Posted By Fr. Roger Landry On November 20, 2010
Today is the first anniversary of a remarkable declaration of American Christians — clergy and lay, Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical — that is a brilliant analysis of the ongoing series of attacks on the foundational principles of justice and the common good in our country as well as a courageous, inspiring public pledge to come together in conscience vigorously to oppose them.
Called the “Manhattan Declaration” because it was originally conceived in a meeting in New York City, it is a concise and compelling presentation of the authentically Christian positions on the dignity of human life, marriage and religious freedom and a direct response to recent political developments with respect to health care reform, referenda on marriage and multiple incursions against freedom of conscience.
Here are seven important points made in the declaration.
First, while the history of Christian institutions clearly includes “imperfections and shortcomings,” Christians have a two-millennium track-record of being the salt, light and leaven in their societies.
Second, Christians have a right — and, in fact, an obligation — to speak and act in defense of the dignity of human beings created in the divine image.
Third, the same ignominious notions of “life unworthy of life” that inspired the eugenics movement in the early 20th century and flourished in Nazi Germany have “returned from the grave” in the modern instantiations of the culture of death.
Fourth, the “first responsibility of government” is to “protect the weak and vulnerable against violent attack, and to do so with no favoritism, partiality, or discrimination.”
Fifth, since marriage is the “first institution of human society” and the “institution on which all other human institutions have their foundation,” it follows that “marriage is the original and most important institution for sustaining the health, education, and welfare of all persons in a society.
Sixth, the greatest attacks on the rights of religious freedom and of conscience come from those who are always clamoring for us to affirm their rights.
Finally, Christians must be willing to pay the cost for doing what is right, “even at risk and cost to ourselves and our institutions.”
This leads to the courageous and powerful concluding paragraph, which is a forewarning of widespread Christian disobedience if unjust laws are forced upon us. “Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family.
Catholic Exchange (CE) readers wishing to join prominent American Cardinals, bishops, priests and lay leaders, Orthodox and Evangelical torchbearers and, as of press time 477,629 other Christian citizens in signing the declaration, may do so by visiting manhattandeclaration.org