Monday, April 16, 2012

American Catholics Resisting Bishops' Faux Religious Liberty War: Brief Update

Bishop William Lori, Chair, USCCB Committee on Religious Liberty

At Religion Dispatches this weekend, Peter Montgomery enumerates signs of growing Catholic resistance to the bishops' faux religious liberty war.  He notes that a number of priests of the Pittsburgh diocese have met with bishop David Zubik, after Zubik accused the Obama administration of saying to hell with you to "Catholics."  The priests reported to Zubik that the unvarnished partisan political behavior of the bishops, and the attempt to give life to magisterial prohibitions of birth control long after those prohibitions have been ditched by lay Catholics, are angering many Catholics.

Montgomery also notes that a growing number of parishes in Seattle are saying no to the request of archbishop Peter J. Sartain that Catholic parishes turn themselves into rallying points to gather signatures for a petition to revoke Washington's marriage equality law.  I wrote about this movement last Friday.  In response to my posting on Friday, readers Terry Weldon and Mike Ferri added more names to the list of Catholic parishes refusing to engage in the signature-gathering campaign.  Mike reports that seven parishes have now announced such a decision.  And on the weekend, Terry blogged about this situation at his Queering the Church site, and I highly recommend his posting.

One of the strongest statements I've seen yet from a Catholic journalist is Charles P. Pierce's recent essay "The Clan of the Red Beanie Stalks MLK, Sanity" in Esquire last Friday.  Pierce is responding to the bishops' new statement on religious liberty issued the day before he published his statement.  Which he doesn't, well, like, to put the point mildly . . . .

To be specific: what galls him is the "towering, impious self-regard" of the U.S. Catholic bishops, and the outright absurdity of their attempt to compare their phony religious freedom war with Martin Luther King's difficult struggle to gain rights for African Americans.  And that they'd dare to sound their little tin trumpets of war right in the middle of two nationally publicized trials in Kansas City and Philadelphia in which all the world can see what bishops have been capable of--what they've been doing--behind the scenes with impunity for years now, precisely because the American political system has always given such large latitude to religious bodies and their leaders.

Mr. Pierce seems curiously unmoved (except in the negative) by the rhetoric of the bishops in their latest statement about how Catholic religious freedom is under attack.  If the tone of his response represents where a growing number of American Catholics find themselves, then God help the bishops.  They appear to be clueless in war-bound Zion.

P.S. And don't miss Colleen Baker's commentary, stellar as always, about the bishops' latest statement, and in the same vein as Pierce, at her Enlightened Catholicism site.  As Colleen suggests, the bishops' shoddy and unconvincing attempt to depict themselves as leaders of a neo-civil rights crusade (when they want to take rights away from targeted minorities) is just shameful, in light of the witness many Catholics gave in support of the bona fide civil rights crusade of the 1960s.

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