Star Tribune: Catholic Leaders Will Not Be Silenced

It is not surprising to see the Star Tribune continue to beat the drum in opposition to the marriage protection amendment that will appear on the November 2012 ballot (“On gay marriage, state is out of step,” Oct. 1).

What is troubling is the paper’s attack on the Catholic Church’s participation in the public debate — an attack that should concern all Minnesotans as out of step with this country’s most cherished traditions of free speech and religious liberty.

The Star Tribune sees in the church the specter of a looming theocracy, but this could not be further from reality. The church only proposes; she imposes nothing.

Legislators and the public are free to accept or reject her witness, and Catholics who participate in the public square are fully conscious that they must make arguments that are persuasive to people of faith and those outside religious communities.

So why are some eager to silence the church’s voice?

The church’s public witness in helping to shape a public order that is just, protects authentic rights, serves the common good and promotes human flourishing is not in any way different from what the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. did when he, a Baptist minister and theologian, fought for just laws.

His civil rights advocacy was grounded in biblical conviction, the natural law, and the Declaration of Independence, much like Catholic advocacy today. In his words, “a just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God.”

Would the Star Tribune criticize Dr. King for imposing his religious views on others?

To be clear: There is such a thing as a healthy secularism that guides the respective roles of church and state.

But what animates the Star Tribune and other purveyors of a false secularism is a politically correct rewriting of the First Amendment, in which the newfangled concept of “freedom of worship” is substituted in place of “religious freedom” — a move that seeks to “protect the public” by enclosing religious people and their evangelical witness within their own walls.

Our state and our nation cannot afford this naked public square. Do we really want a society where Catholic schools, Catholic hospitals, and Catholic charities serve only Catholics?

Do we really want to marginalize the church’s voice of conscience, a voice that has historically served as the most powerful voice for human rights in our community and around the world?

Do we understand that the secularist attack on the church will have consequences for all religious communities, not just Catholics?

The diktat of the ruling mindset will always seek to silence those such as Dr. King who offer a public moral witness in defense of truth.

The church, however, will not and cannot remain silent in the public square, and especially not now as the bedrock social institution of marriage is under attack in law and in the culture.

Over the next 13 months — and indeed, well into the future — the church and her friends, religious and secular, will seek to share with Catholics and all Minnesotans why marriage between a man and woman plays an indispensable role in the well-being of children and society.

We will discuss what marriage is, why it is important, and what the significant consequences will be, especially for religious freedom, if it is redefined.

We will also work diligently to correct the empty slogans, mistruths, and distortions purveyed by those who claim that preserving marriage denies people rights or constitutes discrimination.

Fallacies are still fallacies, even when they become fads.

This is not a debate the church has chosen, nor is it an intramural conversation about church doctrine. The church is not telling anyone who they can and cannot love. After all, we are commanded to love everybody.

But love must be ordered to truth, and thus we are compelled to lend our voice in defense of the truth that marriage between a man and a woman is a basic good and an ideal that should be upheld in law.

Again, people can agree or disagree with the church’s message, and they may do so vigorously.

But the public should be aware that those who seek to both redefine marriage and silence those who object are the ones imposing a truly intolerant new orthodoxy: an illiberal dictatorship of relativism that is contrary to our Constitution and venerated traditions of civil discourse.

Jason Adkins is executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the Catholic Church in Minnesota.

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