WASHINGTON – When the nation’s Catholic bishops launched their “Fortnight for Freedom” three years ago, their challenges were relatively simple and straightforward, compared with what confronts all traditional Christian congregations today.
The two-week period of prayer and discussion began yesterday in all parishes of the Buffalo Diocese, and nationwide, and ends on July 4.
In 2012, the threat was the demand by the Obama administration that church institutions buy health insurance paying for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraceptives.
Today, the churches are facing the full weight of President Obama’s legal establishment that they embrace same-sex marriage – or else. In addition, there is a more subtle threat. Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami calls it “soft despotism,” or the “new intolerance.”
“It is being propagated,” Wenski declared in a homily in April, “by those who claimed to have been previous victims of intolerance.
“We see this when butchers and bakers and candlestick makers are being put into the legal dock for refusing to renounce their religious beliefs.”
In Virginia, it is reliably reported that gay “activists” – “previous victims of intolerance” – are “trolling” Evangelical Christian churches, asking pastors to perform same-sex weddings, with a view toward suing them if they refuse.
Arguing on behalf of same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court, the Obama administration’s chief litigator, Solicitor General Donald Virilli Jr., said the tax exemptions enjoyed by church-owned colleges and universities that refuse to honor same-sex weddings is “going to be an issue.”
Virilli meant all religious colleges, ranging from Liberty University and the College of the Holy Cross to St. Bonaventure. And if the colleges, why not church schools, and church buildings and playgrounds?
In most European countries, churches have enjoyed this immunity for a millennium. In the United States and Canada, since colonial days. What a deep dent this president, who vowed to be “transformational,” would put into Constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion by stripping them of their tax exemptions.
A wide swath of media is warning of “chaos” if the high court rules against same-sex weddings when its decision comes down by the end of the month. Behind this is a fiction spread by some media that the Scriptures underpinning traditional churches, Christian and Jewish, are responsible for slavery in America, linking the churches’ opposition to same-sex marriage to a similar supposed “bigotry.”
Perhaps we’re in a fever for mere change: A passion prompting us not to just tolerate and sympathize but to lionize an Olympic gold medalist, the father of four, married three times, for deciding at age 65 to behave as a woman calling herself Caitlyn Jenner.
So perhaps prayer might help sober up some of us. Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo is a national leader in an interfaith movement to preserve respect for the idea that true marriage is between a man and a woman. Malone is chairman of the national bishops’ committee on laity, marriage, family and youth. Joining him in a national appeal are 34 leaders of other faiths.
“Redefining marriage will have serious consequences,” the leaders wrote. “For many people, accepting a redefinition of marriage would be to act against their conscience and to deny their religious beliefs and moral convictions.
“Government should protect the rights of those with differing views of marriage to express their beliefs … without fear of intimidation, marginalization or unwarranted charges that their values imply hostility, animosity and hatred of others.”