By Fr. George Welzbacher
October 28, 2012
Standing in the White House Rose Garden on September 12th of this year, President Obama declared: "Since its founding the United States has been a nation that respects ALL faiths." This has indeed been our government's constant policy- until now. It is Mr. Obama himself who has broken with this policy and in so doing has shown an egregious contempt for the Catholic Church and for the Evangelical confession. His administration is demanding that, under pain of ruinous fines, Catholic businessmen and Catholic institutions (and to a significant if lesser degree Evangelical businessmen and Evangelical institutions) are to be complicit in a violation of conscience through subsidizing what their faith condemns as evil. Under the notorious mandate issued earlier this year by Mr. Obama's Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, with authorization dubiously drawn from the ambiguous provisions of The Affordable Health Care Act, Catholic and Evangelical businessmen are to be compelled to subsidize the provision of abortifacients, sterilization procedures and contraceptives, to their employees through mandatory health insurance policies. This past February, in a telephone call to New York's Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, President Obama informed the Cardinal that all Catholic hospitals and charitable agencies, and at least many of our Catholic schools, will soon be compelled to make similar provision for their employees. President Obama's words, as quoted by Cardinal Dolan: "I'm giving you a year and a half [till August first, 2013], to figure out how you're going to comply." (Mr. Obama seems at the time to have felt supremely confident that he would still be enthroned in the Oval Office, come August of next year).
All of this constitutes the very first instance in the history of our republic in which an American president has issued a directive explicitly requiring American citizens and religious institutions to do what their faith prohibits. The penalty for refusal to submit to such tyranny will be the payment of ruinous fines.
The imposition of such fines, if not delayed by court order, will mean that many a Catholic or Evangelical businessman will either have to act in contradiction to his faith, or go out of business. So, too, starting next August, all Catholic hospitals and charitable agencies will either have to renounce their connection with, and thus their guidance by, the Catholic faith, or eventually close their doors. The same would be true for all Catholic universities and colleges (and perhaps even grade schools and high schools) that do not restrict admission to those professing the Catholic faith. Perhaps a very few Catholic institutions of higher learning might be willing and able to pay huge fines for non-compliance -- for a while.
But it's safe to predict that by and large neither the will nor the ability to keep on paying such crushing fines would long endure. Notre Dame, for example, would have to pay millions of dollars in fines each year. What Mr. Obama clearly hopes to secure is the near-abolition of official Catholic participation in health-care, education, and institutional assistance to the poor.
Clearly, then, a president who campaigned on bringing "CHANGE!" to America, (change specified a bit later as involving the "profound transformation of American society") intends to carry out his pledge. Freedom of religion and freedom of conscience must now give way to presidential decree. With respect to the Bill of Rights it's "Blow a kiss and bye-bye!"
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Here in Minnesota as the extremely important vote on "The Definition of Marriage" approaches, may I share with you a recent interview with Archbishop Nienstedt that was printed in the Star Tribune for October 6, 2012?
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Q&A with Archbishop Nienstedt
Star Tribune October 6, 2012
Q: When it comes to the marriage amendment why should a religious view of what constitutes marriage and family life be enshrined into civil law?
A. Marriage defined as a union between one man and one woman is a reality that predates any government or denomination. Marriage is meant for children and children flourish best with a mother and a father.
Q: The Catholic Church has taken a strong stand against gay marriage politically because the church says it violates the natural order. Some critics note that you are silent when it comes to marriages between infertile couples beyond childbearing years. Are you similarly opposed to those marriages as well? Why not include them in the amendment?
A: Marriage between infertile couples reflects the complementarity of the sexes, which is an essential component in understanding what marriage is meant to be. An infertile couple is still able to achieve such organic bodily union, whereas two persons with the same sexual bodies are not.
Q: Have you always felt this strongly about same-sex marriage issues? Or has this issue grown in intensity for you? Why or why not?
A: I have always believed that marriage is a union between one man and one woman.
Q: Do you believe loyal and devoted Catholics can vote against the amendment and still be considered Catholics?
A: It would be difficult to comprehend how a person could not believe that marriage is anything but a union between one man and one woman. On this point, Catholic teaching is clear.
Q: What do you say to critics who argue the archdiocese should not be spending money on the marriage amendment fight, but instead working on such issues as poverty, homelessness, joblessness and the right to vote?
A: The money that the Archdiocese is spending to support the defense of marriage is but a small percent of what she spends on an annual basis to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, offer counseling services for the needy and to educate the poor. It is one more way that the Church contributes in a positive way to promote the common good of society.
Q: Does the church have a position on legal recognition of civil unions and what is it?
A: The church teaches that civil unions are not equivalent or analogous to marriage between a man and a woman, and are harmful both to the person and to society. Any legal approval of "civil unions" contributes to the erosion of the authentic meaning of marriage, as basic human rights are violated by any and all attempts to redefine it. However, as Catholics, we are committed to defending the dignity of all people, including those with same-sex attraction. We support the fact that persons should be able to visit loved ones in the hospital, pass on their property to whomever they choose, and have access to employment, housing and the basic necessities of life, rights they currently have in Minnesota.
Q: What role did you play in the production of the DVDs supporting traditional marriage that were mailed to nearly 400,000 Catholic families in Minnesota? Whose idea was it to create the DVDs? Who funded their production/dispersal?
A: The bishops of Minnesota together decided to support traditional marriage with the mailing of 400,000 DVD's, which were created by the Knights of Columbus. The funding came, as has been reported before, from generous benefactors.
Q: In an interview with the Rev. Michael Becker, one of your friends and the rector at St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, he recalled he'd heard that you were dining at the Lexington restaurant in St. Paul and a man came into the restaurant and threw one of the church's DVDs at you. Fr. Becker said you remained composed and that the incident speaks to the way you've handled intense criticism amid the marriage amendment debate. What was your response to that incident, your recollection of it? What's been your response in general to the often heated criticism lodged your way during this debate? Do you respond to your critics?
A: In the face of this and other criticism, I try to respond to such emotional outbursts with reason, calm and patience. My goal is to always treat others with respect, even if I don't agree with them.
Q: Catholic observers point out that other U.S. bishops involved in fighting same- sex marriage in other states have been promoted within the hierarchy and that you too would be well-positioned for a promotion. What's your response to that? Do you see yourself going to another diocese at a later time?
A: I explain and defend the teaching of the Church because I have been ordained to do so and I believe those teachings with all of my heart. It is regrettable that some attribute ulterior motives to my doing so. I do not see myself going to another diocese. I believe I have already passed the age for doing so.
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For First Time in U.S., Protestants Not Majority
Star Tribune, October 10, 2012
Protestants, who have played a central role in the nation's founding and development, no longer make up a majority of Americans for the first time in history, according to a study released Tuesday.
The study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that Protestants now make up 48% of Americans, compared with nearly two-thirds in the 1970s and 1980s. The decline, concentrated among white members of both mainline and evangelical denominations, is arnplified by an absence of Protestants on the U.S. Supreme Court and the Republican presidential ticket for the first time.
"It's a slow decline but a noticeable one," said Cary Funk, a Pew senior researcher, adding that the new study was the first to show a statistically significant drop in Protestants to less than half.
Funk said a major factor driving the decline is an increase in religiously unaffiliated Americans to 20% from 15% five years ago. But, she said, two-thirds of them still say they believe in God. They overwhelmingly expressed disenchantment with religious organizations for being too concerned with money, power, rules and politics.
The trend toward dropping away from organized religion is most apparent among the young, the study showed. A third of adults under 30 have no religious affiliation, compared with just 9% among those 65 and older.
But Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, predicted that many of those young people will turn to the churches when they get married and have children.
"They're going through youthful rebellion," Land said.
However, Southern Baptists - the nation's largest Protestant denomination - have stagnated in growth after many years of increase, Land said. One reason was the declining birthrate among whites, the traditional mainstay of the denomination, he said. Only the infusion of African Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans, who now make up 20% of members, have kept the Southern Baptists from dropping by as much as 10%, he said.
In a counterweight to evangelical Christians who tend to back Republicans, the vast majority of religiously unaffiliated Americans - who number 46 million - vote Democratic and are politically liberal. Two-thirds support President Obama, compared with 27% for Republican nominee Mitt Romney the study found. Nearly three-fourths support legal abortion and same-sex marriage.
The Study also presented a stark map of how political and religious polarization have merged in recent decades. Congregations used to be a blend of political affiliations, but that's generally not the case anymore. Sociologists have shown that Americans are more likely to pick their place of worship by their politics, not vice versa.
Some said the study and its data on younger generations forecast more polarization....
RELIGIOUS NUMBERS IN MINNESOTA
The Pew study did not break down data state by state, but a religious census released in May found that in Minnesota Catholics have close to 1.1 million followers. Mainline Protestants have close to 975,000, while Evangelical Protestants number close to 745,000.
In addition, nearly 2.3 million people are identified as "unclaimed," according to the census by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies. The unclaimed population are people not affiliated with any of the 236 groups included in the census.
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