Dolan is either Ignorant or a Liar: You decide
The Catholic News Agency had an article featuring the remarks of Cardinal Dolan, President of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, yesterday. Cardinal Dolan has moved well beyond his scope as a bishop in this election and is very much a political actor. To be fair, he has criticized both parties—the Republicans for their budget and the Democrats for supposed attacks on religious freedom. I believe that the Cardinal should certainly vote with what his conscience tells him. That includes factoring in his religious beliefs. After all, theist or atheist, we cannot separate ourselves from the things that are important to us when we enter a voting booth. The issue I have is that the Cardinal is attempting to sway voters with misleading historical claims and outright lies.
The title of the article, “Cardinal Dolan says religious freedom means leaving faith alone” contains some major problems and falsities before we even start reading it. Religious freedom in no way means “leaving faith alone”. If that were true, Mormons would still be able to practice polygamy, government forces some religious people to get vaccinations that go against their creeds in order to attend public schools, we do not allow religions to practice their own laws (such as Shari ’a), the Amish complained that signs and lights on their carriages violated their beliefs opposing ornaments and decorations—but were told too bad if they want to use public roads—safety first, adherents of some of the Caribbean faiths cannot sacrifice animals, etc. The list of examples is quite long. In short, religious freedom has never meant “leaving religions alone”. Cardinal Dolan is either ignorant of the facts or is lying.
The article quotes the Cardinal as stating, “Simply put, government has no business interfering in the internal life of the soul, conscience, or church.” This is also a fallacious statement. First off, what the heck is a “soul”? Prove that one exits and then we can discuss how or if it should be regulated. This part of the statement is pure rhetoric and nonsense. The second point the Cardinal makes, regarding conscience, is also false. The government most certainly interferes with our conscience. Our conscience must follow the laws of the land. If my conscience tells me it is right to do something illegal, and I do that act, I will go to jail. My conscience tells me it is okay to drive 50mph in a 30mph zone if there are no other cars around. I suspect the cop with the radar gun will disagree. My conscience is limited by government. As far as his third point, regarding Churches, I already pointed out some examples of why that is fallacious in the previous paragraph. Once again the Cardinal is either ignorant or lying.
The Cardinal goes on to state:
“The promotion and protection of religious liberty is becoming caricatured as some narrow, hyper-defensive, far-right, self-serving cause…Nothing can be more inaccurate. Rather, freedom of religion has been the driving force of almost every enlightened, un-shackling, noble cause in American history”.
“The American Revolution itself was influenced by the Great Awakening and spurred on by ministers who encouraged participation in the fight for freedom, he observed.”
“In the fight against the slavery, abolitionist leaders were “mostly inspired by religious conviction, he noted, listing prominent figures whose “devotion to the cause to end slavery flowed from a conscience formed by faith. In a land where loyalty to conscience and freedom of religion were not guaranteed, emancipation would have come at a much tragically later date. ”
The article states:
“In addition, the cardinal continued, the Civil Rights Movement would “never have flourished” without “the unfettered preaching of the Gospel,” and “the leadership of Black southern preachers,” including Reverend Martin Luther King”.
In the first part of this quote, he is implying that the current battle to “promote and protect” religious liberty is not solely part of a Right Wing agenda and that it is not self-serving. That is false. The overwhelming majority of the opposition to current supposed “limits” being placed on religion are coming from the Right. Second, the Catholic Church’s stance is one hundred percent a self-serving cause. They are interested in only protecting their dogma and doctrine—nothing more.
The rest of his statements noted above reflect a gross misunderstanding of American history. While the Cardinal is correct in pointing out that religion played a role in all of those things, he is leaving something out. He completely omits the fact that the forces in support of slavery, opposed to the revolution and our current Constitution, and opposed to the Civil Rights movement were equally as religious. Religion played a key role on both sides of the arguments.
Slavery was justified for centuries by citing the bible and religious figures. To imply that slavery was defeated due to Christian views is pure fantasy. Much has been written on this topic and I do not want to dwell on it here.
Though the American Revolution was influenced in part by the First Great Awakening, it was more influenced by the works of Enlightenment thinkers. Further, much of the opposition to our Constitution came from religious leaders upset that god was absent. During the Revolution itself, the Tories or loyalists were almost all Anglicans (Congregationalists and Presbyterians supported the revolution). These Anglicans supported the King as head of the Church and were largely opposed to the Revolution. Once again, we have religion and religious leaders on both sides of the issues. Dolan cannot claim that religion played a key role in any of these achievements for the simple fact that religions were on both the losing and winning sides. It is akin to saying white men were responsible for all of this happening. No shit! But it doesn’t really tell us anything does it? Dolan is giving far too much credit to religion for the founding of this country.
The same argument holds true for the Civil Rights movement. Both whites and blacks used religion to justify separation. The most notable black leader to promote this was Malcolm X. Was religion a key component for Dr. King and civil rights activists? Of course it was. But a closer look at history will show that once again, religion was used on both sides of the issue.
Cardinal Dolan is either ignorant of all of this or he is lying.
The last and perhaps the most offensive point made by Cardinal Dolan that I want to address is the following:
“The cardinal observed that the Catholics who first came to America – often settling in Maryland, a colony that served as a “laboratory” of religious freedom – did not seek “any favored status for either their beloved Catholic faith or any other religion…Nor did they want their faith, however normative in their own life, to have any institutional input in the colonial government,” he said. “Mainly, they just wanted to be left alone.”
This statement is patently false. While it is true that the Maryland Toleration Act (1649) is seen as one of the first examples of religious freedom the world had seen, it was not all inclusive. The act allowed for “toleration of all Trinitarian believing Christians”. What, you ask, would happen to people who did not accept the Trinitarian notion of god? They were put to death. Does that sound like religious freedom to you? Yet Cardinal Dolan states “they just wanted to be left alone”. He left out the last part of that sentence which should have read “in order to kill non Trinitarian believing Christians”. Cardinal Dolan is either ignorant of this or he is lying.
The problem I have with Cardinal Dolan is quite simple. He is a bullshit artist. He has an agenda. He wants to have the HHS mandate repealed and he wants funding restored to his homophobic charities. To achieve this end he will attempt to distort history and will seek to misinform the public. The fact of the matter is that most of our fellow citizens here in the U.S. do not possess great historical knowledge. People, Catholics and others, by the millions will hear his comments and believe them to be true historical accounts. This is pure propaganda, with a grain of truth thrown in. What Dolan has basically done throughout his comments is akin to rooting for both teams during an inter-squad football game and then claiming that his team won.
I want to know where are all of the historians and others who know better? Why are they not calling the Cardinal out on his false historical or one-sided historical claims? Cardinal Dolan is a cancer on our society. It is people like him that will destroy what this country has stood for in order to further the ends of his Church if need be. Remember, that Dolan’s first loyalty is to the Vatican, a separate and recognized country, not to the United States. He cares little about preserving our traditions and our history in comparison with promoting the dogma and doctrines of his Church.
Dolan is either ignorant or a liar. I think he is a liar…how Christ like of him…
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