The Pope addressed his Bishops earlier this week and told Catholics to understand the “grave threats” posed by “radical secularism.” He felt that the church’s religious freedom was being eroded.
This story from USA Today goes on to explain that the Bishops are upset about the growing acceptance of same sex unions, and about the possibility that the Catholic Church’s insurance program will be forced to provide birth control as part of the new national health insurance standards.
I don’t see either of those issues as reducing religious freedom. What it does is reduce their authority to tell other people what to do. No one is forcing Catholics into same sex relationships. No one is forcing the Church to marry same sex couples. No one is forcing Catholics to take birth control.
Catholic adoption agencies that receive state funds have protested over not being able to exclude gay couples from adopting kids. They believe that a same sex relationship is intrinsically evil. They are wrong, but it’s not against the law to be wrong. They can exclude people as long as they don’t take federal money. But they want to be able to take federal money AND be able to discriminate.
You can’t do both. Some of the state money comes from taxes paid by gay couples. You can’t take money from those couples and then tell them they can’t use the service. Once you take that money, you become just like any other utility or service that tax dollars pay for. The city can’t take your tax dollars and then refuse to pave your street or pick up your trash just because they disagree with something you are doing. Same thing for tax supported adoption.
The Catholic Church is not having its religious freedoms curtailed by being made to follow the law. What the church wants is special treatment. They want to be able to tell others outside the church that they have to follow the rules and customs that the church as laid down for its own members. That is the opposite of religious freedom. That is telling me that I can’t follow my beliefs if they differ from what the Pope has decreed is right.
It’s not just the Catholic church that has tried to play the poor persecuted victim when they have been made to follow public policy. It’s not even just christian churches. But separation of church and state means that no church is above the laws that the state has put in place. Allowing any church or religion to ignore a law because of religious belief is a special privilege accorded to that faith and is a violation of the Constitution because it gives preferential treatment to one group. To paraphrase Captain Kirk, the Constitution (and by extension the laws passed under that constitution) applies to everyone, or it is meaningless.
So the “grave threat” from “radical secularism” just means the Church has to follow the laws of the land, just like everyone else, and can’t do what ever it wants to do like it could back in the good old days of medieval Europe. I think that is a good thing. Because it insures that we all have religious freedom.