12/7/12: Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty

Gil Bailie writes:

Today, one has to love slow moving things. But when the blessedly slow moving Catholic Church moves this fast and begins with this level of moral seriousness, one familiar with its history will immediately realize that She (the Church) is preparing for a long and painful period of persecution, even as such a thing seems preposterous to many inside and outside the Church. The graver the prospects of the coming assault by the state, the more promptly the Church turns to prayer in preparation.

“The pastoral strategy is essentially a call and encouragement to prayer and sacrifice—it’s meant to be simple,” said Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage. “It’s not meant to be another program but rather part of a movement for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty, which engages the New Evangelization and can be incorporated into the Year of Faith. Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty are not only foundational to Catholic social teaching but also fundamental to the good of society,” he said.

Ernest Karam responds:

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco

I just finished reading the USCCB’s FAQ about the defense of marriage, to which their article (above) is linked. In the subsection on religious liberty, they list five possible threats posed by same-sex marriage, followed by a section entitled, “Have any of these threats come to pass?”

Their first example of a threat that has come to pass (that of “compelled association”) is the obligatory provision of married student housing for same-sex married couples at a Catholic college in Massachusetts. Since we are not told which college this is, we cannot investigate the claim without a great deal of searching. But same-sex marriage is legal in MA, and housing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was illegal even before the 2004 law legalizing SSM.

The problem for the Church seems to be that whatever exemptions exist apply only to churches, but not to other institutions that they may own and operate. This is probably because these institutions both serve and employ non-Catholics, and so it seems perfectly reasonable that they should not be exempt. If private institutions were allowed to discriminate against whomever they pleased, then whole classes of people could be relegated to second-class status by virtue of being disadvantaged in seeking housing, employment, and insurance.

The USCCB’s second example of a “threat that has come to pass” concerns the state’s requirement that institutions extend benefits to same-sex married couples just as they do to others. The argument here is the same as before: Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation precedes SSM legalization. The institution involved in this case, Catholic Charities of Oregon (CCO), was apparently not exempt from the law as churches are. Anyway, I don’t know why they’re citing CCO, as Oregon has not yet legalized SSM.

Punishment for speech: Again, the Bishops make a vague claim without identifying the parties involved. Apparently someone in Montana suffered some tax penalties. I have no idea what that was about.

Two threats that have not come to pass are (1) exclusion from accreditation and licensure, and (2) exclusion from government funding. There is a real possibility that Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH could lose accreditation if it persists in teaching medical and social sciences students that homosexuality is a disorder in spite of scientific evidence that it is not. The University would of course also lose its accreditation if it taught medical students Phlogiston theory instead of modern science. As for government funding, an institution that fails to meet the requirements for government funding can hardly expect to receive it. In principle, the government represents all the people, not just one religious group.

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