Papal Nuncio: Threats to Religious Freedom Emerging in Western Democracies

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano CNA

South Bend, Ind., Nov 12, 2012 / 07:08 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano has told the University of Notre Dame that there is a concrete “menace” to religious liberty in the U.S. that is advancing in part because some influential Catholic public figures and university professors are allied with those opposed to Church teaching.

“Evidence is emerging which demonstrates that the threat to religious freedom is not solely a concern for non-democratic and totalitarian regimes,” he said. “Unfortunately it is surfacing with greater regularity in what many consider the great democracies of the world.”

The apostolic nuncio, who serves as the Pope’s diplomatic representative to the U.S., said this is a “tragedy” for both the believer and for democratic society.

Archbishop Vigano’s Nov. 4 speech keynoted the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Church Life conference. He discussed martyrdom, persecution, and religious freedom, with a particular focus on the United States.

He cited Catholics’ duties to be disciples of Christ, not elements of a political or secular ideology. He lamented the fact that many Catholics are publicly supporting “a major political party” that has “intrinsic evils among its basic principles.”

“There is a divisive strategy at work here, an intentional dividing of the Church; through this strategy, the body of the Church is weakened, and thus the Church can be more easily persecuted,” the nuncio said.

Archbishop Vigano observed that some influential Catholic public officials and university professors are allied with forces opposed to the Church’s fundamental moral teachings on “critical issues” like abortion, population control, the redefinition of marriage, embryonic stem cell research and “problematic adoptions.”

He said it is a “grave and major problem” when self-professed Catholic faculty at Catholic institutions are the sources of teachings that conflict with Church teaching on important policy issues rather than defend it.

While Archbishop Vigano noted that most Americans believe they are “essentially a religious people” and still give some importance to religion, he also saw reasons this could change.

He said that the problem of persecution begins with “reluctance to accept the public role of religion,” especially where protecting religious freedom “involves beliefs that the powerful of the political society do not share.”

The nuncio said it is “essential” to pray for a just resolution to religious freedom controversies, including the controversy over the new federal mandate requiring many Catholic employers to provide morally objectionable insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including some abortion-causing drugs.

The issues that the Catholic bishops have identified in this mandate are “very real” and “pose grave threats to the vitality of Catholicism in the United States,” Archbishop Vigano said.

The nuncio also discussed other religious liberty threats.

He cited a Massachusetts public school curriculum that required young students to take courses that presented same-sex relations as “natural and wholesome.” Civil authorities rejected parents’ requests for a procedure to exempt their children from the “morally unacceptable” classes.

“If these children were to remain in public schools, they had to participate in the indoctrination of what the public schools thought was proper for young children,” the archbishop said. “Put simply, religious freedom was forcefully pushed aside once again.”

Catholic Charities agencies have also been kicked out of social service programs because they would not institute policies or practices that violate “fundamental moral principles of the Catholic faith.” (Read more here.)

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  • bill bannon

    Sorry, but like almost every Catholic voice on earth, he is obviously incapable of discussing the Pope’s place and prime responsibility in kicking out ” influential Catholic public officials and university professors ” who support abortion (with the hope of their amending.) The Pope is not a CEO….he has more power than a CEO who must answer to a board of directors. Read canon law which says his power is “supreme” and “immediate” throughout the church and his decrees cannot be appealed. Read the list of Bishops that Benedict removed. Hans Kung and Charles Curran were dechaired from teaching as was Heinneman in Germany by Rome. Rome can do it and has….but part time. If there are still bad apples, that means Rome and Popes fainted as to processing all those who should be dechaired or otherwise. Why tell the laity. We can’t dechair anyone. The Pope can. We will whine about Catholic profs as the Archbishop is doing… as we heap constant flattery on the very Popes who don’t remove them. We need Popes who like administration from 8 AM until 4 PM and hate writing. And we’ve had the opposite for a half century. Do we need anymore documents that maybe one percent of the Church reads? No. We need Popes who love administration and stopping the gay pride club at Georgetown and the overnight opposite sex visits at U. of San Franisco dorms.
    The Jesuits take an extra vow of allegiance to the Pope. They at Georgetown and U of SF have to obey a phone call in which he tells them to change those two mentioned policies. The call is never made because the Pope is writing.

    • J. H. M. Ortiz

      Trouble is, a pope’s decrees are sometimes enforced or not depending on secular-government cooperation. When such cooperation is not given, or is despaired of, the dissidents remain. For instance, I’ve read that both in America and in France, certain formerly Catholic parishes have simply been taken over by SSPX clergy who simply moved in physically, and have stayed.

      • bill bannon

        Name a case where a Pope dechaired someone and they are still in a papal approved school. You cannot.

      • J. H. M. Ortiz

        Not being an expert here, I can only offer impressions. My impression is that few defend John Paul’s administrative ability, especially in his later years: In appointing bishops, I understand his habit was generally to go along with whoever the local church recommended — in contrast to Pope Paul VI, during whose reign several Spanish sees had to remain vacant because Paul VI didn’t go along with dictator Franco’s picks. I understand that for his part, Pope Benedict has spent much of his time reviewing a local church’s recommendation, sometimes asking that church for some additional name to consider. Also, John L. Allen’s weekly column at NCReporter has given me the impression that Benedict has indeed removed a few bishops.

        • bill bannon

          I noted that Benedict removed Bishops in my post…4th sentence.

        • Mark

          J.H.M. Ortiz makes a good point. I most definitely know of an instance where the new Bishop was the recommendation of the previous and both were very weak. The Priest everyone was expecting to become Bishop did not. So I know the point JHM is making is true in at least one instance.

      • Rebecca Hamilton

        I think the Holy Father has been very clear in his teachings as to what Catholic doctrine and dogma are.

        If, say, I decide to start robbing banks this afternoon, I can not claim that the reason why is because the Church never taught me it was wrong. I can only say that I did wrong.

        Or, if I’m like so many people in our sick culture, I can claim that bank-robbing is my civil and moral right, since I have been subjected from my birth with working class poverty that I did not choose and cannot help and that robbery is the only way to make this wrong right. I can further claim that anyone who disagrees with me about this is full or bigotry and hatred and isn’t following what Jesus taught, since he never said a word against bank robbery and did say “blessed are the poor.”

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I don’t think the Holy Father has the time to go around the world removing individuals from positions. I’m actually kind of confused how these fallen Catholics are somehow the Holy Father’s fault and not their own.

  • Bill S

    Franco obviously had no business selecting bishops and the Church has no business interfering in the governing of a sovereign state. The government has no business in the running of the Church but it does in having health care provided by employers even if they are affiliated with the Church. The Church has no business telling employees of schools, hospitals, etc. what their health care programs should or should not include. This opinion is currently held by a government that has been elected by the people. Only the courts can decide otherwise. These institutions are obliged to comply with the rules and mandates of the Affordable Health Care and Patients Protection Act or pay the appropriate penalties. End of discussion.

    • Ted Seeber

      And that is why Americanism was an utter failure and has created so much pain folks. We’ve separated government from God, and are left with government that has no Good.

    • J. H. M. Ortiz

      I’m under the impression (sorry, there’s that word again) that under a more-or-less long-standing concession from Rome, the Spanish government was authorized to recommend someone for the pope to appoint to a Spanish see. Franco had no business, though, rejecting Pope Paul’s alternative proposals. But although the pope had the moral AUTHORITY to appoint a bishop, he lacked the physical POWER to effect his decision.
      I read somewhere that Joseph Stalin was said to have taunted, “Where are the pope’s armies?” Pope Pius XII was said to have countered, “My armies are in heaven.” Well, yes; but Stalin had a point, I think: a bishop’s physical power is rather linited.

      • J. H. M. Ortiz

        A bishop’s physical power is rather liMited, indeed.

    • Frank M

      The Church is God’s Instrument on Earth . God didn’t leave us alone without a guide and shepherd on faith and morals . It is gravely immoral to murder an innocent baby in the womb (abortificiants) . Contraception , and sterilization is contrary to God’s will and human nature . Even the Supreme Court said there was a link between contraception and abortion and I’m not just talking about the abortificiant aspect of it. No, the Supreme Court said ( paraphrasing here) that abortion has become the fall back option for failed contraception . That is our belief , which is THE TRUTH , so why are you forcing the Church to go against our beliefs ? Why are you forcing hospitals to do harm (murder) ? God has every sovereign right to tell us the truth on what’s right and wrong . How exactly is the Church interfering in this sovereign government? By proclaiming the truth about what’s evil and to avoid it ? God in His mercy shows us the way but we refuse to listen ? Just what do you believe in Bill S ?

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Franco was a fascist dictator put in power by Nazi-backed soldiers in an early run-up to World War II.

      As for the government’s business, when it tells the largest denomination in the United States that it must violate its constant teaching on a question that the president disagrees with the Church about or face crippling fines and government penalties, then the government has stepped way over the line into the business of controlling the Church.

      I’m beginning to think that the people who won’t see this are simply taking a position and defending it in the face of obvious reason.

  • Bill S

    “And that is why Americanism was an utter failure and has created so much pain folks.”

    What are you talking about? This is the greatest country in the world. The Church’s latest complaint is because the government is trying to provide complete health care coverage for all employees. Some persecution.

    • Frank M

      Bill S : There ‘ll be a $100/day fine for every employee only partially covered while a $2,000/year fine for every employee not covered at all . The much heavier fine will be for if we decide to cover everything else ( morally acceptable ) but abortion causing drugs , sterilization . But there’s a much lesser fine for not providing health coverage at all . See the one particularly evil aspect of it is ? Another is what almost all people would agree should be mandatory say like , hosptitalization and prescription drugs are left to the discretion of individual states while contraception including abortificiants and sterilization are mandated as essential . A case can definitely be made that he’s targeting the Catholic Church . This is aggresive secularism at work here . Or as John Paul II called it the ” tyranny of relativism” . Other examples are the exclusion in Massachusetts of catholic adoption agencies that won’t adopt to same sex couples or unmarried couples . Also the Church was forced out of ministry in helping victims of human trafficking because we won’t refer women for abortion . How can we survive at either $100/day or $2,000/year fines ? That’s the whole point as Bishop Lori has pointed out and I’ve made my case clear . There’s a pattern here that’s quite evident . In Canada , there are fines for anyone preaching/teaching that homosexuality is wrong . Tolerance has suddenly become intolerant . Who would’ve thought so ? Well the Church saw this coming a long way off . See ” Tyranny of relativism ” .

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Actually Bill, the Church never complained about provisions for free birth control in the Affordable Health Care Act. What the Church is opposing is President Obama’s direct attack on religious freedom by insisting that the Church itself violate its own teachings and pay for these things in violation of its constant teaching on the matter.

      As I’ve had to say soooooo many times, this is not a law and was not part of Obamacare. It is an agency rule, which was created by an unelected, hand-picked committee and then signed by the President.

    • Ted Seeber

      “What are you talking about? This is the greatest country in the world.”

      That attitude is exactly what I’m talking about- the heresy of Americanism.

  • Art Chartier


  • Bill S

    “Just what do you believe in Bill S ?”

    I believe in a government of the people, by the people, for the people. I don’t believe in a government that caters to people who think that they speak for God. I believe that whatever the Supreme Court determines will be the correct ruling as to whether or not the HHS mandate violates anyone’s First Amendment rights. The justices are experts on constitutional law. If they determine that all employers must comply, that’s the end of discussion.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Bill, are you seriously saying that the Supreme Court can never be wrong and must always be followed without any opposition or public discussion of its rulings? If that’s what you believe, then you are indeed, building your house on shifting sands.

      • Bill S

        I believe that the justices are the true experts on the matter. I trust the opinions of experts.

        Now what if I asked you: Rebecca, are you seriously saying that the Catholic Church can never be wrong and must always be followed without any opposition or public discussion of its rulings?

        Look at the history before you answer the question.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          Let’s stick with the “experts” on the Supreme Court.

          What about Dred Scott?

          What about separate but equal?

          What about corporations are people?

          What about the government condemning private property for corporations?

          What about the many rulings that the 14th Amendment does not apply to women?

          • Ted Seeber

            Or the ruling that the 14th amendment doesn’t apply to inconvenient people like the unborn, the disabled, and even those who were merely unplanned?

    • Ted Seeber

      “I believe in a government of the people, by the people, for the people. ”


      Current evidence suggests that the people are idiots who will only make a mess out of anything given to them.

  • Bill S

    Like any human entity, the Supreme Court is fallible. And don’t kid yourself, the Church is too. But unlike the Church, the Supreme Court keeps evolving and correcting itself with decisions that reverse or revise past rulings. The Church seems very reluctant to do the same. For example, the Church will never reverse its teachings on contraception no matter what information becomes available because it would have to admit that it made a mistake and mistakes can’t happen when one is infallible.

    • Ted Seeber

      The Church is at least built on empirical evidence gathered by actual observation.

      The Supreme Court and much of your science is bought and paid for reduction of the evidence designed to fit a given predetermined conclusion.

      Hmm, I think I’ll take the Church’s version of Faith and Reason, over bribery and reductionism.