My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
A classic book that was required reading when I was in high school was George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. When I read it in the late 1960s, part of the fascination with the story was the fact that the year 1984 seemed such a long way off into the future. For today's high school students, 1984 is ancient history, so I'm not sure how many of them are reading the book by that name.
Nineteen Eighty-Four is a novel about Oceania, a fictional society in a repressive and controlled state. In Orwell's novel, government cameras monitor the citizens of Oceania and the state-run media feed them fabricated news stories. The people are forced to worship a mythical government leader called Big Brother and are indoctrinated to believe nonsense statements such as War Is Peace, Slavery Is Freedom, and Ignorance Is Strength.
Orwell's book popularized the adjective "Orwellian," which refers to official deception in service to a totalitarian political agenda. The word is sometimes used to describe a government policy that is particularly repressive of liberties such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The word "Orwellian" is also sometimes used to describe words and concepts that are obviously self-contradictory but are asserted as true by some authority figure. A contemporary example of Orwellian doublespeak is the "Peacekeeper Missile," which was a land-based nuclear inter-continental ballistic missile first manufactured, ironically, in February 1984 and deployed by the United States starting in 1986. (A total of 50 missiles were deployed. They have since been deactivated.)
The word "Orwellian" comes to mind with regard to the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, passed by the lame-duck Illinois General Assembly last December and signed into law by Governor Patrick Quinn. It is "Orwellian" because experience has sadly shown so far that it provides no real protection for the religious activities of faith-based programs.
Since the so-called religious freedom protections of the law were immediately ignored by the Department of Children and Family Services, Catholic Charities and other religious agencies providing state-funded adoption and foster care services implored the Illinois legislature to pass an amendment to the civil unions legislation that would have made more explicit that religious-based agencies are permitted to place children in foster care and adoptive homes in accord with the moral teachings of our faith. Unfortunately, Senate President John Cullerton, Speaker of the House Michael Madigan and other key legislators did not support these efforts.
So in June of this year, Catholic Charities of the dioceses of Springfield, Joliet and Peoria filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Sangamon County seeking clarification of the Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act regarding whether the new law would in fact protect the religious freedom of Catholic Charities to place children with foster parents in accord with our religious beliefs. Catholic Social Services of Southern Illinois in the Diocese of Belleville later joined as a co-plaintiff in this lawsuit.
After the suit was filed, Gov. Quinn and Attorney General Lisa Madigan, in collaboration with the American Civil Liberties Union and other special interest groups, directed that foster care contracts with our Catholic Charities and the Department of Children and Family Services not be renewed, based solely on our stated religious objections to placing children in homes of unmarried couples who cohabit. Circuit Court Judge Schmidt then refused to consider the substance of our lawsuit, namely, whether there was any real protection of religious freedom in the so-called Religious Freedom and Protection and Civil Union Act. Judge Schmidt denied our motion Sept. 26 to reconsider his ruling.
The state's relentless drive to push Catholic Charities out of foster care services is eerily reminiscent of Soviet-style repression of religion. It is still to be hoped that some branch of government — executive, legislative or judicial — will provide true religious freedom protection if the so-called Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act is to be anything more than an Orwellian farce.
I have purposely named names of the major protagonists in this case because I want you to pray for them and for their conversion of heart. I do not want you to hate them. Jesus said to love your enemies.
St. Thomas More wrote a very logical argument for treating enemies well: "Bear no malice or evil will to any man living. For either the man is good or wicked. If he is good and I hate him, then I am wicked. If he is wicked, either he will amend and die good and go to God, or live wickedly and die wickedly and go to the devil. And then let me remember that if he be saved, he will not fail (if I am saved too, as I trust to be) to love me very heartily, and I shall then in like manner love him. And why should I now, then, hate one for this while who shall hereafter love me forever, and why should I be now, then, an enemy to him with whom I shall in time be coupled in eternal friendship? And on the other side, if he will continue to be wicked and be damned, then is there such outrageous eternal sorrow before him that I may well think myself a deadly cruel wretch if I would not now rather pity his pain than malign his person."
May God give us this grace. Amen.