148 Church leaders, including Archbishop John Nienstedt of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, last weeked signed The Manhattan Declaration.
The Manhattan Declaration was announced on Nov. 20, 2009, by Chuck Colson, Founder of The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Colson drafted the declaration along with Robert George (Professor, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, Princeton University) and Timothy George (Professor, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University).
"The Manhattan Declaration is a wake-up call—a call to conscience—for the church," said Colson. "It is also a crystal-clear message to civil authorities that we will not, under any circumstances, stand idly by as our religious freedom comes under assault." [more]
The "Manhattan Declaration" has not emerged in a vacuum, but at a critical moment for American society and politics: precisely while the administration of Barack Obama is pushing hard for passage of a health care reform plan in the United States.
Defending life from the moment of conception and the right to objections of conscience, the appeal contests two of the points endangered by the reform project currently under discussion in the Senate.
In Congress, the danger was averted thanks in part to aggressive lobbying conducted openly by the Catholic episcopate. After the final vote had guaranteed both the right to objections of conscience and the blocking of any public financing for abortion, the bishops' conference hailed this result as a "success." But now the battle has started all over again in the Senate, on a working document that the Church again considers unacceptable. The bishops' conference has already sent the senators a letter indicating the changes it would like to see made to all of the points in dispute. But now there is also the ecumenical "Manhattan Declaration," the last chapter of which, entitled "Unjust Laws," ends with this solemn statement:
"We will not be intimidated into silence or acquiescence or the violation of our consciences by any power on earth, be it cultural or political, regardless of the consequences to ourselves."
And immediately afterward:
"We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar's. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God's."
In an initial passage, the appeal also says this:
"While public opinion has moved in a pro-life direction, powerful and determined forces are working to expand abortion, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide, and euthanasia. . . ." Sandro Magister
Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.
We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are (1) the sanctity of human life, (2) the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife, and (3) the rights of conscience and religious liberty. Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and
the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in ourculture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any
political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
The lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are ever more threatened. While public opinion has moved in a pro-life direction, powerful and determined forces are working to expand abortion, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide, and euthanasia. Although the protection of the weak and vulnerable is the first obligation of government, the power of government is today often enlisted in the cause of promoting what Pope John Paul II called "the culture of death." We
pledge to work unceasingly for the equal protection of every innocent human being at every stage of development and in every condition. We will refuse to permit ourselves or our institutions to be implicated in the taking of human life and we will support in every possible way those who, in conscience, take the same stand.
The institution of marriage, already wounded by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is at risk of being redefined and thus subverted. Marriage is the original and most important institution for sustaining the health, education, and welfare of all. Where marriage erodes, social pathologies rise. The impulse to redefine marriage is a symptom, rather than the cause, of the erosion of the marriage culture. It reflects a loss of understanding of the meaning of marriage as embodied in our civil law as well as our religious traditions. Yet it is critical that
the impulse be resisted, for yielding to it would mean abandoning the possibility of restoring a sound understanding of marriage and, with it, the hope of rebuilding a healthy marriage culture. It would lock into place the false and destructive belief that marriage is all about romance and other adult satisfactions, and not, in any intrinsic way, about the unique character and value of acts and relationships whose meaning is shaped by their aptness for the generation, promotion and protection of life. Marriage is not a "social construction," but is
rather an objective reality – the covenantal union of husband and wife – that it is the duty of the law to recognize, honor, and protect.
Freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized. The threat to these fundamental principles of justice is evident in efforts to weaken or eliminate conscience protections for healthcare institutions and professionals, and in anti-discrimination statutes that are used as weapons to force religious institutions, charities, businesses, and service providers either to accept (and even facilitate) activities and relationships they judge to be immoral, or go
out of business. Attacks on religious liberty are dire threats not only to individuals, but also to the institutions of civil society including families, charities, and religious communities. The health and well-being of such institutions provide an indispensable buffer against the overweening power of government and is essential to the flourishing of every other institution – including government itself – on which society depends.
As Christians, we believe in law and we respect the authority of earthly rulers. We count it as a special privilege to live in a democratic society where the moral claims of the law on us are even stronger in virtue of the rights of all citizens to participate in the political process. Yet even in a democratic regime, laws can be unjust. And from the beginning, our faith has taught that civil disobedience is required in the face of gravely unjust laws or laws that purport to require us to
do what is unjust or otherwise immoral. Such laws lack the power to bind in conscience because they can claim no authority beyond that of sheer human will.
Therefore, let it be known that we will not comply with any edict that compels us or the institutions we lead to participate in or facilitate abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide, euthanasia, or any other act that violates the principle of the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every member of the human family.
Further, let it be known that we will not bend to any rule forcing 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, marriage, and the family.
Further, let it be known that we will not be intimidated into silence or acquiescence or the violation of our consciences by any power on earth, be it cultural or political, regardless of the consequences to ourselves.
We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar's. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God's.