Fortnight for Freedom – Day 10: Equal Rights to Religious Liberty

DAY 10: Equal Rights to Religious Liberty

Finally, government is to see to it that the equality of citizens before the law, which is itself an element of the common welfare, is never violated for religious reasons whether openly or covertly. Nor is there to be discrimination among citizens.

It follows that a wrong is done when government imposes upon its people, by force or fear or other means, the profession or repudiation of any religion, or when it hinders men from joining or leaving a religious body. All the more is it a violation of the will of God and of the sacred rights of the person and the family of nations, when force is brought to bear in any way in order to destroy or repress religion, either in the whole of mankind or in a particular country or in a specific community. Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 6 December 7, 1965

Reflection for Day Ten

Because all human beings possess equal dignity, value, and worth, the government is to ensure that this equality is maintained both for the good of the individual and for the good of society as a whole. This equality specifically should not be violated on religious grounds. Each religious body and the members of that body have equal rights to religious liberty. This equality demands that there be no discrimination based upon one’s religious beliefs.

The Council Fathers now stress that, based upon this equality among its citizens, no government is permitted to impose in any way “the profession or repudiation of any religion.” Such an imposition is a violation of the right to be true to one’s conscience. Because of the freedom of conscience, the government is also not permitted to deny a person the right to join or leave a religious body. The government has no right to stipulate what a person can or cannot believe.

If the above is true, then the Council states that it is all the more wrong when “force is brought to bear in any way in order to destroy or repress religion.” This not only applies to governments but also to religious bodies themselves. No religious body is permitted to harass or seek to eliminate another religious group.

Within our contemporary world, where is religious equality denied or religious discrimination tolerated? Are there instances where one religion violates the rights of other religions?

Let us pray:

Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty

O God our Creator,
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.

We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.

Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be “one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Available in PDF. To read the reflections for all the days of the Fortnight, you may find them here.

___

Day One’s Reflection and Introduction.
Day TwoDay ThreeDay FourDay FiveDay SixDay SevenDay Eight, Day Nine

For more on Fortnight to Freedom, visit the USCCB Website

 

The Sacred Heart and Religious Freedom

Traditionally in Catholic circles, the month of June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It seemed in my mind a calculated gesture to release the film For Greater Glory on June 1st. The film tells of the Cristero War of Mexico (1926-1929), and the Mexican people’s fight for religious freedom in an anti-clerical climate.

For Greater Glory struggles to explain the history of the conflict leading up to the Cristero War (how much of history can be told in a two-hour film?); how the loss of religious freedom was not done in one sweep with the ratification of the Calles Law of 1926. No, the Calles Law was only the last straw in a long, drawn-out oppression of the Church clerics written into the Mexican Constitution of 1917.

The people’s rebellion began peacefully, with non-violent protests and boycotts, and only escalated as the Mexican government under President Calles began to persecute clerics and the faithful more openly. The people rose up to fight for their religious liberty under the banner of Christ the King (Viva Cristo Rey – Long Live Christ the King).

But much before the Cristero War began, the people have been sharpened like swords fashioned in the hot flames by the oppression they have experienced. Today, here in the United States, where we enjoy and exercise our freedom to practice our faith openly is being challenged under the current President and his administration. You might be thinking, “Oh, Sister Lisa Marie, what we are experiencing is nothing on the scale of what happened in Mexico.” And, thankfully, your statement would be true.

However.

If we keep an attitude that what happened in Mexico can never happen here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, and continue to enjoy our freedoms and do nothing to preserve them, we will one day find our Catholic institutions – hospitals, schools and other charitable organizations – closing their doors. This will happen due to the regulations being put in place by means of the Health and Human Services mandate, which defines a religious institution in such narrow terms that Mother Teresa and her Sisters would not even be defined as a religious organization in their works of charity. And this, I fear, would only be the beginning.

Who will lose? First will be those who depend on these services. It is happening already with universities, in planning the new school year they are dropping their healthcare plans because of the mandate and the rising costs involved in meeting mandate criteria. Who will be next?

Those who benefit from Catholic Social Services – and other resources like it – will be the next hit. Catholic Social Services (go ahead and google it; they are found in almost all diocese in the United States, like this one in Sacramento, CA) employs not only Catholics, but people of other faiths too. Because of this, by definition of the HHS Healthcare Mandate, this large network of services for those in need would not qualify for religious exemption by the federal government (because they employ – and serve – people of other faiths). Strange isn’t it? The very quality that demonstrates her Christian principles works against the Church under the Obama administration.

The United States Catholic Bishops have been working to defend religious liberty and has sounded the warning to us all how the recent HHS Healthcare Mandate is a threat to not only our works of charity, but even more so to our ability to live out fully our faith. Our Bishops are proposing some ways in which we too might begin to defend our religious freedom:

  1. send your message to HHS and Congress telling them to uphold religious liberty and conscience rights;
  2. understand why conscience protection is so important;
  3. understand what the mandate includes;
  4. pray daily for the overturn of the HHS Healthcare Mandate; and
  5. participate in a Fortnight for Religious Freedom.

Other things to do:

  • Check with your diocese to see if it has other things planned. The Diocese of Sacramento will sponsor a Walk for Religious Freedom on the eve of Corpus Christi, a Eucharistic procession through the streets of Sacramento.
  • Pray for a positive outcome to the Fortnight for Religious Freedom activities taking place in dioceses across the country. Gerard Nadal is posting a Novena for the Fortnight on his blog for the next nine days to help in this preparation. Please consider praying it.
  • And please continue to pray for our Bishops.

We are called to walk with Christ. What better time to devote to this good work than in the month of June, dedicated to His Most Holy and Sacred Heart. In the picture above of the banner used during the Cristero War, it has a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with the words, “Viva Cristo Rey!” Christ is our King, who from the Cross, paved our way to freedom from sin.

Let us pray that we will be able to continue to openly worship and serve Him.

Viva Cristo Rey!

A Lesson from For Greater Glory

Was Mother Teresa’s Work “Catholic”?

This past week more than forty Catholic entities across the country have filed law suits against the Health and Human Services (the biggest religious lawsuit in American history, too!) in the defense to protect religious liberty. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of the Diocese of Washington D.C. went on the record yesterday to explain what the Church is fighting for:

Cardinal Wuerl uses the example of the work of Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity, that under the definition of the HHS Mandate would not be considered a Religious work. Why?

The HHS regulation exempts “religious” organizations only if they meet four criteria:

  1. their primary purpose is the inculcation of religious values,
  2. they primarily employ people who share their religious tenets,
  3. they primarily serve people who share their religious tenets, and
  4. it they are organized under the section of the Internal Revenue Code used by churches per se.

Under this narrow definition, the work of the Missionaries of Charity – and most Catholic institutions – would not qualify as religious, because Catholic charities have always provided their services to anyone – regardless of faith or lack of faith – that finds themselves in need. Catholic institutions employ many people of other faiths because of the skills they offer to assist the works of charities; not because they share in the same ‘religious tenets’.

Under such definition, it is true, Mother Teresa and her works of charity are not ‘religious’ at all, and would be forced to provide medicines and procedures (contraceptives and abortion-related procedures) that go against her religious beliefs. Her religious freedom to act according to conscience would indeed be suppressed. Either, she (now her Sisters in her name) would have to cease and desist from serving the dying who are not Catholic (which goes against her Christian principles of having loving concern for her neighbor), or provide the drugs and procedures that – by conscience according to her faith – she cannot provide. This would leave her with only one other option; to closer her doors to the poor altogether. If she defined her work in such a strict way, would she have picked up that first dying man on the streets?

This is the battleground folks. The line is being drawn in the sand to tell all that on this issue, we cannot back down.

Let us continue to pray for the Bishops and all people of good will who stand with them, to fight for religious liberty in this country, before it is lost altogether. God help us if we close our eyes and try to appease this government that wants to strip away the right to practice one’s faith freely. What we give in to today, will pave the road we will walk tomorrow. I pray that we will not have to go the route of Mexico in 1917:

UPDATE: The sleeping church is waking up? via Catholic Lane

Not Given a Chance

Working in parish ministries of catechesis, my Sisters and I often encounter laity who are walking (it seems) on a tightrope of faith, risking the fall into a waiting social climate that is unforgiving. Often, we are at the receiving end of the stories as we work to encourage others in their journey of faith, and many times find no words of consolation to give, but only to stand with them in their struggle or pain. Sr Jenny recently received a heartbreaking letter from “Francis”, who shares a recent experience of a friend, and a request for prayer (reprinted here with permission):

My friends, last night someone close to me who works in a labor and delivery unit informed me she had to dress and clean a dying survivor of an abortion. The patient was told by her doctors that her unborn child would have a low survival rate and took the doctor’s recommendation to abort her child. The child was then given a poison while in the womb and was expected to be a still born. However when the child was delivered the baby was found to be still alive but dying. My friend was then asked to take the now born dying baby to have the baby’s foot prints taken, cleaned, and dressed as his little heart grew weaker and the baby gasped for air. While the child was dying she was also told to prepare both a birth and death certificate. Finally once completed, she then proceeded to pray over the dying child as the baby’s soul departed this world.

First please pray for the poor soul that was murdered and left to die (after birth) last night. Please pray for my friend who is now traumatized from having to witness and be involved in this act last night. Please pray for the mother that she come to repent for her actions but also find consolation from the void she now has. Please pray for the doctors and medical staff that recommended and performed this mortal sin. Finally please pay for me as well so that my wife and I will have the strength to comfort our dear friend.

– – –

There are many unanswered questions that rise up in my mind, and make me realize how much work is yet to be done for the protection of the unborn.

Is it possible that hospitals are still performing abortions today? The letter suggests as much. Was the mother counselled as to other options? We don’t know. Did the mother experience trauma, when she learned her child was not dead but dying?  The baby was pretty far along for it to be a live birth after given lethal doses of ‘poison’ (perhaps saline injection, often used with babies more than 16 weeks old).   Would the baby have survived if allowed to grow a little more in her mother’s womb? The birth and death certificate. The child was left to die with no medical assistance, other than to be cleaned and foot-printed, perhaps held by the assistant until death took her.

Who is to blame? The doctor? The consenting mother? The assistant helping in delivery that day? A society that has lessened the life of this little soul for reasons we don’t know?

Let us pray for all those involved in this case of abortion, and for all the others affected each day by abortion in our country and in the world. May our Lord open hearts to the truth of this terrible sin against life, and give us courage to continue to win the fight in protecting these little ones.

This little soul wasn’t even given a chance, but was written off before she had wings to even try. Let us remind us of the miracle of life taking place in the womb, and pray for the day when a little girl will not be aborted and left to die.

How Did This All Begin?

Life. Science is helping us to understand and marvel at the intricacies of the unborn child as it develops in the safe harbor of the womb. Eyes are being opened to see the humanity of it, and desire to protect its well being.

Yet, the battle for life of the voiceless of our society continues.

Over at Live-Action News, Cassy Fiano describes a recent episode of Dr. Phil, looking at the desire of one mother, Annette Corriveau, who wants to end the life of her two disabled adult children (hat-tip, Andrew and Christina, blogging at Caffe con Leche).

Corriveau is not, of course, the first parent to think of ending the life of her child outside the womb. Cassy reminds us of the case of Robert Latimer, who took the life of his daughter by leaving her in the cab of his truck and let her die of carbon monoxide poisoning. She was 13 years old and had cerebral palsy.

What stuck me the hardest about the Dr Phil show, beyond how inconceivable it is that a parent would want to kill their child, was the reaction of the audience. When asked by Dr Phil if they agreed with Corriveau and her desire to kill her two children, the large majority of the audience raised their hands.

My first thought when I heard this story was, at what point do we draw the line? If the popular vote to kill two adults just because their mom decides they would be better off, who is safe? What is the measure of value of a person’s life? And who is capable of making that decision?

If our society makes it a regularity to agree with the viewpoint of Corriveau and the audience of Dr. Phil, let us not be surprised to find a growing language siding against Christian principles in the debate, such as:

(Let us not be led astray by the) exaggerated Christian compassion for the weak individual…Christian caritas or charity, and of the Church’s “commandment to attend to the incurably ill person and render him medical aid unto his death.”, instead of tending to the health of the group…“the ill-conceived ‘love of thy neighbor’ has to disappear …. It is the supreme duty of the … state to grant life and livelihood only to the healthy and hereditarily sound portion of the population…” (taken from Ramm, Ätztliche Standeskunde [24], p. 19, quoted from “The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide, pg. 32)

A thread of such thought has been present throughout the history of civilization, and at times grew without any check and balance. This lack of balance led to atrocities against humanity. The natural law has always provided the necessary balance. This balance is lost when life is measured as a commodity, valued only for what it gives back to society, when the innate understanding that killing another human being is suppressed. There is no longer a measure to the fair treatment of peoples. Where does it end?

Another question to ask is, How did this all begin? 

This is the very question asked during the Nuremberg trials by a convicted Nazi doctor. The American judge answered,

“When you first considered there were human beings not worth living.”

(Quote taken from Mercy Killing: History and Medicine, p. 470)

Other posts on this topic:

Here’s one written by Mark Pickup, from the perspective of disabled man.

Be sure to read the reply by Chelsea Zimmerman who blogs at Reflections of a Paralytic

And, a humbling reminder to us, that the choice of a loving parent is never an easy thing to do. Who has the answers?

This is a older column by Chelsea, but gets to the heart of this issue, questioning the value of human suffering.

How did We Get Here?

When walking in the woods, there is an amount of certainty when there is a worn path under our feet. That assurance lets us venture deeper into the wilderness with confidence we will arrive at our destination, so long as we stay on the path.

At first, we follow diligently, with healthy caution to guide us. But as we go along we find ourselves more at ease, and take a few steps off the path to inspect a little closer one thing or another. Our caution stays with us, prudently keeping the path in view, so not to lose our orientation.

With time though, we venture off a little bit more saying to ourselves, “oh, I can always return to the safety of the path and continue on my way when I want.”

But then, something goes wrong.

Without realizing it, we get a little too far away…

Click here to read the rest at Ignitum Today.

 

There Really are Dangers in not Reading the Bill!

As the healthcare debate heated up through the Summer and into late Winter, I remember my agony watching the size of the healthcare bill grow to the monstrous 2700 page bill that was signed into law in March. Many had warned of the dangers of not knowing what was in the bill, and I guess Congress may finally be catching on to that.

The New York Times reports that “the law may “remove members of Congress and Congressional staff” from their current coverage, in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program””. Uh oh. Does that mean that Congress, who probably “likes their healthcare plan, can cannot keep their healthcare plan” ?

Allapundit points out that that this not the first blunder of after-the-fact realizations that there were mistakes in the bill, but only another in a series of “Uh oh” moments (pre-existing conditions of children and college students on parents’ plans). And it probably won’t be the last.

This recent comedy of errors, of Congress voting themselves out of their own federal healthcare plan, has a very good lesson for all of us.

Haste makes waste. All of the intense rush to pass something in order to bring about an ‘historic moment’, has revealed an extreme lack of virtue in those sent to Washington to represent the American people. Congress demonstrated a lack of prudence – a willingness to do good in a good way – replacing it with impatience that drove them to do anything at any cost to pass an healthcare bill.

If they had practiced prudence, they would have been wary about consigning a sixth of the economy for a healthcare bill that they hadn’t even read.

If they had practiced prudence, they would have welcomed opposing views so that they could do something good for the American people – not to gain a memory in time.

If they had practiced prudence, they would have had the humility to admit that the bill wasn’t ready, and according to the will of their constituents, they would not have even considered bringing it to a vote.

If they had practiced prudence, they would have dug down, and looked at what was good in the long run, and with fortitude (perseverance) would have kept at it until it was done right.

If they had practiced prudence, they would have tempered their own desires and ideologies and not have allowed them to ride over the top of the voice of reason (common sense).

If they had practiced prudence, they would have looked to the natural law which tells us that God is our provider, not government. This is to exercise the most basic form of justice: respecting God’s role and respecting the liberties granted man through God’s providence. It is this kind of justice that our Constitution was built upon. What surprises me is that one does not need to be a Constitutional lawyer to know this: he has only to read our Declaration of Independence.

The above outlines only some of the examples of the problems along the road of healthcare ‘reform’ that should have been seen as warning signs that those who were pushing for the passage of the bill were misguided. Congressional and Executive leadership allowed their passions to rule their hearts. In the history of the world, this has proven to be the fall of kingdoms and empires. It is also the reason the Founding Fathers foresaw the need of a restricted government. They understood that man, although has great potential to be very virtuous is flawed, and that even the best of them can easily can be led by his carnal lusts (desires) if not held in check.

This has led us to where we are now. We are now on a path created in haste that jeopardizes our way of life, our economy, our status in the world as a champion of democracy and freedom, and for what?   For an historic moment in time – perhaps, God forbid, a moment when the greatest free-market economy in the world collapses. What a waste.