It's that time of year again. That is, it's time for the Easter Bunny to announce the death & resurrection of Jesus.
It's also time for the annual Blog Against Theocracy, promoting the Separation of Church & State.
This year, my essay focuses on a topic that I have been writing about quite a bit recently -- the "Pay, Pray & Obey" conservative contingent of the Catholic Church.
Most of my musings have been about the deistic doings of Bishop Martino of (my hometown) Scranton, who has single-handedly tried to make the Church a Division of the GOP by refusing communion to Scranton native VP Joe Biden and chastising Senator Bob Casey for paling around with Obama & Biden. He also threatened to lock the doors of the Catheral on St. Patrick's day if a pro-lifer (read that: Biden) was part of the parade, which is a huge event in the Electic City. And then, of course, he challenged a local Catholic college because it dared allow a gay man to speak at a forum (sponsored by the Diversity Institute, of all things) as part of its Black History celebration. See Diversity Defined and The Intolerance Institute.
Martino's views are not just a plague on the city of Scranton, but they speak to the issue of separation of Church & State. When religion requires strict adherence to its beliefs, how can members of a religion govern without conflicts between faith & law? Speaking of Martino's objections to Senator Casey, I observed in The Evil Lurks Within:
I also suppose Martino forgets that the main opposition to JFK as the first Catholic to run for President was that he would put his religious beliefs ahead of those duly enacted laws of the land. Notwithstanding his personal/religious beliefs, abortion is still legal in this country and as a Senator, Casey is obligated to respect those laws.
And as for the Bishop, if Martino was so concerned about "life," where was he on the issue of the unjust war in Iraq? Is he working to end it? How about the death penalty? Nothing extinguishes life like the death penalty. And, let's not forget he is the Bishop in the Scranton Diocese, an area rife with gun lovers. Where does he stand on gun control? Does he preach to his flock to put down the guns? And finally, this is the Catholic Church we're talking about. How did he respond to the pedophiles in the ministry? I'm sure I don't need to answer these hypothetical questions, since the answers are obvious.
Conservative Catholics like Bishop Martino are more prevelant within the Church than at any other time in recent history. As such, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church personifies the importance of the Separation of Church & State.
Of course, the most recent example on a national level is the recent "controversy" over Notre Dame's invitation to President Obama's to speak at its commencement. As I noted last week:
Religious extremism is flourishing and the inability to think critically seems to be a requirement for those religions.
The controversy over President Obama's upcoming commencement address at Notre Dame University is a perfect example of this. Obama Notre Dame Speech: Cardinal George Rips Invitation As An 'Extreme Embarrassment' To Catholics. That is, the right wing faction of the Catholic Church fiercely objects to the idea that Obama will even be permitted to speak at a Catholic institution on any topic, because he does not adhere to all of the tenets of the Church, as promulgated by the Cardinal Newman Society (and he's a Democrat). See Obama and Notre Dame and The Politicization of American Catholicism.
In other words, according to this conservative Catholic contingent, no voice that does not comport with the orthodoxy of the Church should be permitted to be heard at all. Debate? Dissent? Not permitted. Rather, they dictate and the flock obeys. To hear other opinions might cause the faithful to question the rules. For this reason, thinking -- never mind critical thinking -- is heresy.
Pat Buchanan & Lawrence O'Donnell discuss (or, should I say scream about) the issue on Hardball:
Like evangelical Christians, the views of the Catholic Church have become intolerant to ideas that are not part of the dogma of the Church. On the one hand, I respect another's right to believe (even if I believe it is wrong). However, I do object to the insistence that I must abide by those opinions. And that is why religion needs to be kept out of the state. Unless, of course, I'm required to eat chocolate bunnies.
(Poster via coffee messiah)