On Tuesday, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore spoke with the National Catholic Register about a number of topics, including marriage and religious liberty. Lori is also chairman of the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. Here are pertinent snippets from the interview, with emphasis added.
Interviewer: Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, a self-identified Catholic and a leading advocate for legalizing same-sex “marriage” in the state, says the law protects religious freedom. But many constitutional scholars who support “marriage equality” acknowledge that it poses a direct challenge to the free exercise of religion.
Archbishop Lori: The ballot language is frankly deceiving. It is dressed up in religious-liberty language, but there are almost no protections for religious liberty if the law goes into effect.
Some people will think that simply not requiring priests and ministers of churches opposed to same-sex “marriage” to solemnize such marriages will protect religious liberty.
The real threat lies in the area of licensing of Catholic Charities’ adoption agencies and accreditation of schools and universities that maintain their support of traditional marriage.
Most people don’t realize how pervasive marriage is in federal and state law. We won’t recognize the consequences of redefining it until some years and many lawsuits down the road.
While the HHS mandate has been front and center, I’m even more concerned about the possibility that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will be overturned. It is not unthinkable that defending traditional marriage will be regarded as bigotry and hate speech and that all kinds of strictures will be placed on our schools.
Interviewer: After opponents of same-sex “marriage” in Maryland got enough signatures to challenge the state law and put it on the ballot, the names of the petition signatories were posted on several websites. Are public-disclosure laws being used to enforce political correctness?
Archbishop Lori: Recently, I spoke with a gentleman and asked him to support this effort. I told him, “Your donation is not tax-deductible.” I said, “It will be made public, and I can’t guarantee there won’t be harassment.”
He told me, “My wife and I want to stand up for marriage.” Sometimes bearing witness is costly.
Am I concerned? Yes. I don’t want anybody to be subject to harassment for stating their convictions in public as both citizens and believers.
Interviewer: The Church’s fight against the mandate comes at a time of high anxiety for American Catholics and the West in general. The economic crisis hasn’t lifted, and activists want to redefine marriage. Many fear the country is moving in a dangerous, unpredictable direction. Our complacency has been shaken.
Archbishop Lori: We do find ourselves in a new situation. An aggressive and Godless secularism has overtaken our culture. It has always been a secular culture, but it is newly aggressive, and that presents multiple challenges.
But one reason why legal challenges have been mounted against religious freedom and the family is that these things have already become broadly acceptable in the culture.
We must and do struggle against these things legally and politically. But there is a more fundamental task before us: It is the New Evangelization, and it is about re-proposing the truths of reason and Revelation to a secular and hardened culture using a new apologetics.
The way that Pope Benedict exercises the papal magisterium provides a model for how we might do this. He has announced the Year of Faith to help us address the more fundamental task at hand.
Those of us who are in the Church need to go deeper than knowing what the Church teaches. We must study why the Church believes and teaches what she does. With prayer, reflection and mutual support, we can reach the conviction that what she teaches is not only true, but it is good, beautiful, coherent and utterly necessary — not only for our lives, but for the lives of those around us and for our culture.
Despite secularism, people still care about the essential questions: Why am I here, and how can I find true fulfillment? People wonder, In the midst of having it my way, why do I still feel so empty?
There are many openings for the Gospel, but we cannot defend traditional marriage, for example, without engaging the New Evangelization. Yet, in an election year, we have a tendency to drop everything else to focus on the campaign, to exaggerate both the importance of victory and the dangers of defeat.