According to transcripts of his address, the Pope explained that the Church's witness in the world is, of its nature, public. " . . . (S)he seeks to convince by proposing rational arguments in the public square. The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation."
Without naming Obama, he went on to criticize the policies of the current administration. " . . . (I)t is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church's public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. . . .
"Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience."
Catholic League president William Donohue was encouraged by how closely the pope is watching affairs in the U.S. "Pope Benedict XVI is obviously aware of the public pronouncements of people such as Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, Bishop William Lori, and others. They have rightfully objected to the Obamacare provisions that would mandate Catholic institutions to provide sterilization and contraceptive services (including abortifacients) without any realistic religious exemption, and of the decision to deny funding to a Catholic agency that combats human trafficking simply because the Church opposes abortion."
Donohue went on to expose the tactic employed by the Obama Administration to use the term "freedom of worship" rather than "freedom of religion" which Donohue says is the preferred terminology for both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The term was coined to express "a highly privatized understanding of religious liberty that does not embrace the public expression of religion," he warned.
Apparently, Pope Benedict agrees, and turned to the laity for help, saying that the Church in America needs "an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-a-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would de-legitimize the Church's participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society."
He ended the address on a positive note. " . . . (I)n faith we can take heart from the growing awareness of the need to preserve a civil order clearly rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, as well as from the promise offered by a new generation of Catholics whose experience and convictions will have a decisive role in renewing the Church's presence and witness in American society.
"The hope which these 'signs of the times' give us is itself a reason to renew our efforts to mobilize the intellectual and moral resources of the entire Catholic community in the service of the evangelization of American culture and the building of the civilization of love"
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