The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Manhattan Declaration: A Call to Conscience

For some reason I thought I had already mentioned the Manhattan Declaration on this blog, but apparently it was one of those intended tasks that got lost amidst the aging gray cells and was never actually accomplished. Such things seem to happen more frequently these days. Well, better late than never I suppose. Anyway, I would guess that if you're not familiar with the Manhattan Declaration, you would want to know something about it.

The Manhattan Declaration is a 4,700-word declaration put together by a coalition of Orthodox, Catholic and evangelical clergy, leaders, and scholars in the U.S. It addresses common concerns about the sanctity of life, the importance of traditional marriage, religious liberty, and rights of conscience. The declaration was signed initially on November 20, 2009 and has since been signed by nearly a half-million others.

You can read the entire declaration (and download it) by going to this website: Manhattan Declaration.

I have included the brief summary section of the declaration below to provide an overview of its intent and scope. 
We, as Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical Christians, have gathered, beginning in New York on September 28, 2009, to make the following declaration, which we sign as individuals, not on behalf of our organizations, but speaking to and from our communities.    We act together in obedience to the one true God, the triune God of holiness and love, who has laid total claim on our lives and by that claim calls us with believers in all ages and all nations to seek and defend the good of all who bear his image. We set forth this declaration in light of the truth that is grounded in Holy Scripture, in natural human reason (which is itself, in our view, the gift of a beneficent God), and in the very nature of the human person. We call upon all people of goodwill, believers and non-believers alike, to consider carefully and reflect critically on the issues we here address as we, with St. Paul, commend this appeal to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.

While the whole scope of Christian moral concern, including a special concern for the poor and vulnerable, claims our attention, we are especially troubled that in our nation today the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions.

Because the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife, and the freedom of conscience and religion are foundational principles of justice and the common good, we are compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act in their defense. In this declaration we affirm: 1) the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every human being as a creature fashioned in the very image of God, possessing inherent rights of equal dignity and life; 2) marriage as a conjugal union of man and woman, ordained by God from the creation, and historically understood by believers and non-believers alike, to be the most basic institution in society and; 3) religious liberty, which is grounded in the character of God, the example of Christ, and the inherent freedom and dignity of human beings created in the divine image.

We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right—and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation—to speak and act in defense of these truths. We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence. It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty.
The declaration has received wide support from Catholic bishops and I would hope that after reading the entire declaration, you would take a moment to "sign it" online. I believe it sends a needed and meaningful message. You can view the names of US bishops and other religious leaders who have signed the declaration here. (Note March 27: The Manhattan Declaration folks have apparently revamped their website and I can no longer find the list of religious leaders who have signed. My bishops -- Bishop Coleman of Fall River and Bishop Wenski of Orlando -- have both signed.)

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