Today’s topics: Religious Liberty and the Fortnight for Freedom
Summary of today’s show: Cardinal Seán O’Malley marked the 2013 Fortnight for Freedom today with a special Mass at the Bethany Chapel of the Pastoral Center in Braintree. Scot Landry, Michael Lavigne, and Dom Bettinelli analyze and expand on the Cardinal’s homily in which he noted that there is a difference between religious freedom and “freedom of worship”, that Catholics need to be able to have their voices heard on matters that affect society; and the Church at times must be the prophetic voice of the child who points out that the Emperor has no clothes.
Then Scot and Michael discuss today’s Supreme Court decisions that struck down key provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and returned California’s Proposition 8 to lower courts, handing a defeat to those defending the traditional definition of marriage.
Listen to the show:
Today’s host(s): Scot Landry
Today’s guest(s): Michael Lavigne
Links from today’s show:
- Video of Cardinal Seán’s homily at the Mass for the Fortnight on Jun 26, 13
- US Bishops’ Fortnight for Freedom webpage
Cardinal Seán’s homily
Good afternoon, everyone. It’s wonderful to be with you today as we join with our brothers and sisters in the faith, Catholics throughout the country, who at this time are observing the Fortnight for Freedom, which was called for by the US Catholic Bishops Conference.
Our rights, as President Kennedy said in his inaugural address, do not come to us from the government, but come to us “from the hand of God.” That is our very clear conviction.
Last year, the Bishops Conference established this Fortnight for Freedom, a period that begins with the vigil of the feast of the martyrs St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More on June 21 and extends two weeks, to the 4th of July, which of course is the anniversary of our American Revolution and the birth of our country.
Last year, we had many wonderful programs for the Fortnight, including the Forum on CatholicTV to discuss various aspects of religious freedom in our country. As Catholics, we love our country and see no conflict between being good Catholics and good citizens.
The United States was founded on principles of religious freedom. The Pilgrims migrated to New England seeking freedom for their faith. Catholics went to Maryland. Quakers traveled to Pennsylvania. All came here because of religious persecution in Europe. The 1st Amendment protects this precious right of the freedom of religion.
In today’s world, there are many threats against religious freedom. Thousands of Catholics in the last year have lost their lives, others have been displaced from their homeland, and still others have been imprisoned and tortured. We want to keep them present in our prayers and express solidarity with them throughout the world.
Obviously, our challenges in the US are on a different scale but at the same time, these challenges can truly hinder our ability to practice our faith. In our secular climate, it is worrisome that there is tendency to try to reduce religious freedom to “freedom of worship.” Freedom of Religion means so much more than just the ability to keep our churches open. It means freedom to be able to live a way of life, to have religious institutions that allow us to be Catholic and to be a religious people. For those religious institutions to exist, they need a certain amount of space.
In the past, there were strong conscience rights that most everyone took for granted. We are a pluralistic society. What allowed people of so many different faiths, or of no faith, to work well together was the very profound respect that our country has always had for conscience rights. It is something that has been eroded and is of great concern to us.
The government wants to define what organizations are religious and which merit protections and exemptions. The Church has a problem with that, because we see Catholic institutions as not just churches, but also schools, hospitals, clinics, charities and so many other institutions that are there not just to serve Catholics but to serve anyone regardless of their religious background, even those with no religious affiliation at all.
In the face of the challenges to religious freedom, Catholics need to make their voices heard. In the present controversy over the HHS Mandate for the new Affordable Care Act health care law, the Church is seeking relief from the particular regulations that we believe violate the tenets of religious freedom. The government, a few months ago, asked for comments from the public on the Mandate. It was very consoling that almost a half million people wrote in. The government has never had that kind of response to proposed regulations. We are hoping that those recommendations and the Church’s urging, and the urging of other Churches will receive a hearing from the government. We need Catholics and other people of faith to stand together so as to be able to defend our religious freedom.
A very important part of advancing religious freedom is to know our own faith well. We are in this Year of Faith. From the beginning, I’ve said that there are two aspects of this Year of Faith. One of them is the need for Catholics to understand the teachings of the Church. Second, we want to be able to understand them in such a way that we can share how the different Catholic doctrines are very reasonable and they all are interrelated and part of a whole.
I remember when Pope John Paul II, on his very first missionary trip as our Holy Father, went to Mexico. I was privileged to be at the Mass he celebrated at Puebla. There he challenged all of us in the Church to be teachers of the faith. He said we have to teach the faith about who Christ is, to teach the faith about what the Church is (as the Body of Christ), and to teach the faith about what the human person is. Historically, the Church’s teachings on the Trinity, the divinity of Christ, the Eucharist, the sacredness of Holy Orders, the sacraments were what caused people to attack the Church. In today’s world, we are attacked less for those issues. Most of the attacks today are due to our teachings on the dignity of the human person, who has their origin and destiny in God, who is made in the image and likeness of God, and whose life is precious – all of our teachings of the Gospel of Life and the sacredness of Marriage. It’s very important for us to understand the Church’s teachings, which can often be parodied in the secular media sometimes and treated unsympathetically.
We need to trust in God. Today’s 1st reading today is the story of Abraham, who is called our father in faith. God promised Abraham would be the father of a great nation and that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars. Abraham and his wife Sarah were very old and they had no children. Abraham obviously was wondering how this was going to happen. God challenged Abraham to have faith and Abraham had faith. Isaac, the son of the promise was born, and of course Abraham and Sarah were so pleased. God then tests Abraham’s faith some more, and tells him to go and sacrifice that son – the son of the promise, the one who was going to be the father of this nation. But Abraham trusted in God, and his faith was rewarded.
Our faith must lead us to trust in the Lord, to have an understanding of what the Gospel demands of discipleship are, to embrace them in our lives, and then to be witnesses to them. Part of our task as Jesus’ followers is to make the Kingdom more present and to invite people to a life of discipleship. We do that, certainly, by the example of our life. Pope Francis has touched such a chord with so many people throughout the world by stressing the social gospel of the Church, and the Church’s devotion to the poor and our strong commitment to social justice. Those lived teachings are a very important part of our witness about the dignity of the human person. Those teachings on human dignity must be witnessed in the way we show our concern for the poor, for the sick, for the disenfranchised, and for the persecuted.
Part of the Mission of the Church is to be prophetic and to announce the challenging truths of the Gospel. All of us know the wonderful story we heard as children about the King’s new clothes. The story is about a King who would go through his capital city annually and the people would praise him for his sartorial splendor and for his fantastic clothes. But one day, a wicked tailor went to the King and told him he would make for him a magical suit of clothes and that it would cost an enormous amount of money. The King was excited, so he put on this magical suit of clothes and begins to walk through the streets to receive the homage and veneration of his people. Everyone is shouting and applauding the beautiful garment that the King is wearing. However, one little child says “but, Mommy, the King has no clothes!”
Sometimes, the Church’s role must be like that. Everyone else will be shouting that the King’s clothes are very beautiful but the Church needs to have that prophetic voice, which sometimes will cause people to become upset with us. We must believe that the Truth will make us free. Unfortunately, many people in today’s world see the Truth as somehow evil, something that imposes on us, so they deny that there can be any Truth. But Jesus says, “come.” He is the “Way, the Truth and the Life.” He teaches us that the Truth does make us free.
As Catholics we must seek that Truth and search for ways to share it with all those in our lives, even those that disagree with us.
Our attitude as Catholics is one of gratitude for the liberty and the freedom that we enjoy in America – at the same time we want to be vigilant in protecting religious freedom that allows us to lead lives of faithful discipleship.Also, let us work with others throughout the world to make this planet to be safer for believers, particularly in those places in the world where our brothers and sisters are suffering egregiously for their fidelity to the Gospel.