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The Catholic Betrayal of Religious Freedom
National Review ^ | February 20, 2012 | George Weigel

Posted on 02/20/2012 6:58:11 AM PST by Petrosius

It was not surprising that ill-educated Catholics in Congress rushed to embrace President Obama’s “accommodation” on the HHS mandate on sterilization and contraception (including possible abortifacients), or that the faux accommodation was defended, if risibly, by another embodiment of Catholic Lite, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. One does not look to Senator Patty Murray, or to Representative Rose DeLauro or Nancy Pelosi, or to Secretary Sebelius, to learn anything about Catholic doctrine or the history of the Church’s teaching on moral issues. Nemo dat quod non habet, as the scholastic philosophers used to say: No one gives what (s)he does not have.

The willingness of the Catholic Health Association and its president, Sister Carol Keehan, to embrace the Obama shell game was also unsurprising; CHA is a trade association far more concerned about a friendly relationship with HHS and access to federal largesse than about Catholic solidarity on a question of first principles. CHA’s role in helping to pass Obamacare clarified for all with eyes to see what the association understands to be its primary interests. These interests define its true loyalties, which were on full display when Sister Carol helped the White House roll out the Obama “accommodation” ruse and sell it to an eager-to-be-sold press.

But what about the intellectuals? What about the insistence of self-identified “liberal Catholic” commentators, op-ed columnists, and journals that the HHS mandate had nothing to do with religious freedom, or, later, that the “accommodation” met any legitimate religious-freedom concerns? What is going on when these Catholics provide intellectual and political cover for the Sebeliuses, DeLauros, Murrays, and Pelosis in their insistence that this is all about “preventive services” necessary for “women’s health”? Many of these liberal Catholics had, of course, provided similar cover for Obama during the 2008 campaign, so in that sense it was less than startling that their partisanship trumped their religious loyalty once again. Still, there was something different, something tragic, about this particular trahison des clercs. In throwing a robust concept of religious freedom over the side, liberal Catholics were betraying their own noblest heritage.

It took the Catholic Church the better part of the late 19th and early 20th centuries to develop a robust Catholic concept of religious freedom. In that process of doctrinal development, the key experience was that of the Church in the United States, and the key intellectual figure was an American Jesuit, Father John Courtney Murray. Murray embodied an older form of liberal Catholicism, and he deployed it with intellectual virtuosity to midwife a new Catholic understanding of the modern state and of the democratic project. which eventually reshaped the thinking and practices of the entire Church. At the intellectual center of that development was Murray’s work on religious freedom. And at the empirical center of this evolution of Catholic self-understanding was the Catholic experience in the United States.

The American arrangement on church-and-state relations was a novelty for the Catholic Church. When it was deemed appropriate to appoint a bishop for the new republic after its founding, the Holy See sent a representative to learn the U.S. government’s wishes through the American minister in Paris, Benjamin Franklin. Franklin replied that this was none of the government’s business, and that the Church could appoint whomever it liked — a response that caused astonishment along the Tiber, where the pope, in those days, had a free right of appointing bishops in, at best, 20 percent of the world’s dioceses.

Beyond this freedom of appointment, however, was the undeniable fact that the institutional separation of church and state, and the Constitution’s guarantee of the free exercise of religion, was good for Catholicism in America: an empirical refutation of the then-regnant assumption that religious freedom (meaning disentangling the church from “establishment” by the state or from some other form of state preference) would inevitably lead to religious indifferentism, and perhaps even to hostility to religious conviction. Yet here was this novus ordo seclorum, as America proclaimed itself, and unlike the Catholic Church in Europe, the Church in America was holding the loyalty of the working class and growing by leaps and bounds throughout the 19th century — by the time a Catholic girl born in Detroit in 1880 became an adult, the number of parishes around her had quintupled. Clearly, there was something here worth exploring.

Impressed by the American experience and tired of the ancient church–state quarrels of Europe, Pope Leo XIII began that exploration in the late 19th century. In a series of encyclicals on political modernity, Leo gingerly began to ease the Church away from its entanglement with the old regimes, and just as gingerly began to explore the foundations of a Catholic theory of religious freedom. Some 40 years after Leo’s death, John Courtney Murray began to analyze Leo’s writings with an eye to articulating a fully embodied Catholic theory of religious freedom.

When Murray began to work on the church–state problem in the mid-1940s, the regnant Roman theory — which many simply identified with Catholic tradition tout court — was that the preferred arrangement was state recognition of the prerogatives of the Catholic Church, and state support of the Church’s work. In the Roman theological parlance of the time, this was the “thesis,” and any other arrangement, like that in the United States, was a mere “hypothesis.” This thesis/hypothesis schema was underwritten by another claim that many in Roman theological circles simply identified with Catholic “tradition”: the claim that “error has no rights.”

Unraveling this thick knot of seemingly settled “tradition” was no easy business, either intellectually or politically, in terms of stepping on ecclesiastical and theological toes. Murray’s careful analysis of Leo XIII’s texts suggested that the thesis/hypothesis business might not be as settled as it seemed. And, in a brilliant move, Murray reached beneath the thesis/hypothesis schema into a much older stratum of Catholic tradition, where he found, in the fifth-century writings of Pope Saint Gelasius I, a clear distinction between priestly authority and political authority — which suggested that the conflation of those two authorities in the “thesis” was, in fact, not the Catholic tradition (a suggestion buttressed, of course, by reference to Christ’s own distinction between what is Caesar’s and what is God’s in Matthew 22:21). Here was a true “liberal Catholicism” at work: a Catholicism that reached back into history to retrieve a long-forgotten element of the authentic tradition that, recovered, could be the engine of future development.

To make a long story short, Murray’s work on religious freedom was vindicated at the Second Vatican Council. There, two compelling arguments came together in a powerful synthesis: Murray’s historical work and his exegesis of Leo XIII, which put paid to the thesis/hypothesis schema, and European personalist philosophy, which showed the Council that, while “error” might have no rights (whatever that meant), persons had rights, whether their opinions were erroneous or not. That settled the question intellectually for most of the Council fathers. The politics of defining religious freedom as a basic human right were managed by another interesting coalition: Bishops from the Communist world, who wanted the Church to defend religious freedom so that they might use it as a new weapon in their own struggles, joined with U.S. bishops, who wanted the American constitutional arrangement vindicated, and Western European bishops, who were tired of ancien régime politics, formed a critical mass of support, resulting in Pope Paul VI’s promulgation of Vatican II’s landmark Declaration on Religious Freedom on December 7, 1965.

Thus began the Catholic human-rights revolution, which would play a major role in the collapse of European Communism and in democratic transitions in Latin America and East Asia. At the heart of the Catholic human-rights revolution was religious freedom, and the Church’s embrace of religious freedom owed no small debt to liberal Catholicism in America.

Thus “liberal Catholics” who refuse to grasp the threats to religious freedom posed by the Obama administration on so many fronts — the HHS mandate, the EEOC’s recently rejected attempt to strip the “ministerial exemption” from employment law, the State Department’s dumbing-down of religious freedom to a mere “freedom of worship” — are betraying the best of their own heritage. And some are doing it in a particularly nasty way, trying to recruit the memory of John Courtney Murray as an ally in their attempts to cover for the Obama administration’s turning its de facto secularist bias into de jure policy, regulations, and mandates. More than 50 years ago, Murray warned of the dangers deracinated secularism posed to the American democratic experiment: a warning that seems quite prescient in the light of the Leviathan-like politics of this administration, aided and abetted by baptized secularists who insist that they are “liberal Catholics.” I daresay Murray, who did not suffer fools gladly, would not be amused by those who now try to use his work to shore up their own hollow arguments on behalf of the establishment of secularism.

The HHS-mandate battle is bringing to the surface of our public life many problems that were long hidden: the real and present danger to civil society of certain forms of Enlightenment thinking; the determination of the promoters of the sexual revolution to use state coercion to impose their agenda on society; the failure of the Catholic Church to educate the faithful in its own social doctrine; the reluctance of the U.S. bishops’ conference to forcefully apply that social doctrine — especially its principle of subsidiarity — during the Obamacare debate. To that list can now be added one more sad reality, long suspected but now unmistakably clear: the utter incoherence of 21st-century liberal Catholicism, revealed by its failure to defend its own intellectual patrimony: the truth of religious freedom as the first of human rights. That liberal Catholics have done so in order to play court chaplain to overweening and harshly secularist state power compounds that tragedy, with deep historical irony.

— George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.

TOPICS: Catholic; Current Events; Religion & Culture; Religion & Politics
KEYWORDS: duplicate; georgeweigel
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1 posted on 02/20/2012 6:58:13 AM PST by Petrosius
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To: Petrosius

The Church did this to itself when it went along with the Kennedys and Pelosi wing of the Church. The Bishops accepted the idea that politics and the church were unrelated.

As long as a John Kerry was a “good” Catholic...he went to mass on Sunday, and kicked in financial support...he could receive communion...and be for the murder of the unborn.

What did they think would happen?

2 posted on 02/20/2012 7:09:17 AM PST by kjo
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To: kjo

I am not a Catholic.

But, IMHO, it is way, way past time for the church to grow some cojones and start kicking ass, taking names, refusing communion and considering excommunication.

How in the world can the Catholic church even think about offering communion to those that promote the killing of the unborn, ESPECIALLY barbarous partial birth abortion?

The church has gone way down the PC path and is now getting kicked in the teeth for its efforts. Time to fight back!

3 posted on 02/20/2012 7:20:07 AM PST by upchuck (Let's have the Revolution NOW before we get dumbed down to the point that we can't.)
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To: upchuck

There’s a hard day a-comin’...and a hard rain is gonna fall.

4 posted on 02/20/2012 7:21:49 AM PST by kjo
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To: Petrosius
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius prior to her assignment in the Obama administration was direceted by her bishop not to received.

That says it all.

5 posted on 02/20/2012 7:25:35 AM PST by mware (By all that you hold dear on this good earth, I bid you stand, Men of the West)
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To: upchuck

M_O_N_E_Y! The Catholic Church does not cut off the heads (figuratively speaking) of Liberal Catholic Deep Pocket Parishioners...

6 posted on 02/20/2012 7:26:18 AM PST by dps.inspect (the system is rigged...)
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To: Petrosius
The Catholic Betrayal of Religious Freedom
7 posted on 02/20/2012 7:37:54 AM PST by A.A. Cunningham (Barry Soetoro is a Kenyan communist)
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To: dps.inspect

Isn’t that a shame. Isn’t love of money a sin?

8 posted on 02/20/2012 7:43:48 AM PST by upchuck (Let's have the Revolution NOW before we get dumbed down to the point that we can't.)
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To: kjo


Good article if a bit long-winded. When the author uses the term “Liberal Catholic” he is using a qualifier to the term Catholic. Other words for qualifier are modifier or conditioner. They are modified Catholics who adhere more closely to the tenets of their political religion (liberalism) than they do Catholicism.

Honorable Catholics would be doing themselves a huge favor by insisting that these almost Catholics choose - conform or vacate.

9 posted on 02/20/2012 7:45:55 AM PST by rockrr (Everything is different now...)
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To: upchuck

Ever since the French Revolution neutered the church there as a branch of French perverted intelligence leftist agencies, the Catholic Church has embraced many french ideas and been completely subverted. ROme is not in control.

10 posted on 02/20/2012 8:14:15 AM PST by JudgemAll (Democrats Fed. job-security Whorocracy & hate:hypocrites must be gay like us or be tested/crucified)
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To: Petrosius

I do not know why writers continually bring up people like DeLauro when discussing Catholics in Congress.

If you call her office, her official response is, “Rep. DeLauro is not a practicing Catholic.” When someone has not attended Mass for 40 years, have they reached the point where they are no longer referred to as Catholic? Same with the others mentioned, Pelosi, etc.

11 posted on 02/20/2012 8:30:12 AM PST by campaignPete R-CT (and I went to southern Maine to campaign against MITT.)
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To: Petrosius
The problem is that the Catholic social agenda fits better with the Liberals except for abortion. From immigration, welfare, to the view of business as suspect or evil they fit better than with the GOP version (which can be close to social Darwinism). If abortion ever stopped being an issue, the electoral swing would be massive.
12 posted on 02/20/2012 8:50:18 AM PST by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: Petrosius

Yet, since both Blessed John Paul II and now with Pope Benedict XVI, by appointing much more conservative bishops and with the recent updating of the English and other countries wording in the liturgy to match the Latin, tradition has pretty much made a comeback in the Church.

13 posted on 02/20/2012 9:09:20 AM PST by Biggirl ("Jesus talked to us as individuals"-Jim Vicevich/Thanks JimV!)
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To: Petrosius
BREAKING: Every Single Bishop Has Condemned the Obama/HHS Mandate!

14 posted on 02/20/2012 9:20:06 AM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: upchuck; kjo; dps.inspect; rockrr; JudgemAll; redgolum
Before any more Catholic bashing goes on -- I would like to know where your church's statement against the HHS mandate is. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Pro-Abortion Fingerprints on HHS Mandate
Dem (Congressman) Scolds Bishop (at House Oversight hearin)
Evangelicals & Catholics Together: In Defense of Religious Freedom (vs. Islam, Secularism)
Catholic priest, pro-life activists arrested outside White House protesting Obama mandate
Obama Contradicted: HHS Banned Consideration of ‘Cost Effectiveness’ in Developing Contraception
BREAKING: Every Single Bishop Has Condemned the Obama/HHS Mandate!
Pro-life nuns: We’re not exempt - Obama mandate would force us ‘to pay for abortion-inducing drugs’

Contraception ruling: Democrats accuse clergy of complicity with GOP at hearing
Catholic League on Sebelius’s admission before a Senate committee
Voris: Obama Able to Neutralize Catholic Resistance Thanks to Bishops’ Past Complicity
Abortion, Contraception and the Church Fathers (Catholic teaching unchanged for 2000 yrs)
Head of U.S. bishops: Obama compromise on mandate ‘a hill of beans’; opposition intensifies
USCCB President: 'Harder and Harder' to Accept Obama's Word
White House Criticizes Bishops, Trumpets Support from CHA, Catholic Charities
Political Science 101: how the White House snookered the USCCB on the 'compromise'
What Did CHA's Carol Keehan Know and When Did She Know It?
Pope Shares Remarks on American Culture with Bishops; Issues Call to Laity By: Msgr. Charles Pope
USCCB President says Obama offered next to nothing; expresses disappointment with Sr. Keehan
Evangelical Leaders Call for Civil Disobedience Against U.S. Government
Liberal Jews Speak Against HHS Mandate
Top nun who supported Obama mandate thanks pro-choice group in private e-mail
Catholic Health Association collaboration with Obama admin on mandate a ‘scandal’: Catholic leader
Obama's revised HHS mandate won't solve problems, USCCB president says
Fr. Frank Pavone: No compromise - the mandate has to go, period
Time To Admit It: The Church Has Always Been Right On Birth Control
Culture with Local Bishops and Issues a Call to the Laity [Ecumenical]
Bishops Reject Obama's 'Accommodation' - President's political hemorrhaging to continue.

HHS Mandate - Nothing Has Changed (Donald Cardinal Weurl)
Obama Chief of Staff: New Pro-Abortion Mandate Here to Stay
WH: We Are Done Negotiating With Catholics
Opponents launch new White House petition rejecting Obama rewrite of birth control mandate
Did the Leaders of the Catholic Church Make a Deal with the Redistributionist Devil?
Archbishop Chaput: HHS mandate insulting and dangerous
Cardinal-Designate Dolan no longer trusts Obama
American Catholicism’s Pact With the Devil
Notre Dame Faculty to Obama: ‘This Is a Grave Violation of Religious Freedom and Cannot Stand’
White House: No More Compromise on Contraception
Obama's anti-religious implosion
Lew: Obama's latest stance on birth-control mandate final, puts issue to rest (CAPTION)
Pat Buchanan: 'Obama is trampling on God's turf' (Video)
W.H. official: Contraceptive rule stands
Obama chief of staff: No more compromise, contraceptive rule is done deal
Bishops Reject White House’s New Plan on Contraception (Obama continues his "War On Religion")
Faith/Pro-Life Leaders to Challenge Mandate by Praying and Risking Arrest in Front of the WH
Catholic Bishops: Don't Revise, Rescind
Obama's contempt for the Constitution
How the Catholic Church Became Cool Overnight

Chuck Colson Reacts to Obama’s “Compromise” on Required Abortion Care for Church Employees
US Bishops: Obama's 'Compromise' Has No Clear Protection...(Needless Government Intrusion)
Protests Continue Over Insurance for Contraception, Abortifacients (Feds Under Increasing Pressure
Bishops to Obama: No dice
Paul VI: “danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities ...”
Michael Moore Goes On Anti-Catholic Twitter Rant, Distorts Contraception Debate
Religious controversy burns Obama again (the rookie Hussein is in WAY over his pay grade)
Another Catholic college vows it will ‘not violate conscience’ on Obama mandate
Lutherans join chorus of voices slamming HHS contraceptive mandate
The Obama HHS 'Compromise' Switches the Tiger for the Lion (Not all Catholics buying Obama's bull)
Hannity on now with Priests, Pastors and Rabbis. Please watch
EDITORIAL: Obama’s free abortion pills
U.S. bishops ‘express concerns’ about Obama mandate ‘accommodation’
What Compromise? This Policy Leaves Religious Liberty in Peril and Planned Parenthood Smiling (Albert Mohler Opinion)
Bishops Renew Call To Legislative Action On Religious Liberty
Southern Baptist leader: Obama gave Christians ‘the dismissive back’ of his hand
Obama's Act of Tyranny
Bishops Were Prepared for Battle Over Birth Control Coverage
'Accounting gimmick' -- Obama compromise still threatens religious liberty, leaders say
Bishops ‘concerned’ over reworded mandate; other Catholic leaders slam as ‘insult to injury’
Obama Bows to Pressure, but His Religious 'Accommodation' Even Worse

Don't Be Deceived! Evil Obama Policy Now Even MORE Evil!
Obama’s Contraceptive 'Compromise' Doesn't Pass the Smell Test ("It doesn't change a thing")
Compromise or Accommodation, it’s still unacceptable. (updated from Catholic Vote)
Pres. Obama’s “Plan B” compromise, Sr. Keehan, and the Magisterium of Nuns
Land Says Obama Mandate Most Anti-Catholic Government Action in 150 Years
Motive, Means and Opportunity: Obama’s Assault on Catholics
(Exempt Catholics) Joe Biden, Bill Daley warned of contraceptive backlash
(Tim) Thomas makes second political statement (Stands With Catholics)
Southern Baptist leader: If Obama mandate isn’t changed, Christians will go to jail
Over 150 congressional leaders demand repeal of HHS mandate
Boehner vows to overturn Obama’s birth control coverage rule
Boehner: Congress to overturn birth control policy if Obama does not reverse course
O'Brien says Archdiocese of Baltimore won't offer birth control coverage
Archbishop of San Francisco says Obama ruling strikes at religious freedom
How Obama Lost the Catholic Vote
‘I am going to stick with fellow Catholics’ in Pres. Obama’s war on Catholics. Wherein Fr. Z rants.
Unholy War
Six Things Everyone Should Know about the HHS Mandate
Santorum: Obama Hostile to Christians
Understanding Oppostion to the HHS Mandate (Part 1): Why the Church Won’t Pay for Contracept

The Bishops Chickens Coming Home to Roost.
65 Orthodox Church bishops call on Obama to ‘rescind’ the ‘unjust’ contraception mandate
Doug Kmiec Writes Obama: 'Friendship Will Not Permit Me to Disregard Duty to Faith and Country'
Catholic Outcry Over Obama Administration's Birth Control Decision Could Factor In Presidential Race
Standing with the Bishops [Catholic Caucus]
Updated: *167* Bishops (More Than 90% of Dioceses) Have Spoken Out Against Obama/HHS Mandate
Outrage!… Military Tells Chaplains What They Can and Can’t Say About HHS/ObamaAssault on Religion
Updated: *153* Bishops (Over 80% of Dioceses) Have Spoken Out Against Obama/HHS Mandate
An Affront Catholics Agree On [Liberal and Conservative Catholics Against Obama Mandate]
Army Silenced Chaplains Last Sunday
Catholic Military Archdiocese & Chaplains interfered with last Sunday by Pres. Obama’s Admin
The Anti-Catholic President v. the Catholic Bishops
Sen. Rubio introduces bill to reverse Obama birth control mandate
Churches balk at birth control rule - Catholics won’t comply, Bishop Kevin Rhoades says
Protestants and Jews declare to White House: We stand with Catholics
Checking the Air Outside [Bp. Zubik's follow up to Obama's “To Hell with You”]
Mohler [Southern Baptist] Says Insurance Mandate Not Just 'Catholic' Issue
An Open Letter to President Barack Obama Concerning Recent Tyranny (With Pictures!)
Lincoln bishop: prepare for 'suffering' under HHS mandate
Bishop David Zubik confronts Obama
Obama’s ‘war on the church’

Pope hits out at 'radical secularism'
‘We Will Not Comply’: Catholic Leaders Distribute Letter Slamming Obama Admin Contraceptive Mandate
‘We Will Not Comply’: Catholic Leaders Distribute Letter Slamming Obama Admin Contraceptive Mandate
Bruskewitz: Fight Insurance Ruling [Sebelius a "bitter, fallen away Catholic"]
Letter from Archbishop John G. Vlazny on the matter of freedom of conscience and decisions by HHS
Bishop Olmsted's Letter to Catholics [Catholic Caucus]
Liberty for the Amish & Quakers but not Catholics. . .
Contraception mandate prompts Peoria bishop to instate St. Michael Prayer (Catholic Caucus)
Phoenix bishop (Olmstead): defy feds on birth control
A letter from Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr concerning HHS edict
Speak honestly: abortion is ‘the killing of tiny human beings in the womb’ – Denver bishop
Bishop [Daniel Jenky] Blasts Secularist Intolerance, Calls For ‘Assertive Action’ to Defend Church
(Pittsburgh Bishop Zubik comments:) HHS delays rule on contraceptive coverage
Dolan: Natural law, not religious preference, dictates all life sacred
Religious leaders blast HHS over contraception mandate
Mandated Contraception, Sterilization: Caesar Demands Church Violate Conscience
OBAMA’S CONTEMPT FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY (mandates coverage of sterilization & contraception)
Implications of Obama Admin move to force Cath hospitals to provide contraception and sterilizations
Catholic doctors’ group launches petition against contraception mandate
Contraception mandate tramples religious freedom, US bishops say

15 posted on 02/20/2012 9:24:44 AM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

I was not bashing Catholics, I was bashing the French and the faux catholics there. PAris is the new Rome in many ways.

16 posted on 02/20/2012 9:36:24 AM PST by JudgemAll (Democrats Fed. job-security Whorocracy & hate:hypocrites must be gay like us or be tested/crucified)
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To: Salvation

I hope that you don’t think that I’m engaging in “Catholic bashing” since that is definitely not my intent. Although not a Catholic I stand with the church’s right to practice without interference by Øbozo & co.

My previous post is a cautionary note that “liberalism” seeks to compromise your church in the same way it compromises and contaminates everything it touches.

17 posted on 02/20/2012 9:39:23 AM PST by rockrr (Everything is different now...)
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To: Salvation

Against it, and have testified in Congress against it.

My point wasn’t to bash, but to explain why so many Catholics lean liberal Democrat.

18 posted on 02/20/2012 9:42:55 AM PST by redgolum ("God is dead" -- Nietzsche. "Nietzsche is dead" -- God.)
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To: redgolum

Your problem, which is almost as common as liberalism, is that you confuse the prudential statements that you read in the DLEMM - Dominant Liberal Establishment Mass Media - with the actual teaching of the Church.

19 posted on 02/20/2012 11:00:36 AM PST by A.A. Cunningham (Barry Soetoro is a Kenyan communist)
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To: dps.inspect
M_O_N_E_Y! The Catholic Church does not cut off the heads (figuratively speaking) of Liberal Catholic Deep Pocket Parishioners...

What a load of crapola. If you think that liberals like Biden give money to the Church, you're a bigger crackhead than Whitney Houston.

20 posted on 02/20/2012 11:07:50 AM PST by A.A. Cunningham (Barry Soetoro is a Kenyan communist)
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