Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Father Geoff Farrow on U.S. Bishops' Religious Freedom Initiative, Terry Weldon on Resources for LGBT History

Ruth Klausner, "Discussing the News"

Also (piggybacking on what I just posted about Occupy Wall Street) from two more of my favorite blogs:

Father Geoff Farrow offers insightful analysis of the new initiative of the U.S. Catholic bishops to protect the religious liberty of American Catholics, which the bishops' leader Timothy Dolan says is under "assault" by the Obama administration.  As Father Geoff notes, Dolan and his fellow bishops are essentially seeking to redefine the term "religious liberty" or "religious freedom" in the American context.

He notes that most Americans instinctively understand religious freedom from our own lived experience of it--as he does, in his multi-ethnic, multi-religious neighborhood in California.  Religious liberty means according our neighbors the right to think, believe, and practice as they wish, as long as their faith-based behavior does not infringe on the rights of others or create harm for others.

But under the guise of protecting religious liberty from assault, the bishops are asking for their alleged "right" to restrain and restrict the rights of other citizens.  Father Geoff notes that they're demanding the following, and are claiming that they and other Catholics are being "assaulted" when their demands are not met: 

1. For your health insurance NOT to cover the cost of contraceptives that you chose to use.

2. To use your tax dollars as he wishes, without requirements attached for the use of public funds.

3. To be able to invoke “religious conscience exemptions” at will and at his personal discretion.

4. To apply “ministerial exception” not only to clergy, but also to secretaries, gardeners, custodians, bookkeepers, choir directors, musicians, housekeepers, accountants, security guards, and any other person employed by the Church. That means these employees, as a condition of their continued employment, had better agree with the NCCB.

5. The NCCB not elected representatives, to decide policy decision and civil law.

6. The President of the United States (and all other elected officials and Judges) to “consult” privately with the NCCB in the formation/implementation of laws.

And then he asks,

Where did the Roman Catholic Hierarchy get the idea that they have the right and the power to do all of this stuff? The Emperor Constantine and fifteen centuries of dictating moral laws in Europe and Catholic colonies. Oh, and that little exercise of over ruling the California State Supreme Court on Prop 8 (with a huge check written by the Mormon Church's leadership in Salt Lake City).

And the second posting at a blog I follow to which I want to draw attention: at his Queering the Church site, Terry Weldon offers valuable links to resource pages for gay religious leaders at the LGBT History Month website.  As Terry notes, October is LGBT history month in the U.S., and the website to which he's pointing has been set up to offer resources to those commemorating LGBT history.

As an example: the links Terry offers point to this valuable webpage linking to all kinds of wonderful resources about the gay Franciscan priest, Father Mychal Judge, who died while ministering to victims of the 9/11 attacks in New York.  I woke during the night thinking of Mychal Judge in light of my discussion yesterday of how disappointing I find John Allen's recent tribute to his Capuchin heroes who now wield influence in the upper echelons of the U.S. Catholic church.

Allen sees folks like Charles Chaput and Thomas Weinandy as exemplars of the Franciscan charism.  As my posting yesterday noted, I have great difficulty seeing these particular Capuchins as outstanding examples of what Francis of Assisi stood for--insofar as I understand Francis's contribution to Catholic spirituality.

I don't have that same sense of dissonance when I look at the life of Mychal Judge, for instance.  After his death, one of his fellow Franciscans reported that Mychal seldom had a coat in winter, because anytime someone gave him a new one, he simply gave it away to the first homeless person he passed on the street.

To me, the Franciscan charism is summed up in that story--not in the power-mongering and wheeling and dealing with power that I see at work in the lives of the Capuchins who, according to John Allen, "punch above their weight" in the American Catholic church at present.

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