CORK, Ireland, July 9, 2015 (ChurchMilitant.com) - Only laymen can fight the political struggle of the culture wars, says Australia's cardinal George Pell. That struggle, he believes, will mostly be over religious freedom.
Speaking in Cork, Ireland, at an international liturgy conference, Cdl. Pell reflected on the recent revolutionary changes to marital law in Ireland and the United States. He noted that these legal and cultural shifts indicate an abandonment of the Christian principles that once formed the foundation of laws in the West.
Now, Catholics "are entering a new phase of political struggle which can only be fought by lay people," he warned in his address, titled "The Vine and the Altar: Learning From the Teaching of St. John Paul II on the Priestly Role of the Catholic Laity." In this new phase, Christians may witness a surge of legal attacks against their institutions.
"We shall have to struggle peacefully and democratically and cooperatively to ensure that our hospitals cannot be forced to offer abortion and euthanasia," he predicted, as just one example. In later comments, the cardinal stated, "I anticipate in many, if not all, the Anglophone countries the struggle to maintain our religious freedom will continue and possibly even intensify."
Cardinal Pell insisted that the separation of Church and State, a commonly unquestioned proposition in most Western nations, cannot be construed to entail that the State is permitted to persecute Christians or the Church in any sense.
Drawing on then Pope John Paul II's Christifideles Laici, Cdl. Pell implored laymen to resist attempts by governments to take away their rights to publicly proclaim Church doctrine, especially in parishes and schools. He wants to see young Catholics enter into the political sphere to defend religious values, and not retreat into the Church to do clerical work better reserved for priests. "We don't need watered down and uncertain priests," he proclaimed, "and we don't need lay faithful who seem determined to fill the gap."
Cardinal Pell's comments come at the same time his brother bishops in Australia face formal complaints claiming they violated anti-discrimination laws because they released a pro-marriage booklet.