Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

Quick hits: When state power threatens the Church

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Nov 13, 2020

This week, two useful articles warning about Church-state confrontations:

  • Msgr. Charles Pope (who has been hospitalized with Covid himself) looked at the grim situation in Europe, where churches are being closed down again, and worried that the same thing could happen in the US soon. As a matter of fact, soon after his column was published in the National Catholic Register, new restrictions were announced on churches in New York. If and when it happens, Msgr. Pope argues that “we cannot simply do what we did before in the first shutdown.” Instead, he writes, “If more lockdowns are threatened, we ought to proactively resist them, exhausting every chance to engage officials, and if necessary exhausting every legal appeal to the highest level possible.” His piece offers useful specific suggestions on how to maintain the sacramental life of the Church during a lockdown.
  • But the lockdown is not the only threat that the Church faces from the government. In ”Our Anti-Catholic Administrative State”, appearing in First Things, law professor Philip Hamburger calls attention to the Fulton case, recently argued before the Supreme Court. The case involved alleged discrimination against same-sex couples by Catholic Social Services in Philadelphia. “But CSS has never engaged in such discrimination,” Hamburger notes, because no same-sex couples had applied to CSS for help. Nevertheless, the commission of the city’s Department of Human Services “preemptively barred CSS from providing placements on account of its religious views on gay marriage.” So this was not a case in which a Church agency was accused of violating the law; it was a case in which an unelected public official made an arbitrary judgment to take action against a wholly innocent agency, on religious (or anti-religious) grounds. Hamburger goes on to explain how “the administrative state” harbors an inherent bias against religious institutions—and why that is not a mere happenstance but the result of deliberate policy decisions.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Nov. 16, 2020 4:18 AM ET USA

    The "Catholic" head of the Democrat Party may soon become the titular head of the "anti-Catholic administrative state". Prior to 4 years ago this anti-Catholic state "fundamentally transformed" the U.S. into its own Godless image by deliberately and systematically eliminating Catholic healthcare services, child placement, the reality of marriage as the sacrament of matrimony, and freedom of thought. So grievous was this attack against religion that Russia stopped all adoptions by U.S. residents.