Religious Freedom and the Need to Wake Up

“IRS officials have, of course, confessed that they inappropriately targeted conservative groups — especially those with ‘tea party’ or ‘patriot’ in their names — for extra scrutiny when they sought non-profit status. Allegations of abuse or harassment have since broadened to include groups conducting grassroots projects to ‘make America a better place to live,’ to promote classes about the U.S. Constitution or to raise support for Israel.

“However, it now appears the IRS also challenged some individuals and religious groups that, while defending key elements of their faith traditions, have criticized projects dear to the current White House, such as health-care reform, abortion rights and same-sex marriage.”

Terry Mattingly, director, Washington Journalism Center; weekly column, May 22

Let’s begin this week with a simple statement of fact.  America’s Catholic bishops started pressing for adequate health-care coverage for all of our nation’s people decades before the current administration took office.  In the Christian tradition, basic medical care is a matter of social justice and human dignity.  Even now, even with the financial and structural flaws that critics believe undermine the 2010 Affordable Care Act, the bishops continue to share the goal of real health-care reform and affordable medical care for all Americans.

But health care has now morphed into a religious liberty issue provoked entirely – and needlessly — by the current White House.  Despite a few small concessions under pressure, the administration refuses to withdraw or reasonably modify a Health and Human Services (HHS) contraceptive mandate that violates the moral and religious convictions of many individuals, private employers and religiously affiliated and inspired organizations.

Coupled with the White House’s refusal to uphold the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, and its astonishing disregard for the unique nature of religious freedom displayed by its arguments in a 9-0 defeat in the 2012 Hosanna-Tabor Supreme Court decision, the HHS mandate can only be understood as a form of coercion.  Access to inexpensive contraception is a problem nowhere in the United States.  The mandate is thus an ideological statement; the imposition of a preferential option for infertility.  And if millions of Americans disagree with it on principle – too bad.

The fraud at the heart of our nation’s “reproductive rights” vocabulary runs very deep and very high.  In his April 26 remarks to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the president never once used the word “abortion,” despite the ongoing Kermit Gosnell trial in Philadelphia and despite Planned Parenthood’s massive role in the abortion industry.

Likewise, as Anthony Esolen recently noted so well, NARAL Pro-Choice America’s public statement on the conviction of abortionist Gosnell was a masterpiece of corrupt and misleading language.  Gosnell was found guilty of murdering three infants, but no such mention was made anywhere in the NARAL Pro-Choice America statement.

clocknbonesNone of this is finally surprising. Christians concerned for the rights of unborn children, as well as for their mothers, have dealt with bias in the media and dishonesty from the nation’s abortion syndicate for 40 years.  But there’s a special lesson in our current situation.  Anyone who thinks that our country’s neuralgic sexuality issues can somehow be worked out respectfully in the public square in the years ahead, without a parallel and vigorous defense of religious freedom, had better think again.

As Mollie HemingwayStephen Krason and Wayne Laugesen have all pointed out, the current IRS scandal – involving IRS targeting of “conservative” organizations – also has a religious dimension.  Selective IRS pressure on religious individuals and organizations has drawn very little media attention.  Nor should we expect any, any time soon, for reasons Hemingway outlines for the Intercollegiate Review. But the latest IRS ugliness is a hint of the treatment disfavored religious groups may face in the future, if we sleep through the national discussion of religious liberty now.

The day when Americans could take the Founders’ understanding of religious freedom as a given is over.  We need to wake up.


American Catholics are called to observe a second annual “Fortnight for Freedom” this June 21-July 4.  For more information, see the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput


Charles Joseph Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. is the ninth and current Archbishop of Philadelphia, serving since his installation on September 8, 2011

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  • Dust in the Wind

    What is done is done. I have said for many years that eventually the church will lose its tax exempt status. I blame the bishops and the debacle known as Vatican II. Our blessed church became Lax in a culture rampant with progressive relativism. Persecution is to be expected….maybe even desired to prove our love for God. The Church no longer is relevant in a culture that is satiated with so many creature comforts. Only now are some of the bishops beginning to realize what they have done. When you offer the world sacrificial love compared to self indulgent sentimental crap…well it’s a lot like junk food. Most people will choose the junk food.

    I love my church and my faith…but how we bridge the gap between fantasy and reality, between the surreal and mystery, between selfish and selfless love will not be easy. But maybe, just maybe this will be the finest hour of the church, and it’s time to shine brightest. Not in the glory known to man, but glory known to God in an unending oblation of love from those of us blessed enough to long for and dwell in the sacred body of Christ. In this Glory we the faithfull have to prepare to go all the way to the cross and past the very gates of hell once again, and maybe for the last time.

    Come Holy Spirit enkindle in your faithful the FIRE of your Love.

  • Gus, a proud Catholic

    Dust in the Wind misses the point. Even though many American Catholics follow the miscues of culture rather than the precepts of God and of the Church, the U.S. Constitution applies to all religions and the right to practice those religions. Despite the failings of some religious organizations, on the whole, they advocate that which is good for the whole of society, and thus government. When government interferes with religious freedom, it attacks the firmness of the country’s foundation.
    Thank you, Archbishop Chaput.

  • kirk

    Dust- If you had deleted your first paragraph your post would have pretty good. But of course, you first had to establish blame. “…blame the bishops and the debacle known as Vatican II….” The changes brought about by Vatican II invigorated a higher level of spirituality within the Church, the Bishops carry out the intent of the “Teaching Authority”, and the TA gets it’s que from the Pope, who receives prompting from the Holy Spirit. [Keep in mind, Pope John XXIII is credited with inspiration for VII, and he was a very holy man.]
    So when you pray, “Come Holy Spirit…” be one of the faithful who is fired by selfless love with understanding, rather than sitting in your chair commiserating that things are not as they used to be. I say this, not to criticize you, but to suggest you consider the positive, rather than the negative. God Bless!

  • Lee

    Thank you for your entry for our minds to absorb. The Church is only as safe as the people are present. Where are the Catholics who are called to be members of the Church? We cannot frown upon our priest, bishops,etc. if we are not willing to participate as God fearing Christians ourselves.We have the duty to start doing what needs done as Christian brothers and sisters, not waiting for others to tell us how. We know, and it is time to come together as God’s children to step up and defend the Church. I am tired of the disrespect given to me, a Christian, while I am told that I have to be tolerant of all un-Godly things.

  • Perhaps the first mistake was expecting the government to perform corporal works of mercy. Those are rightly the duty the job of the Church, and I don’t mean just the institutional church, but the entire Body of Christ.The more it becomes the job of the government, the less we the Body of Christ see the need for us to do anything, after all we pay our taxes…seriously, the first places we turn in the face of a crisis should be to our family, the Church, and our neighbors, not to the federal government. I think our understanding of religious duty is no longer the same as that of the founding fathers of our country. True freedom is to be allowed to do that which we ought to do. Perhaps if we did not expect the government to do those things which are the duty of the Church, then they would not have moved the government into the place of the church as decider of moral matters. Perhaps if we were relying on God rather than on Government, life would be different.

  • Lee

    Truly, well said. I appreciate your clear message.

  • May 30th: The Catholic Church should refuse all government funds because they come with strings attached – always. No surprise that we have learned that the Archdiocese of New York has been paying for contraceptive and abortion producing drugs – they say it’s being done ‘under protest’ – it’s being done whether under protest or willingly. Cardinal George has spoken about the need to be ready and willing to witness to our faith and our believes even if persecuted or put in prison or to death. But if Cardinals and Bishops submit to the government even ‘under protest’ then we may as well all just give up. Cardinal Dolan should watch the movie based on facts – “For Greater Glory” and pay attention to the final parts where they show the martyrdom of the boy Jose – it is so like the martyrdom of Christ – what heroic courage, what faith! what love this young boy shows. He was beatified by Pope John Paul. We should all pray for the courage and the faith to witness to Christ and His Church – not ‘under protest’ but with full and willing hearts.

  • Dust

    Gus…I don’t miss the point because your point is an only illusion to something that is no longer real. The Constitution was established for a religious people in mind. A people grounded in the Natural and divine law. Our nation and it’s leaders no longer believe so the so called document which you cite is relative. It is defined in terms of the greater good which can mean anything even the murder of millions of children. If Bishop Chaput wants us to wake up it’s to late. Look to Europe and see just how dead the faith and the people are. If there were ever a time of mercy it is now.

  • Dust

    Kirk, I just don’t see any fruits from this so called higher level of spirituality. Catholics have never been so ignorant of their faith, our seminaries were inundated with radical feminist theology, priestly vocations are at an all time low, women religious are all but nonexistent. Divorce rates are through the roof, cohabitation is the norm, most Catholics use birth control. It just goes on and on. Cafeteria and culture Catholics along with so called Catholics looking simply for handouts makes up 90% of the so called faithful.

    When the going gets tough….well there will only be left a handful of the faithful, just like Jesus discourse on the Holy Eucharist. They all left.

  • Dust in the Wind

    Michelle very well said. However the ideal I believe is to integrate a truly Catholic culture into every aspect of society including our Govt. Govt can be good and virtuous but what we have is so corrupted it is almost beyond repair. Mind you it is not Govt that brought us to this point but people. JP2 called it with absolute clarity…we are living in a culture of death. The logical conclusion is , we reap what we sow. So when the country elects a man who supports infanticide and states before the whole world he would rather have his grandchild murdered in utero then have his poor daughter suffer the burdens of an unwanted pregnancy….well we can no longer play ignorant.

    Our culture is becoming ever more intolerant of the one true God. Mind you we have lots of other gods and we make gods out of just about anything, it that American ingenuity. I could go on ….but it would only turn into a rant ….lol.

    The only hope left for this country is for the bishops to stand up and refocus all the God given Grace they have back into the most holy of holies. You cannot fight fire with fire, but you can fight it with Grace. The next 10 years should be dedicated to the Holy Eucharist. Every Parish needs to begin around the clock Eucharistic Adoration. Processions through every neighborhood and around the Capital. Every Capital in the US AND ALL AROUND THE WORLD. JUST AS THE WALLS OF JERICHO FELL I TRUST IN MY GOD WITH MY WHOLE HEART. LET US CALL A FAST AND REDEDICATE OURSELVES TO GOD.