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July 11, 1998     Arkansas Catholic
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July 11, 1998
 

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CATHOUC July 11, 1998 Page t5 : : ast week as a countryl, we celebrated our indepi n-, Since the American we have celebrated Fourth of July as a way of our break with England the adoption of the Decla- :e. Our in- :e means we have certain freedoms. One of the is the freedom to wor- that certainly .every should have. Someone's choice in the way they and who they pray to not be under the direc- of government authorities. closer look at how the lack religious freedom is handled demonstrated recently in Clinton's nine-day China. China has an "official" Catho- and an underground . The split in 1957 was over up the government's rnment cannot Chinese Catholic Patriotic Asso- ciation, which has no ties to the Vatican. A government-approved bishop was invited to a meeting with President Clinton. On the other hand, an underground bishop was told to leave his home during the president's visit to Shanghai. Police detained an- other underground bishop be- fore President Clinton arrived. What Catholics loyal to the pope in China are facing is a true lack of freedom. For example, two bishops from mainland China were invited to attend the Synod of Bishops for China April 19-May 14 in Rome. The pope issued the invitations but permission was denied for them to attend because China doesn't have official rela- tions with the Vatican. The invita- tions were sent to the Chinese Embassy in Rome, but they were never forwarded to the bishops. One of the bishops, 90-year-old Bishop Mattias Duan Yinming, has bounced back from adversity over the years. After being tortured and imprisoned in the 1970s, he re- turned to start the diocese again. He is the oldest Vatican-appointed bishop left in the mainland. The Church in China has con- tinued to be persecuted and cut off from the universal Church. Despite government attempts to stymie the underground Catholic Church, it is flourishing. Hong Kong Auxiliary Bishop John Tong Hon reported at the synod that there are at least 10 million Catho- lics in China and a growing num- ber of young priests and nuns to spread the Gospel. Another sign of hope is that several govern- ment-recognized bishops have se- cretly reconciled with the pope. As members of a universal Church we are asked to keep pray- ing and dreaming for unified China. As one Hong Kong bishop said, "In our concern for the church in China, let us love and help both groups, never take sides with one against the other. They are all our brothers, victims of the regime." in particular the often- ' all of separation" between and state, have long been an im- to government educational aid like vouchers. This is one rea- the recent Wisconsin Supreme decision giving the green light to to use tuition vouchers to send to parochial and other welcomed as a common-sense reasoned approach to church-state COurt's 4-2 ruling June 10 said nothing in either the Wiscon- States constitutions to pre- of religious schools in Parental Choice Program. the most significant court deci- date on the issue of school vouch- are getting more attention in states across the country as both policy- makers and the general public see the value of promoting choice in education. The Wisconsin decision, while setting some precedent, will not be anything close to the final word on the question. Since the state court went so far as to make an interpretation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the ruling is likely to be appealed to the federal courts, and it could eventually end up in the U.S. Supreme Court. And organizations which believe that tax dol- lars should not be used in any way to enable people to attend parochial schools are certain to mobilize in the federal courts to oppose the Wisconsin decision. At issue in the legal debate is the First Amendment's prohibition against gov- ernment establishment of religion. Some argue that this provision does not per- mit any assistance to flow from govern- ment to the church or church institu- tions, either directly in the form of grants or indirectly in the form of tuition assis- tance, tax credits or vouchers given to individuals to use at the school of their choice. In other words, there is an im- pregnable ' rall of separation" between church and state. This is not how the majority of judges on the Wisconsin Supreme Court saw it. The court said that the voucher program serves a valid public purpose in extend- ing educational opportunities, and it is religiously neutral because it does not favor religious schools over others and the aid goes directly to the parents and only indirectly to the schools. And, the court added, there is no "excessive en- tanglement" between government and religion in the administration of the voucher program. This is a common sense and reasoned view of church-state separation. In the case of vouchers, no government funds are used to support a church or a church ministry. No preference is shown to one church over another or to any religion. The money goes to citizens for educational expenses, and they use the money in selecting the school of their choice. There is precedent for this in our national history. For example, the GI Bill of Rights made it possible for many World War II veterans to go to college without government assistance. The money was given to students to use at any college or university either public or private. Many recipients chose reli- gious-operated colleges, and there was no major uproar about this use of choice. Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua of Philadelphia, in a 1991 talk to the Penn- sylvania Bar Association, challenged the view of an impregnable ' aall of separa- tion" between church and state as a dis- torted interpretation of establishment of religion that "can lead to ambiguous, perilous, irrational implications." He said this view should be discarded in favor of "the positive, realistic realization that church and state are distinct but neces- sary partners in achieving the common goals of the community." The Wisconsin Supreme Court deci- sion on school vouchers reflects such a reasonable approach to church-state separation. One can only hope it sur- vives in the legal wars which are certain to follow. our social teaching, how will we provide light? to make. Few of them will be surpris- the AFL-CIO in Wisconsin, said, 'q'he ~ The dignity of work: 'The economy must rnost American Catholics "igno- about the Church's social g? This is a claim and a charge rly often. It seldom gets much we'd guess, because it vague and unthreatening. is no apparent sex in it. the issue is crucial to our identity The American bishops social teaching is so im- that they are working on a plan *t aggressively in all education of the Church. A story begin- our front page this week sum- the key points the bishops want ing. Older Catholics who learned their childhood religion lessons at a time of emphasis on the ' aorks of mercy" could claim that they know Catholic social doctrine in more practical, relevant terms than the bishops offer. The principles of human dignity, solidarity, and attention to the poor were taught as practical works on behalf of anyone needy all .the way into death: one of the traditional works of mercy was to bury the dead. A recent workshop at the University of Notre Dame looked at Catholic social teaching in relation to the globalized economy of today. The economists, la- bor leaders and teachers attending the workshop reviewed what they called a new "challenge" for social justice today, but concluded that our body of doctrine still provides a framework for meeting it. Bill Lange, religion and labor liaison for very rich Catholic social teaching pro- v ides a framework to act in society -- to achieve justice...." Another member of the group at Notre Dame, Charles Wilber, an econom- ics professor at the university, offered his own list of seven fundamental points in Catholic social teaching that can guide global economic decisions: The dignity of the human person, made in the image and likeness of God. '1"his emphasizes people over things, being over having," Wilber said. O Community and the common good: "Allowing unemployment in effect says to people, 'We don't need you."' Right to life, food, shelter, health care, education, employment, and the right to emigrate to get those things. Special attention to the poor: 'q'he poor have the most urgent moral claim on the conscience of the nation." exist to serve people, not the other way around. Being more productive might sometimes need to take a back seal" Solidarity: "We are one human fam- ily. God has given us the earth to share with one another." Subsidiarity: A small unit (such as a county) must be free to fulfill its ob- ligations (such as providing educa- tion), but large units (such as states) step in when the smaller unit's fail- ure undermines the common good. The bishops' list of elements in Catholic social teaching is similar: The teaching itself is grounded in human dignity, welcomes the interdependence --- the sociality -- of human life and celebrates it with reminders that we live best by serving each other well. Every Catholic should be aware of this dimension in our faith. We are a poor light to the world without it.