By Dave Andrusko
When last we saw Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), he was delivering a powerfully pro-life speech that culminated the Democratic National Convention. It was a “teachable moment,” which is why so many pro-abortion bloggers ripped the Cardinal for his tour de force.
By and large he was already talking to the choir—Planned Parenthood’s choir, Barack Obama’s choir—but he soldered on nonetheless. In a benediction of less than five minutes, he affirmed core pro-life principles which are wildly at odds with the overwhelming emphasis on the right to kill unborn babies which permeated many convention speeches.
On Monday Cardinal Dolan was in much friendlier company—The John Carroll Society (“an organization of Catholic professionals united in their desire for an ever deepening and enriching knowledge of their Faith and in service to the Archbishop of Washington”). In a powerfully eloquent speech—“Let Freedom Ring”– he traced the history of freedom of religion in our nation which he described as the “first line in the defense of and protection of human rights.”
His argument was a familiar one: that people of faith have been instrumental in every major reform movement in our nation’s history. Equally familiar, but far more chilling, was Cardinal Dolan’s warning of what he called a “second omen”—the “direct intrusion of the government into the very definition of a church’s minister, ministries, message, and meaning,” otherwise known as the Obama mandate and its crimped definition of who is exempt.
Cardinal Dolan quoted Cardinal Wuerl who noted, “The mandates’ definition of a religious organization contradicts decades of precedent and practice. Republicans and Democrats alike have long agreed that the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty includes not only what goes on within the four walls of a church, but also the religiously motivated acts of service that fulfill the mission of that church. Only now . . . has the government said that we must leave our conscience behind when we step into the public square.”
Cardinal Dolan did not use this occasion to talk about other direct assaults on religious liberties from the Obama Administration that include filing a brief with the Supreme Court arguing that churches had no special protection in the hiring and firing of their pastors (the Court unanimously disagreed), and denying a grant to the well-regarded bishops’ conference program to help the victims of human trafficking.
According to Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), author of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was unlawfully disqualified “because they refuse to refer women and unborn children to abortionists.” Smith added. “The USCCB wasn’t chosen for its religion and should not be excluded for it either.”
Cardinal Dolan reminded his audience of what the debate is not about. It is not about a “war on women.” And “the defense of religious freedom is not some evangelical Christian polemic, or wily strategy of discredited Catholic bishops, but the quintessential American cause, the first line in the defense of and protection of human rights.”
He concluded, “So, my proposition is that, in ‘letting freedom ring,’ we citizens of any and all faiths, or none at all, are not just paranoid and self-serving in defending what we hoard as ‘ours,’ but we are, in fact, protecting America. We act not as sectarians, but as responsible citizens. We act on behalf of the truth about the human person.”