1) First there was the Manhattan Declaration. As the LA Times comments:
Last week, a group of Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox leaders released a “declaration” reminding fellow believers that "Christianity has taught that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required." Then, after a specious invocation of King, the 152 signers hurl this anathema at those who would enact laws protecting abortion or extending the rights of civil (not religious) marriage to same-sex couples....What's that line about rendering unto Caesar....?
Never mind that advocates of same-sex civil marriage and legal abortion have made significant concessions to believers or that religious groups have recourse to courts, which have aggressively protected the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the 1st Amendment. In 1993, Congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, exempting believers in some cases from having to comply with applicable laws.
This apocalyptic argument for lawbreaking is disingenuous, but it is also dangerous. Did the Roman Catholic bishops who signed the manifesto consider how their endorsement of lawbreaking in a higher cause might embolden the antiabortion terrorists they claim to condemn? Did they stop to think that, by reserving the right to resist laws they don't like, they forfeit the authority to intervene in the enactment of those laws, as they have done in the congressional debate over healthcare reform? They need to be reminded that this is a nation of laws, not of men -- even holy men.
2) Then, there was the revised rules about treatment in Catholic Hospitals. Don't go in with an advanced health care directive and expect them to honor it. From Firedoglake:
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops released an “Ethical and Religious Directive” this month that would ban any Catholic hospital, nursing home or hospice program from removing feeding tubes or ending palliative procedures of any kind, even when the individual has an advance directive to guide their end-of-life care. The Bishops’ directive even notes that patient suffering is redemptive and brings the individual closer to Christ.....3) Then of course, if The District of Columbia allows same sex (civil) marriage, the Archdiocese will not continue offering social services. The problem, you see, is that they hire too many gays. I found that to be a gob-smacking reason.
This substitutes the wishes of the bishops for the stated wishes of families and the patients themselves, said Coombs Lee. Even if the family can produce an advance directive or living will, Catholic hospitals and nursing homes would be expected to maintain the feeding tubes. In addition, all Catholic health care workers are required by their faith to continue palliative care, according to the document.....
In many cities, this means that every hospital or medical care facility will not allow the withdrawal of a feeding tube. “In Spokane, Washington, if you don’t get Catholic health care, you don’t get health care,” Coombs Lee said. “In Eugene, Oregon, if you don’t get Catholic health care, you don’t get health care.” Coombs Lee characterized it as a kind of entrapment, with a sense of “my house, my rules.”
Orzechowski [Pres and CEO of Catholic Charities] said many of the people who work for Catholic Charities and receive its services are from the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, but giving same-sex spousal benefits to staff members or placing adoptive children with gay couples would violate Church tenets.4) And don't forget the incredibly restrictive Stupak Amendment that may yet scupper the Health Reform Bill, by putting increased restrictions on the use of private funds to pay for a legal medical procedure. (Some people think the motivation is far more cynical).
5) Just this week, there was a report from Ireland exposing the collusion between the bishops and the police to cover up abuse. As reported in the NY Times
Roman Catholic Church leaders in Dublin spent decades sheltering child-abusing priests from the law and most fellow clerics turned a blind eye, an investigation ordered by Ireland's government concluded.....Thursday's 720-page report focused on why church leaders in the Dublin Archdiocese -- home to a quarter of Ireland's 4 million Catholics -- did not tell police about a single abuse complaint against a priest until 1995.6) Of course, this tops up the argument between Rep Patrick Kennedy and RI Bishop Tobin; the Bishop feels that any politician who supports abortion rights or gay rights should be denied communion. (Apparently, though, torture and unjust war are no problem). Who would have thought that 45 years after JFK, we still have to consider whether Catholic politicians serve their country or the Pope.
By then, the investigators found, successive archbishops and their senior deputies -- among them qualified lawyers -- already had compiled confidential files on more than 100 parish priests who had sexually abused children since 1940. Those files had remained locked in the Dublin archbishop's private vault.
A few more choice tidbits on my recent post here.
Here's the take-home message. I shook the dust of the Roman Catholic Church off my feet 30 years ago. I hugely resent being forced to live my life as though I am still a Roman Catholic. The Church has no right to insinuate itself as a political policy maker in this country. And it's time that we removed the tendrils of these Bishops from our civil life.