Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
— The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America
Well, here we are.
As I wrote in the comments section, here, back in 2006:
I have no doubt that within the next few decades that will find an “American Catholic Church” formed, which will look quite a lot like the Church of England or the Anglican church – rites, rituals, “sacraments” etc, and it will even have the imprimatur of the government insofar as it may – and it will be a church that the majority flock to; it will be seen by many as the “victory” over that stuffy old, stubborn Church of Rome. People will go on Oprah and say “I always loved God but I never felt accepted, but this enlightened American Catholic Church tells me what I need to hear, that God loves me and that divorce, abortion and all that stuff doesn’t matter as long as I am a good person, and I AM a good person, Oprah, I AM, and now I am accepted, and (weep, weep) I feel like God finally makes sense in the world!”
“That’s right,” Oprah will declare, “there is no sin, except the sinfulness of not loving the self! God doesn’t make junk!”
Applause, applause. The only ideal that matters is the one that makes you happy and doesn’t challenge the status quo.
Quite different from what Archbishop Romero or Archbishop Dolan are saying here, though.
And the Church of Rome will probably be taxed and fined and sued into seeming non-existance, too, for one political point after another. The church will be declared in extremis. And that is when the remnant will kick in.
The Remnant is much deeper than any movement, and it will surface on its own – full of surprising and surprised people – in due time, when it must, and that may be soon, but neither you nor I know the day or hour. The thing about remnants is that they identify themselves after a carpet has been laid or a robe has been cut, not before.
Remnants do not stop a construct from happening…they survive it.
There will always be a remnant.
The Roman church will become very much smaller, I think. I’m not afraid of it. In America, of course, the idea of “bigness” is conveyed as superior. But then we’ve all always known that ‘bigger” is not especially “better.”
According to the First Amendment and the Establishment Clause, the government has no business dictating to religious organizations how they should structure themselves. In Connecticut, though, some lawmakers seem to have skipped over the Constitution. A new bill will require Catholic parishes and dioceses — and only Catholics — to organize their parish leadership in a way that pleases the Connecticut legislature;
The [Democrats] Lawlor-and-McDonald-controlled Judiciary Committee has introduced Raised Bill 1098, a bill aimed specifically at the Catholic Church, which would remove the authority of the bishop and pastor over individual parishes and put a board of laymen in their place…
…Lest you think this is a joke, American Papist has Lawlor’s response to criticism. He admits that the state legislature wants to dictate the structure of this volunteer organization…
You can read the whole bill, here. It is, as Ed Morrissey correctly says,
“a piece of work…In other words, bishops would no longer have power over the actions of the parishes. That’s the Connecticut legislature’s vision of Roman Catholicism, but in America, government doesn’t get to structure religious organizations to suit itself. That, in fact, is a form of fascism that we routinely decry in other countries. The State Department objects to China’s insistence on picking Catholic bishops itself to suit their political oppression of religion, and Lawlor’s motion would find a welcome in Beijing as another means to the same end: state control of Catholicism.
Indeed. “You cannot tell a church how to govern itself,” said Marc D. Stern, general counsel for the American Jewish Congress in New York, in this report. “The church is entitled to govern itself any which way it wants.”
Archbishop Charles Chaput, of Denver, wastes no time in speaking out:
Addressing the perception that outsiders have of the Church as “a monolith,” Archbishop Chaput said that “the opposite is true.”
“Her real structure is much closer to a confederation of families. Each diocese or ‘local Church’ is accountable to the Holy See and in relation to one another within the Catholic faith,” the archbishop explained.
“Bigoted legislators,” Chaput said in reference to Sen. McDonald and Rep. Lawlor, “including some who claim to be nominally or formerly ‘Catholic,’ are thankfully uncommon. Most lawmakers, whatever their convictions, sincerely seek to serve the common good.
“But prejudice against the Catholic Church has a long pedigree in the United States. And rarely has belligerence toward the Church been so perfectly and nakedly captured as in Connecticut’s pending Senate Bill 1098, which, in the words of Hartford’s Archbishop Henry Mansell, ‘directly attacks the Roman Catholic Church and our Faith.’”
“In effect, SB 1098 would give the state of Connecticut the power to forcibly reorganize the internal civil life of the Catholic community. This is bad public policy in every sense: imprudent; unjust; dismissive of First Amendment concerns, and contemptuous of the right of the Catholic Church to be who she is as a public entity,” the archbishop criticized.
My email has been exploding with horrified reactions – and not just from Catholics. Most people of faith understand that this is an unconstitutional and dangerous incursion by a state, and one that ought to be resisted with all our might, and a precedent that could potentially bring all religions under the control of the government. Morrissey is quite right to make the comparison to China, where the “state-approved” Catholic church bows to the government, while the Roman Catholic Church runs largely underground, where the Terrible, Traumatic, and Intolerable Name of Jesus Christ may still be uttered and cause knees to bend.
Where is Richard John Neuhaus when you need him?
Ah, well…he’s in heaven, where he can pray for us before the Throne, along with his good pal (and the great American Patriot) Cardinal John O’ Connor.
That’s certainly heartening. But I think it’s time to face the fact that the notions of “tolerance” and “liberty” in America are about to be wildly re-interpreted, and not in some nebulous distance – not ten years or five years from now – but this very day – or, tomorrow, as it turns out. Just as we are watching the president – who thinks the US constitution is “fundamentally flawed” – make noises that “reproductive freedom” has primacy over “religious freedom” (the latter is explicitly mentioned in the constitution and the former is not), we’re going see the state try to penetrate the day-to-day management of the churches. What they cannot subvert through legislation, they will see destroyed, eventually, by lawsuits and punitive damages on a wide range of issues (gay marriage, re-opened statutes of limitations (for Catholics only, not for public school cases) on abuse scandals, “green” population initiatives) that will bankrupt the church and leave her (materially) against the ropes.
In an email, one of my more liberal Catholic readers, BK, writes,
“I am a liberal Catholic and I support gay marriage, think our teaching on abortion, contraception and divorce is heartless, and support female ordination, but I am against this bill. These changes should come from the parishes and the people, not the government.”
Well…changes in the church should not come from the government OR “the parishes and the people.” The church is not a democracy; it never has been. For all of its serious human failings – and they’ve existed within the church ever since Christ gave faulty, human, impetuous Peter the Keys – the church is at its core a supernatural entity, and the sorts of changes BK and others like him desire must come from the Holy Spirit, or not at all.
If we look at it that way – and I’m afraid that is the way it’s supposed to be in the church Instituted by Christ – then the church may never approve divorce, because Christ himself spoke against it. He may not have spoken explicitly against gay marriage (he would likely have had no need to) but he said clearly “a man and woman shall cleave and the two shall become one.” He didn’t say “people will cleave…”
And I’m afraid no matter how much people may think otherwise, the Holy Spirit is unlikely to approve abortion or any other casual destruction of the life God Himself has brought into being. The Life-giver, who is all about creating Love is probably not going to sign on to “love” that would prefer not to have “life.” Female ordination? It might come down the pike, but then again, it might not.
A recent study suggests that a growing number of Americans are either losing their faith or re-evaluating what faith means to them. In a nation where we have been conditioned to want “what we want, when we want it,” or to “have it your way” that is not surprising.
And it is precisely why eventually – sooner than we think – (certainly sooner than I thought) we will see the formation of the schismic Catholic Church of America, to which many, many (including, I am sure, our friend BK) will flock. Because Americans have come to want God to accommodate their worldviews, not the other way around. They want the church that teaches the age throughout the faith, not the church that teaches the faith throughout the age.
Do not be afraid. Pray. But understand that sometimes things need to happen in order for other things to happen. So, pray for the longview. Pray that God may use you as His instrument. Pray for wisdom and an understanding heart. Pray that when the rubber meets the road, when it’s time to stand up, you’ll be ready and able. Much of what you are fretting about right now is passing illusion. The rest of it, well, we’ll walk that road.
And remember Romans 8:
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, 9 nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, 10 nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
— Romans 8:38-39
Much to be concerned about, yes. Much to defend and fight for, yes. But do not be afraid.
UPDATE: Well, a reprieve of sorts. Seems
“The bill is dead for the rest of the legislative session. As soon as word spread about the bill, the Legislative Office Building was flooded with telephone calls and e-mails on Monday. The bill, virtually overnight, became the hottest issue at the state Capitol.”. (H/T Ace) That’s good. But it’s still on the way – next year, year after that, because as Ed Morrissey writes: They’re embarrassed, but they still haven’t learned why.
This battle is going to happen. Bank on it.
UPDATE II: This article in the Christian Science Monitor says Evangelicals will find their numbers halved within ten years or so.
A Leaner, Smaller Church