Monday, July 1, 2013

In the Quiet of Capitol Hill

Candlelight vigil a the U.S. Capitol on June 22
Kathryn Jean Lopez
Washington, D.C. The scene was appealing to an amateur photographer who had simply been going for a walk but instead settled in on the lawn for the long haul. We were gathering on a grassy patch on the U.S. Capitol’s grounds. As it happened, we were about equidistant from the Senate floor and from the Supreme Court. The first to arrive were Dominican friars and religious sisters in full habit. Monks and nuns out of another century had to be the double-take observation for anyone passing by.

In truth, they were young — the Dominicans’ Province of St. Joseph in the eastern U.S. has 18 men entering as novices this summer — and engaged. They were here to lead about 200 families and young people in evening prayer outside the Capitol.

The occasion for the gathering was the ongoing threats to religious liberty in the United States. The prayer vigil on Saturday evening was one of the opening acts of the Fortnight for Freedom, the second annual two-week period of prayer, fasting, and education on behalf of religious liberty, led by Catholic bishops but with ecumenical participation and implications.

The next morning, at Sunday Mass, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore called the current moment “a perfect storm.” He observed that “fewer people are practicing their faith, while attacks on religion and on people of faith are accelerating, whether in the media or on college campuses or in social gatherings” and so on.

This is happening here at home, where what was once a precious, fundamental liberty from which others flow has become a pawn of sexual-revolutionary ideology and politics, even if these are sometimes motivated by the best of intentions. And it is happening in Syria, where a monk was killed during an attack on a Franciscan monastery just the other day. We must be vigilant about these threats wherever they creep in; it’s a matter of stewardship, human dignity, and gratitude.

“Segments of our government,” Archbishop Lori said, “more and more are saying to us: You can worship however you wish but when you serve the needs of the poor or educate young people, you need to check certain parts of your faith at the door.”

The issue is complicated, as he said, by the fact that even many of the people who profess to be religious — Catholics most certainly among them — don’t see what he sees, in part because of a privatized view of religious faith we’ve internalized since somewhere around the time Senator John F. Kennedy was assuring Protestant clergymen that his Catholicism wouldn’t influence his presidency.

“The fracturing of the family combined with the sexual revolution has put a great many people in the West on a collision course with certain fundamental teachings of the Christian faith,” Mary Eberstadt writes in her important book How the West Really Lost God, so we critically need an understanding of the current nexus of history involving marriage, “women’s health” claims, and the finalization on Friday of the Department of Health and Human Services’ abortion-drug, contraception, and sterilization mandate. “The unprecedented proliferation of weakened natural families and nontraditional quasi-families has left a great many individuals resistant as they never were before to fundamental features of the Christian code,” Eberstadt observes.


Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a director of Catholic Voices USA. This column is based on one available exclusively through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.

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