I came across a pastoral letter that was recently written by Bishop William Lori of the Diocese of Bridgeport
. The 16 page letter is entitled Let Freedom Ring
& was issued on 7 October 201, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
The letter takes an in depth look at the attacks on religious freedom that have been perpetrated by the state of Connecticut. But this is not just an ordinary letter complaining about what is going on there. Bishop Lori starts by taking on the myth of "separation of Church & State
". He talks about what the real concerns were that lead Jefferson to use that phrase. & the results that have sometimes followed "Thus originated a phrase which is sometimes used to marginalize or even exclude religion and religious values from the public square
." But what the Danbury Baptists really wanted was to be sure that religious freedom was not "merely an act of toleration on the part of the State and insisted rather that it is granted by the Creator
Then he goes on to look at the moral foundations of all law. He starts by pointing out the difference between liberty & license. He makes it clear that "the freedoms upon which our country was established are rooted in an in-built sense of moral responsibility. We are free not merely to do what we like but rather to do what we ought."
He goes on to talk about natural law. While he doesn't go into huge detail, he does give an an excellent explanation of what it is & how "religious faith, especially the moral teaching of the Church, helps to set in sharp relief what the natural law continually suggests to our consciences." He goes on to say "Unfortunately, the natural law tradition is not taught as frequently as in the past in universities and law schools." All too true.
He ends this section with a challenge. "While the natural law does not give detailed answers to social problems it does provide a sound framework for entering more vigorously into debates over cultural and legal challenges. We should familiarize ourselves with the natural law tradition so that we can more adequately grapple with the questions that confront us."
The next section looks at the attack on "what is taught by natural law and clarified by moral teaching" & how it "is deemed by at least some civic authorities as merely an outmoded construct." In other words, he takes on moral relativism. & what has been the fruit of this relativism? "Far from bringing about a just and tranquil society, moral relativism has led to division and rancor in our politics and chaos in the culture at large. It has also led to the imposition of the views of a few powerful people on the majority."
Setting this foundation he goes on to look at the proper role of the Church in the public sector. The part of this I found most interesting is the section where he talks about the Vatican II document on the "Declaration on Religious Liberty." I find it interesting because of how so many "Spirit of Vatican II" moonbats try to claim that religion shouldn't have a place at the table for public discussion of the issues. He says that nowhere does "the Vatican II Declaration endorses the notion that society should be free from religion or that religion should be marginalized as something irrational or dangerous. On the contrary, the Declaration on Religious Liberty affirms the natural right of individuals to be free from State coercion with regard to privately held religious convictions as well as the natural right to express those beliefs publicly."
"But we should also lay claim to our natural right to bring our religious convictions into the public square, to engage the culture in which we live, and to participate in debates and discussions which help to shape our character as a civic society. As George Washington said of religion, 'Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these pillars of human happiness'."
Then he talks about religion "plays an important public role in society in helping to protect the rights of conscience of the people over against the powers of the government."
"One of the ways the Church limits the reach of government into our lives is by amplifying the voice of individual consciences so that it can be heard and respected in the public square. Thus we join with fellow citizens and believers as a community of faith and reason both to make our voices heard and also to resist encroachments by the governmental power on our consciences." The Catholic Church is "an established pillar of society with an important public role."
Next he looks at the Church's "indispensable role in the formation of present and future generations of citizens." While government does have a role to play in the welfare of its citizens he telss us that "We should view with deep concern the increasing tendency of the State to play an over arching role in the day-to-day life of its citizens by attempting to limit the role of families, churches, and other community organizations in forming young people and providing social services." He gives a prime example in Connecticut's lack of a parental notification law when it comes to abortion. "A school nurse needs permission from a parent or guardian to provide an aspirin to a child, but that same child can procure an abortion without the knowledge or approval of anyone – parent, guardian, grandparent or adult sibling. Under current law minors can undergo an abortion at the hands of strangers without adequate information and without a system of support to deal with the aftermath of an abortion." He goes on to point out how these laws have worked to reduce the number of abortions. Remember that the next time you hear the abortion industry speak in opposition to those laws. It isn't about the child's right, it is about their loss of business.
He talks about the Church's role to support the family "in their obligation to oversee what is taught to their children in school and what values or counter-values are being impressed upon them." Catholic Schools must "serve as a counterbalance and as a competing voice to the secularity of government-led schools and programs." I can't speak for his diocese, but my experience is that this is more honored in the breach than being a counterbalance. Fortunately there are some religious orders that are providing teachers who will act as a counterbalance. Yes, I am thinking of a couple of groups of habit wearing Dominicans, but there are others as well. & in some dioceses the Bishop is working to get things back to this place.
He ends the section by pointing out the way Connecticut is acting towards control over even Catholic Colleges. I was shocked to read that, unlike Iowa, education majors, even at Catholic Colleges, cannot student teach at a private school. "State law currently tries to muffle the formative voice of Catholic and private schools in favor of a government-led monopoly on education."
These 1st 3 sections are an excellent teaching that could stand alone as a civics lesson for Catholics. Sadly, the fact that he even has to teach this lesson shows how poorly most people have been educated in this area.
But even sadder is the reason he has to lay down this foundation, what he deals with in the rest of the letter.
Section 4 goes on to look at specific attacks on religious freedom that are occuring in Connceticut. & while some of the topics are things happenning across the USA, some are specific to Connecticut. Those that are specific still have a lesson for the rest of us as similar things could & are happening in our states or on a national level. They may not be identical attacks, but they still are attacks. & this section serves as a reminder to us all that it could happen here. Take the situation about student teaching I pointed out earlier. There are plenty of people out there who would love to eliminate every private school, Catholic or not, as well as home schooling in order to have state control over education. They also want to keep parents completely out of the picture as well. In doing so, they then would enable groups like Planned Parenthood to push their agendas to reeducate children that I have pointed out many times before. & that is only 1 example.
Section 5 goes on to talk about what we as Catholics can do. What he shares there is applicable to all of us, not just the residents of his diocese. Not surprizingly, he rightly starts with a call to prayer. He reminds us of our Biblical based responsibility to pray for our political leaders, whether we voted for them or not.
Next he goes on to challenge the readers to know & live the Catholic faith. He writes "As Catholics we need to know what the Church actually believes and teaches." (emphasis mine) He goes on to add "Thus we need to know the teaching of the faith just as well as we know any other area of life we deem important – such as the knowledge and skill we bring to our professional life." Clearly that can only be done if we study the actual documents, like the Catechism or the writings of the Popes & the Compedium of Social Doctrine.
He explains why we need to be proficient in what the Church actually teaches. "If you are a committed Catholic, you will be asked about the Church and its teaching, even at cocktail parties and dinners or around the water cooler. At times, our defense of religious liberty and of the Church itself will take place in venues such as family discussions, as well as in your contacts with friends, acquaintances and co-workers. We should always be ready to respond with accuracy, faithfulness, hope, and love." Speaking from personal experience, I have found this very true.
But we also need to be aware of the political issues. He reminds us that "It is crucial for us to have a fully developed understanding of religious liberty not as freedom from religion but rather as freedom to practice one’s faith and to influence the culture around us. And that understanding should be coupled with vigilance."
He then challenges us to put our faith into action. In section C he talks about communicating with our legislators. Most states have a similar set up like the Connecticut Catholic Conference’s Legislative Network. I have often used the resources of the Iowa Catholic Conference
to communicate with those in the Iowa legislature as well as on the Federal level. In this day & age, with e-mail & the internet, speedily communicating about most issues is possible. &, as Bishop Lori points out, it does have an effect.
He goes on to remind us of the responsibility to vote & to vote for the right candidates. He is right to remind us the role of the Church isn't to be involved in partisan politics. "But the Church has every right to say where it stands on the issues of the day."
Finally, he reminds us of the need to be involved politically. He quotes Edmund Burke's famous line that "the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." As Catholics our involvement is important. By doing so "the possibility exists to recoup the moral consensus which is the necessary pre-condition for the healthy exercise of liberty." He ends by reminding us that we must be true to our convictions. "The political process itself suffers when candidates and elected officials abandon their convictions in favor of political expediency or proclaim themselves "personally opposed" to some great evil such as abortion, even while supporting it politically."
He ends by reminding people Connecticut had 1 of the 1st written constitutions.
While Bishop Lori wrote this as shepherd & chief teacher of his diocese there is much we can all take away from what he wrote. It would be wonderful if all the Bishops spoke up to remind us of the dangers we are facing & call us to action. Especially with the media & "Catholycs" who are anything but accurately presenting authentic Catholic Church teaching.* The words he spoke to his flock are applicible to every Catholic: "It is up to us to defend religious liberty." If we don't, then we will see happen exactly what Edmund Burke warned us would happen, the triumph of evil.
* I am thinking in particular about the media frenzy over what they call Papa Benedetto's justification of the use of condoms. The headlines blare "Pope: Condom Use Can be Justified in Some Cases". Half of the time, the stories are leaving the actual quote out. & where they do mention what he actually said, it is buried way down in the story. In fact all he is saying is that the use of condoms may be a 1st step towards a better morality. Nothing at all about justifying the use. In fact the Pope reminds us in the interview that the Catholic Church "does not regard it as a real or moral solution."
Of course the left has leapt on this & is using it to twist what he said into justifying continued homosexual activity.
But in a comment by Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans that I have only seen on 1 internet article & not in print, he points out that clearly the pope wasn't encouraging condom use.
"I think the pope has been very strong in saying condoms do not solve the problem of morality and do not solve the problem of good sex education. But if a person chooses not to follow the teaching of Christ in the church, they are at least obliged to prevent another person from contracting a disease that is deadly," he said.
& that is what I think the Pope means by a 1st step. It isn't continuing in immoral behavior but a 1st step away from it. The next step is to discontinue the immoral behavior completely. & that is something the left & esp the media doesn't want people to understand. They want it to sound like the Pope has unconditionally OKed the use of condoms by gays.
It will be interesting to read the entirety of what the Pope said when the book comes out & not the media's take from some quotes in L'Osservatore Romano that hasn't exactly been known lately to accurately present things either.
(5:40 am): I just came across the actual section of the book with the quote in context. You can read it here
. & the media has definitely twisted it to mean something entirely different than what he said.