04 July 2023, The Tablet

Archbishop criticises ‘oppressive’ anti-Catholic attitudes

Archbishop criticises ‘oppressive’ anti-Catholic attitudes

A prominent archbishop has said the Church’s pro-life stance was the a US state attempted to introduce legislation which would have required priests to break the seal of confession in cases of child abuse.

Speaking at The Tablet webinar, “American politics and the Church”, Archbishop Christopher Coyne, who was Bishop of Burlington in Vermont but was appointed coadjutor to Hartford diocese in Connecticut in June, said there was an “oppressive anti Catholic attitude” within legislature in Vermont. 

Explaining how he had challenged the move, he said the Vermont proposal on the seal of confessional covered not just child sexual abuse but the much broader area of child abuse.

He argued that confession is part of worship in the Church and it is thus protected by First Amendment and the right to worship.

There were also efforts to discredit Catholic schools in the state and to remove certification recognising them as legitimate schools, he said.

“It was an effort to directly go after the Catholic Church as payback for the strong effort of the Church to be pro-life. There is such a pro-abortion community in the state.”

Elsewhere in the webinar Archbishop Coyne said Pope Francis is trying to promote “respectful listening” through synodality. 

Speaking about the polarisation of US politics and the impact on the Church, he said the majority of people were unaffiliated to either Republicans or Democrats and were just trying to be good citizens.

It would be better for the Church, according to Archbishop Coyne, to focus on the 51 per cent who are unaffiliated and not be identified with the fringe elements in the either of the two parties.

Cathleen Kaveney, a professor of law and theology at Boston College, warned that people in the middle-ground were not only disaffiliated but were pushed out because to be Democrat or Republican you had to meet “purity tests”.

“We have more heresy hunters paradoxically these days,” she said. “This threatens our democracy. Democracy doesn’t work if people don’t raise their questions.”

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