SILENCE IN THE PRESENCE OF OUR EUCHARISTIC LORD JESUS CHRIST IS A GOOD THING, SILENCE IN THE PRESENCE OF EVIL MEN IS A BAD THING

Rod Dreher

The Silence Of California’s Catholic Bishops

A Catholic reader in California writes to complain that the state’s Catholic bishops are paying no attention to Assembly Bill 2943 an LGBT rights bill just approved by the Democratically-controlled state legislature. It now heads to the California Senate. As I wrote here last week, if passed and signed into law as written, the bill stands to strike a massive blow against religious liberty in California.

The Catholic reader said he went to the California Catholic Conference websiteto see how the state bishops’ lobbying arm was fighting the bill. It turns out that … they aren’t. It’s not even on their radar. The reader writes about the site:

These are the top legislative priorities of the Catholic Church in California while attendance is cratering and the state is proposing banning Christian books:

1) Expanding the CalWorks eligibility age from 19 to 20 years old

2) Getting grant money from the state to provide immigration services

3) A tax deduction for new teachers

4) Grants for school-based trauma recovery centers

5) Preventing juveniles from being tried as adults

6) Opposing using public money to provide abortion drugs on CSU and UC campuses

This list is simply breathtaking in its display of skewed priorities. The most pressing issues the Church is concerned about in the California legislature is tax credits for teachers and funding for immigration programs? The biggest challenges facing young people according to the CCC right now is getting kicked off CalWorks at 19? Even the opposition to public money for abortion drugs on campus is remarkable for the fact that it’s fighting a battle long since lost in the state.

Don’t get me wrong, these are all important issues in isolation. But the state is considering banning books explaining orthodox Christian teachings on sexuality and it’s nowhere on their radar. It’s maddening.

Your tithes at work, I guess. Are the state’s Catholic bishops simply ignorant, or do they actually not care about this legislation? If not, why not? Because they’re not interested in defending Catholic teaching on sexuality in the first place?

Any of you readers have any real insight on this? If so, please share.

UPDATE: The California Catholic reader writes back:

I think it’s a combination of things, listed in descending order of charity.

First, I think it may be a function of who they hire for these advocacy positions. A friend of mine who works with the CCC on advocacy is the social justice type and he reads books on these issues exclusively from the point of view of the left. The issues he thinks about and sees as important are shaped by that intellectual milieu.

I doubt he reads sites like The American Conservative, National Reviewor any other right-leaning website that would find AB 2943 alarming. The fact that he had never even heard of the bill was a good indication that he’s not even on the lookout for things like that.

The second factor might be the natural desire of people to take the path of least resistance. Obviously the Church has been beat up a lot recently on marriage and sexuality issues. Especially in a place like California, the chances of prevailing on those issues is slim. I can easily see those looking at priorities for legislative advocacy and deciding to focus on those areas where they might be able to find a sympathetic ear in Sacramento.

This tendency might be augmented by the habit you complain about frequently, the inability of church leaders to take the threats to religious liberty seriously. Even if they know about it, they may be dismissive of it because obviously such a blatantly unconstitutional bill would never pass, and even if it did, it would be struck down in court. So why bother, when all it would do is get you grief from the press and woke parishioners? Except we both know that this is a false confidence that’s underestimates the hostility to the Church in the dominant culture.

The least charitable interpretation is that those in charge of the CCC’s legislative advocacy know about the issue, but decide that protecting orthodox Christian teachings on sexuality isn’t worth doing. I’m more inclined to the previous two explanations (never ascribe to malice what can be explained by ignorance, etc.) but I can’t totally rule this one out either. The open hostility to orthodox Christian sexuality and conservative Catholics displayed by the dominant culture and prominent church leaders is no doubt reflected in who is hired for these positions.

The fact that so many of the bills that are on the CCC’s list have only the most tenuous connections to Church teachings while major religious liberty issues are excluded is also an indication that these folks might be using the Church’s remaining moral authority to engage in standard left-wing advocacy unrelated to the Church’s real needs. It’s no secret that our friends on the left co-opt institutions to serve their own ends, so it wouldn’t be surprising at all that they’ve done the same with the Church’s worldly advocacy efforts.

UPDATE.2: Reader Heidi makes a very important point:

Anyone that says that this isn’t a problem for Christians hasn’t realized that there are psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, counselors, etc… that are orthodox Christians. They are licensed by their state. What precisely are they going to do when someone comes in for counseling and that person asks their opinion, and help, on something such as a sex-change operation, or same-sex attraction? What if that patient asks for help on overcoming those feelings (in other words, they are unwanted and they want to learn to resist those unwanted thoughts and feelings). This law would indeed impact how those licensed individuals can respond to that patient. This is something all Christians who pay attention should push back against, not just Bishops of any denomination (and yes, I do realize it’s helpful when church leaders speak up).

Understand this clearly: the bill not only bans “conversion therapy,” but would also require therapists and others to affirm LGBT desire and behavior. This is especially problematic when it comes to transgenderism, which is not well understood, but which would be protected under the language of this bill, so that the only possible thing a psychiatrist or other mental health professional could say to a gender dysphoric person is: “Yes.”

PLUS — good news! The California Catholic Conference has come out against the bill! 

The California Catholic Conference (CCC) has voiced opposition to the bill, and released a letter on its website urging Californians to contact their legislators to prevent it from becoming law.

The conference is concerned that the bill’s definitions are too broad, and seek to prevent adults from making decisions for themselves.

“AB 2943 would take something completely intangible – ‘sexual orientation change efforts’ – and add it to the CRLA,” the conference said.

Further, given that conversion therapy is already illegal for people under the age of 18 in the state, the California Catholic Conference questioned, “why would proponents wish to take away the freedom of adults to seek counselling” for issues regarding sexual orientation or behavior.

Good for you, bishops. Where are the Protestant and Orthodox leaders on this bill?

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 45 comments

45 Responses to The Silence Of California’s Catholic Bishops

  1. CharleyCarp says:

    I don’t know anything at all about the details here, so feel free not to post this.

    If I was to speculate, though, I’d guess that the bishops believe that the proponents of the legislation are reasonably correct* about its limitations, that any attempt** to ban religious books will run afoul of the state and federal constitutions, and that there’s no reason to defend quackery. To the extent the bishops hope to be taken seriously by legislators — and I am sure they do — they’ll always choose to avoid talk-radio style chicken-little histrionics, and instead stick closer to a reasonable analysis of what’s actually going on.

    * Such statements can be cited in court, of course, and, except among judges following the Scalia line of thought, are going to be pretty persuasive.

    ** These statutes aren’t self-executing. If the relevant agency moves to take an enforcement action against a book-seller, or a diocese sponsored conference or something, you can expect the bishops to be motivated, and to have the better of the argument, substituting facts for speculation.

  2. ks says:

    Snopes calls b.s.

    https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/california-bible-ban/

    [NFR: Snopes is not the final word on things. I was once interviewed by Snopes for a story I was a part of. I was really surprised by how openly biased they were towards a particular narrative in their questioning of me. Unsurprisingly, when the article appeared, it was misleading and, frankly, useless. I used to take them seriously and uncritically. No more. Anyway, David French, a lawyer who has litigated a number of religious liberty cases, says otherwise, and lays his case out. Snopes’s account attempts to rebut a single, specific, and extreme claim made by a conservative about the legislation. French and others have pointed out many more problems with the bill. And Snopes only quotes a single source saying that the conservatives have it wrong. Don’t take Snopes as an unbiased and dispositive referee for these things. — RD]

  3. CrossTieWalker says:

    One of the great mysteries of our time is why certain groups of people—these bishops, Republicans in office, etc.—appear to be so confoundedly ignorant of matters that used to be, and still ought to be, of central concern. The Democrats are going full socialist in increasing numbers, less than a generation after the collapse of the USSR, and with Venezuela in plain view, yet the GOP is deaf dumb and blind on this stuff. Incredible. Every day, I am struck with ever more disbelief at how these things have shifted beneath our feet.
    And now Catholic bishops seemingly unaware that the sale of the Bible itself could become legally contentious in California.

  4. Chris – the other one says:

    The most pressing issues the Church is concerned about in the California legislature is tax credits for teachers and funding for immigration programs? The biggest challenges facing young people according to the CCC right now is getting kicked off CalWorks at 19?

    This sounds like a priority list for Hispanic Catholics, whom I am sure make up a high percentage of the Catholic population of California.

    Non-white Christians in the United States order their priorities differently than white evangelicals/conservative white Catholics.

    [NFR: Am pretty sure Hispanic Catholics would be affected by this legislation as well. The thing is, it’s not that it’s a lower priority for the CCC; it’s that it’s not even on their radar. — RD]

  5. charles cosimano says:

    There is an old game played by state legislatures. They pass bills that they know will be killed the moment they get into court because it makes some constituents happy and because they are never going to be effectively enforced they are protected from the responsibility of having passed them in the first place.

    It is just part of the game.

  6. parmenides says:

    So I’ve been going over the text of the bill
    https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180AB2943
    and can’t find anything that would A) ban the sale of the bible.
    B)Stop a preacher or congregation from affirming or stating that homosexuality is wrong.
    C)Stop any individual from attempting to convince another person that homosexuality is wrong and that they should stop being homosexual or change how they act in reference to homosexuality or transgenderism or gender expression.

    What it does outlaw is setting up shop and accepting money to do all of those things. If you are attempting to sell a product or service that claims to change the sexual orientation of an individual, for the purpose of that claim, then you can be found liable under the law.

    It is possible that if you were selling bible’s as the cure for homosexuality then you might be prosecuted but then you should since that would be fraud. It wouldn’t be the bible but the claim that would get you in trouble.

    So as long as money isn’t changing hands for a specific product or service dealing with conversion therapy then no one will have any problem.

  7. Tmatt says:

    Hey, but they’re making progress in reconciliation work — seeking reunion with Church of England.

  8. Kronsteen1963 says:

    [Don’t take Snopes as an unbiased and dispositive referee for these things. — RD]

    Snopes fact checks the Babylon Bee, a Christian satire site. I’m not making that up – it happened. So, please don’t tell me Snopes is unbiased and credible, because that is simply nonsense.

  9. Jack Swan says:

    Good thing the Orthodox bishops are leading the fight on this. Oh, right.

  10. MikeS says:

    You may be right, but I think there is not enough information at this time to make a definite conclusion. Any book-ban law is unconstitutional, and the bishops may think the best approach is to let it die of its own accord instead of making a big deal of it.

  11. Jrm says:

    Yeah,your analysis took a “worst case deeply suspicious scenario” of the actual language and then extrapolated from there right into into pitch forks and book burning territory. Nobody else got there but you. Your peculiar “chicken-little sky is falling” analysis of the proposed legislation is not shared by the Catholic bishops, Snopes or reasonable people, generally. .

    That’s why the Catholic bishops are so unconcerned. They have real power and influence over matters that really infringe on religious freedom. This is not one of them.

  12. Just to add three things to CharleyCarp’s excellent and balanced comment:

    1) The preamble of the law stated very clearly and repeatedly its direction at persons or entities offering psychotherapy as a service. It says nothing, and I will repeat that, nothing about religious claims or religious morality.

    2) The law in question provides civil, not criminal remedies. To quote: “Existing law authorizes any consumer who suffers damages as a result of these unlawful practices to bring an action against that person to recover damages, among other things.” Unless you have an expert who can tell us how a civil law could stretch to inflict criminal sanctions, I will continue to consider fears of criminal prosecutions for asserting any religious belief of any sect overblown.

    3) Exaggerating threats makes it harder to rouse concern should real threats to religious freedom emerge. I see nothing in this legislation that would make banning the Bible any easier or more likely than, say, routine legislation against genocide.

  13. Aaron says:

    As a practicing Catholic, I can tell you the only thing leadership group that is more incompetent than our politicians is the leadership in the Catholic Church. They bend over backwards for any left-leaning policy that can be incorporated into church social teaching. If I didn’t believe that this is the Catholic Church is the Church that Jesus founded, I would leave it in a heartbeat.

  14. John says:

    Before I left the Catholic Church I had an argument with a fellow parishioner over whether or not Mary was actually a virgin when Christ was born. I was left shocked when nearly everyone in the room agreed that the Virgin birth was not to be taken literally, I’m including a priest in the group who thought it was a metaphor for something else.

    I miss the Catholic Church nearly every Sunday, the evangelical church I go to does not offer the same depth which I had as a Catholic. But my faith is not strong enough to be surrounded with people who are mere feet away from agnosticism.

    So it isn’t surprising that the Catholic Church has nothing to say about the California bill. Why would they care? They are materialists and consequentialists, of course giving money to poor immigrants is more important than teaching the truth on sexuality.

  15. O.L. Johnson says:

    It’s pretty obvious that there is a concerted effort “inside the walls”, with major support in the hierarchy to reinterpret, or interpret away, Humanae Vitae and adopt “The New Paradigm”. Could it be that certain among California’s Bishops see the law as aiding in that cause? I wouldn’t know. But you have to wonder. You would think that someone of Archbishop Cordileone’s caliber would resist, if he were aware of what is happening.

  16. Religious organizations are not very good at making this kind of argument. Look how badly they argued Perry and Obergefell. Making a bad argument might be worse than making none at all.

    The Democrats are going full socialist in increasing numbers…

    The writer obviously has no idea what the word “socialist” means. The Dems are beholden to their own set of plutocrats, and have no intention of expropriating them, or even expropriating the GOP’s plutocrats. Culture wars are the opiate of the people for the 21st century.

    Snopes, like any expert, should be referenced only to the extent that they lay out clearly the factual basis for their confirmation or “calling b.s.” so that any reader can confirm for themselves if the conclusion is supported by evidence.

  17. Mia says:

    I think part of the problem with the CCC goes back to what I’ve been saying about the appeasement now being attempted with the Chinese government. For the most part, churchmen are company men, and they really aren’t that comfortable with open conflict with any government, even when it may be detrimental to them. Oh, sure, there have been outliers under Nazism and Communism, but they still weren’t the majority. Hence things like the Nazi concordat.

    There are few churchmen willing to take on the role that Oscar Romero or Karol Wojtyla took on in opposition to the powerful government forces arrayed against them, and there are cultural reasons for that now, too. I think in the US, we’ve had alot of that kind of real willingness to go against the grain and even the willingness to openly protest conditioned out of us to such a degree that it feels wrong to seriously question any of what may go on beyond very basic, safe issues. Because to become a lightning rod for such controversies carries some danger, both spiritual and physical depending. Who was it that scoffed that these days Republicans protesting was merely refusing to cut their grass? That is unfortunately true, so do you really expect them to do something so unpatriotic and disruptive as “protest” for their rights now, do you? Criticism is the same as murder even for our side on certain issues, so let’s not be blind to the reality that our people won’t lift a finger as this goes down. Compare this situation to the background of both men that I mentioned, which was very, very a different social context and psychological conditioning.

    https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2008/august/what-part-did-pope-john-paul-ii-play-in-opposing-communism.html

    http://www.romerotrust.org.uk/who-was-romero

  18. SeanD says:

    You might also ask what the Orthodox bishops of California are doing, Rod. That said, this situation is pathetic, regardless of the explanation. Beyond the entirely plausible ones cited in the article, I would add two.

    The Francis Effect: Although Archbishops Gomez and Cordileone are orthodox, they’re struggling on two fronts as Pope Francis appoints progressives. If they spoke out, they’d get the “Even Pope Francis…’who am I to judge’” treatment, and Rome would be silent – at best. At worst, His Holiness would reach into his bag of epithets for those who defend Catholic teaching on human sexuality, making a bad situation worse.

    The Priest Sex Scandal Effect: A cowardly generation of bishops and senior priests not only committed/permitted the abuse, but hid from the press when the scandal broke, leaving the impression (based on a half-century of cases being publicized at once) that “all priests must be doing it.” That crippled the Church’s effectiveness in social teaching – particularly in matters sexual. The LGBT lobby knew this, which is why they pushed the scandal – despite the fact some 80% of pedophilia is same-sex, an exponentially bigger red flag than being a priest.

    I might add that you haven’t entirely helpful, Rod. While your rage at the way the hierarchy handled sex abuse is justified, you’ve joined the secular media in treating the Catholic Church as the Gold Standard of Pedophilia, comparing the phenomenon anywhere it occurs to the Church. That’s wrong, both for the attention it deflects from other offending institutions, and to all the Catholics – clerical and lay – who played no role in the abuse, yet pay the price for it every day.

    [NFR: Well, you’re flat-out wrong about your claim in the last paragraph. I do not report or comment on the phenomenon anywhere it appears in the Roman Catholic Church. That’s just silly. Secondly, I wouldn’t expect the Orthodox bishops to say anything about this, though I wish they would. There are so few Orthodox Christians in the US that their bishops have zero power to affect anything. That doesn’t excuse the Orthodox bishops from their responsibilities to lead, but to be honest, very few Orthodox know what our bishops say about anything. Bishops play a far, far greater role in the public life of Roman Catholics in this country. Plus, I have written in this space on several occasions reports I’ve received from Evangelicals in California and elsewhere on the West coast that many of their pastors are unwilling to speak up on gay issues anymore. It’s not just a Catholic thing. The letter came to me from a Catholic reader. I found it interesting. I published it. I’m going to publish things like that in the future too. — RD]

  19. Dale McNamee says:

    These bishops will be answering to God for their “selling their souls and faith for money”…

    They are no more “Catholic” than an atheist is…

  20. JonF says:

    Re: The least charitable interpretation is that those in charge of the CCC’s legislative advocacy know about the issue, but decide that protecting orthodox Christian teachings on sexuality isn’t worth doing.

    Or they are aware that the law will not apply to the Church since it is not a profit-making enterprise. And in any event the law is very likely to be struck down.

  21. JonF says:

    Re: The Democrats are going full socialist in increasing numbers

    Perhaps this is happening in some alternate reality? I have not heard anyone, not even Bernie Sanders (a very marginal Democrat), arguing for the public ownership of the means of production. And much of the formal Democratic Party is still in thrall to neoliberalism which is about as socialist as your nearest Chamber of Commerce.

  22. Richard Parker says:

    “Every day, I am struck with ever more disbelief at how these things have shifted beneath our feet.”

    Welcome to California – coming to all of you faster than you can imagine.

    Why, California could declare it’s self a sanctuary state from the First Amendment.

    Problem Solved!

  23. Mike Andrews says:

    And where are all the bishops? Where are the Orthodox bishops? Why are the Catholic bishops always expected to carry the water of the Orthodox bishops? I agree with the criticisms; yet why are the Catholic bishops the exclusive subject of them?

    [NFR: Because a Catholic reader raised the issue, that’s why. I don’t know where California Evangelical leaders are on this either. Maybe an Evangelical reader will write to let me know. — RD]

  24. PeterK says:

    I wonder how many of the diocesan staff were trained by Jesuits?

  25. yenwoda says:

    I’m puzzled by the claims that this bill would ban books. The text states that

    ‘(i) (1) “Sexual orientation change efforts” means any practices that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation. This includes efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.’

    and amends the code to prohibit

    ‘(28) Advertising, offering to engage in, or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual.’

    I’m not a lawyer and may be missing something, but how is a book a “practice”? To me, it reads as banning conversion therapy and the advertising of conversion therapy (e.g. fliers promoting a clinic’s conversion program just across state lines). That may be unconstitutional; I recall that a legal challenge to a ban on conversion therapy for minors was (rightly IMO) unsuccessful, but I don’t think this is as clear-cut. However it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with books promoting traditional Christian sexual ethics or even promoting conversion therapy itself.

  26. Aurora says:

    I do not really understand Abp Gomez in this regard. I know him extremely casually (we both were on the board of a charitable organization) and I always thought he was a kind and gentle man and superbly orthodox. I have no idea how he can put up with this. I had such a high regard for him, and I am dumbfounded about what is taking place in his archdiocese. Saints preserve us!

  27. Nate says:

    Not all is lost in California. Archbishop Cordileone has spoken out quite often on these issues. For example:
    https://sfarchdiocese.org/documents/2018/3/BenedictineCollege.HV.pdf
    https://sfarchdiocese.org/archbishop-cordileone

  28. john says:

    This is a lot of worrying about nothing. All AB 2943 does it prevent THERAPISTS from providing the roundly discredited, so called “conversion” therapy for LGBT patients. Every peer reviewed study has shown such “treatment” is a fraud and does not work and, even worse, downright harmful to patients. Advertising or practicing it should be banned. Nothing in the bill prohibits bibles!

  29. Anne says:

    IF your reader thinks the bishops are foolish to be fighting tax money going for abortion meds since that’s “a battle long lost in the state,” perhaps they’d consider him the same for crying wolf over legislation Christian authorities would only look coercive to oppose, and yet can always appeal on constitutional grounds should the Chicken Little scenarios alarmists on the right predict ever come to pass. So go prudential judgments.

  30. Ms says:

    I wonder where the bishops would have learned of this – I didn’t know about it from NYT or WSJ. Is this well covered by west coast media, or sort of stealth? If their staff don’t know about it, how would a busy bishop learn?

    [NFR: A very good, very fair point. If I were a bishop, I would ask the CCC staff that question. I don’t believe that Bishop Barron, for example, would stay silent if he knew about this. — RD]

  31. JonF says:

    Re: Snopes is not the final word on things.

    Snopes is a good source for debunking fatuous or hysterical nonsense and assorted fake news. But Rod is correct about something here: the Snopes piece only addresses the ludicrous claim that this bill would “ban the Bible”.

  32. Elijah says:

    I think Siarlys has the best excuse/argument for the bishops, viz. it’s better for them to say nothing than make a bloody hash of things.

    But @ John Spragge:

    (1) The law says what it says; the intent matters a lot less than the text. History is replete with examples of laws that were misused. The law could easily be used to encompass any activity that suggests certain types of sexuality are “immoral” or “need to be changed”.

    (2) Okay – have we not seen enough examples of how civil law can be used to drive people out of the public square and wreck their lives?

    (3) Laws that restrict what people can teach, and read, and recommend are genuine threats.

    and

    (4) I guess the bishops are leading from behind on this one, eh?

    Once laws like this get on the books in the first place, history shows us the ideas behind them gain some legitimacy. Christian leaders should be out there explaining what this law does and doesn’t do, not waiting for the courts (or anyone else) to do the heavy lifting.

    (2)

  33. Maggie Gallagher says:

    I sincerely doubt the bishops have heard about this. Info flies slowly in the institutional church…and I hear they are looking for a new executive director. They couldn’t stop it. I wouldn’t read much into the fact that they havemy leapt into battle except the obvious one the church is not a good vessel for leaping suddenly into battle. A week ago I had not heard about this bill. I guarantee the bishops have not yet.

    [NFR: Yes, but neither of us live in California. This bill was filed in February. Why didn’t the people the bishops pay to watch out for this stuff give them a heads-up? Or did they, and the bishops decided not to make an issue of it? — RD]

  34. This is a lot of worrying about nothing. All AB 2943 does it prevent THERAPISTS from providing the roundly discredited, so called “conversion” therapy for LGBT patients. Every peer reviewed study has shown such “treatment” is a fraud and does not work and, even worse, downright harmful to patients.

    That statement is well intended, and perhaps the legislation was intended in the same spirit, but I have a few grains of salt to introduce.

    “Scientific studies” on matters that touch on LGBTQWERTY, and in a few other controversial fields, tend to be done by people with an ax to grind. Lo and behold, their “scientific research” plausibly shows that their a priori conclusion was correct. This is true both of those who want to show how dysfunctional and evil homosexuality is, and those who want to show that there is nothing wrong with it at all in any situation for any reason.

    For now, I call b.s. on the whole array of “scientific research.” I’d want to see a 50 year longitudinal study with a staff of people vetted for their genuine neutrality and lack of commitment to any particular outcome.

    Regulation of the field of medicine is relatively new in human history, and in general it is a good thing, to protect patients who are mostly non-specialists from snake oil salesmen and dubious therapies that can actually do harm. I’m sympathetic to the fact that children, teens, and young adults who are reasonably certain they are attracted to the same sex have been bullied, assaulted, and threatened with death under color of “therapy.” Some protection is warranted.

    But, there are enough individual testimonies from people whose personal experience is that they went from heterosexual to homosexual and back again, and were relieved to be back, or who became homosexual due to traumatic experience, and were relieved to overcome it, that room should be left for therapies to be AVAILABLE (not forced) for those who really aren’t sure but aren’t comfortable and want to explore options, including being cured of what they themselves perceive as a problem.

    And let’s be real. There is a component among the more fanatical LGBTQWERTY fanatics that views such people as traitors to the cause and would all but force a kind of “conversion therapy” on them to MAKE them accept that they are gay and LIKE IT.

    Bottom line, as Elijah said: “Laws that restrict what people can teach, and read, and recommend are genuine threats.”

    Why, California could declare it’s self a sanctuary state from the First Amendment.

    We settled that question in 1865.

  35. Heidi says:

    Anyone that says that this isn’t a problem for Christians hasn’t realized that there are psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors, counselors, etc… that are orthodox Christians. They are licensed by their state. What precisely are they going to do when someone comes in for counseling and that person asks their opinion, and help, on something such as a sex-change operation, or same-sex attraction? What if that patient asks for help on overcoming those feelings (in other words, they are unwanted and they want to learn to resist those unwanted thoughts and feelings). This law would indeed impact how those licensed individuals can respond to that patient. This is something all Christians who pay attention should push back against, not just Bishops of any denomination (and yes, I do realize it’s helpful when church leaders speak up).

  36. Mccormick47 says:

    I assume the bishops have attorneys that advise them as to which legislative proposals constitute a threat to the church’s interests and which do not. It’s possible they’ve decided not to come out in support of the gay conversion scamsters.

    Read the recent NY Times editorial by a victim of these creeps. He reports that as a middle schooler, he was tortured with ice, heat and electric shocks while tied down, and that he was forced to watch gay porn.

  37. simon94022 says:

    It’s not an edifying list of priorities. But I think California Catholic is right in noting that this is a function of who they hire for advocacy positions.

    California is an extreme one party state. All legislation results from the internal workings of the Democratic party and the interplay among its constituencies. Republicans are irrelevant. So effective lobbying by any organization requires hiring people with strong ties to the Democratic establishment. Otherwise, you don’t even get a meeting or a hearing on your priorities.

    What’s more frustrating to me is that the bishops have this lobbying organization in the first place. Most of the bishops’ listed priorities have nothing to do with Catholic teaching or the life of the Church and its institutions. They are bills reflecting prudential judgments about the common good — which means, according to the Church’s own teaching, that these are issues for the laity to judge, not the clergy.

    The constant lobbying for more funding of this or that government program and invoking spiritual authority on behalf of basic criminal and immigration legislation ultimately achieves nothing but the discrediting of the Church.

  38. Sebastian says:

    For someone who walked away from the Catholic faith, you seem to spend an inordinate amount of time and space telling the Catholic Church what it ought to be doing. I’m not saying that your perspective is right or wrong, but you do seem to be preoccupied by your disappointment.

    [NFR: Give it a rest, would you? I have said here many times, and I’ll say it again: the fate of the West, in my view, depends on the fate of the Roman Catholic Church. Not Evangelical Protestantism, and certainly not Eastern Orthodoxy, but Roman Catholicism. I might be wrong about that, but that is my view. I don’t believe any tradition-minded Christian living in the West can afford not to care what happens in the Catholic Church. The fact that you’re more bothered by a fellow traveler sympathetic to traditional/conservative Catholics pointing things like this out than you are by the actual failures of Catholic leadership is too bad, but it’s not going to keep me from speaking out. And by the way, I would invite you to read the ENTIRE BOOK I wrote based on the example of Benedictine monks, saying that they are a bright light in a dark time for all of us small-o orthodox Christians in the West. Your griping is disproportionate to the actual facts. — RD]

  39. TOS says:

    I read enough left-wing websites to know that they believe the sky is falling, too. So I can’t really blame Dreher (or David French, though he should know better).

    This is a two sentence bill. You don’t need to be a lawyer to understand it. There’s a definition of gay conversion therapy, and then a ban on advertising or engaging in conversion therapy. It’s all very precise. If you are at all familiar with reading statute, you have to do some incredible mental gymnastics to get to a “ban the Bible” interpretation.

    Perhaps French is busy and unfamiliar with every bill in every state, and perhaps Dreher isn’t familiar with reading statute. But man. We need better conservatives if we’re going to have a functioning democracy. But as I said at the start, lefties do it too…

    The DePauw case is a more straightforward case of progressives running amok —and we can disagree on the extent to which that is bad for society. But swinging wildly at issues like AB 2943, and whiffing, make the other issues harder to take seriously.

    [NFR: I agree that the “ban the Bible” claim is extreme, but you ought to acknowledge that people like French and me are pointing out that there’s lots more to the bill. I agree that people ought to read the text of it. Read it closely. Note that therapists won’t be able to do anything to help a kid with gender dysphoria who wants to resolve it in favor of their birth sex, or who the therapist believes would be better served by that. That would be banned. Also, it is by no means clear that books or any kind of counseling, including pastoral counseling, that urged desisting from LGBT behavior or orientation would be protected. In any case, the deeper point here is that orthodox Christian, Jewish, and Muslim teaching is so despised in California that this bill exists, and has already passed the Assembly, with no free speech provisions attached. — RD]

  40. K.E. Colombini says:

    May want to update further. Here is some coverage on the issue, and the California bishops do have a call-to-action to oppose the bill.
    https://angelusnews.com/content/could-a-california-bill-ban-christian-teaching-on-homosexuality

  41. Harvey says:

    Dear RD:

    There exists a very longstanding rule of statutory construction that says the following: if possible, a statute is to be construed not to violate the constitution or other statutes.

    Banning the sale of the Bible is unconstitutional, period. So if this law passes and some idiot goes to court to sue a bookseller, he will get laughed out of court, period.

    Anti-regulatory forces (usually conservatives, but not always [eg, GMO fights]) have a tendency to take any regulatory action, imagine the most-unlikely and absurd interpretation thereof, and argue against that. That’s a fallacy, commonly referred to as the strawman fallacy.

    Yes, very occasionally trial courts do something silly, but that’s what appeals courts are for.

  42. Jrm says:

    It’s important to look at the actual language of the proposed legislation to see if the sky is actually falling, as Rod claims.

    The single line of the statute appears in California Civil Code section 1770. Civil Code Seciton 1770 is a well known consumer protection statute. It is essentially a list of prohibited unfair business practices targeted at consumers. The section prohibits for example, disparagement of a competitor’s product, or advertising that the business provides services that are not actually delivered. These particular prohibitions are significant because Section 1770 only applies to commercial businesses, NOT TO RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS. Religions in California have an unfettered right to disparage their competitors’ religious product and an unfettered right to claim prayer that doesn’t work is nevertheless effective. Religious organizations are not regulated by Section 1770. Full stop.

    So, the proposed legislation adds a single sentence to the list of unfair business practices:

    “(28) Advertising, offering to engage in, or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual.”

    That’s it. There are no limits placed on religious practices, religious teaching and, significantly, religious counseling.

    Any claim to the contrary is overblown hyperbole. No wonder the Catholic Bishops do not see the “Massive blow” to religious freedom that Rod claims to see.

    But Wait! What does “sexual orientation change efforts” mean? Can’t they slip in a lot of mischief there?

    Well, no. The term “sexual orientation change efforts” is specifically defined in the proposed legislation:

    (i) (1) “Sexual orientation change efforts” means any practices that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation. This includes efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.

    (2) “Sexual orientation change efforts” does not include psychotherapies that: (A) provide acceptance, support, and understanding of clients or the facilitation of clients’ coping, social support, and identity exploration and development, including sexual orientation-neutral interventions to prevent or address unlawful conduct or unsafe sexual practices; and (B) do not seek to change sexual orientation.

    Notice that Rod’s hypothetical young gay person seeking counseling falls squarely within “coping” and “identity exploration” of section (2) and is not “sexual orientation change efforts” by any stretch of the imagination. The young boy can be free to explore efforts to resolve in favor of his birth sex. Rod simply misrepresents the text of the legislation.

    This breathless “sky is falling” claim of religious oppression is just one of the many examples of the boy crying wolf that tend to obscure those few but real intrusions on religious freedom.

    Because it’s relevant, I am a member of the California Bar. Other members of the California Bar no doubt gave similar advice to the Catholic bishops.

  43. Heidi says:

    This isn’t a “sky is falling” scenario, it’s a foot in the door technique. In real-world applications this law would be an interference in the therapeutic relationship between patients/clients and those providing mental health care. It directly impacts the patient’s rights to seek help for something they voluntarily would like to curb or change. Notice the language: “Sexual orientation change efforts” means ANY practices that seek to change an individual’s sexual orientation. This INCLUDES efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.” (emphasis mine)

    If you have a Christian come in to a psychologist that also happens to be Christian and that patient is currently engaging in homosexual sex and no longer wants to engage in homosexual sex and wants help to curb those behaviors, what is the psychologist to say? Now, let’s change the scenario. A married heterosexual Christian comes in and says they’ve been cheating on their spouse with someone else and they want help to curb that behavior. Where is the protection in this proposed law that says that psychologist can treat both individual patients the same? Frankly, the law is not just dangerous to religious liberty, it is insulting to both patients and practitioners on several levels.

  44. RBH says:

    You couldn’t be an usher at most small-o orthodox Protestant churches if you espoused the beliefs that most Catholic Bishops hold.

  45. jrm and harvey make some excellent points. But we all know that there will be litigants and attorneys who will do their best to make any statutory language mean whatever a given litigant would like it to mean. Who knew that the Fourteenth Amendment would be expounded (in passing dicta not even necessary to resolve the controversy at hand) to confer personhood on a corporation? (Note: incorporation had previously been a privilege conferred by the sovereign if it was in the sovereign’s interest to do so, whether “His Sovereign Majesty” or “the sovereign people.”)

    One gray zone might be someone who does religious-based counseling, but, because they do so full time, charges hourly fees, and is up front about both factors.

    Another would be a counselor working with someone who has felt some same-sex attraction but would prefer a therapy that would enable them to function heterosexually, or is not too certain what they want but wishes to explore that possibility.

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About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas
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