We are living through what is clearly a coordinated effort of the entertainment industry, the educational establishment, and popular culture to remove religious faith -- and the faithful -- from American civil life.
As the religious landscape in our once Christian nation has changed, so, too, has the civil and political climate. More and more Americans have become "nones" or simply are no longer interested in organized religion. So, too, are the forces that see religion as a troublesome social factor growing. They are increasing in power and, increasingly, in vocal opposition to Catholics.
All religions, especially ours, are seen as suspect and impediments to "true democracy" and social progress, perhaps because we stand for certain things about human life and sexuality, which have become increasingly unpopular. In particular, we stand in the way of a progressive agenda that insists on a woman's free choice to abort at any time, with no strings attached, the child in her womb. Progressives are irked by the tax-free status of churches and religious hospitals. They are questioning why the country is paying for the support of military chaplains, and why in court cases Catholic priests are allowed to maintain the secrecy of the confessional. For all this and more, they are coming after us.
We are seeing more frequently the face of anti-Catholic assaults on our religious liberties. Last year, as many as 27 LGBT rights groups urged the U.S. Senate's Judiciary Committee to fight the nomination of Notre Dame law professor Amy Barrett. In direct response to that pressure, progressive senators launched an unprecedented and clearly ideological attack on Barrett. California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein attacked Barrett with the accusation that she was unfit for service as a federal judge because of her deeply held religious views. "The dogma lives loudly within you, and that's a concern," she said. During the same hearing, her Democratic colleague from Illinois, Sen. Richard J. Durbin, who claims to be a Catholic, violated Senate precedent by bluntly asking her if she considered herself an "orthodox Catholic."
Later that year was the Supreme Court nomination hearings, where the not-so-hidden agenda was to stop another Catholic from reaching our highest court. Judge Brett Kavanaugh was subjected to this same ugly insinuation -- that because of his Catholic faith he could not possibly decide cases "independently," but would be morally conflicted to the point that his decisions would be faith-based instead of Constitution-based. As an indication of how antagonism toward our Church is growing, in 1986, outspokenly Catholic Antonin Scala, whom Kavanagh replaced, met with no opposition and was affirmed by a 98-0 vote of the Senate.
This steady and piecemeal attack on the freedom of religious Americans was evident again just last month, when a progressive federal judge took away the rights of doctors and nurses not to participate in medical procedures, such as abortion, sterilization, and assisted suicide that conflict with their religious conscience.
How long before two men or two women come to a Catholic rectory demanding under the law that the pastor marries them at a nuptial Mass? Show trial to follow.
Then, there is the outrageous media storm following the last spring's March for Life in the nation's capital. Waiting for their buses home, a group of Covington Catholic High students was being baited by the racist provocations of the Black Israelites, a radical nationalist group. Then, Nathan Phillips, a drum-beating Native American approached and confronted one student, Nicholas Sandmann, with his drum. The boy did nothing. Just stood his ground and tried to smile through it.
The event was caught on video and, that night, went viral with sneering commentators from major news broadcasters. The next day, The View and other cable news programs heaped insults and accusations on these "sneering, arrogant racists from a privileged Catholic boys' school." The criticism was so intense that even the local bishop fell into the media trap condemning the boys.
Subsequent videos told an entirely different story. So did the formal report of the incident that appeared months later, which exonerated Sandmann and the other students. But the narrative of racially prejudiced Catholic boys was set. It fit so snugly into the growing view of the Church being a dangerous, malignant force in American society.
We in Massachusetts have witnessed a prime example of this assault on religious liberties when in 2006 our elected legislators, under pressure from gay lobbying groups, decreed that religious adoption agencies could not follow their Church doctrine of only placing children with traditional father and mother families. This meant that the 100-year-old Catholic Charities of Massachusetts was forced to end adoption services. In the 13 years since, there has been a huge decline in the number of adoptions in the state. Also, the number of children waiting for foster care and let loose to the streets has skyrocketed.
Perhaps, following the leadership of our state, the Obama Administration adopted similar adoption rules. Thankfully, they have been rescinded by the current administration. However, in Massachusetts, these discriminatory laws are still enforced. The result is that a primary religious activity of Catholics, taking care of vulnerable children, has been terminated.
We are living through what is clearly a coordinated effort of the entertainment industry, the educational establishment, and popular culture to remove religious faith -- and the faithful -- from American civil life. In its place, progressivism has become the new American religion.
There is a new and interesting word circulating. It's "woke," as in "I had been sleeping about racial injustices, but now I'm woke." Christians, and particularly Catholics, have been asleep to the hostility toward people of faith and to legal encroachments on their freedoms. We need to get -- and stay -- woke.
But we also need to act -- to fight. When Christ returned to Jerusalem, he entered the Holy Temple, what was then the public square. Outraged at what he saw before him, he acted. He overturned the tables of the money changers, made a whip of cords and drove out those who had despoiled the temple. We need to act and reclaim the public square in every village, town, city and school.
- Kevin and Marilyn Ryan, editors of "Why I'm Still a Catholic," worship at St. Lawrence Church in Brookline, Mass.