Catholics and clergy dined over $65 plates of sausage, bacon and scrambled eggs Wednesday morning at the Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, D.C., to celebrate the upcoming beatification of Pope John Paul II, which will take place Sunday in Rome. But the larger theme of this year’s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast appeared to be the Catholic Church’s supposed waning influence on American policy. Thus, two politicians, a bishop and a young anti-abortion rights activist called on the more than 850 audience members for a new evangelization in U.S. politics, nearly all of them referencing the pope’s infamous phrase, “Be not afraid.”
Headliner Newt Gingrich — who made no mention of his potential presidential run but instead dwelled on his conversion to Catholicism in 2009 and his devotion to Pope John Paul II (he and wife Callista last year released a documentary on the pope’s nine-day pilgrimage to Poland in 1979) – said the United States is facing a “crisis of secularism” similar to the one formerly faced by communist Eastern Europe, which, according to Gingrich, emerged due to a “growth of a government-favored pagan culture to replace Christianity.”
“The American elites are guided by their desire to emulate the European elites, and as a result, anti-religious values and principles are coming to dominate the academic, news media and judicial class in America,” Gingrich said.
His examples of “secular pressures”:
- What he described as an emerging trend in scientific publications to replace A.D. (Latin for anno Domini) with C.E., (Common Era): “This is an entirely artificial and intellectually incoherent dating system,” Gingrich said. “There is no common era. The year 2011 is a Christian date. … Secular cultural pressure rejects recognition of the cultural calendar in favor of an artificial and dishonest replacement.”
- The 1962 Supreme Court decision declaring prayer in school unconstitutional, an example of “coercive secularism dominating our courts
- The 2010 Supreme Court decision allowing a 75-year-old cross honoring World War I veterans to remain in the Mojave National Preserve in southern California, following a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union to remove it. Shortly after the decision, the cross was removed and never replaced by the national park. ”Even when religious freedom wins in court, the secular extremists have found new ways to circumvent the court and impose their anti-religious bigotry,” Gingrich said.
Preceding Gingrich’s speech was Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a lifelong Catholic and former altar boy married to the same woman for 44 years and a father of five.
McDonnell’s comments focused on his love of Catholicism and his dedication to the fight for life, liberty and ending abortion.
Earlier this month, the Virginia legislature approved the governor’s measure to deny insurance coverage for abortions, even under private policies, if they are purchased through insurance exchanges authorized under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
And it was the federal health care reform act that fueled the passion in a keynote speech from His Excellency William E. Lori, bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, who censured the health care law for not exempting Catholic hospitals from denying certain care for reasons of conscience.
According to Lori, 13 percent of all hospitals in the U.S. are Catholic nonprofits. Lori urged that three bills — the Protect Life Act (which would prohibit federal funds from being to used to cover “any part of the costs of any health plan that includes coverage of abortion services,” the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act (which would prohibit the federal government and any state or local government that receives federal financial assistance from “subjecting any … health care facility … to discrimination on the basis that the entity refuses to participate in abortion-related activities) and the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act — “be swiftly enacted and signed.”
“Religious freedom is the core of all human rights,” said Lori, who, like Gingrich, implied that Americans with secular views were imposing their own ideas on others, in the form of public policy. “The church and state are distinct, but they are also inter-related. … We must not be afraid to enact on our religious values in public and in private.”
Closing the breakfast speeches was anti-abortion rights activist and Live Action founder Lila Rose, another recent Catholic convert. After showing the audience a clip from her infamous Planned Parenthood video sting, Rose urged the anti-abortion rights youth movement to try to eradicate abortion in America. Quoting the late pope, Rose called on the audience to treat “the weakest most defenseless” members of our society like you would “every human being.”
The Guttmacher Institute recently published a report showing that the majority of women who say they are religious use some form of contraception, thus making the case for policies that make contraception and family planning care more affordable and accessible — something that was recently threatened by the congressional GOP’s efforts to strip Planned Parenthood of its family-planning and reproductive-care funding, an effort pushed by Rose.
A recent USA Today article suggests that some conservative Christians are “uneasy” about Rose’s undercover investigative work at Live Action, in part because Rose’s entire anti-abortion rights career is based on lying.
From the article:
Many conservative Christians rejoiced at the blow to Planned Parenthood, but Princeton University scholar Robert P. George was not among them.
The “sting” videos are a form of lying, which the Catholic Church teaches is “always and everywhere wrong,” George wrote in a February blog post.
“We must not permit our cause to be sullied by lying,” continued George, a leading intellectual who advises the U.S. Catholic bishops. “We must not abandon faith in the power of truth to transform those who oppose us in the great struggle over the protection of human life in all stages and conditions.”
Other Catholic scholars worry that defending Rose’s deceptions means joining the Western trend toward moral relativism, which church leaders, including Pope Benedict XVI, have fiercely fought.
A recent editorial in the flagship evangelical magazine Christianity Today said “unease” about Live Action’s methods “has embittered what might have been reckoned a sweet triumph.” The magazine also questioned whether Rose’s “ethical shortcuts” rely too heavily on scandal to fight legalized abortion.
Sponsors to this year’s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast included anti-abortion rights group Americans United for Life, which gave at least $10,000 to the event, according to NCPB sponsor information. Other sponsors included the Catholic Medical Association, Catholic Vote, the Law of Life Project and LegalWorks Apostoloate.