Commentary

Religious Freedom: The Cornerstone on Which All Catholic Concerns Rest

Rev. Michael P. Orsi | October 6, 2020 | 11:27am EDT
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A cross stands in the Colosseum. (Photo credit: Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)
A cross stands in the Colosseum. (Photo credit: Kaveh Kazemi/Getty Images)

I can’t overstate the importance of the upcoming election, which I believe is on par with the election of Abraham Lincoln.

Pro-life Catholics tend to assume that abortion is the major issue. But the issue that precedes abortion, and on which everything else depends, is religious freedom.

If we can’t protect our religious freedom, we can’t hope to ever end the practice of abortion, or to address any of the other moral evils into which our society has fallen.

Constitutional questions loom before us — not least the threat circulating among Democrats to pack the Supreme Court if Trump succeeds in appointing Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the bench. These are questions that will decide the future of our Church and of our ability to live by the moral precepts of Christianity.

Today, in this country, there is an undeniable animus toward religion, and in particular toward the Catholic Church. That animus has been on display during the months of the coronavirus lockdown, when some state governors, county officials, and city mayors have paid special attention to restricting attendance at Masses.

The most extreme example is San Francisco, where only one person at a time has been permitted in church. Contrast that with supermarkets and other large chain stores, where the numbers of shoppers is virtually unlimited.

Catholicism, being organized and hierarchical, provides a ready network for distributing information and influencing public opinion. That makes us a center of power which, when our leaders choose to employ it, can resist the policies and actions of government authorities. We’ve demonstrated this power over the years in our dogged struggle against abortion (unfortunately not as often or as definitively as we might, our bishops usually being reluctant to flex their muscles).

Catholics, along with members of certain Bible-based denominations, are taught an understanding of life — based on reason, on the laws of nature, and on God’s Word — that contradicts the “grand plan” of social progressives. Under that “grand plan,” people are considered free to recreate reality according to their own whims, feelings, and preferences.

Abortion is essential to the “grand plan,” because it functions as the ultimate safeguard against unwanted pregnancies inhibiting the spontaneous expression of sexual desire.

But of course the “grand plan” goes well beyond mere appetite. Today, sexual freedom extends to recreating the reality of even sexual identity itself. We hear the mad assertion that sexuality is endlessly malleable, that there is an infinite number of genders.

The Church objects to all of this, and so it’s under active attack. We’ve seen vandalism of religious facilities, desecration of statuary and other sacred symbols, assaults on clergy and worshippers, unrestrained blasphemy, and ridicule.

On the government level, the executive protection under which the Little Sisters of the Poor has avoided being forced to include insurance coverage of contraception and abortion for its lay employees hangs by a thread. It could easily be removed by a different and unsympathetic administration. Vice President Biden has promised that, if he’s elected president, this is exactly what he will do.

Judge Barrett’s association with People of Praise, a Catholic charismatic fellowship, is being held up as proof of alleged cultic fanaticism. When Barrett was being considered for her current judicial seat, Sen. Diane Feinstein raised the possibility that Barrett’s Catholic faith might make it impossible for her to adjudicate impartially. Similarly, current vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris tried to block the judgeship appointment of another nominee because he belonged to the Knights of Columbus.

Make no mistake, the life of each individual human being is at stake in this election. As abortion is a wedge issue for the left, as it is for pro-life Christians, and with good reason.

If, as progressives do, you can deny that a fetus is a fully autonomous human being because a pre-born baby can’t live without the assistance of the mother, then you can deny the humanity and human dignity of other people who are dependent: the sick, the elderly, anyone who might find themselves in a diminished situation. And that means any one of us at some time or other. That’s you and me.

Yes, abortion is critical. But first and foremost, we must defend our religious freedom.

That’s how we’ll end abortion.

That’s how we’ll save the nation.

A priest of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, Rev. Michael P. Orsi currently serves as parochial vicar at St. Agnes Parish in Naples, Florida. He is host of “Action for Life TV,” a weekly cable television series devoted to pro-life issues, and his writings appear in numerous publications and online journals. His TV show episodes can be viewed online here.

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