freedom of conscience and religion

Here is my latest catholic dialogue column for the Prairie Messenger, Freedom of conscience and religion.

The issue of religious freedom has been challenging my mind and heart in these past weeks. News headlines abound in Canada and the US of bishops demanding that laws be changed or broadened to accommodate our Catholic teachings and beliefs.

This week, a bill was passed in Ontario that required all publicly funded schools, which include the Catholic school division, to allow gay-straight alliance (GSA) clubs for students if students request them. Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins, had made head-lines fighting the proposal. To give the Cardinal credit, he will no longer fight this fight and has issued a statement that Catholic schools will follow the law.

In America, the bishops are promoting a ‘Fortnight for Freedom’  June 21 to July 4 to rally the troops in support of their contraception coverage agenda. And, yes, it is coming across as more and more of an agenda rather than a genuine fight against religious freedom. Yesterday, chairman of the bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Freedom, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, held a press conference to deny allegations that the campaign is politically motivated.

I consider myself a faithful, though questioning Catholic woman. I cringe every time our church and her leaders makes the news promoting an issue that is not supported by the majority of Catholics. The issues are usually around women, sexuality, and the gay community. All the quoting of scripture or official teaching does not take away the growing perception that Catholics are against women’s equality, are obsessed about sexual issues, and are anti-gay.

In these moments I want to distance myself as far as possible from the bishops who are fighting so vigorously for our ‘rights’. I pray for all my friends in the US. Here in Canada, Cardinal Collins has shown the wisdom to end a fight that was causing more division and harm than good. I hope and pray that the American bishops can show similar wisdom.

Here’s hoping that the ‘Fortnight for Freedom’ will be not be the success that the bishops desire. Here’s hoping that more voices will rise demanding that our thoughts, time and energies be redirected to the issues of true importance; issues of justice and peace, the integrity of creation, and fighting against inequality in all its forms.

And what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness
and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8