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On Wednesday, Archbishop George H. Niederauer of San Fransisco issued his first extensive statement on the passage of Proposition 8 in California:

Some would say that, in light of the separation of church and state, churches should remain silent about any political matter. However, religious leaders in America have the constitutional right to speak out on issues of public policy. Catholic bishops, specifically, also have a responsibility to teach the faith, and our beliefs about marriage and family are part of this faith.

Indeed, to insist that citizens be silent about their religious beliefs when they are participating in the public square is to go against the constant American political tradition. Such a gag order would have silenced many abolitionists in the nineteenth century and many civil rights advocates in the twentieth. Quite a number of important political issues regularly touch upon the ethical, moral, and religious convictions of citizens: immigration policy, the death penalty, torture of prisoners, abortion, euthanasia, and the right to health care are some such issues.

You can read the whole thing here . On a related note, Fr. Neuhaus today reflects once again on H. Richard Niebuhr’s framing of the question of “Christ and culture”:

In our society, there is a greater awareness of the public influence of religion than was the case thirty years ago, but that awareness is almost entirely centered on electoral politics. Those who are unhappy with the political potency of religion—usually presented in the form complicated connections with what are called the social, moral, or values questions—routinely announce its decline or demise. This has been going on for years and years now, and I expect most of its heralds know they are indulging in wishful thinking. They just know that politics is really about the hard issues such as economics, national security, and equal rights for gays. What does morality have to do with it?



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