The Manhattan Declaration

REPOSTED from 20 Nov:

Have you heard about the Manhattan Declaration?

Christians, when they have lived up to the highest ideals of their faith, have defended the weak and vulnerable and worked tirelessly to protect and strengthen vital institutions of civil society, beginning with the family.

We are Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians who have united at this hour to reaffirm fundamental truths about justice and the common good, and to call upon our fellow citizens, believers and non-believers alike, to join us in defending them. These truths are:

  1. the sanctity of human life
  2. the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife
  3. the rights of conscience and religious liberty.

Inasmuch as these truths are foundational to human dignity and the well-being of society, they are inviolable and non-negotiable. Because they are increasingly under assault from powerful forces in our culture, we are compelled today to speak out forcefully in their defense, and to commit ourselves to honoring them fully no matter what pressures are brought upon us and our institutions to abandon or compromise them. We make this commitment not as partisans of any political group but as followers of Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

There is a long article in First Things which goes into depth.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. markomalley says:

    Also see this Washington Times article:

    I am very pleasantly surprised to see which Catholic bishops signed the declaration. The Times article cited above points out the following:

    The first 148 signatures include Southern Baptists, Anglicans, the Orthodox Church of America (OCA), members of Reformed, evangelical, Hispanic Protestant, Church of God in Christ, Antiochian Orthodox and Evangelical Free Church traditions plus the executives of numerous parachurch ministries.

    There were only a handful of Presbyterians, United Methodists and Pentecostals, and no apparent signatories from Seventh-day Adventist, Messianic Jewish and Episcopal churches.

  2. Thomas G. says:

    markomalley – I didn’t see in the article you linked to a list of signatories. Did I miss it? The Declaration was authored by Robert P. George, the Catholic ethicist at Princeton (along with some other fellow) and signed by Archbishop Wuerl, but those were the only Catholic references that I noted in that article.

    If there were other Catholic Bishops that signed (and I’m sure there were), I find the paragraph you quote rather disconcerting – why is not the Catholic Church mentioned? Perhaps it’s just assumed?

  3. markomalley says:

    Thomas G,

    Take a look at the First Things article cited by Father in the article. A complete list of signatories is there.

  4. Mamma B says:

    Just try to avoid reading the comments to the First Things article, unless you’d like to drastically raise your blood pressure and/or shake your head in despair.

  5. revfro says:

    A study was done that found that conservative Christians agree strongly with one another that the most important issues are abortion and same sex marriages. Meanwhile progressive Christians do not agree on what the most important issues are. Evangelical have remarked that they admire the Catholic church for its leading role in combating abortion. I believe the most effective means of ecumenism is for the Catholic church to be a genuine moral compass on the leading conservative issues. In other words the Catholic church just needs to be catholic to effectively promote ecumenism.

    Only Bishops are allowed to engaged in ecumenism, but the rest of us can support their efforts by leading other Christians in more secular affairs like in political movements. If Catholics were credited with over throwing the abortion laws in this country I think it would do a great deal for ecumenism.

  6. wmeyer says:

    The list of original signers.

    First Things appears to have been too heavily visited, and you will now get only an error message: Bandwidth Limit Exceeded.

  7. markomalley says:

    I always knew this blog was popular, but I never knew how popular until today.

    The First Things web server is down … bandwidth limit exceeded. (11/21 @ 11:43 EST)

  8. JosephMary says:

    My archbishop has signed this and so have I. Cannot get into First Things though, it says the bandwith is too big?

  9. wmeyer says:

    The counter on signatures is ticking over nicely. Roughly one every 2-3 seconds. But let’s pass the word, we can surely do better!

  10. mpm says:

    Just to be clear for any new readers who wish to co-sign the Manhattan Declaration itself, THAT site is working fine and is above 6600 signatories.

    It is the First Things article Fr. Z is referring to which is getting the “bandwidth exceeded” message.

  11. Random Friar says:

    Too bad I can’t do a “font size+30” on my John Hancock on the online form.

  12. MikeM says:

    Here’s the list of bishop signers that I saw:

    Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Denver, CO
    Most Rev. Salvatore Joseph Cordileone Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland, CA
    Most Rev. Timothy Dolan Archbishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of New York, NY
    Most Rev. Joseph E. Kurtz Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville, KY
    His Eminence Adam Cardinal Maida Archbishop Emeritus, Roman Catholic Diocese of Detroit, MI
    Most Rev. Richard J. Malone Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland, ME
    Most Rev. John J. Myers Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, NJ
    Most Rev. Joseph F. Naumann Archbishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Kansas City, KS
    Most Rev. John Nienstedt Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, MN
    Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, AZ
    His Eminence Justin Cardinal Rigali Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, PA
    Most Rev. Michael J. Sheridan Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs, CO
    Most Rev. Donald W. Wuerl Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington, D.C.
    Most Rev. David A. Zubik Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, PA

    Did I miss anyone?

  13. Random Friar says:

    Time to start working on my “Thank you” notes to our signator bishops!

  14. Kristine says:

    Here is the link for those who want to co-sign the Declaration:

  15. Dr. Peter Kreeft also signed and George Weigel too.


  16. I would sign except for one paragraph:

    “Christians confess that God alone is Lord of the conscience. Immunity from religious coercion is the cornerstone of an unconstrained conscience. No one should be compelled to embrace any
    religion against his will, nor should persons of faith be forbidden to worship God according to the dictates of conscience or to express freely and publicly their deeply held religious convictions. What is true for individuals applies to religious communities as well.”

    While it is true that religious liberty is a correct principle if understood as prohibiting the coercion of someone to hold a faith that they do not hold interiorly, it is NOT correct to therefore say that “persons of faith” [that is, given the rest of the document, any Christian faith] should not be “forbidden to . . . express freely and publicly their deeply held religious convictions.”

    In a properly ordered Catholic society, it would be completely just to prohibit the public expressions of worship of those who do not hold the Catholic Faith. This is explicitly taught in a number of papal encyclicals. I cannot understand why this paragraph is so worded.

    Otherwise, I commend Dr. George for a fine job in writing this document. But, as one iota of the truth is worth our lives, I cannot sign.

  17. Al says:


    I don’t think you are practicing “Prudence” here. You want to argue and fight with your orthodox Christian brothers and sisters whilst the barbarians are at the gate. That is unwise to say the least.

    Let us consult J.R.R. Tolkien’s,(An Orthodox Catholic) “The Hobbit” for wisdom in spiritual warfare. Context: Then end of the book when the dwarves, humans and elves are going to do battle over the Dragon’s Gold. Gandalf, the Wizard and Prophet, appears in their midst…and exclaims,

    “Doom take you all! Behold, the Goblins have come down from the Mountains and Wargs are in their trail, whilst you squabble amongst brothers over shiny baubles!”

    Forest for the trees man….Forest for the trees.

  18. Dear Al,

    Thanks for the comment. However, I pray that I will never knowingly sign my name to anything that in any way contradicts the slightest tenet of the Catholic Faith. The barbarians are indeed at the gate, and so we come to meet them with the full armor of the faith, and never by diluting it in the slightest. I am fully willing to stand arm and arm with protestants, Jews, whoever else is willing to stand up against the decay of culture, but never to say that I support something that dilutes the faith. If we have faith in God, we know that no matter the outcome, all will be well as long as we defend the Catholic Faith. I recall not Gandalf but the good Sir Thomas More, who would not, for the sake of saving his head and perhaps his kingdom for the Catholic Faith, sign a document that admitted one thing that was false.

    Now that being said.. I think the point being made in the paragraph that I have a problem with is that Christians have a valid role in public life and debate, and they can’t be prohibited from exercising that right. As it’s written though, it’s very problematic.

    As I said, otherwise I find it to be a good document.

  19. CarpeNoctem says:

    While I understand your uneasiness, Faithfulrebel, a couple of points:

    I think the best lens to look at this is the lens of ‘moral theology’ rather than the tired debates on ‘religious freedom’… where there are problems. Religious Freedom, I think, needs to be focused on the subjective question of the state of an individual (and thus enters moral theology), rather than trying to make group-wide, macroscopic generalizations about religious bodies, groups, etc, which we have made the question out to be. That’s where discussions on “religious freedom” have gotten messy in recent years, tending towards incoherent expressions of the faith, it seems.

    The operant argument here is the primacy of obedience to conscience, to which Catholics would add or specify a “well-formed” conscience. The intellect can be darkened through no fault of its own, often taking years to develop into a sure inspiration to conversion to the one true faith. (Augustine, Newman, anyone?) One is obligated as a serious matter to follow the dictates of conscience to discern right and wrong as a natural gift from God, but one is also obligated to always be growing in intellect to a more-perfectly formed conscience aligned to the supernatural truths. This is the necessary wiggle-room where we must, in charity, have patience for those we have not been able to convert yet, because, afterall, conversion is in God’s time and by God’s grace through the instrumental means of the Church. This doesn’t at all mean we don’t evangelize… just that we do it with special prudence and careful discernment of God’s ongoing work in those warming up to the Church. (This makes it extra important that those who are evangelizing and converting are paying careful attention to the movement of God, rather than their own objectives which can sometimes be blinded by well-intentioned, but damaging or off-putting zeal.)

    Religious freedom in a pluralistic society allows one to choose, through an uncoerced conscience, from the free marketplace of religious ideals, free from the often-destructive influence of the state. As a Catholic, when all things are fair (although they never are), I know that we win in that marketplace. But even though imperfect, this marketplace allows that development which is necessary for all of us, even we who are attached to the visible unity of the Church. I smile when I think that it is a back-handed, but deep complement by the state when it bows to the God who created us in freedom-for freedom’s sake– that even the state (as crooked as it is) recognizes in the natural laws of human society, the freedom first granted by God to love him with heart, mind, soul, and strength as an act of human free will.

    In a properly-ordered Catholic society, obviously this would not be the case, as there would be no need of religious freedom. Of course, in a properly-ordered Catholic society, coersion to compel adherence to that faith would not be necesasry, either. Of course, there would be no darkness or sin in how people live together or write their laws… but then why would we need heaven when we had it already?

    The declaration calls for respect of the Christian gospel under that very same call to freedom in conscience– the very freedom which is under threat by our lawmakers who are threatening to force us all to live in conflict with iyr Christian consciences–in a society where our tax dollars and public policy supports abortion-on-demand, same-sex unions, and other crimes that pierce the human family. What makes the policy makers “throw a nutty” is that we as Catholics would dare to use the call to conscience in freedom for our own benefit… that we would dare turn the tables on them. Up to now, those who campaign for “choice” of “freedom of choice” tend to be those who are accepting of choice, only when it matches the ideals of their small little world.

  20. Serviam1 says:

    Normally, I am not very shy about witnessing to the Truth “In season and out of season”; however, after seeing and living with the harassment that originates from the left (those aligned with the homosexual movement in particular) in Massachusetts I must pause and consider what is prudent (for my family). I must admit I am a bit gun shy signing this for fear of genuine retribution. This can take the form of “death threats”, physical and psychological harm to self and family, vandalism to home and property, loss of livelihood, etc. In 2005, we attempted get a voter referendum on homosexual “marriage” put on the November 2005 ballot.

    The Massachusetts Coalition for Marriage & Family shattered a 20-year-old record for the most certified signatures ever gathered in support of a proposed ballot question. Then Secretary of State William F. Galvin certified 170,000 signatures from registered voters, nearly twice as many as the number required to get on the ballot. The Massachusetts Legislature promptly derailed process by ignoring and letting the clock run out on it, effectively ignoring 170,000 of their constituents. Harassment has followed…

    One example is the pro-gay marriage website,, which posted all 170,000 names of those who signed the petition, as well as their home addresses. The database is searchable by first name, last name, home town, and ZIP code. has also posted the signers’ political party affiliation and other data such as home sale prices.

    In a nutshell, this site is a tool used to harass those who backed the ballot question. Names and addresses have been posted since 2005.
    Nearly everyone I know including myself remains on this site. Perhaps it’s badge of honor, but don’t minimize what the opposition is capable of. In Massachusetts, I sometimes wonder if we’re still living in a Constitutional democracy.

  21. Thomas S says:

    Here’s a telling fact:

    On the list of Signatories, there is not a SINGLE “female cleric.” Female professors and such, but no clergy. Gives a little insight into the women’s ordination movement and what really propels the feminist heresy it comes from.

  22. Catholic Greta says:

    You have to pray for democrat bishops. They support a party that supports the holocaust of 50 million innocent babies, the attack on marriage, the attack on conscience clause, and the shredding of the economy for failed programs to gain power. Any bishop that does not sign this document clearly is making a statement.

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