When you live by the image, do you also die by the moving image?
Whatever the answer, Roman Catholics are decidedly split over videos produced by the infallible magisterium.
Less restrictive Roman Catholics like Michael Sean Winters and Anthony Annett are cringing over the USCCB’s video on religious liberty.
First, the video’s approach to liberty genuflects at the U.S. Constitution. From the outset, the video sets the standard for religious liberty in the U.S. constitutional order rather than the Gospel. With its tropes about our “first freedom,” it fails to appreciate the roots of this in Lockean liberalism—predicated on an autonomous individual shaking off coercion, rather than on a social animal seeking the good realized in mutual relationships. In the Catholic conception, this “common good” is the highest good in political life, and it cannot be reduced to the good of individuals, either taken separately or summed. In this Catholic framework, the role of the state is the realization of this common good, not the protection of individual liberty. And yes, by the principle of subsidiarity, this includes respecting the legitimate autonomy of the Church. But this is a very different perspective on religious liberty from the one arising from the U.S. constitutional framework.
Second, the video wallows in America-first jingoistic nationalism. The video is replete with “patriotic” images like American flags. Even worse, it goes “all in” on American exceptionalism, with one speaker even proclaiming that “the U.S. is the greatest country in the history of the world.” This derives from a quasi-Calvinist notion of America being the realm of God’s chosen people, which is completely antithetical to Catholicism and insulting to Catholics all over the world. Another speaker argues that the American approach to religious liberty should be “a model” for the rest of the world. Honestly, the slogan “make America great again” wouldn’t have been out of place in this video.
Third, the video presents a misleading and partisan view of religious liberty violations in the United States. It claims that the Little Sisters of the Poor are being “harassed by the U.S. government,” when this “harassment” boils down to filling out a form to opt out of the mandate to include contraception in health-insurance plans. (To be fair, I believe that the Little Sisters do have a valid argument on principle, but to claim harassment is way over the top). Aside from the contraception mandate, the video also refers to the legalization of same-sex marriage and even to the removal of a Ten Commandments monument in Oklahoma. It makes references to the rights of business, but not to the duties of business or the rights of workers. Missing is any reference to the egregious attacks on the religious liberty of Muslims, most notably with the Republican presidential candidate calling for a complete ban on people entering the country based solely on religion. Missing is any reference to local (typically Republican) government efforts to impede the Church’s ability to aid migrants and refugees—the criminalization of a basic Christian duty. And in the week that Dan Berrigan died, missing is any reference to religious-based conscientious objection to funding the great evil of nuclear weapons. And yes, the video includes Hillary Clinton, for some bizarre reason, but not Donald Trump. We know that images speak volumes.
He has three more points.
In contrast we have Pope Francis’ most recent prayer video.
To which Michael Matt (apparently not a pay, pray and obey Roman Catholic — but neither is Annett showing great subjection to his bishops) responds:
If Pope Francis really wants to do something for women, he should denounce the very idea that divorced and remarried Catholics–public adulterers who have abandoned their wives!–can return to the sacramental life of the Church. He should hold high the model of the Virgin Mary, Queen of heaven and earth. He should consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart. He should advocate for the safe return of wives and mothers to the exalted pedestals Christendom built for them a thousand years ago (so despised by the modern feminists). He should turn away from the fanatical Modernist ideology that is destroying the Church, undermining the family, eradicating Christian marriage and leaving women vulnerable to a vicious world where morality is no more, marriage contracts mean nothing, sex means everything and women are left to fend for themselves without children, husband, or God. And this wretched condition they would call emancipation?
The remarkable aspect of this contrast is not simply the significant disagreement among the laity in a communion whose apologists trumpet the church’s unity, but also the very different messages the bishops are sending despite papal supremacy and audacity.
As Annett says:
I don’t see the USCCB devoting nearly as much attention to the priorities of Pope Francis—climate change and environmental degradation, poverty and inequality, the global arms trade and the death penalty, care for migrants and refugees.
Which Roman Catholic will tell Protestants who the real Roman Catholics are?