Sunday, November 13, 2011

Catholicism and the "Intolerance" Hoax

The Washington Post says that Catholic Archbishop Charles Chaput “painted a bleak picture of a nation increasingly intolerant of Christianity.” Chaput, who achieved an ecclesiastical position superior to Christ himself, says, “The America emerging in the next several decades is likely to be much less friendly to Christian faith than anything in our country’s past.”
Please note the bait-and-switch here. One may be unfriendly to a dogma without being intolerant. Merriam-Webster defines intolerant, in the religious sense, as “unwilling to grant equal freedom of expression especially in religious matters.”

This sort of “intolerance” is not actually an issue. What the Archbishop whines about is not any attempt to prevent representatives of the Vatican from expressing a viewpoint, or even from practicing their faith, within their churches, as they see fit. This simply is not happening. What the Catholic Church complains about something is quite different. The areas where they are most upset have to do with granting equality of rights to gay people. The Church is quite intolerant of men who have romantic/sexual relationships with other adult men, for instance. They desire that the law reflect their religious views.

That is an entirely different issue; they are the ones being intolerant. Tolerance implies the granting of equal freedom to others. It does not require that one be “friendly” to ideas that one finds distasteful, whatever the reason for the sour taste. Disliking gay marriage is not "friendly," wanting to ban it is intolerant.

The Catholic Bishops, are “feeling under siege: from a broader culture moving toward accepting gay marriage.” This is correct, but when they say that is “chipping away at religious liberty” they have engaged in semantics of Orwellian proportions. They have completely reversed the facts. The Church, when gay couples are given equal rights, can still practice its faith. No religious group has ever been forced to perform a marriage to which it is religiously opposed. The Church can also set its own policies for who may, or may not, hold ecclesiastical office—and one would think the Bishops would be looking at the choices they have made for the priesthood before worrying about the marriage contracts of others.

But, what the Church, has also demanded is that gay couples not have “equal rights” to the marriage contract. The Church argues this goes against their faith. So what! In a pluralistic, free society, any  policy is bound to be contrary to the faith of someone. If public policy had to correspond with everyone’s faith, there would be no law whatsoever and no such thing as rights. But the United States is not a theocracy, and law was meant to defend the equal rights and liberty of each individual. While it is true the U.S. has often failed in this endeavor—women, slavery, blacks, gays, Native Americans, Japanese-Americans, etc.—it remains equally true that this ideal has always been the philosophical lodestone for the nation. It still points the direction in which the country should go, whether or not our course has been rapid enough, and whether or not we have periodically veered in wrong directions.
The bigger problem for the Bishops is that most American Catholics have little faith in Vatican doctrines. American Catholics, in large numbers, oppose Catholic doctrine opposing birth control or the use of condoms, even if meant to stop the spread of venereal diseases. Catholic Americans are far less opposed to a woman’s right to choose than is the Vatican. And Catholic Americans are not as comfortable denying gay couples legal rights, as is the Vatican. The real problem for the Bishops is that they have lost the allegiance of their own members, and their handling of the massive child abuse scandal within Catholicism, is a major reason why. As the man they claim as their founder said: “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”

The bishops are unhappy that Catholic doctrines on abortion and marriage are not part of the law. What upsets them is that the law is not intolerant, not that it is. The law grants individuals more freedom than the bishops think proper.

The second area where the bishops pretend they are victims of intolerance revolves around access to tax funds, not the denial of rights. The Post writes of the issue of “government officials working with Catholic Charities on adoptions and foster-care placements.” This has happened several times, but no private charity, even a religious one, has a right to tax funds. The casebook example, that was used repeatedly by anti-rights activists in the Prop 8 campaign, was that of Catholic Charities in Massachusetts.

The Catholic Church closed their adoption service because the state was unwilling to fund them. The state argued that when tax funds were used the charity could not discriminate against gay people, who were being forced to fund the charity. However, if the charity chose to not take tax funds they were free to discriminate on the basis of their own religious dogma. At issue was not them being forced to give up their religious beliefs, but whether or not they could take funds from unwilling gay taxpayers while discriminating against them at the same time. They were free to do one, or the other, but not both.

The Los Angeles Times, in an editorial on the lies behind Prop 8, wrote:

Take the story of Catholic Charities. The service arm of the Roman Catholic Church closed its adoption program in Massachusetts not because of the state's gay marriage law but because of a gay anti-discrimination law passed many years earlier. In fact, the charity had voluntarily placed older foster children in gay and lesbian households— among those most willing to take hard-to-place children— until the church hierarchy was alerted and demanded that adoptions conform to the church's religious teaching, which was in conflict with state law. The Proposition 8 campaign, funded in large part by Mormons who were urged to do so by their church, does not mention that the Mormon church's adoption arm in Massachusetts is still operating, even though it does not place children in gay and lesbian households.

How can this be? It's a matter of public accountability, not infringement on religion. Catholic Charities acted as a state contractor, receiving state and federal money to find homes for special-needs children who were wards of the state, and it faced the loss of public funding if it did not comply with the anti-discrimination law. In contrast, LDS (for Latter-day Saints) Family Services runs a private adoption service without public funding. Its work, and its ability to follow its religious teachings, have not been altered.

This time the bishops were howling about Illinois and claiming that Catholic religious freedom was impinged. The Post wrote: “In Illinois, government officials stopped working with Catholic Charities on adoptions and foster-care placements after 40 years because the agency refused to recognize a new civil union law.” That is actually a bit misleading. It was not the civil union law per se; it was the same issue as in Massachusetts. The Chicago Tribune reported that the “the state cut ties with the agency that balked at placing children with gay and unwed couples.”
In Illinois Catholic Charities was placing foster-children on behalf of the State using tax funding. In essence, the charity was acting as an agent of the state, funded by all the taxpayers of the State, including gay people. State officials were not thrilled about “religious agencies that receive public funds to license foster care parents” acting in a discriminatory way at the expense of taxpayers. The question was not whether Catholic Charities could practice their religion, but whether, when acting as Agents of the State, they can ignore the rights of all taxpayers and discriminate along religious lines.

The Catholic Church noted that the civil unions law granted religious exemptions and then, in another bait-and-switch, claimed they were thus allowed to discriminate against gay couples using tax funds. But, when the Charity is acting as an Agent of the State, with taxpayer funding, it is not acting as a religious organization. Again, if Catholic Charities did its work without tax funds, it would be free to discriminate to its heart’s content. As in Massachusetts, the Church announced that unless they were free to take tax funds AND discriminate, they would close down. This implies the charity relied almost entirely on tax funds to exist, at least in relationship to these programs. If the amount of taxpayer funding determines the extent to which an agency is a government agency, this would imply that Catholic Charities was almost wholly an agency of the government. It they can't survive absent state funding they have ceased to be private in any meaningful sense of the word.

The bishops want their cake, while gorging themselves on it at the same time. They want to claim the rights of a private, religious organization while feeding at the public trough. If they wish to act as a religious group they need to do so at their own expense. This is what they are unwilling to do.

A representative of Catholic Charities said that religious practices include “the rendition of social services. That’s what the Gospel and the Sermon on the Mount are all about. Frankly, we’ve been incredulous.” But, nothing in the Gospel, or in the Sermon in the Mount, implies that Christian charity is to be tax funded. The charitable message that is scattered in the New Testament was about private actions, not state welfare. The Gospel story of the widow contributing a “mite” (small change) to the Temple praised her because her contribution represented all that she had. She wasn’t donating at taxpayer expense.
Another issue, where the bishops pretend they are being oppressed is that Health and Human Services “decided not to renew a contract held since 2006 by the bishops’ refugee services office to help victims of human trafficking.” The issue was whether tax funds could be used to fund an organization that imposed restrictions on reproductive health issues with the clients. That is, can the state fund a group that demands women not use condoms in order to receive the services that for which the State is paying?
Whether or not the government should be funding such programs is a different issue. But while they are, should they give these funds to agencies that are best able to serve the needs of the victims for whom the funding was made? Health and Human Services said that agencies that were not restricting their medical care based on religion were better fits for the program. An extreme example might be if the government decided to fund private national defense. Surely giving those funds to an Amish group might not be the best fit.

The Post, noted, “the vast network of Catholic social service nonprofits, including the bishop’s conference, receives hundreds of millions of dollars in government funding in amounts that have increased in the last couple of years.” This raises the real issue for libertarians: Should Catholic organizations be receiving hundreds of millions in tax funds at all; and not just Catholics, either? Should any religious organization be funded with taxpayer funds?

Religious organizations already have privileges denied to individuals: they are tax exempt. One purpose of that tax exemption is to encourage private donations to charitable projects run by these religions organizations. Apparently, the Church feels it should not just have an exemption, but subsidies as well. And it thinks that the subsidies should come with no strings attached.

There is a religion called the Church of the Creator, it is part of what is known as Identity Christianity, which argues that white people are the chosen people of God, that Jews are the literal children of Satan, and that blacks are “beasts of the field,” or animals. If the Church of the Creator were to open a “foster care” program, would it have the right to take tax funds, while denying any services to non-whites or Jews?
Yes, they are extreme. But the principle doesn’t change. If, as the bishops are arguing, there is some right to tax funds, while practicing religious-based discrimination, then it shouldn’t matter whether the victims of that discrimination are gay, black, Jewish, or even Catholic. Surely a fundamentalist Protestant sect would have the right to take tax payments made by Catholics while refusing adoptions into Catholic homes. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. Or, what is good for the Catholic is good for the Baptist, or even the Muslim. The bishops, however, would not see it that way. Their concept of equality of rights means privileges for themselves at the expense of unwilling individuals.
Scott Appleby, a historian at the University of Notre Dame says that Catholic leaders have adopted “a more pugnacious style, much more of a kind of culture-war attitude.” But the culture war of fundamentalists was different, for the most part. Fundamentalists fought a culture war that demanded the right to impose their religious values on others, but rarely demanded the right to pig-out with tax funds—the “abstinence” movement was an exception. The bishops appear to want a culture-war where they are given “hundreds of millions of dollars in government funding” while claiming the exemptions of private religion at the same time.

What then is the “intolerance” they are complaining about? It the complaint of rent-seekers acclimated to public funding, who are demanding that taxpayers subsidize their religion. The bishops are seeking a private right to discriminate, but at public expense. Their religious rights are not being impinged at all, only their “right” to pick the pockets of people against whom they wish to discriminate.


  1. If you look at the history of the catholic church

    the 1000 year dark ages of zero social / economic progress

    the catholic crusades of the middle ages that murdered tens of millions of muslims

    the "holy" inquistion of torture and burnings at the stake for daring to challenge the church.

    Hitler, a catholic who absorbed the hate of the church for Jews. and leveraged that to gain power.

    And 55 million died for the church that claims to support life.

    if there was a god, Vesuvius II would have sprung up and swallowed the vatican into the proverbial lake of fire.

    The sooner the western world is free of our own religious monster the better.

    They are essentially blood brothers with the muslims, except in brand name and the name of their deities

  2. In fairness it should be noted that much of Hitler's anti-semitism came from other sources. For instance, Marxists were anti-semitic, and the Nazis were nationalistic socialists who equated exploitation with being Jewish, which is what Marx said as well. In addition, Luther's influence in German helped establish similar hateful views. So the anti-Jewish views of Hitler came from Marxist, Lutheran and Catholic sources.