Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A dangerous game

In this season of "if they say it, it must be true," U.S. Catholic prelates are calling for every priest, parish and layperson to defend religious liberty that is "under attack."

Under attack? Hardly.

How exactly is there a threat to Catholics when Vice President Joe Biden is a Roman Catholic, as are six members of the Supreme Court, including the chief justice, as well as Speaker of the House John Boehner and 24 members of the Senate? This is not 1928 or 1960 when Protestant America inaccurately feared that a Catholic president would be ruled by the Pope.

But in 2012, in the name of religious liberty, the bishops want everyone to adhere to Catholic positions on abortion and contraception. "To be Catholic and American should mean not having to choose one over the other," say the bishops.

That having to choose is exactly what being American and Catholic or any other religion is about. Catholic bishops have the right to speak out about public policies, and to demand observance from Catholics. But they have no right to demand the use of the power of the state to enforce Catholic doctrine.

Our first and only Catholic president, John F. Kennedy, had a deeper understanding of both his faith and the U.S. Constitution when he declared, "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president, should he be Catholic, how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote."

When Kennedy's attitude is ignored, religious liberty truly is under attack and we begin to play the dangerous game that my religion is better than yours.

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