Thursday, June 14, 2012

Excellent Addresses from Afternoon Session of June 13, 2012 USCCB Meeting


Yesterday, I had an opportunity to watch part of the afternoon session of the USCCB's spring meeting of bishops. I caught the end of Bishop David L. Ricken's address on plans for the Year of Faith.  He is the head of the USCCB's Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis.  What I heard him say was very promising.  There are plans to include education on contraception.  This has been a largely neglected area. Many of us probably know  priests who were either not supported by their chanceries and bishops when they tried to convey the Church's teaching on contraception, or they were downright persecuted and shipped off to a chaplaincy or to the outskirts of the diocese when - gasp - someone complained about the teachings being upheld in Sacramental Confession.  It seems we may be exiting this troubling stage, perhaps with the "help" of some old-fashoined religious persecution.  What God doesn't will, He permits.  Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (Rom 5:20).

Not everyone shares my optimism given decades of experience in utter silence from many bishops and priests at pulpits on everything from contraception to co-habitation, pre-marital and extra-marital sex, to name a few topics.  No wonder the confession lines are empty (and by appointment-only in some quarters).  Perhaps there will still be difficulties at some local levels (and maybe bishops can give priests a way to notify them if chanceries can't shed some old, bad habits).  I'm thinking that when you hear contraception mentioned at a USCCB meeting (and not in reference to the HHS mandate), that's a pretty good start. Brick-by-brick, people.  If you look for incremental improvements, rather than going from A-Z overnight, you'll sleep better.  (Psalm 95:10)

I regret that I was unable to find the text of his address online, but there are some materials on this page.  And, you can watch Bishop Ricken's address in the video link at the bottom of this post.

I also learned, from that talk, about this nifty version of the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the USCCB's website (update: or perhaps not so nifty).  We have long referenced some online versions, but they were not as user-friendly as this one.  Check it out, it's pretty cool. 


The bishops then saw several presentations on religious freedom. Bishop Lori who heads up the USCCB's Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty kicked off the series with his opening address. That was followed by the President of Catholic University of America, John Garvey, who spoke on Religious Freedom and the Love of God. I've been following this situation closely all these months and he shared some things I had not heard before.  I was gripped from the beginning with his opening statement:

First, More died because he loved God.Henry VIII split from the Catholic Church and had Parliament pass the Act of Supremacy (making him head of the Church of England) and the Act of Succession (making Anne Boleyn the queen).More refused to subscribe to the Acts.He tried to avoid a confrontation by resigning as Lord Chancellor, but Henry pursued him.And love for God and respect for the authority of the church compelled him to refuse the oath when it was forced on him.He died saying he was "the king's good servant, but God's first." 
Second, religious liberty is important.More's death was noble – he became a saint.It's admirable to die for your religion if there is no alternative.But it would be a better world if we didn't make people take that course.We protect the freedom of religion because we think it is wrong to coerce belief. Thomas More's story shows what can happen when these protections break down. 

Read the whole thing in that link above or watch it in the video link at the bottom.

What came next was The Church and the Global Crisis of Religious Freedom  by Thomas Farr of Georgetown University who said, with a grin: "As you may know, the incentives to think about religious freedom at Georgetown have recently been quite generous."  LOL!

Here is just one excerpt:

The Underlying Cause of the Global Crisis 
And yet, the root cause is quite similar: a belief that religious freedom is not only unnecessary for human flourishing or social development, but that it poses a threat to these and other goods. Of course, those views are not new. Modern tyrants from Stalin, Hitler, and Mao, to Mexico's Plutarco Calles, Iraq's Saddam Hussein, and Syria's Bashar Assad have sought either to eliminate religious ideas and actors altogether, or to control and suppress them in order to keep their regimes in power.

What is new, and profoundly troubling, is that we are seeing today the rejection of religious freedom not simply by authoritarian regimes in places like China, Saudi Arabia and Iran, but by democratic majorities in places like Egypt, Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, and even Western Europe. These majorities seem unwilling to embrace the core of religious freedom, which is full equality under the law in private and in public matters for all religious individuals and institutions.

To be sure, religious freedom is rejected by democracies for different reasons – in Egypt, for example, the Muslim majority is loath to permit Christian Copts full equality, because it means much more than the right not to be persecuted or the right merely to be tolerated. It means the right of Copts to run for President, or to make Christian arguments in political life, or to criticize Islam publicly without fear of recrimination, or even to invite Muslims to become Christian. In Russia, the Orthodox Church allies with anti-democratic forces in order to maintain its monopoly.

Religious freedom is also increasingly being rejected in Western Europe, but for very different reasons. Here the problem is not a religious majority but an aggressive secularist majority that refuses to permit religiously-informed moral arguments into public life. Recently our Religious Freedom Project held a major conference in Oxford on the rising tensions between religious liberty and assertions of equality for homosexuals. In his keynote address, Philip Tartaglia, the Catholic bishop of Paisley, Scotland, noted that one of his priests had expressed fear after having watched a popular television program with audience participation. The audience was of one mind –once same sex marriage becomes law in the UK, they said, any dissenters should be "pursued by the law."

I could not help recalling the anti-Catholic penal laws enacted by the English in Scotland in the late 18th century –laws that criminalized the very existence of priests and the mass, let alone the public expression of Catholic teachings. I am not suggesting that Scotland is returning to the practices of the 18th century, but it would be foolish to assume that the growing intolerance of Catholicism in Europe cannot devolve into persecutory laws and practices. Bishop Tartaglia said that he expected one day to be standing before a judge because of his public defense of Catholic teachings. Others at the conference made it clear that they simply could not, and would not, brook any "special" consideration to religious ideas, which, they argued, had no more relevance to human beings or societies than any other idea under the sun.

In short, religion in Europe is no longer seen as intrinsic to human dignity and social flourishing. It is generally understood as merely an opinion, and, as a species, a dangerous opinion at that. While it is fine to practice your religion in churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples, democracy requires that you keep it there. To bring it into politics endangers democracy.

This malevolent idea, which was most famously championed by the American political philosopher John Rawls, is gaining considerable purchase in our own country. It gives reason for profound concern, not only for religious individuals but for the whole concept of democracy grounded in ordered liberty – both here and abroad

Bishop Shlemun Warduni then gave a Reflection from an Iraqi Bishop.  This is worth reading to understand the state of affairs for Christians in that country today, and in the wake of the war.

You might also want to watch the afternoon press conference, which dealt largely with religious freedom.


(UPDATED LINK) You can find videos for all archived sessions here, including those that have the conferences mentioned above. There was a problem with an earlier link I provided, so look for the June 13 afternoon sessions (now in two parts) from the list.   I recommend watching it all, even if you break if up in parts.  Let it run in the background if you have the computer in an area where you can do other things and listen.


The USCCB has a video archive page for all available sessions, so you can see the morning session from yesterday and watch for additional videos.

Much of today's session will be closed, but coverage begins again tomorrow.  The USCCB has a live-stream page, but EWTN is also streaming and they include a number of viewing and audio options, including mobile.  In the past, I was able to listen to these sessions right on my iPhone while out of the house.

For interesting news items I don't have time to blog on, check out my Twitter Feed: @TeDeumBlog

Te Deum Laudamus! Home

The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!

- Diane M. Korzeniewski

Note: The recommended links below are automatically generated by the tool, so they are not necessarily related content.