Sunday’s Solemnity of Christ the King comes between the memorials of two of my favorite Jesuit martyrs, Bl. Miguel Pro (Nov. 23) and St. Edmund Campion (Dec. 1). These priests were killed in the religious persecution of twentieth century Mexico and sixteenth century England respectively. The proximity of these feast days reminds me of the issue that has lately been atop the list of the American bishops’ concerns: religious liberty.
I was asked to give a reflection for a community gathering on the feast of Miguel Pro, and as I thought about his life and martyrdom the question that I couldn’t shake was: why are American Catholics not more concerned about religious liberty? Catholic institutions have already been shuttered in Illinois and Massachusetts, and powerful cultural voices are explicitly calling for the exclusion of Christianity from the public square. Pro’s death occurred less than a century ago and on this continent. Do we think it cannot happen here? Why do American Catholics seem so sleepy?
There are obvious answers: the indifference (and often hostility) of the media; a general climate of secularism and religious indifferentism; political commitments that make raising the question uncomfortable for some, especially in an election year. But it’s perhaps more instructive to look a bit deeper, at attitudes ingrained in our American outlook that make us drowsy when it comes to religious liberty. Among other factors, three modern myths stand out. Read the rest of this entry »