Sunday, November 23, 2008

Catholics in the Public Square

Though not completely agreeing with the prognosis offered by Fr. Neuhaus in this article from First Things, the already stated and acted upon ideas of the president-elect and many of his supporters do suggest rough waters ahead around the life issue upon which our faith rests; and while continuing to pray that the soon-to-be First Family—an absolutely charming family as revealed in the 60 Minutes interview—will come to realize the evil of abortion, through their own family's happiness and their sense of responsibility to all Americans, even those who are most defenseless; the unborn.

It is a hope devoutly to be wished.

An excerpt from the First Things article.

“If, as I suggested last week, we are heading into a greatly intensified public clash of state power and religious freedom, something not entirely unlike the Kulturkampf attempted by Bismarck in the nineteenth century, Christian leadership is ill prepared for the battles ahead. Some express the hope that, given President-elect Obama’s repeated commitment to healing national divisions, he will not push for extreme measures such as the Freedom of Choice Act, thus igniting, in a way not seen since Roe v. Wade, the most explosive moral questions in our public life. I would like to think such hopes are justified, but his early choice of Thomas Daschle—a radically pro-abortion politician and, to the Church’s shame, a Catholic—as secretary of health and human services, the department dealing most closely with abortion and related life issues, is not encouraging.

“Obama’s public remarks on the freedom of religion and constitutional law demonstrate little awareness of the significance of the first freedom of the First Amendment in America’s law and lived experience. Moreover, after more than three decades of the most passionate public debate of these matters, Obama declared during the election that the moral and legal status of the unborn child are questions “above my pay grade.”

“The truly ominous possibility, indeed likelihood, is that Obama does not see his extreme positions on abortion as being extreme at all. They are the entrenched orthodoxies of the parties that got him to where he is. Those in opposition are viewed as a recalcitrant minority guilty of perpetuating divisiveness, and the time has come to break their back once and for all. I hope I am wrong, but this strikes me as the more plausible understanding of the Freedom of Choice Act and other measures aimed at “bringing us together again.”

“The response of Christian leaders to the imminent aggressions will require determined legal talent, especially in First Amendment law, a sharpening of public arguments, reaching out to those who do not understand what is at stake, and careful strategizing by pro-life activists and politicians. In the first place and in the long term, however, the need is for the courage to recover a biblical and historical understanding of what it means to say “Let the Church be the Church.” The Church is not an association of individuals sharing the experience of religion as what they do with the solitude. The Church is not in the consumption business, peddling the products that satisfy one’s self-defined spiritual needs. The Church is a unique society among the societies of the world; a community of obligation standing in solidarity with the truth who is Christ…

“Yes, the imminent Kulturkampf, if that is what is in the offing, will require legal talent, political strategizing, relentless persuasion, and all the other means compatible with our constitutional order. Most of all, however, it requires the courage born of faith that the Church really is the Body of Christ through time, a distinct and public community bearing public witness to public truths about the right ordering of life both public and personal. In Catholic history, the cry through the centuries is for libertas ecclesiae—the freedom of the Church to be the Church. For Catholics and others, that freedom now faces a time of severe testing. In the defense of that freedom there have been through the centuries martyrs beyond numbering. We do not know what will happen in the months and years ahead, except that now it may be our turn. “