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It’s Not About Religious Liberty. It’s About Liberty

Saturday, February 18, 2012


“When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.” – Pastor Martin Niemöller

The progressive Democrats finally came for the Catholic Church, the religious body whose foremost leaders and spokesmen – if not the Church as a whole – actively supported the passage of Obamacare in 2010, even in the midst of conservative outrage and warnings of what was to come.

While harsh, it’s difficult to deny the precision found within Paul Rahe’s “American Catholicism’s Pact With the Devil,” a column in which Rahe “submit[s] that the bishops, nuns, and priests now screaming bloody murder have gotten what they asked for. The weapon that Barack Obama has directed at the Church was fashioned to a considerable degree by Catholic churchmen.”

According to Rahe, however, advocating for Obamacare was merely the latest betrayal of freedom committed by Catholic leaders.

As Rahe explains, decades ago “the majority of the bishops, priests, and nuns…fell prey to a conceit that had long before ensnared a great many mainstream Protestants in the United States – the notion that public provision is somehow akin to charity.”

In other words, the Church began to embrace liberalism (otherwise known as socialism).

“In the 1930s…in their concern for the suffering of those out of work and destitute,” writes Rahe, “they wholeheartedly embraced the New Deal…[T]hey welcomed Social Security…[but] did not stop to ponder whether public provision in this regard would subvert the moral principle that children are responsible for the well-being of their parents. They did not stop to consider whether this measure would reduce the incentives for procreation and nourish the temptation to think of sexual intercourse as an indoor sport. They did not stop to think.”

According to Rahe, much of the Catholic clergy have been “foster[ing] state paternalism and undermin[ing] what they professed to teach: that charity is an individual responsibility and that it is appropriate that the laity join together under the leadership of the Church to alleviate the suffering of the poor. In its place, they helped establish the Machiavellian principle that underpins modern liberalism – the notion that it is our Christian duty to confiscate other people’s money and redistribute it.”

The Church vs. Other Churches

Mr. Rahe’s column serves as a reminder that liberalism has the capacity to infiltrate any organization, no matter how sound or sacred. And it’s frustrating to think that if they had just “stopped to think,” these misguided clergymen might have realized what conservative commentator Dennis Prager recently noted, that “there is a moral dimension to a smaller government…The bigger the government, the worse the citizen. They are preoccupied in Europe with how much time off, where will they vacation, when will they retire. These are selfish questions. These are not altruistic questions.” Prager went on to say that “the Left has everything wrong.”

The Church seems to have forgotten – or perhaps ignored – Pope John Paul II’s denunciation of socialism: “The fundamental error of socialism is anthropological in nature. Socialism considers the individual person simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism, so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated…Socialism likewise maintains that the good of the individual can be realized without reference to his free choice…From this mistaken conception of the person there arise both a distortion of law, which defines the sphere of the exercise of freedom, and an opposition to private property…[Socialism] makes it much more difficult for him to recognize his dignity as a person, and hinders progress towards the building up of an authentic human community.”

By its 20th century errors, this ancient religion now risks being considered no more prudent than the proponents of Liberation Theology, the intellectual core of President Obama’s Trinity Church in Chicago, and what John Paul II recognized as Marxism disguised as religion.

The Catholic Church risks being perceived as no more sophisticated than Jim Wallis, Obama’s spiritual adviser, who was once asked if he was “calling for the redistribution of wealth in society,” and responded, “Absolutely. Without any hesitation. That’s what the gospel is all about.”

The RI State Council of Churches – a local socialist front group – claims to fight for “social justice,” a coded phrase that invariably translates to “the redistribution of wealth.” Has the Catholic Church truly locked arms with those who disingenuously place a modifier in front of the word “justice?”

Liberty For Me, But Not For Thee

Unfortunately, the consequence of adopting the liberal mentality has proven to provide the Church’s current progressive persecutors with some very valuable political cover, enabling Democrats to downplay and discredit Church leaders simply by pointing out that “some Catholic groups have praised [Obama’s] compromise” even though “the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops continues to object that [it] interferes with religious rights.” (Editorial, Los Angeles Times - 2.14.12)

Catholics and conservatives should avoid making the mistake of viewing the contraception controversy as an issue of religious liberty, when it’s simply an issue of liberty – and the Catholic Church’s failure to spot the specter of socialism lurking behind terms such as “compassion” and “progressive” and “Democrat.”

Or even to care once it is pointed out.

Amazingly, even in the midst of their astonishment and anger, Catholic leaders still have nothing to say on behalf of the members of their congregations that they were happy to have forced into a healthcare system that runs counter to Catholic teachings.

It has been truly disappointing to watch the Church stand up for their own freedom, while helping Democrats foist federal tyranny on the rest of us.

There was a time when the Catholic hierarchy knew better,” writes Rahe. “There was a time when Roman Catholicism was the great defender not only of its own liberty but of that of others. There was a time when the prelates recognized that the liberty of the church to govern itself in light of its guiding principles was inseparable from the liberty of other corporate bodies and institutions to do the same.” The Church forgot that “it could not hope to retain its traditional liberties if it did not lend a hand in defending the traditional liberties of others.”

In the end, though, we discover within these failures of American Catholic leaders a hopeful irony: The Church – along with Judeo-Christian philosophy as a whole – has done much in terms of molding modern conservative theory. As Rahe points out, “[T]he Church worked assiduously to hem in the authority of the Christian kings…[and] provided the foundation for the emergence of a parliamentary order…It was the Church that promoted the principles underpinning the emergence of parliaments. It did so by fostering the species of government that had emerged within the church itself.” And finally, “[H]ad kings not been hemmed in by the Church and its allies…I very much doubt that there ever would have been a regime of limited government.”

How strange it is that the political protégé of the Catholic Church – American conservatism – is here to return the instruction.

Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is chairman of the RI Young Republicans and a consultant for the Barry Hinckley Campaign for US Senate.


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Gip H.

Prediction--mr. rowley gets picked up by a major publication.

Chris O.

Catholics, make sure that you email this article to your local priests. Forward it on to Bishop Tobin. And all other Catholic spokesmen.

Jonathan Flynn

The Church and its hierarchy, particularly the present Pope (ex-Nazi and Defender of the Predators), has lost almost all of its moral high ground and now seems to be confused about what constitutes a 1st Amendment argument and simple workplace law. Hospitals are businesses, not churches.

Chris O.

JONATHYN: Well, what exactly makes something a "church" or a "religion"??? I think this is exactly travis' point. While there's a seeming 1st amendment violation here, this is more about liberty in general. For EVERYONE. The government shouldn't be telling ANYONE that they have to purchase ANYTHING. Especially for ANYONE ELSE.

And you're right. The Catholic Church is losing its moral high ground for not sticking up for OTHER PEOPLE's freedom.

Kevin O'Connor

If I had a SPOT I would put this article ON it.

Jonathan Flynn

On my keyboard, the Y and A are a row and 1/2 a part. I take the misspelling as a lame attempt at wing nut humor and a pathetic try at character assassination. A Jewish female doctor at a "Catholic" hospital should be denied birth control under your version Health Plan but the Bishop would be able to get Viagra. You never know when he might need it. Or for what purpose. That seems fair. A hospital is, even if owned by the church, not a church but a health care provider that offers health plans to its employees. It can't discriminate on who it chooses to cover or what it chooses to cover

Jonathan Flynn

Real names. Chris O. Gip H. Cowards. Simply cowards. Low life Cowards. "Fraidy Cat" cowards. Grow up or shut up.

Jonathan Flynn

@ Gip H.. Mr. Rowley's last tome was a vanity press pamphlet. I wouldn't hold your breath about national syndication.

tom brady

I'm waiting for the day that chris O disagrees with his lover travis!! hahahahahahaha

Chris O.


Chris O.

"A hospital is, even if owned by the church, not a church but a health care provider that offers health plans to its employees. It can't discriminate on who it chooses to cover or what it chooses to cover" - J. Flynn

What country am i in?

Jonathan Flynn

One where you can make idiotic comments without having to reveal your self. Next time you get sick, go to the Christian Science Hospital. They'll hook you up.

Chris O.

"A Jewish female doctor at a "Catholic" hospital should be denied birth control under your version Health Plan but the Bishop would be able to get Viagra. You never know when he might need it. Or for what purpose. That seems fair." - J. Flynn

You would have the federal government FORCE someone to buy someone else his/her birth control? Again, what country am i in?

And knock off the cheap shots at priests. You sound like an idiot.

Chris O.

And my last name is Orion. Oh! The last name revealed! My arguments finally have a full name behind them! The world makes so much sense now!

NOW can we get back to the discussion? Flynn - What an idiot.

Jeremy Soninjer

Chris, the name request is common from people who reside on the political left. Your name has absolutely nothing to do with this conversation, yet the liberals will focus on it in an attempt to discredit you. It's simply a leftist argumentative impulse. Your sarcastic reaction to Mr. Flynn was perfect.

On the other hand, they may also want your full name so they can find out where you live and burn your house down.

Kevin O'Connor

Chris O. is so completely right and M Flynn is so completely wrong. M Flynn just sounds like he's pretty socialist and has some deep seeded resentment towards the Catholic Church.

Only leftists would use priest pedophilia as any sort of argument in this debate.

When are people going to start talking about where we'd be without the Catholic Church? Do people have any idea the amount of good they do? Not important?

Joseph Bernstein

The Pope is not an "ex-Nazi".He was drafted into an antiaircraft unit at 16 and deserted.Quite the war criminal,hmmm?
As far as protecting pedophiles,I wouldn't know enough to comment.

Jonathan Flynn

He was in charge of damping down and minimizing the fall out from the sex abuse scandal. Ask Cardinal Law. Oh, he's in Rome without an extradition treaty.

Jonathan Flynn

I asked that he use his real name so we can have a real discussion. I use my name and stand by my comments. People who use pseudonyms and alias'es are not debating honestly. Not using a real name discredits one's arguments automatically. I will not burn any one's house down. That accusation shows how moronic the right has become.

I am not a socialist but I think the Catholic Church has lost credibility by protecting child abusers. I know several abused people personally who were in my home town parish. Father Porter was moved there before he went to MA.

Jonathan Flynn

Chris "The Belt" Orion. It might be a real name.

Chris O.

Jonathan "The Bigot" Flynn might be a real name, too.

Mistakes made by individuals inside the Church is something they have owned up to and are dealing with. People who continue to use it as a battering ram against the Church are the ones being unreasonable. Child molesters sneak themselves into all institutions that offer them access to kids. We should ask ourselves why there is so much lingering bigotry aimed at the Catholic Church, but not against public school teachers, camp counselors, coaching staffs, etc ---all institutions that have been caught shielding their own perverts. For some reason, only the Church gets held to this impossible standard: None of your millions of members can ever make a mistake. If one does, your entire organization loses its "moral high ground" forever. No matter the issue, and no matter how much time has passed, Church-hating bigots will always be there to remind everyone of this irrelevant topic.

Joseph Bernstein

The ACLU had a high ranking executive in Virginia convicted of possessing violent child pornography-I don't even want to think what that was like.
A staff attorney for the ACLU in NY was convicted in a sting operation for attempting to meet a child for sex.
The same people who rail about the Catholic Church(of which I am not a member)are curiously quiet when the ACLU routinely defends the "rights"of convicted sexual predators.
If a priest is abusing kids,lock him up and throw away the key.
In the end,it's the faullt of the offender himself-you can't condemn an entire church.
Cardinal Law did apparently shield some sexual predators and should be punished,but he is beyond the reach of prosecutors.
The Penn State situation is nauseating,but the blame belongs to individuals,not the institution itself.

Chris O.

Amen, Joe. It's amazing to witness this deep-rooted hatred for the Church as a whole...and people who revel in the Church's embarrassments. Kevin O is right....the Catholic Church is one of the greatest forces for good in the world. It's a wonder why people despise it so much.

Jeremy Soninjer

Something to consider.

"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first." - John 15:18

Jonathan Flynn

The ACLU doesn't use cover ups to hide misdeeds of its officials. Internationally, the Church had thousands of cases of child molestation and actively tried to avoid prosecution of the perps. Even Joe admits Cardinal Law is on the lam because he covered up these cases. The new Pope was in charge of suppressing the scandal for the Vatican, not openly acknowledging the problem.

Jonathan Flynn

Child Sex Abuse Widespread in Dutch Catholic Church: Report ...

Irish report damns Catholic Church abuse response – CNN Belief ...

BBC News - Pope Benedict hit by new Church child abuse allegations

Look it up. It wasn't a few bad apples. It was a systematic, chronic cover up.

Chris O.

you're a hopeless case, Jonathan Flynn. Why are you citing news reports? Nobody has denied what happened or claimed that it was "a few bad apples." You seem entirely incapable of grasping the issue at hand here, or that we're talking about people's bigotry and hatred against the Church, represented by their tendency to bring this up every chance they get. Yet, people like you ignore other institutions that have experienced similar scandals. Sort of like how you brought it up down here, when this story has absolutely nothing to do with the Church's unfortunate sex scandal. For some reason, people like you just can't let it go. And it says more about you than it does the Church.

Now go right ahead, cite some more news reports.

Chris Orion

Jonathan Flynn

"Mistakes made by individuals inside the Church is something they have owned up to and are dealing with." That's you and the few bad apples apology. People in the church hierarchy denied the abuse and covered it up until they had to send Cardinals fleeing to the Vatican so they wouldn't be prosecuted. This is not like other organizations.

There's no bigotry here. Intense dislike, yes. The Church often doesn't act like a beneficent body but like a powerful business trying to cover up its wrongdoing.

Joseph Bernstein

Jonathan-when the ACLU opposes Jessica's Law,they are enabling pedophiles,whether they believe so or not.
Predatory sex offenders tend to repeat their crimes given the opportunity-it's amazing-I have questioned these people on a number of occasions and they seem to actually feel entitled to commit their misdeeds.
They construct justifications for thier acts-give me a good old dope dealer to interrogate any time-they just know they got caught screwing up.

Chris O.

JF: "Mistakes made by individuals inside the Church is something they have owned up to and are dealing with." That's you and the few bad apples apology.

RESPONSE: No it's not. Not at all. But thanks for twisting my words to fit into your bigotry against the Catholic Church. Oh, I'm sorry. Not "bigotry." I meant "intense dislike."

JF: People in the church hierarchy denied the abuse and covered it up until they had to send Cardinals fleeing to the Vatican so they wouldn't be prosecuted. This is not like other organizations.

RESPONSE: Yes it is. Cover-ups (for all sorts of crimes, actually) are not unusual anywhere. i.e., See the public school system for numerous sex offenses on children, coincided with union protection. And there is absolutely no evidence that sex abusers exist in higher proportions among Catholic clergy than other bodies.

Face it. You just hate the Church, and you're clouded by hatred (intense dislike)

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