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The Separation of Church and State Is a One-Way Street

BY Matthew Archbold

| Posted 12/5/12 at 2:42 PM

 

Australia is looking into requiring Catholic priests to break the seal of confession in cases of serious sex offenses. The Irish government was discussing this very thing recently.

Obviously, this kind of thing is more than distressing to most Catholics. But governmental intrusion into Church affairs is nothing new.

But there's been a lot of talk recently that Catholics should have no concerns whatsoever with marriage becoming a civil right because the separation of Church and state will protect us.

Ironically, those who scream loudest about the separation of church and state can sometimes be its most vociferous opponents. Fairfield University religious studies professor Paul Lakeland recently argued that one can be in favor of civil gay marriage while being against sacramental gay marriage. He said state sanctioned marriage has nothing to do with the sacrament of marriage and that the bishops have no more authority than you or me when they voice their opinion on civil marriage because they are speaking about a state issue.

Yet this very same professor also supported legislation in Connecticut that would have forcibly placed parish finances under the control of elected lay boards.

You see, separation of Church and state is not only a one-way street, it’s been weaponized and aimed directly at the Church.

And it isn't just Connecticut. The federal government recently argued before the Supreme Court in Hosanna-Tabor that the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment didn't ensure that religious groups should be allowed to choose their own leaders.

If the federal government had won the day on this, it could've done away with the "ministerial exception" which prevents the government from deciding who can preach and who can't. If the federal government had succeeded, government officials could have had the authority to decide if male-only ordination was proper.

One may also look at the HHS contraceptive mandate which forces religious institutions to pay for contraception, abortifacients, and sterilization procedures.

Yet, we're supposed to believe that if gay marriage becomes a civil right that at no point in the future, churches would be forced to perform same sex marriages or risk punishing fines or even lose their tax-exempt status altogether.

What about parish halls? Would Churches be forced to rent to parish halls to gay marriage celebrants? Would Catholic colleges be forced to provide housing for same-sex married couples? Would Catholic institutions be forced to provide benefits to same sex married couples?

I don't see how you could realistically look at the country today and think those things weren't going to happen.

The Nuns on the Bus spoke unceasingly about how budgets are not just legal documents but moral ones. And I agree. But when Sister Simone Campbell was asked about her view on the legality of abortion, she deferred and said it was beyond her pay grade. So cutting the federal rate of growth is a moral issue but the life and death of the unborn is not? In that same vein, are budgets moral documents but not marriage certificates?

There are many arguments against civil gay marriage. I'm not discussing them here. I'm just making it clear that for me there's very little reason to believe those who say that making gay marriage a right will have no impact on the Church. For a government that has shown little restraint of late, trust is a little hard to come by.