By Francis X. Rocca
Catholic News Service
Any hopes that the administration might change its policy to the satisfaction of the church grew faint as the year wore on and the election drew nearer, to the increasingly vocal frustration of several U.S. bishops.
Two days before Americans went to the polls, the papal nuncio to the U.S. made it clear how urgent a priority the nation’s religious liberty had become at the highest levels of the universal church.
Speaking at the University of Notre Dame Nov. 4, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano devoted most of a speech about “religious freedom, persecution of the church and martyrdom” to the situation of the United States today.
“The menace to religious liberty is concrete on many fronts,” Archbishop Vigano said, noting the insurance mandate, anti-discrimination policies that require Catholic adoption agencies to place children with same-sex couples, and mandatory public school curricula that present same-sex marriage as “natural and wholesome.”
Recalling persecution of Catholics in fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, the archbishop said that the “problems identified … over six decades ago that deal with the heavy grip of the state’s hand in authentic religious liberty are still with us today.”
A government need not be a dictatorship in order to persecute the church, the nuncio said, quoting the words of Blessed John Paul II that a “democracy without values easily turns into openly or thinly disguised totalitarianism.”
If the mere timing of his speech was not sufficient to underscore its political implications, Archbishop Vigano concluded by lamenting the support of Catholic politicians and voters for laws and policies that violate church teaching.
“We witness in an unprecedented way a platform being assumed by a major political party, having intrinsic evils among its basic principles, and Catholic faithful publicly supporting it,” he said. “There is a divisive strategy at work here, an intentional dividing of the church; through this strategy, the body of the church is weakened, and thus the church can be more easily persecuted.”