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America’s Godless Civic Religion

by Christopher A. Ferrara

As the furor over George Bush’s decision to approve "limited" experiments on human embryos – a kinder, gentler form of Hitlerian "science" – is beginning to die down, it would be well to consider a little ceremony that took place in connection with Bush’s inauguration last January.

On January 22, 2001, in the Washington National Cathedral, President Bush participated in an "ecumenical" and "interreligious" service. As reported by Zenit, "a rabbi, a Greek Orthodox priest, a Catholic cardinal-to-be (Archbishop Theodore McCarrick) and Protestant ministers prayed for President George W. Bush and his new administration ..."

The "sermon" at the ceremony was delivered by Billy Graham, whose "Billy Graham Evangelical Association" approves of contraception, divorce and, in certain cases, abortion. Graham declared: "I pray that God will place His great hand of protection on each and everyone, and especially on you, Mr. President, and your family ... The greatest threat, however, lies deep within our own hearts that are infected with greed, hate and lust." Speaking of greed, hate and lust, perhaps Graham ought to consider the origin of his own organization’s condonation of sins against the sanctity of life and marriage.

Archbishop McCarrick added his own prayers to the service, which Zenit described as "stately and ecumenical." In fact, as Zenit notes, the National Cathedral, while it is an Episcopalian edifice, "has long functioned as a nondenominational place of worship."

In short, a perfect example of the American civic religion: Ministers of various religions, who agree on almost nothing (except that they are opposed to Catholic teaching on marriage, procreation and numerous other matters) all praying over an American President who, as his stem cell decision reveals, believes in almost nothing. The Protestant minister who condones abortion, contraception and divorce gives the sermon at the inaugural service, while the Catholic Archbishop politely listens. Then the two of them – the minister of the false religion and a bishop of the true one – pray over the American President as if they were on equal footing, as if there were no difference between a false shepherd and a true one, between good and evil. Why would a Catholic Archbishop lend the name and the dignity of the Catholic Church to this three-ring circus? Because the American civic religion calls for such events. Truth does not matter.

As Pope Leo XIII taught in his encyclical Libertas Humana: "civil society must acknowledge God as its Founder and Parent, and must obey and reverence His power and authority. Justice therefore forbids, and reason itself forbids, the State to be godless; or to adopt a line of action which would end in godlessness namely, to treat the various religions (as they call them) alike, and to bestow upon them promiscuously equal rights and privileges."

But treating all religions alike, and bestowing equal privileges upon them, is the very essence of American pluralism. And just as Pope Leo warned us, the end result, despite all the window-dressing of the American regime’s ceremonial usages of religion, is godlessness. It is godlessness which is behind the President’s decision to allow experiments on embryonic human beings. The sad fact is that the President, being a follower of America’s civic religion  —  a religion in which truth and error are equally at home  —  does not even recognize the problem. Perhaps someone should send him Libertas by Pope Leo XIII.