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Catholic bishops prepare for religious liberty fight

November 13, 2011, 12:00 am | Posted by Christopher Hale
Rachel Zoll, Associated Press
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The mood among many U.S. Roman Catholic bishops was captured in a recent speech by Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia. His talk, called “Catholics in the Next America,” painted a bleak picture of a nation increasingly intolerant of Christianity.

“The America emerging in the next several decades is likely to be much less friendly to Christian faith than anything in our country’s past,” Chaput told students last week at Assumption College, an Augustinian school in Worcester, Mass. “It’s not a question of when or if it might happen. It’s happening today.”

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meets Monday in Baltimore for its national meeting feeling under siege: from a broader culture moving toward accepting gay marriage; a White House they often condemn as hostile to Catholic teaching; and state legislatures that church leaders say are chipping away at religious liberty.

Many Catholic academics, activists and parishioners say the bishops are overreacting. John Gehring of Faith in Public Life, an advocacy network for more liberal religious voters, has argued that in a pluralistic society, government officials can choose policies that differ from church teaching without prejudice being a factor.

“Some perspective is needed here,” Gehring, a Catholic, wrote on his organization’s blog.

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