U.S.C.C. Watch: Denver’s Gain

No person has the right to impose his or her values on another person, proclaimed an op-ed in the Springfield News-Leader, the daily paper of a middle-sized Missouri town.

If you don’t like what you see on TV, turn it off or change the channel. However, don’t tell me that I have no right to view the TV, the writer continued, reacting to protests about a broadcast featuring a lesbian wedding in the prime-time sitcom Friends. “The issue is about adults growing up and learning how to live in a multicultural, multi-mores, multireligious, multi-everything world and appreciating (tolerating) others opinions without condemning (censoring) them. . . . Try a little educational openness.”

What is remarkable about such tiresomely wrong-headed cant appearing in a secular daily? Only that the author is a Catholic priest who is also the editor of the newspaper of the Diocese of Springfield–Cape Girardeau.

We have become so inured to this kind of “moral teaching” coming from both Church and state leaders that we hardly even wince when we encounter it—sort of like kids who expect to be beat up by the playground bully. We’re not exactly surprised, but it still hurts. So it is particularly heartening to hear a leader take a firm and public stand against moral aberrations, like homosexual marriages, as Archbishop Francis Stafford did in his pastoral letter, “April is the Cruelest Month—Springtime Reflections on Three Decisions Regarding Human Life and Dignity.”

The Denver archbishop commented on three decisions, the veto by President Clinton of a partial-birth abortion ban; the invalidation of a Washington state law against assisted suicide by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; and the veto of legislation by Colorado governor Roy Romer that would have prohibited same-sex marriages in that state.

Addressing the issue of assisted suicide in the ninth Circuit decision, Archbishop Stafford noted that the appeals court invoked previous abortion decisions, and argued that since a state’s authority “may vary with the progression of the pregnancy,” the state’s interest in protecting people from physician-assisted suicide varies at different points along the lifecycle as a person’s physical or mental condition deteriorates. “One doesn’t need much imagination to see that the choice to die is near to being coerced. Nowhere is the cruel, blind power of money more evident,” he said.

About homosexual “marriages,” the archbishop observed that:

[W]ithout even a hint of the historic import of his veto, the governor undermined by legal fiat what had been the foundation of civilization for the past 1,500 years. Until the present moment, people have read reality through its nuptial/marital/ covenantal meaning. From the very beginning, the premier sign of God has been the nuptial union of man and woman.

As archbishop of Denver, I wish to emphasize again—as I have said repeatedly in the past—that the acceptance and promotion of homosexual activity as a valid moral option are a direct assault on the ancient moral vision which, for more than 15 centuries, has established both the private and public responsibilities indispensable for the achievement of the free order of society. The governor’s veto is a repudiation of the basic foundation of the state and society as we have known them.

Clearly the archbishop is calling attention to these (and related) events which evidence the culture of death that enshrouds our society.

The dignity of human life is being eclipsed for everyone. The marriage covenant is no longer how our civil and media pace-setters interpret family, civilization and religious faith. The modern world is being drained of authentic life. The absence of objective truth in the exercise of personal freedom opens the door to the manipulative abuse of power and totalitarianism. Against our will, a new kind of well-heeled, spin-controlled barbarism is being insinuated into daily life, and into the fabric of our families. . . . The direction of the modern state is against the dignity of human life.

He warns that these events are signs of a dramatic confrontation between the Catholic Church and governing civil authorities, and he urges Christians to prepare for the impending conflict.

As we prepare to celebrate the 220th anniversary of this country “conceived in liberty” and founded on the principle that certain human rights are “self-evident”—the most fundamental of which is the right to life—we must face the sobering fact that we can no longer afford to continue on our destructive path tolerant of moral evil. Perhaps a spiritual revolution will be required to convince us that being wrong is wrong.

  • Helen Hull Hitchcock

    Helen Hull Hitchcock is founding director of Women for Faith & Family and editor of its quarterly journal, Voices. She is also editor of the Adoremus Bulletin, a monthly publication of Adoremus - Society for the Renewal of the Sacred Liturgy, of which she is a co-founder. She is married to James Hitchcock, professor of history at St. Louis University. The Hitchcocks have four daughters and six grandchildren, and live in St. Louis.

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