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Kevin ClarkeNovember 20, 2009

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.



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Beth Cioffoletti
13 years 4 months ago
This movement scares me.
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.
13 years 4 months ago
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
13 years 4 months ago
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
13 years 4 months ago
"this alliance of spiritual leaders pursues a cultural phantasm of its own making."
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.
Brad Roberts
13 years 4 months ago
A lot of the people on that list are major thinkers in their areas and not exactly right-wing idealogues.

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.

13 years 4 months ago
After reading this, I just want to go to Yonkers, where true love conquers all, you know.
13 years 4 months ago
Obama's popularity vanishes as his incompetence and extremism get harder to ignore, but he still holds the powerful office on earth, and he still is in a position to wreak enormous destruction.
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.
nhattan Declaration,Man
Helena Loflin
13 years 4 months ago
The signatories of the "Manhattan Declaration" are just desperate Republicans being desperate Republicans.  Again.  Since the election of (first black) POTUS Barack Obama hasn't brought about the predicted end of civilization, the signatories decided to give the Culture Wars a little nudge.  Got to keep that hate and bigotry flowing.  The signatories are giving FOX "News" an assist.  Neocons are heavy into preemption.  It doesn't matter that the current administration (unlike that last one) has no WMDs.  The signatories are doing their "shock and awe" thing anyway.  Same old one-trick pony soon to be dead horse.   
Pearce Shea
13 years 4 months ago
OH COME ON. Robert and Kevin both- look at the list of signatories. Certainly there are more conservatives, but not strikingly more. And to suggest that Abp. Wuerl, who refused to cave to pressure on providing communion to pro-abortion politicians and who is in a perpetual spat with the darling of arch-conservatives, Abp. Burke, is also a signatory. I was always under the impression that Wuerl was one of the more prominent liberal Bishops. Perhaps, rather than cherrypicking the language that will make for the most lurid blog post, we would all be better served by a sober, thoughtful and intelligent take on the entirety of the declaration.
13 years 4 months ago
Sign the declaration here:
Beth Cioffoletti
13 years 4 months ago
"...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."
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?
Stephen SCHEWE
13 years 4 months ago
It's a measure of how far right the Catholic Church has careened these past 20 years that Bishop Wuerl could be perceived as a liberal.  Bishop Hunthausen must be rolling in his grave!
Gabriel Marcella
13 years 4 months ago
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.
Gabriel McAuliffe
13 years 4 months ago
Mr. Schewe -
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!
Stephen SCHEWE
13 years 4 months ago
Thanks, Gabriel - I'm glad to hear I was mistaken!
Robert Kribs
13 years 4 months ago
The first thing I did was to read the orginal source - in this case, the entire Declaration itself. I would hope that the author of the post and all who responded did likewise before giving their observations.
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.

Brian Gallagher
13 years 4 months ago
the Manhattan Declaration?
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.
Beth Cioffoletti
13 years 4 months ago
I read the full Manhattan Declaration, and though they say that they are not partisan - even quoting from MLK to make a point - they still are preaching one version of the story and giving one black and white answer.
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.
Helena Loflin
13 years 4 months ago
While they are being less accepting of the "culture of divorce," will the signatories be petitioning the Vatican to eliminate (the hypocrisy of) annulments which are infinitely more injurious to the sacrament of marriage than same-sex marriage could ever be.  The Manhattan Declaration is pure partisan right-wingmanship.  The bishops need to focus their effort, time and (our) money cleaning up immoral behaviors INSIDE the Church instead of furthering the FOX/GOP wedge issue agenda.    
thomas hendrix
13 years 4 months ago
I don't see the "evils" of contraception and capital punishment mentioned.  Also,as an aside, by denying the eucharist to Kennedy, why don't those people  who "deny" do so for supporters of the death penalty or supporters of contraception(probably 90% or more)  How  hypocritical!
James Lindsay
13 years 4 months ago
The signers do show their ignorance. No one but a few want the "right" to kill the unborn. Rather it is a question of when and how to regulate and discourage abortion and the role of the state in doing so that there is disagreement.

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.
Martin Gallagher
13 years 4 months ago
I am afraid that some of the above posters underestimate the risks to the Church that we will see in the future.  Already we have seen Massachusetts deny the right of the Archdiocese of Boston to provide a much needed adoption service because they would not place children with homosexual couples.  Connecticut tried to unconstitutionally preent the free exercise of the Catholic religion by trying to limit the role of bishops because they had the "temerity" to speak the truth about marriage.  Prominent senators want to "investigate" (read harass) the Church because it opposed funding of abortion.
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!"
Thomas Piatak
13 years 4 months ago
It's odd to read that only a ''few'' favor abortion, when we have over one million abortions every year in this country, and large parts of the Democratic Party are so in love with abortion that they would rather lose their health care bill then see a bill passed that prohibits the use of taxpayer funds for abortions. 

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