In a stirring essay on the coming tensions between the secular world and the Catholic Church, Sydney's Cardinal George Pell has outlined threats to the freedom of religion stemming from biotechnology, gay "rights" and fears of Islamic violence. The piece titled, "Prospects for Peace and Rumours of War: Religion and Democracy in the Years Ahead," is a serious reflection with Pell's characteristic use of wit.
Beginning on the hopeful note that the Church, despite the desires of certain atheist fanatics, is here to stay; the Cardinal points to trends which have already commenced which threaten a clampdown on freedom of religion.
Pell points to his own actions in advocating against cloning legislation being considered illegal by some. The concerns were dismissed after an investigation. He points out that in fighting cloning he was "not calling for the "enforcement" of Catholic beliefs, but reminding legislators to fulfill the demands of justice and the common good that follow from the inherent and equal dignity of every member of the human family." He added poignantly, "This is exactly the basis on which the church also calls on legislators to protect the poor or to oppose racial discrimination."
Thus he indicates "cloning and biotechnology generally", is one of the "fault-lines" which are "likely to give rise to tension between religion and secularist democracy in the years ahead."
The Cardinal then notes that "A large battle is likely to open up over human rights and anti-discrimination legislation," referring specifically to laws which "prohibit any discrimination against homosexuals by anyone providing "goods, facilities and services".
"This makes them practically all-encompassing, with exceptions only for a small number of narrowly defined religious activities, primarily services held in churches," says Pell. "Church adoption services were therefore confronted with the prospect of being forced to place children with homosexual couples, contrary to their beliefs."
The Cardinal explains, "At the heart of this attack on the concept of exemptions for faith-based agencies lies a false analogy drawn between alleged discrimination against homosexuals and racial discrimination."
"Opposition to same-sex marriage is therefore likened to support for laws against interracial marriage (which continued in some US states until the 1960s), and opposition to homosexual adoptions is likened to refusing to adopt children to black parents," writes Pell.
"The analogy is false because allowing blacks and whites to marry did not require changing the whole concept of marriage; and allowing black parents to adopt white children, or vice versa, did not require changing the whole concept of family, or for that matter, the whole concept of childhood," he explains.
"All the same, the race analogy has been very effective in casting the churches as persecutors."
Finally the Cardinal suggests that the threat of Islamic extremism is being used by secularists to curb religious freedom. "Fear of home-grown Islam", said the Cardinal, have led to "reading freedom of religion as a limited right to be offensive to which only a limited toleration is extended."
Read the full text of the Cardinal's essay.