‘Soft despotism’ emerging against Catholics in the US: Archbishop
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UNITED STATES, July 2, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski has told Catholic media that a “soft despotism” is emerging in the country and described those pushing religious and anti-Catholic intolerance as “new Jacobins.”
Wenski, the recently appointed head of the U.S. bishops’ religious freedom committee, told Catholic News Agency (CNA) earlier this week that “we’re not second-class citizens because we are people of faith,” but that hostility to public Catholicism is “treating us as somehow less worthy of full participation in the benefits of American life.”
According to CNA, Wenski referenced attempts to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to provide contraceptives, as well as the recent ousting of 21-year-old Catholic student Jack Denton from his position as student senate president at Florida State University as evidence that a new wave of religious intolerance is forcing believers and belief out of public life.
Denton was removed for his position when his comments on a private chat regarding Catholic teaching on abortion and transgenderism and his statement that Catholics should not to support Black Lives Matter were leaked publicly.
Denton is now being advised by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and is appealing to the university’s supreme court to get his job back on the grounds that his removal violated the university’s nondiscrimination policy, Student Government Association (SGV) policy, and the First Amendment, according to ADF spokesperson Ellie Wittman.
Wenski said that events such as Denton’s removal are “becoming more common [than] remarkable, unfortunately,” and told CNA that Catholics are increasingly becoming ostracized, ridiculed, or even denied jobs because of their religious beliefs.
He said that the cases of both Denton and the Little Sisters of the Poor “really deal with the freedom to serve” and for Catholics to be able to live out their faith in public.
Wenski also highlighted the “disparate treatment” by some U.S. officials in supporting mass anti-racism and anti-police protests, while keeping churches closed during the coronavirus lockdowns.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently called out the hypocrisy of New York City Democrat Mayor Bill de Blasio for vigorously enforcing restrictions on religious gatherings, but himself marching in large in-person political gatherings following the death of George Floyd.
Wenski said that the suspension of public Masses by the bishops was done because COVID-19 was understood as “a real public health threat.”
“When you see that disparate treatment, then you have to ask whether that is because of some religious animus, and that’s where we have to be very careful,” he said.
Wenski also reportedly expressed concern that a “hard despotism” in the Middle East and China sees Christians being imprisoned, tortured, and killed for their faith.
The archbishop said that the U.S. Supreme Court had “got it right” in its Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue decision this week, when it ruled that states may not deny tuition grants to religious schools if they would award those same grants to secular private schools.
Referring to Monday’s June Medical Services LLC v. Russo Supreme Court ruling to strike down a Louisiana law requiring basic medical precautions in the event of abortion complications Wenski noted that “a lot of people were not happy with the decision.”
In April it was Wenski who forbade any sort of parish “drive through” services despite the fact that the governor of Florida’s coronavirus “stay-at-home” order deemed religious services “essential activities” and permitted public participation as long as “social distancing guidelines” were followed.
The former chair of the bishops’ religious freedom committee, Archbishop William Lori, also locked his churches and forbade priests of the Archdiocese of Baltimore from administering sacraments to the faithful unless individuals were “in danger of dying.” Lori had previously warned in 2016 that a “bloodless” and “polite” persecution had manifested itself in public schools, courts, laws, and “policies that seek to manage and put limits on religion.”