by David Fortwengler
This past Memorial Day weekend while remembering so many who have sacrificed so much to preserve our Nation’s freedoms, I couldn’t help but reflect on how some catholics have distorted and disrespected the values we hold so dear. It's clear the long term strategy of the Catholic Church to mitigate the damage from the abuse and coverup scandal and salvage their “holy” reputation is to portray their critics and fact finders as evil secularists who are Anti-Catholic. If someone does not believe in their theology, doesn’t agree with their doctrine, or is disgusted with the way they do business, catholics are told to automatically dismiss that opinion.
Millions of brave Americans, including many catholics, have fought and died to protect our Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion. The repeated claims by church hierarchy and others that the church is being denied those freedoms in the U.S. is disingenuous, false, hurtful, and insulting to all non-catholics. In 2002 then Cardinal Ratzinger stated with confidence,
"I am personally convinced that the constant presence in the press of the sins of Catholic priests, especially in the United States, is a planned campaign, ... one comes to the conclusion that it is intentional, manipulated, that there is a desire to discredit the Church. It is a logical and well-founded conclusion."
In September of 2005 a Philadelphia Grand Jury released a 415 page meticulously investigated and detailed report that documented a continuous, concerted campaign by the Philadelphia Diocese to cover-up sexual crimes against children. In a classic “Don’t pay attention to the man behind the curtain” moment, Cardinal Rigali’s lawyer William Sasso called the report "incredibly biased and anti-Catholic."
It’s the church’s desire that someday history will reflect that despite the facts and evidence, it was evil secularists and anti-Catholics whose desire it was to destroy the Church. Of the false defenses the Church has used, I find this the most defamatory of all. Every diocese in the United States has had their freedoms preserved by all of us, and will continue to be. No Catholic is denied the right to vote, to attend church, to publish a newspaper, to have a website, to own a TV station, to hire lobbyists, to be employed by our government, or to hire the best lawyers available to defend themselves. If Timothy Dolan or Bishop Jugis of Charlotte want to run for political office they are welcome.
The Bishop’s plan to explain away their gross negligence by claiming bias and prejudice is almost understandable since they are running out of excuses. However, the claim that their freedoms are being denied in this country, even over mundane issues, disrespects veterans and everything our country has fought to preserve and protect. No institution or organization has had their rights more zealously protected than religions. The only thing that Catholicism has been denied is non-Catholics ceding to their “moral authority” as if their opinion on anything is somehow divinely inspired.
Diocese of Charlotte Claims Their Free Speech Rights are Denied
A current and ludicrous argument is now being made by the Diocese of Charlotte in North Carolina. For seven consecutive years the N.C. Legislature has refused to approve a specialty license plate that would say “Choose Life.” On May 25th Bishop Peter Jugis held a rally in front of the Legislative Building with 200 supporters. With a microphone in front of him he absurdly claimed the diocese has a legal right to the plate and that their constitutional Right to Free Speech as citizens was being denied. He passionately quoted Moses and Jesus as if they had an opinion on license plates. As leader of the diocese he then urged his members combat this injustice by writing, calling, and visiting their legislators. Isn’t that an acknowledgment that their Free Speech is fully intact?
Jugis whiny argument is further contradicted by the fact that just 5 months ago hundreds of Catholics rallied in front of the Federal Courthouse in Charlotte to protest abortion laws. With dozens of infants in tow, they held their “Abortion Kills Children” signs. Their freedoms were further exercised when they ran a front page story and picture of this event in their diocesan newspaper.
Charlotte is the home to NASCAR where a whole industry is built on covering every inch of an automobile with logos. If the Bishop wants to cover every inch of his personal car with “Choose Life” bumper stickers he is free to do so. His claim of violated rights trivializes everything about what we cherish. Here is the link to Bishop Jugis using his Freedom of Speech and insulting those who disagree with him.