Monday, November 23, 2009

Orthodox With Attitude: Bishop Tobin and the Manhattan Declaration

I have long thought that the decline of church and society in the West can not only be laid at the feet of libchurchers but also at the feet of those “orthodox” who done nothing. So I am heartened by two recent developments in which orthodox leaders show some backbone and maybe even a little attitude, too.

First was RC Bishop Thomas Tobin’s excommunication of Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI). The Kennedys are perhaps the family which has done the more harm than any other to this nation. Their evil, which extends beyond support of abortion on demand (although that is certainly bad enough), had long been brazen. Yet has any RC cleric stood up to them and said, “Enough”?

Now one has. And it’s about time. Kudos to Bishop Tobin.

Second was, and is, the Manhattan Declaration. It is a robust statement by Christian leaders in defense of life and marriage.

But it goes well beyond that in a needful time. And this is where such backbone is displayed as to stir my heart. It proclaims both a right and obligation to act upon orthodox Christian principles in these areas. This declaration is more than just words.

Moreover and perhaps most importantly, it acknowledges openly and confronts the attack on religious freedom in the West, particularly attacks on those speaking and acting in the areas of life and marriage.

It is ironic that those who today assert a right to kill the unborn, aged and disabled and also a right to engage in immoral sexual practices, and even a right to have relationships integrated around these practices be recognized and blessed by law—such persons claiming these “rights” are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.

We see this, for example, in the effort to weaken or eliminate conscience clauses, and therefore to compel pro­life institutions (including religiously affiliated hospitals and clinics), and pro­life physicians, surgeons, nurses, and other health care professionals, to refer for abortions and, in certain cases, even to perform or participate in abortions. We see it in the use of anti-discrimination statutes to force religious institutions, businesses, and service providers of various sorts to comply with activities they judge to be deeply immoral or go out of business. After the judicial imposition of “same­sex marriage” in Massachusetts, for example, Catholic Charities chose with great reluctance to end its century­long work of helping to place orphaned children in good homes rather than comply with a legal mandate that it place children in same­sex households in violation of Catholic moral teaching. In New Jersey, after the establishment of a quasi­marital “civil unions” scheme, a Methodist institution was stripped of its tax exempt status when it declined, as a matter of religious conscience, to permit a facility it owned and operated to be used for ceremonies blessing homosexual unions. In Canada and some European nations, Christian clergy have been prosecuted for preaching Biblical norms against the practice of homosexuality. New hate crime laws in America raise the specter of the same practice here.

And in confronting this attack on religious freedom, it states a manful determination to refuse to submit to it, ending with . . .

Going back to the earliest days of the church, Christians have refused to compromise their proclamation of the gospel. In Acts 4, Peter and John were ordered to stop preaching. Their answer was, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Through the centuries,
Christianity has taught that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required. . . .

Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo­destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti­life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.

To which I say, “Yes!” and “Amen!”

I have signed the Manhattan Declaration and urge my good readers to do likewise.

And I may post further analysis at a later time.


Rob said...

Kennedy wasn't excommunicated. +Tobin merely made the common-sense request that, since he wasn't in communion with the Church, he should not receive communion in the Church. This is easily rectified by repenting his sins. However, an excommunication is much more difficult to have revoked, and requires more than a simple confession (e.g., see Holocaust-denying SSPX bishops).

Mark said...

My terminology may be inexact. But my understanding is that +Tobin also instructed clergy not to communicate Kennedy. I think that is at least a type of excommunication if not of the more formal permanent variety.

Correct me again if I'm mistaken.


Rob said...

Yeah, I hear you. He certainly did give those instructions. But within the Catholic communion, that is not an excommunication. Excommuncation entails being barred from all sacraments, including confession. So the only remedy is in the hands of the bishop or his designee.

But anyway, I am being stupid and sniggly. Your point is absolutely right. It's a welcome change to see a bishop with a spine.

Mark said...

Hey, I can be as nit-picky as anyone. I appreciate the comments and clarifications.