Declaration a wake-up call, line in the sand
by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A recently released document has been called a wake-up call to Christian conscience and a warning that efforts to violate this conscience will be met with resistance.
The document, called the Manhattan Declaration, was released on Nov. 20 in Washington, D.C.
It addresses three broad areas: pro-life concerns, marriage, and religious liberty. Its signers seek to “proclaim the Gospel of costly grace,” and it signals a growing resolve to do battle in the marketplace of ideas.
“We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence,” said the declaration.
The declaration was written by Chuck Colson, a noted evangelist; Robert George, a Catholic and law professor at Princeton University; and the Rev. Timothy George, an evangelical minister and dean of the Beeson Divinity School.
Initially, 148 prominent Christian leaders signed the 4,700-word document. This ecumenical Christian document included Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, and Catholic signatories.
Among the Catholic signers were 14 Catholic bishops, including Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann.
The document was initially circulated among an informal network of religious leaders who had previously worked together, and not all of the nation’s Catholic bishops had an opportunity to sign.
“It’s the result of Catholic, Orthodox and evangelical Christians cooperating on a variety of levels to work for the common good in our county and to protect certain fundamental values and goods we all hold dear,” said Archbishop Naumann.
“I think there has been this type of cooperation going on for some time,” said the archbishop, “and from that emerged this idea of writing a joint declaration on what we consider to be three critical issues in our American society, and that in different ways threaten our ability to live our faith.”
The reason why Archbishop Naumann and 13 other Catholic prelates signed the document is quite simple: These are important social issues.
“I agree with the importance of the social issues that are identified by the declaration, and I think it is an important time for Christians to stand together,” said the archbishop.
The declaration contains strong statements of resistance in the face of intimidation or penalty, going so far as to say that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required.
“I think we’re already feeling that intimidation, and some of it has to do with the threat to conscience rights in health care reform [legislation],” said the archbishop.
“It also has to do with [situations] in states where the courts have imposed recognition of same-sex marriages,” continued the archbishop, “followed up by public schools teaching children that same-sex unions are normal.”
Signatories hope that the next step will be the signing of the declaration by tens of thousands of like-minded citizens. So far, since its public release, more than 244,000 people have gone online to sign the document.
One of those working locally to add signatures is Ron Kelsey, archdiocesan consultant for pro-life ministry. He has sent information about the declaration to individuals on his e-mail list.
“I’m encouraging people to sign this declaration because it lays out the principles for Christians to support that revolve around life, marriage, and religious liberty — principles that are in accord with Catholic teaching,” he said.
“I think this is very much needed,” he continued, “because it is ecumenical and shows the unity of Christians around fundamental principles at a time when they are under attack.”