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You might want to check out the Religious Coalition for Marriage to get the full text. The letter signed to date by fifty-one national religious leaders may not be unprecedented, but it is remarkable in its reach. The initiative has received considerable attention in the general media, but it deserves more.

Here are some of the people asking you to focus your attention on the need for a federal constitutional amendment on marriage: Archbishop Chaput of Denver, Cardinal Egan of New York, Cardinal George of Chicago, Cardinal Keeler of Baltimore, Cardinal Mahoney of Los Angeles, Cardinal McCarrick of Washington, Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin, Archbishop Naumann of Kansas City, Bishop Gomez of San Antonio, Bishop Nienstedt of New Ulm, Minnesota, Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix, Cardinal O’Malley of Boston, Cardinal Rigali of Philadelphia, Bishop Yanta of Amarillo, Texas, Archbishop John Myers of Newark. I wonder if there has ever been such an array of Catholic episcopal support for an initiative not officially sponsored by the national bishops conference.

Then there is Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Church, and an impressive list of Protestant leaders: Charles Colson, James Dobson, Timothy George, Ted Haggard, Jack Hayford, James Kennedy, Gerald Kieschnick, Richard Land, Paige Patterson, Eugene Rivers, Rick Warren.

Add to that Jewish leaders of considerable influence such as Rabbi Daniel Lapin, Rabbi David Novak, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, and Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb. On second thought, I expect we might risk calling this appeal historically unprecedented.

Together they say:

Long concerned with rates of divorce, out-of-wedlock births, and absentee fathers, we have recently watched with extreme alarm the growing trend of some courts to make marriage something it is not: an elastic concept able to accommodate almost any individual preference. This does not so much modify or even weaken marriage as abolish it. The danger this betokens for family life and a general condition of social justice and ordered liberty is hard to overestimate.

Therefore we take the unprecedented stand of uniting to call for a constitutional amendment to establish a uniform national definition of marriage as the exclusive union of one man and one woman. We are convinced that this is the only measure that will adequately protect marriage from those who would circumvent the legislative process and force a redefinition of marriage on our whole society. We encourage all citizens of good will across the country to step forward boldly and exercise their right to work through our constitutionally established democratic procedures to amend the Constitution to include a national definition of marriage. We hereby announce our support for S.J. Res.1, the Marriage Protection Amendment.

May God bless all marriages and all those who labor to protect the sanctity and promote the goodness of marriage throughout this nation.

And yes, I, too, signed the statement. For a fuller explanation of why a marriage amendment is necessary, see " The Marriage Amendment " in the October 2003 issue of First Things .

In a little item called “A Dog’s Life,” S.M. Hutchens over at Touchstone opines on the cultural crouch that he believes is endemic to evangelical Protestants:

With regard to a certain evangelical publishing concern, a Catholic friend wrote, "I don’t understand [its] fanaticism on inclusive language. What do they get from it? What gives? Do they also send Gloria Steinem a birthday card? Why should they care what feminists think of them? Or are they run by a bevy of feminists themselves?"

My answer was the old, and I think entirely correct, fundamentalist observation that the inner dynamic of the main stream of the evangelical intelligentsia has from its beginnings in the forties rested upon the desire, both rabid and unadmitted, to prove to the liberal establishment, to the Menckens and Fosdicks and their progeny, that it is NOT fundamentalist¯that it is, by the criteria that establishment establishes, bright, learned, and urbane. The upper portion of evangelicalism has a permanent crick in its collective neck from looking over its shoulder to see if the liberals approve, exulting over every bone thrown from that table. When feminism came along as a central feature of that confession, these evangelicals, as one would expect, grabbed every bit of it that they could possibly jam into the “biblical equality” bag, dragged it home, and began stuffing it into their children.

What has this gained them from their masters? By and large, condescending tolerance, tolerance as one might tolerate a flatulent spaniel that is, his aroma notwithstanding, an excellent retriever.

Well, that seems to settle that. Of course the cultural crouch is hardly unique to evangelicals. Consider the number of folks who admit that they’re Catholic and then quickly add, “But I’m a Catholic who thinks for myself.”

On C-Span recently there was this Jesuit astronomer railing against critics of neo-Darwinism and enthusing about the wonders of evolution. As best I could make out his argument, he was contending for a “double truth” theory that holds there is no, or very little, overlap between science and religion. That’s the familiar “fact” vs. “meaning” gambit, of course.

At the beginning of his pitch, he dramatically removed his clerical collar and asked the audience to forget that he was a priest and a Catholic. There was nothing in his presentation that might have reminded them. I expect that at the end of his talk there was more than one listener who said to himself, “Not bad, for a priest.” Patting the flatulent spaniel on the head.

Immigration is a big issue also in the U.K. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster has an article in last week’s Tablet in which he compares the advent of the U.K.’s “new multiracial and multiethnic” society to the birth of the church fifty days after Easter. “The Church was born from Pentecost: a real and symbolic meeting of peoples and cultures and languages. As Pope John Paul II said in his 1993 message for World Migration Day: ‘In the Church no one is a stranger, and the Church is not foreign to anyone, anywhere.’ For the Church, he went on, is ‘a sacrament of unity and thus a sign and binding force for the whole human race.’”

True enough, and very importantly true. But one may be permitted to wonder about the suggested analogy, even equation, between the Church and the nation, whether that nation be the U.K. or the U.S. As John Paul powerfully underscored in his last published book, Memory and Identity , there is a profound connection between nation and peoplehood. That is among the questions at the heart of the debate over immigration policy, in both our countries. It is the question provocatively posed by Samuel Huntington’s book Who We Are? , and a question that is more problematic in the U.K. where the immigrants are overwhelmingly Muslim, with many of them making it emphatically, even violently, clear that they have no intention of becoming British.

The Church is indeed universal, as in “Catholic,” and welcomes all. Neither the U.K. nor the U.S. is the Church.

In addition to which :

Cynical is the word for the way the media treated Pope Benedict’s first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), as a public relations play to put a “friendly face” on the new pontificate. Far from being a mush of soft and fuzzy platitudes, the encyclical is a very substantive and even tough statement on the relationship between justice and love. So writes Fr. Richard John Neuhaus in “Pope Benedict on Love and Justice” in the May issue of First Things . Isn’t it time you subscribed ?

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