Friday, June 22, 2012

I find myself conflicted in relationship to the US bishops’ “Fortnight of Freedom” initiative.  You might be thinking that I get conflicted over a lot of issues, and I do.  I would dare to say that is more a strength than a weakness, because it requires me to explore issues more deeply than I might otherwise.  Writing helps me do that, and it also invites your reactions, which are wonderful tools in our mutual journey towards truth.

Fortnight for Freedom is a nationwide two-week campaign challenging the Obama administration's health policies, intended  “to defend freedom and bear witness to the moral values and truths that serve as the foundation for “a society that is just, peaceful and charitable, “ according to Baltimore’s Archbishop Lori” 

My first issue is with the word ‘fortnight’.  I haven’t heard or seen that word since the last time I read a 19th century novel!  But it does make for good alliteration.  The first serious issue, though, is concern over whether the bishops have gone into attack mode before attempting reasonable resolution through dialogue.  Of course, Cardinal Levada’s reference to a dialogue of the deaf, talking about a meeting with the leadership of the LCWR suggests that dialogue has a different meaning within hierarchical circles than it has without:  we speak, you listen.

Secondly, the law, as the bishops see it, is requiring the Church to act against its beliefs, especially in relationship to contraception. This is said to violate freedom of religion, a constitutional provision.  Rightly, of course, they are adamantly in favor of religious freedom.   Some things that are the right of all Americans by law (and, perhaps, only by law) are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church. But are the bishops trying to impose Church values on the larger society?  How would this differ from Sharia Law?

Thirdly, I wonder if the bishops are going about this correctly.  Or, are they using a “ready, fire, aim” approach?  Outside of the Church, certainly, their credibility has suffered tremendously, largely due to the abuse and cover-up scandal.   Maybe they need a PR advisor or a life coach. Still, while I feel the bishops have not approached this issue in the best possible way, I can say the same about the White House.  They did not anticipate the bishops’ reaction, and they should have, long before going public.

Fourthly, I wonder what level of support they will get from the membership of the Church, since a majority of the membership does not agree with, nor does it adhere to, Church teaching on contraception.  If this public demonstration shows minimal support, it will only further erode credibility. It’d b e like none of the invitees showing up for a birthday party. Be clear on this:  I do believe in religious freedom.  But I also believe in a prophetic voice.  Have we discounted the value of being true to our consciences in spite of the law, and suffering the consequences?  Think St. Thomas Moore.  Yet one opinion claimed that Catholics will have to violate their consciences.

Is this only a Catholic issue?  Why is using capital punishment on a Catholic, or requiring a Catholic to ‘flip the switch’ not a violation of religious freedom?  What about a restaurant serving only meat dishes on Fridays in Lent?  Forbidding Mormons to marry more than one person?  Incarcerating Christian Scientist and Jehovah’s Witnesses whose children die because they will not take them to a hospital when terminally ill?

As I say, I am conflicted.  And I wonder.  Do you wonder too?