Archbishop Chaput on how Catholic teachings become hate crimes

"Threats to our religious freedom are not imaginary. They are happening right now. They are immediate, serious and real."

This is how Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia describes what he called "a pattern of government coercion" over religious practice and belief, including the US government's current attempt to compel Catholic organisations to offer insurance cover for contraception and abortion-inducing drugs.

The so-called "HHS Mandate" has provoked 43 Catholic organizations to sue the Government and led to the bishops declaring a "Fortnight for Freedom", beginning today. As Archbishop Gomez of Los Angeles explains in First Things:

[O]ur freedoms are ... being eroded as the result of constant agitation from de-Christianizing and secularizing elements in American society. In the public arena, we’ve seen relentless efforts to get Church agencies to go along with secular agendas that violate Catholic beliefs—from trying to force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions and sterilizations, to trying to coerce Catholic adoption agencies to place children with homosexual couples. 

In our wider culture, Christian faith and values are increasingly portrayed—in the media, in the courts, even in comments from high government officials—as a form of bigotry. In our diverse, pluralistic society, it seems sometimes that Christianity is becoming the one lifestyle that can’t be tolerated to have a role in public life.

 "Tomorrow we start a Fortnight for Freedom," Chaput told the 2012 Catholic Media Conference. "It is a moment for each of us to be grateful to our bishops for doing the right thing ... at the right time. If we don't press now and vigorously for our religious liberty in the public arena, we will lose it. Not overnight, not with a thunderclap, but step by step." 

Archbishop Chaput's speech contained a brilliant explanation of how the Church's teachings come to be declarated hate crimes. 
 
Critics of the Church reduce its moral convictions about life and sexuality to an expression of a subjective religious belief. If they are purely religious beliefs, critics say, they can't be rationally defended. And because they are not rationally defensible, they should be treated as a form of prejudice.
 
"In effect, 2,000 years of moral tradition and religious belief become a species of bias," Chaput said. "Opposing same-sex marriage thus becomes religious-blessed homophobia."
 
Once religious belief is redefined as a private bias, religious identity and institutional ministry have no public value other than the utility of getting otherwise incredulous people to do good things, he said.
 
So exempting Catholic adoption agencies with gay couples becomes a concession to private prejudice, and that becomes bigotry that hurts the public -- "or so the reasoning goes."
 
"This is how moral teaching and religious belief gets counted as hate speech," he said.
 
He added:
 
"Unless we work hard to keep our religious liberty, we are going to lose it. This has already happened in other developed nations, like Britain and Canada. Nothing guarantees our freedoms except our willingness to fight for them".
 
He went on to speak of the importance of being worthy of an intrinsic freedom.
 
"Religious liberty isn’t a privilege granted by the state. It’s our birthright as children of God. And even the worst bigotry can’t kill it in the face of a believing people. But if we value it and want to keep it, then we need to become people worthy of it. Which means we need to change the way we live–radically change, both as individual Catholics and as the Church". 
 
The full speech is here.

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