LONDON, MARCH 12, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Modern liberalism has strong totalitarian tendencies, according to the archbishop of Sydney.
Cardinal George Pell affirmed this at a conference last week in Oxford on “Varieties of Intolerance: Religious and Secular.”
The Australian prelate began his address considering two examples of intolerance. The first was the little-publicized reaction to California’s vote in November to define marriage as between one man and one woman.
The cardinal said that religious groups, businesses and individuals that worked toward the amendment have been the victims of pro-homosexual retaliation, ranging from death threats to boycotts to forced resignation from jobs.
He went on to consider as a second example the opposite reaction of human rights groups to what is considered intolerance of Islam.
The prelate said these cases show there is “onesidedness about discrimination and vilification.”
“Some secularists seem to like one way streets,” he added. “Their intolerance of Christianity seeks to drive it not only from the public square, but even from the provision of education, health care and welfare services to the wider community. Tolerance has come to mean different things for different groups.”
The cardinal noted how particularly in the United States, members of Church organizations are facing more and more legal obstacles when it comes to following their consciences.
And in Australia, he said, the abortion law enacted last year in the state of Victoria “made a mockery of conscientious objection.”
“Pro-abortion commentators attacked the concept of conscientious objection as nothing more than a way for doctors and nurses to impose their morality on their patients,” Cardinal Pell recalled. “Victoria’s statutory charter of rights, which purports to protect freedom of religion, conscience and belief, was shown to be a dead letter when it comes to abortion. […] The human rights industry ran dead on the freedom of conscience issues which the legislation raised. Amnesty International seems to have been completely missing in action. […] As we know, abortion corrupts everything it touches; law, medicine and the whole concept of human rights.”
The cardinal contended that “there is an urgent need to deepen public understanding of the importance and nature of religious freedom.”
“Believers should not be treated by government and the courts as a tolerated and divisive minority whose rights must always yield to the minority secular agenda, especially when religious people are overwhelmingly in the majority,” he said. “The opportunity to contribute to community and public good is a right of all individuals and groups, including religious ones. The application of laws within democracies should facilitate the broadening of these opportunities, not their increasing constraint.”
Affirming that “modern liberalism has strong totalitarian tendencies,” the cardinal went on to explain how it is different than “traditional liberalism, which sees the individual and the family and the association as prior to the state, with the latter existing only to fulfill functions that the former require but which are beyond their means to provide.”
He said the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic and Social and Cultural Rights understand and articulate this proper relationship.
Cardinal Pell stated that new trends in using anti-discrimination law and human rights claims to advance the “autonomy project” is not new but that there is a new and “dangerous” trend: the withholding or retrenchment of exemptions for church agencies and conscience provisions for individuals.
The broad effect of this, he said “is to enforce conformity.”
The key to the solution, Cardinal Pell affirmed, is that “Christians have to recover their genius for showing that there are better ways to live and to build a good society; ways which respect freedom, empower individuals and transform communities. They also have to recover their self-confidence and courage.
“The secular and religious intolerance of our day needs to be confronted regularly and publicly. Believers need to call the bluff of what is, even in most parts of Europe, a small minority with disproportionate influence in the media. This is one of the crucial tasks for Christians in the 21st century.”
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Full text of address: http://documents.scribd.com/docs/1aqyamje35bx7w1omesl.pdf