Rightwingers for all seasons
Have you heard about the "Fortnight For Freedom?" (I know, how many Americans know what a fortnight is ...) Anyway, this is happening:
[The] "Fortnight for freedom" [is] between "June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day." Fusing the martyrdom of Catholic saints with Independence Day, the Bishops write, "Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power . . . . Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action would emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty."
That's right, now the Catholic Bishops are fully integrating their "religious liberty" trope with patriotism. It's not that right wingers haven't been doing this for some time, but this is the first time I've seen it organized this way.
Sarah Posner wrote about this last month:
All of this will of course come to a head as the general election campaign is heating up over the summer months. The Bishops urge commemoration of "resistance to totalitarian incursions against religious liberty" and call on "an immense number of writers, producers, artists, publishers, filmmakers, and bloggers employing all the means of communications—both old and new media—to expound and teach the faith. They too have a critical role in this great struggle for religious liberty. We call upon them to use their skills and talents in defense of our first freedom."In fact, we're looking at a full fledged effort to re-fight the Reformation. Here's Posner a couple of days ago:
It will be the summer of the Bishops' discontent. Their call to action ensures that it will spill over into the presidential campaign. The culture wars are far from over. This new chapter has just begun.
In the coming weeks, as the Fortnight for Freedom approaches, expect More's name to be invoked again and again, and his martyrdom compared with, supposedly, that of 21st century American Catholics, who live in a modern democracy, not a 16th century monarchy. Yet in this depiction—wait for it—the Obama administration is like Henry VIII, attempting to require loyalty to the Church of England (or the Department of Health and Human Services) rather than the Vatican.Uhm ... holy shit. As Posner rightly points, unlike England of the period, the United States government, the last we heard, does not answer to Church authority of any kind. Indeed, the American experiment was a product of the 500 years of bloody religious wars that preceded it and explicitly rejected the very idea of Religious and Monarchical rule.
Fr. Paul Scalia, pastor of St. John the Beloved Parish in McLean, Virginia, writing in the Catholic Herald last month, implored Catholics to mimic More in response to the Obama administration (emphasis mine):
Just as in St. Thomas’s day it was a moral issue that precipitated the larger crisis, so also in our day. The Church’s teaching on contraception is at the core of this crisis. We can — and should — say many things about this teaching. It is one of the most important, challenging and beautiful of the Church’s doctrines. But the teaching itself — as important as it is — really just occasions another, broader issue. The crisis now before us between the bishops and the administration turns on the rights of the Church and the rights of man: the Church’s right of self-governance and the rights of individual conscience.
Henry VIII redefined the Church in England. It is not too much to say that by the HHS mandate, the administration seeks to do likewise in the United States. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, asks the question: Can a government bureau define for us or any faith community what is ministry and how it can be exercised? Of course not. The Church has the right to define herself and not be told by outside authorities what does or does not define her work.
According to Posner, the Catholic hierarchy begs to differ:
The Archbishop of Miami, Thomas Wenski, recently said that "efforts to restrict religious liberty are seemingly founded in a reductive secularism that has more in common with the French Revolution than with America's founding."So the Catholic Bishops have joined the wingnut chorus in full voice, making the case that up until now only the far right fringies like David Barton have made. It's profoundly disturbing.
The very idea that providing women with insurance coverage is somehow tantamount to the terror and violence inflicted on both sides in Reformation England—or to the historical cataclysm that was Henry's schism from Rome—is so absurd I'm stunned as my fingers tap across my keyboard. If we're going to spend the next five and half months discussing whether Barack Obama is like Henry VIII, well, God help us.Somehow I doubt this is only go to go on for the next five months. This one's going to be with us for a while.