The other day, we received an email in the office that is such a perfect example of the state of our culture that I had to share it, and offer a few comments.
Here it is:
Dear Sister —
Aren’t you tired of being a “second class” citizen in your Church?
The American public is getting so tired of the Catholic Church’s
bigotry. You should pay your taxes, mind your business and
keep you noses our of the rest of the Country’s. You have
become one of the main road blocks to health care. Shame
We are beginning to think of you all as a bunch of PARASITES.
Now, you should bear in mind that this email was not sent to me. I’m the public policy coordinator in the Family Life/Respect Life Office, and I’ve been in this business long enough to be pretty thick-skinned. I’m used to this kind of stuff. It’s actually fairly mild, in comparison to some other things that have been sent my way. After all, I once had condoms thrown at me at a public meeting of the Board of Education.
But no, this love letter was sent to a religious sister, a professed member of the Sisters of Life. Their special charism is to protect and defend the sacredness of human life. The fact that this screed was sent to her demonstrates the level of hostility that many people bear, not just to faithful professed religious women, but also to the very concept of defending the unborn.
It is also a testament to the abiding intolerance towards the Catholic Church that runs deep in American society.
I’m not sure which part of the Constitution denies the right of Catholics and the Church Herself to free speech on political affairs, or requires us to refrain from any effort to influence legislation. It must be written in invisible ink in the same penumbras and emanations in which the Supreme Court found the right to kill unborn children. Or maybe it’s like one of those adventure movies where you can use your Tom Mix decoder ring to find the real meaning of the First Amendment.
Seriously, though, this letter reflects a strong drive aimed at the secularization of the public square — the complete exclusion of religious persons and religious-based arguments. Driven by an ideological commitment to such things as abortion and “gay rights”, it seeks to tell persons of faith that they should, as our correspondent says, “mind your business and keep you [sic] noses out of the rest of the Country’s”.
Twenty-five years ago, John Cardinal O’Connor confronted this same attitude when he stepped boldly into the public square to defend the unborn. Here is what he said in response:
Bishops have every right and duty to be involved in public policy, which is a different thing altogether from politics, both because they are bishops and because they are American citizens.
All citizens should express themselves on the moral dimensions of public policy issues. Those citizens who are generally perceived as “moral leaders,” such as the bishops, have a special obligation to do so. People expect bishops to denounce unjust war and aggression, to plead for the homeless, to denounce drug traffic, racism and so on. Bishops are criticized if they remain silent about such issues.
…Actually, many bishops find that local political leaders want to involve them, the bishops, in various public policy matters, rather than vice versa. Political leaders want bishops involved in community action. It is, again, only when abortion is involved that some political leaders complain about bishops.
In short, no, we will not mind our business — even if people consider us to be “parasites”, even if they put lots of exclamation marks in their emails. We will continue to work in the secular and political arena, so that, in the words of Lumen Gentium 36, “the world may be permeated by the spirit of Christ and it may more effectively fulfill its purpose in justice, charity and peace.”