.- Increasing hostility to religion and growing restrictions on religious expression are “the biggest challenge the pro-life movement faces,” Bishop James D. Conley told a benefit for a Dallas pro-life group.
“If we think it’s been hard over these past four decades, I think the biggest challenges we face lie ahead of us,” the apostolic administrator of the Denver archdiocese said Nov. 5.
“America today is becoming what I would call an atheocracy — a society that is actively hostile to religious faith and religious believers. And I might add — the faith that our society is most hostile toward is Christianity in general, and Catholicism in particular.”
The bishop’s comments came in his address to the annual benefit dinner for St. Joseph’s Helpers and the White Rose Women’s Center in Dallas, Texas.
Secularism, Bishop Conley said, is not simple neutrality towards religious beliefs. American elites are not neutral towards religion, but are “deliberately engaged in a process that aims to remove all traces of religious faith from our public life!”
This creates “publicly enforced religious indifferentism” in which Americans participating in civic life must first agree to think and act as if they have no religious convictions or motivations at all.
This “atheocracy” has no ultimate truths or inviolable ethical principles for its guidance.
“Hence, it has no foundation upon which to establish justice, secure true freedom, or to constrain tyrants,” Bishop Conley said, citing John Paul II’s warning that a democracy without values easily turns into “open or thinly disguised totalitarianism.”
“God, not government, is the only sure guarantee of human rights and the blessings of our liberty. We need to live as if we believe that,” the bishop said. “Only a people who believes these truths to be sacred and self-evident can build a society worthy of men and women created by God.”
The 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion nationwide is an example of how “atheocracy” works by “the violence of the strong against the weak,” he added.
“Without God, there is no basis for morality and no necessary protections for man. The strong decide what is right or wrong — even who lives and who dies.”
The bishop denounced abortion, embryonic experimentation and euthanasia. He also strongly criticized the federal government’s plan to force employers to provide health insurance plans with sterilization and contraceptive coverage, including coverage for abortion-causing drugs.
The push to recognize homosexual unions is another danger, he said, because “our atheocratic government now deems itself competent to rewrite ‘the laws of Nature’s God’ — the God-given definitions of marriage and the family.”
In response to these trends, he said Americans need to restore “our sense of government based on theism and natural law.” They need to recognize “radical secularization” and remind others that “the America we have become is not the America our founders had in mind.”
Faithful citizens should rediscover “the basic religious and Christian values” in the Declaration of Independence, he suggested.
The Declaration recognizes the inalienable right to life, but that right is rooted in a broader framework of assumptions about what rights are and where they come from. Despite some “profound moral blind spots” of the American Founders, “the Declaration’s expressed belief in the divine origin of the human person is everywhere presumed in the Constitution.”
“And throughout American history, this belief has served as a goad to our national conscience,” he noted.
“The pro-life movement has always been a force for moral renewal in America,” Bishop Conley said. “Like the abolitionist movement before us, the pro-life cause has always called our country back to its beginnings — as a nation under God. Our country needs our witness now more than ever. The way forward begins with us.”
The bishop praised the White Rose Women’s Center and St. Joseph’s Helpers as “a beacon of hope for Dallas and for our country.”
“I salute you for everything you are doing, at so many levels, to defend the sanctity and dignity of human life.”
The women’s center, founded in 1985, is Dallas’ oldest Catholic crisis pregnancy center. It serves 3,000 women annually at two locations near abortion facilities.