in charge of the USCCB which has absolutely zero, nada, zip official authority, standing or power in the Church. The fact that the US Bishops have abdicated their individual responsibility as shepherds of their diocese in favor of USCCB as a mouthpiece doesn’t give them a pass. The fact is the Bishops (as a group) are essentially pliable politicians with their own lobby organization in DC. Rarely are the words “moral courage” and “politician” associated with one another in the secular world. It’s no different in the religious world either. The opposition knows it as they continue to play, pave and roll over the hapless “Bishops” issuing USCCB/Dolan(s) directives that no one reads (except maybe in the diocesan offices). When VP Biden can be allowed to receive communion on Palm Sunday at St Pat’s AND Dolan gives him a shout out as well. Case closed. So much for all his happy, clappy, kumbaya talk. Actions still speak louder than words…even for a Cardinal Prince of the Church. Persecutions directly ahead due to lack of faith, belief and leadership as demonstrated by the surrender of the Bishops.

      • Micha_Elyi

        After the Stupak Amendment scam our bishops should have learned a lesson

        Any bishop who has not insisted that Catholic charities, schools, universities, and hospitals draw up plans for shutting down once the Obamanation is imposed has failed to learn the lesson.

        • tom

          The Church needs to cater to its flock, not Baptists, AME, atheist AIUDS patients etc. If it doesn’t, it’ll lose the whole flock…which it appears incapable of shepherding, anyway. “Rescue Me” should be the theme song of the Bishops’ Conference and Yak Yak Klub. These are men of startling inaction.

        • jaymis

          To the contrary. They have learned the lesson. They are just in denial and have been for decades. Expect them to continue doing what they have done so well. Namely, conform and accommodate evil in the name of “engagement” or “social justice” or “Spirit of V2″ or some other such nonsense. Anything except the attitude of “Church Militant”. The US Bishops (as a group) remind me of an Olympic Gold Medal Champion who has long since retired, let himself go to pot for decades, continues to delude himself that he remains in great condition without exercise or practice, and then drops dead when required to actually perform. Practice does make perfect if one wants to be effective when required to take action.

    • HigherCalling

      Fanatics, bigots, homophobes… . Name-calling: the last refuge for an argument that cannot withstand intellectual or philosophical scrutiny. It is preceded by the imperative tactic of redefining terms, because, of course, everything is relative to the urges and desires of the individual and his unprincipled thoughts.

      Strong arguments have been made that the separation of Church and State is intended to relegate religion to a private affair allowing for only private worship. That separation may protect religion from the State (for a time), but in so doing, religion is necessarily subjugated to the power of the State. The secular State has trumped the influence of religion in the public square from the get-go — by design (as the argument goes), producing a veritable social atheism. In a pluralistic society with a seemingly infinite number of largely diluted religions (and just what defines “religion” in the eyes of the State?), how can “religion” really influence or stop the relentless advance of secularism? It seems that Catholics, who see their “religious liberty” as a legitimate opportunity for Catholic principles to have real influence in the public square, are manufacturing an idea of America that never was. The all-powerful State, backed by the force of Godless Constitutional law, lets the masses cling to their silly opiates, while the ruling elite, secular atheists move the culture of death ever “forward” to tyranny.

      • tom

        Some good points, to be sure. Yet, there was a basic secular belief from 1776 to 1973. Then, the state went heathen. Our only response is to do less for the state in terms of military service, objections to its unjust wars, taxation injustice, and separation from their pagan gods. Quitting the Democratic Party’s a good start.

        • tedseeber

          I’d say 1962. That was the year they stopped teaching the kids to pray daily “For ourselves, our parents, our teachers and our country”.

          • Micha_Elyi

            Whenever it was, if one is still voting for bigger government one is voting to hand over ones soul.

            • tom

              Well said. The Democrats all want weak people and a strong state. In contrast Republicans and Libertarians want strong individuals and a weak central government. When the Church’s 30,000,000 illegals vote for the strong state to redistribute our wealth, the bishops will complain. Do any of them actually have a brain that they can’t see this train coming to burn up their tracts?

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    • http://www.facebook.com/mike.pekarek.5 Mike Pekarek

      It needs reminding that the USA is not Catholic. It is not even Christian: “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion” (Treaty of Tripoli, negotiated under Washington, unanimously ratified by the Senate, signed into law by John Adams – doesn’t get much more Foundational than that). Catholics have as much right as any to speak their mind and try to convince using rational debate, but they have no right to dictate or demand. This is a free nation, where the Rights we have are “of the people, by the people”. No claimed dominion by any sect’s god should or can have any legal sway here. Remember, for a long time the Vatican actively fought the spread of democratic rule, favoring king and dictator over democracy right into the 20th Century (see: Spain). The Church doesn’t have a good track record on democratic freedoms.

    • Guest

      It needs reminding that the USA is not Catholic. It is not even Christian: “As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion” (Treaty of Tripoli, negotiated under Washington, unanimously ratified by the Senate, signed into law by John Adams – doesn’t get much more Foundational than that). Catholics have as much right as any to speak their mind and try to convince using rational debate, but they have no right to dictate or demand. This is a free nation, where the Rights we have are “of the people, by the people”. No claimed dominion by any sect’s god should or can have any legal sway here. Remember, for a long time the Vatican actively fought the spread of democratic rule, favoring king and dictator over democracy right into the 20th Century (see: Spain). The Church doesn’t have a good track record on democratic freedoms.