Failure in civil discourse leads to breathlessness of spirit

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America’s got a weight problem. It’s only getting worse.

Today more than a third of U.S. adults are considered obese, according to studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By 2030, that number jumps to 42 percent.

Obesity is a serious issue that brings with it an increased likelihood of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

It’s an affliction that is characterized, in part, by lethargy and breathlessness. It can be remedied, though, by talking with a doctor, eliminating fast food intake from the diet and through regular exercise.

Similarly, America’s got a heavy problem that, figuratively speaking, portends significant threats to the health of the Catholic Church, to religious freedom for all citizens, and the very fabric of our society.

In recent years we have witnessed an astonishing collapse in civil discourse, characterized by scathing, vitriolic and callous exchanges, with seemingly few looking for the truth. We’re looking at you, cable news, Facebook and the comments section of every website.

Take for example the recent debate over same-sex marriage, which hit a fever pitch following President Obama’s public endorsement last week. There are many who continue to stand by and fight for the institution of marriage, who firmly believe that marriage between one man and one woman is the cornerstone of society, and efforts to modify or ignore this unique relationship will only further erode the culture.

Viewpoints contrary to messing with marriage are met by many in the mainstream and social media spheres, sadly, with accusations of bigotry, discrimination and homophobia.

Another example involves a private Phoenix school that forfeited a state championship baseball game last week because its opponent refused to bench its second baseman — who, by all accounts, is a very talented young lady. This was front-page news in Phoenix and was featured all over the evening newscasts. Our Lady of Sorrows is not a diocesan Catholic school, but is run by the Society of St. Pius X, an organization that is not in communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

Lost in the kerfuffle was the school’s reasoning in the matter: “Teaching our boys to treat ladies with deference, we choose not to place them in an athletic competition where proper boundaries can only be respected with difficulty. Our school aims to instill in our boys a profound respect for women and girls.”

Whether this is something one agrees with or not, it was the private school’s decision to make — a decision that probably was not made in haste and which undoubtedly took quite a bit of conviction to stand by. But small, important details such as these tend to get lost quickly. People see the name of the school, perceive an issue with gender inequality, and automatically take to the Internet to air their grievances with the Catholic Church: “War on women! War on women!”

Finally, one must look no further than the ongoing battle being fought by the U.S. bishops in an effort to preserve religious liberty. At the heart of the matter is a recent mandate by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that compels all private employers to provide contraception, sterilization and abortafacients as part of its health care coverage for employees. This requires religious organizations, such as Catholic hospitals and universities, to subsidize the costs of drugs and procedures that the Catholic Church considers intrinsically evil. In a very real and concrete sense, religious organizations are now faced with violating this law — and facing penalties — or violating their consciences and deeply held moral beliefs.

Critics of the Church’s position can spout the spiffy “War on women!” sound bite till they’re blue in the face, but it won’t change the truth. The Church’s teaching against contraception and sterilization is based on respect for the miracle of procreation, so health care plans in accord with Church teaching do not cover sterilization, nor do such plans subsidize the pill. Abortion is an affront to God and the miraculous gift of life.

As Americans, all of us should be be deeply troubled by these events. Our nation’s forefathers recognized that religious liberty was so essential to the future of our country that it had the distinction of being in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Today we are confronted with many weighty issues that demand analysis, discernment and healthy discussion. Our appeal to you is to read beyond the headlines, to steer clear of the fast food-like news posted on Facebook that’s void of nutritional context. We ask you to delve deeper into stories and fully explore issues of importance, and not to succumb to lethargy of the heart and breathlessness of the spirit.

4 COMMENTS

  1. You mischaracterize the SSPX when you say “is not in communion with the Roman Catholic Church”. It is accurate that they do not serve a ministry in the Catholic Church. This is highly likely about to change in days.

    The communion problem as you state was dubious originally for the members themselves, but any issue was definitively removed when Pope Benedict the XVI formally lifted the excommunication on January 24, 2009 of the four Bishops of the Society.

  2. Your points are solid – one suggestion – put your closing paragraph up front next time – those you are appealing to – the ones who do not “read beyond the headlines” probably never got to your appeal since it wasn’t even close to the headline.

    • I know. It started with obesity, to a baseball game, to religious liberty, I was wondering where it was going. 😀 JO

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