Social Conservatives take Manhattan! Bronx, S.I., rest of America up for grabs
A 4,700 word gauntlet has been thrown down before what I guess is perceived as America's liberal-secular triumphalism (apparently made real to social conservative imagination by the Obama ascendancy) via the "Manhattan Declaration," which "issues a clarion call to Christians to adhere to their convictions and informs civil authorities that the signers will not - under any circumstance - abandon their Christian consciences."
The declaration unites Christians across many a sectarian divide in their resistance to abortion and gay marriage and in support of religious liberty. The tone is pretty "onward Christian soldier" in a none-too-subtle attempt to perhaps reignite the culture wars that Obama's "let's be reasonable, shall we" style of rhetoric seemed intent on avoiding. Apparently no longer waiting for Obama to start a fight, the group of 149 Orthodox, Catholic and evangelical Christian leaders--including Archbishops Timothy Dolan of New York, Charles Chaput of Denver and Washington's Donald Wuerl--has opted for a preemptive rhetorical strike on the the looming Obama-socialist-athiest makeover of America.
Some major points from the declaration:
• It is ironic that those who today assert a right to kill the unborn, aged and disabled and also a right to engage in immoral sexual practices, and even a right to have relationships integrated around these practices be recognized and blessed by law - such persons claiming these "rights" are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.
• Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar's. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God's.
From the New York Times coverage of the decalaration's release: "Ira C. Lupu, a law professor at George Washington University Law School, said it was 'fear-mongering' to suggest that religious institutions would be forced to do any of those things. He said they are protected by the First Amendment, and by conscience clauses that allow medical professionals and hospitals to opt out of performing certain procedures, and religious exemptions written into same-sex marriage bills."
I hope I am not proved wrong by events, but I find myself wondering, much in the manner America's hard right-wing seems chasing after something of an anti-idealized shadow of the real political world according to Obama, this alliance of spiritual leaders pursues a cultural phantasm of its own making.
If they specifically included a concern for the imprisoned and condemned, the poor, and the victims of war in their delaration of honoring justice and the common good, I would be more inclined to take them seriously. As it is, they sound to me more driven by ideology than truth.
Was it a phantasm that shut down the Catholic adoption agency in Boston?
Was it a phantasm that tried to audit the Catholic Church as a "lobby" in Connecticut after massive protests against a proposed law to restructure the finances of the church by two gay lawmakers?
Also, were the recent threats by members of Congress to audit the bishops for exercising our/their freedom of speech on important govt. policy such as health care a phantasm?
Is the current power hungry city counsel in DC a phantasm? An arrogant government body that uses homosexuality to force dissenting views from the public square - even though religious exceptions (promoted even by the ACLU) would be a simple compromise between the two parties?
Perhaps "liberal/progressive" ideology has some bloggers blinded to the reality of the situation and the reality the power play behind the government's call for a new radical equality.
I think the people on that list with a more comprehensive view of social justice might prefer to sign something with broader scope as you say, but still, they sign that because they could affirm everything in that statement.
The signatories of the Manhattan Declaration are to be commended for their courage in speaking out, and for proclaiming the truth clearly and forcefully in the midst of the dark, Godless chaos on all sides.
I wonder about this, too. Seriously, I don't understand what all the fear is about, or even why the need for this "declaration". How have things changed, so radically, since the era of GWB, in the status of abortion and homosexuality in this country? And why is it Obama's fault?
I quote from an article by Obery Hendricks: "Conservative opposed at their inception Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, unemployment compensation, the right to form labor unions, government guaranteed student loans, child labor laws, the minimum wage, workplace safety regulations, protected bank and savings deposits, oversight to insure the purity of our food and drugs, the environmental protection movement, the Equal Rights Amendment, civil rights legislation, even anti-lynching legislation, and most particularly, taxation of the wealthy."
Maybe this all has nothing to do with spirituality or Catholicism, but is just conservatism in the extreme?
Where's the "Onward Christian Soldiers" tone? The document is very balanced and inclusive. One would hope that conservatives and liberals are allowed to build a coalition in the defense of faith and human life, imperfect as the coalition may be. That's the human condition. Moreover, at least 11 Catholic bishops signed the document, which is consistent with timeless Church teaching. I trust their theological judgement more than I trust the judgment of their detractors. What motivates such a distinguished set of religious leaders to join in a common statement? Indeed, the signatories of the Manhattan Declaration are to be commended for their courage in saying what is countercultural and very much needed. This might be an historical event of major magnitude in our nation's public life and religious history. So instead of making glib pronouncements why not analyze why this document came out and what it means in that context.
I don't believe that Archbishop Hunthausen is dead. I suppose that Mark Twain's quote "the reports of my death was an exaggeration" may come in handy when he might come across your words.
And God bless Archbishop Weurl, a good man! God bless you, too!
In doing so, I was particularly surprised by the inclusion of the "fear mongering" statement in the post. The paragraph in the Declaration immediately following the "It is ironic" one in the post gave specific and multiple examples where existing laws have already been used attesting to their concerns.
I can't help but draw connections to the Manhattan Project, behind which billions of dollars were thrown in order to bring about a weapon that was meant to guaruntee a more just world - but instead brought about a more oppressive and tense relationship between the world's peoples.
Considering the amount of money the bishops are using to fight gay marriage (e.g. Maine), I don't think the connection is that far off.
There no specific mention of the death penalty or war in their lengthy discussion of the "culture of death" that infects our world? Though lip service is given to protecting life at every stage, the sacredness of life means, in this document, life in the womb.
Though they "repent" of being too accepting of a "culture of divorce" in the past (they say that they will do better in the future) they offer no hint of understanding the complexities of human sexuality other than the self-evident truth that marriage is between a man and a woman and anything else is immoral.
As for gay marriage, they are simply wrong. Gay marriage would actually bring gay monogamy into the mainstream, where the Church and society can then stand against promiscuity with a firmer platform.
This is a generational issue as much as anything else. In a decade or so, both issues will be gone.
The writing is on the wall. Things can get much, much worse. The signers of the Manhattan Declaration remind me of a famous Jesuit, Fr. Miguel, who was martyred for opposing another anti-Catholic, "liberal-progressive" dictatorship in Mexico.
Like St. Miguel, I hope we have the coursage to say "Viva Cristo Rey!"