A brief reflection, prompted by the appearance in the on-line Catholic Review of an announcement of the opinion of a prominent Catholic athlete - he opposes the expansion of civil marriage to gay and lesbian Catholics.
A century ago many bishops of the Roman Catholic Church in the US were united on the subject of civil rights for Catholics. The bishops were especially sensitive about the mistreatment of Italian and Irish Catholics, who suffered discrimination in many areas of public and community life in America.
Today, the hierarchy of the church is of a different mind. Today, the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church is campaigning actively in the Civil realm, to deprive many Catholics of Civil Rights enjoyed by others Catholics.
Today, to its greater shame, the hierarchy is even willing to encourage individual lay Catholics to denounce the efforts of other Catholics to seek the protection of the civil law for their children and for themselves.
Today, Maryland Catholics are treated to the spectacle of a prominent athlete, a Roman Catholic, given visibility in an official, Catholic media outlet, so that he might give his personal opinion; which is that gay and lesbian Catholics be denied the right to go to the courthouse and get a marriage license - a right which the prominent athlete enjoys but which is to be denied to other Catholics in Maryland.
America, for 150 years, has progressively expanded civil rights. America does not contract such rights; on the contrary, broader participation in public life is a powerful trend in our civil society. The expansion of civil liberties, the inclusion of more and more citizens in the circle of civic participation often is not easy. Civil rights campaigns are well described as civil rights struggles. Such struggles have cost people their liberty and their lives.
In truth, and in the interest of justice, there can be only one side for the Roman Catholic Church in the struggle for civil rights in America. The church simply must be on the side of justice. The church - to be true to its own justice traditions - simply must be on the side of the expansion of civil liberties. The church must not become an advocate in a campaign to deny civil liberties to Catholic and other citizens of the United States. Tragically, this has already occurred.
A campaign to deny civil rights inherently involves demagoguery, appeals to fear, encouragement of division and hatred. We see all of this today in Maryland, as the opponents of civil rights for gay and lesbian Marylanders exploit these themes.
Sadly, to it's shame, the current leadership of the Archdiocese of Baltimore is campaigning actively with the demagogues, the dividers, the haters. Scandalously, the leadership is coldly, cruelly and with calculation setting Catholic against Catholic.
We leave to future developments, the answer to the as yet unanswered question: why?