The Personalist Project

An online friend pointed me to a  sobering article in Business Insider on Cardinal George's warnings about the HHS mandate.

George wrote in his column that the "The State was making itself into a Church" and said he longed for "the separation of Church and State" that Americans enjoyed recently, "when the government couldn’t tell us which of our ministries are Catholic and which not."

George compared the Obama's vision of "religious liberty" of the United States to that of the Soviet Union in a passage worth quoting at length: 

Liberty of religion is more than freedom of worship. Freedom of worship was guaranteed in the Constitution of the former Soviet Union. You could go to church, if you could find one. The church, however, could do nothing except conduct religious rites in places of worship-no schools, religious publications, health care institutions, organized charity, ministry for justice and the works of mercy that flow naturally from a living faith. All of these were co-opted by the government. We fought a long cold war to defeat that vision of society.

Essentially George is saying that the Obama administration and the progressive intelligentsia are replacing freedom of religion with a more cramped vision of "freedom of worship." You're allowed to believe whatever you want, but you'll do whatever the state tells you to do. 

Between this and the Obama administration's support for "same sex marriage" we are witnessing grave assaults—not just on our nation's moral underpinnings—but the on the basic truths of personal existence.  Those in political power are trying to deny and destroy the limits placed on their power by reality--specifically, the reality of our nature as individuals with unalienable rights, as male and female, called to a fruitful union of love, and as creatures, made in God's Image and under His Authority.

Comments (12)

Devra Torres

#1, May 15, 2012 11:57am

It's true: the administration has shown a preference for that exact phrase--freedom of worship--instead of freedom of religion.

The same sex "marriage" position, though, is the logical outcome of a view of marriage that has nothing essential to do with faithfulness or fruitfulness.  Once you call it "marriage" when two people of the opposite sex make an arrangement to stay together "as long as we both shall love," and which may or may not have anything to do with children, it becomes hard to understand why two men or two women can't make a similar arrangement and call that "marriage," too.  

Sister Anne Flanagan

#2, May 29, 2012 1:02pm

The Cardinal is continuing to beat this drum in letters to be printed in parish bulletins. Last week, one irate woman came to our bookstore in downtown Chicago, waving the Cathedral bulletin. "This makes it sound like the Cardinal is claiming that the government wants to decide what makes an institution Catholic!" Sister nodded and said, "Yes, that is the very point he is making."The woman just shook her head. She is a social worker for a government agency and had not heard a whisper of this sort of thing before. "Since when?" she demanded. "Oh, about a year now," came the answer.

"Well, I don't believe it. I'm going to ask the President if it's true."

This being Chicago, she probably does have a way to get to the President for his take on the matter. Which is available in every talk he's been giving.

But it was all news to that one woman in the pews.

Tim Cronin

#3, May 30, 2012 1:00pm

Rights as conceived by John Locke are for the fictional autonomous self that is able to reason. These rights are considered a right to be free from coercion from other fictional autonomous individual self(s). Therefore the Mandate is inline with the liberal founding of our nation because freedom of choice supercedes the rights of a child or religious institution because rights are tied only to individual autonomous self(s). What we need to do is argue against the very roots of the problems here. (See David Schindler: The Repressive Logic Of Liberal Rights: Religious Freedom, Contraceptives, And The“Phony” Argument Of The New York Times)

Katie van Schaijik

#4, May 30, 2012 1:10pm

Tim, forget for a moment what you (or Schindler) thinks John Locke's conception of rights may have been. 

Do you, Tim Cronin, believe that persons are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among those are freedom of religion and freedom of conscience?

Tim Cronin

#5, May 30, 2012 2:33pm

I believe persons (as in the Catholic Sense - a gfit from conception to natural death) are endowed with these rights which goes beyond the American Liberalist belief in these rights only for persons in the individual autonomous reasoning sense. Therefore excluding anyone dependent on anyone else.

I believe that freedom (in the Catholic Sense) is a gratuitous gift of ourselves to ourselves from God and others and not in the American sense of freedom of choice. Therefore while we should coerce noone into religion and certainly not cause them to go against their conscience we need to move beyond American liberalism's "freedom of choice" when it comes to God and nature and declare that we and creation is from God.

Tim Cronin

#6, May 30, 2012 2:37pm

Hi Katie, My main point is we need to stop defending American Liberal Rights and start defending the Church's view of the person. Otherwise we are simply arguing on liberal grounds that are hiddenly metaphysically opposed to Catholic grounds. (and will therefore continue to put the strong over the weak) -Tim

Tim Cronin

#7, May 30, 2012 3:11pm

Hi Katie, Do you believe that man is a secular being who should have the freedom of choice to choose the God of his choosing or that man is free because God is so gracious that He gave us to ourselves and therefore our freedom is a response to the gracious gift and therefore man is a religious being? I would argue that American Liberalism unwittingly puts forth the first claim with its version of religious freedom while we need instead a religious freedom based on God's gracious gift. -Tim

Katie van Schaijik

#8, May 30, 2012 5:57pm

Of course I don't believe that man is a secular being.  Nor do I think that that's the American view.  The view you describe sound more like radical libertarianism, which appeals to only a small percentage of Americans.

Regardless, if you agree that freedom of conscience and free exercise of religion are human rights worth defending (as the Church does), then let's defend them.

By defending them, we in no way commit ourselves to a secular interpretation of the human person and society.

Since human governments and human societies are imperfect, there never has been and never will be one that isn't in some respects at odds with the fulness of our faith.

It seems to me that our duty is to defend and promote the good wherever we find it, as well as to oppose the evils we encounter.

Tim Cronin

#9, May 30, 2012 9:53pm

I don't think there is much more America can do to be more radically liberal then legally defend the "rights" to kill the unborn and the elderly, same-sex marriage, contraception, etc. By not tying freedom to the gift of God and instead to choice American liberalism is supporting a structure of sin (JPII) and a dictatorship of relatavism (PBXVI).

Katie van Schaijik

#10, May 31, 2012 8:01am

Who here is not tying the freedoms we have to the gift of God?  Who here imagines that abortion is a right?  

The claim that abortion is a right is a false and evil claim, in direct conflict with the "founding doctrine" of our nation, as well as with Christian moral principles. 

Do you mean to say that it's impossible to defend the free exercise of religion in this country?  That we should instead call for the abolition of America as founded, because if we defend her founding, we implicate ourselves in abortion?

What, practically, are you hoping to see?

Tim Cronin

#11, May 31, 2012 12:32pm

I'm saying the American juridicial structure which is purposely empty of religious and metaphysical content (although it has a hidden one) therefore is not tied to the gift of God, it is tied to the individual independent self (which is a false abstraction). When a case of "rights" such as abortion or SSM goes before the court the consideration is of autonomous independents and not of man who is a gift from God and others. Therefore dependents such as those in the womb are at a disadvantage. Also since our juridicial structure lacks a methaphysical content what is (as in being) is not considered in what ought (as in action). There is no connection with given nature or natural law. There is no explicit metaphysical grounding for our juridicial system which again puts us at a disadvantage when we are making our case on natural law.

Tim Cronin

#12, May 31, 2012 12:50pm

The claim to abortion is not in direct conflict with the founding document of our nation because it comes from John Locke's "Letter Concerning Toleration" in which he states: "Civil interest I call life, liberty, health, and indolency of body; and the possession of outward things..."

John Locke saw rights as only those capable of fully rational discourse thus excluding life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to the unborn. He also denied the Church's freedom of morality in the same document:

"But to come to particulars. I say, first, no opinions contrary to human society, or to those moral rules which are necessary to the preservation of civil society, are to be tolerated by the magistrate. But of these, indeed, examples in any Church are rare."

We should work within the liberal framework as a temporary strategy but I would say the country is standing on a foundational view of the person that is inadequate and crumbling. We must explain why it is crumbling to those in power and see what can be done to build a better foundation then the one that was established.

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