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Live and Let Live: The Neutrality Myth

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Aug 24, 2009

If we had a better sense of humor, we could laugh at the absurdities uttered by those who, for one reason or another, want the Church to butt out.

The Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, has decried high profile evangelization efforts by Christian groups as dangerous to the social order. Now the PM himself was educated in a Catholic school, and he praised it as a model of good religious relations. But he also criticized Christians for attempting to win leadership positions in a women’s organization in order to reverse its stand in favor of homosexuality, asserting that this was an unacceptable “attempt by a religiously motivated group to enter civil space.” The translation seems to be that civil society must be reserved for the peculiar beliefs of secular liberalism.

So the neutrality myth is alive and well in Singapore, but it has been carried to new heights in Nicaragua, where the Attorney General, who is clearly sick and tired of the opposition of the Catholic Church to the regime of President Daniel Ortega, has made it very clear what motivates those who attempt to insert religion into public life. In other words, he's come right out and accused three bishops of being agents of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Who knew?

Perhaps this sort of thing explains why the Leadership Conference of Women Religious has again expressed its consternation and discontent over the “mysterious” decision of the Vatican to conduct an Apostolic Visitation of female religious communities in the United States. Suspicious of the Visitation, the LCWR demands to know what is motivating the Vatican and insists on full disclosure concerning its funding. Could the CIA’s misogynist section be financing a frontal assault on habitless women religious?

Well, presumably the “religious space” ought to be neutral too, as in secular. Or so one would gather from the August 20th letter from representatives of the three main branches of Judaism asserting that Catholic-Jewish dialogue has been all but destroyed by the American bishops’ recent insistence that Christian religious discussion with Jews presupposes a desire to witness to Christ. What, after all, has Christ to do with Christianity?

Of course their statement would have been more effective if it had quoted the pithy maxim of the Prime Minister of Singapore: “We all have to adopt ‘live and let live’ as our principle.” Finally, a coherent plan to improve the world!

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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