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

 

Even Napoleon understood Works of Charity are good for the State

There Peter was, chained, with two guards on either side of him. More guards were standing watch outside the gate. His crime? He was a part of a religious sect that followed the teachings of a man named Jesus, whom they profess had risen from the dead.

According to the laws of Rome, Peter’s crime was not so much he and the other believers held Jesus as a god – for Rome had many of them; but that the so-called ‘Christians’ would not pay tribute to Caesar as god. Rome saw itself as a mother that knew what was best for her children, including how and what would be considered proper worship.

It is good during these last few days of the Fortnight for Freedom to keep this thought in mind. What does it mean that we have – as the Bill of Rights points out at the top of the list – ‘free exercise of religion’? This says more than just a right to worship freely, but we are free to publicly exercise that which we profess.

Unfortunately, the United States government is trying to redefine that very freedom by stringently determining what groups are considered religious and which are not under the Health and Services (HHS) Mandate. The mandate’s definition of religious organizations is the basis for what organizations can declare exemption from a healthcare provision that employers must include abortificient and contraceptive ‘care’ in their healthcare plans.

To understand how grossly errant this policy is, let us compare it with an example from history.

In the years following the writing of the United States Declaration of Independence, on the other side of the Atlantic, Napoleon was conquering Italy. There is a little known story about his ‘governance’ that is well documented in our own religious institute’s history. By decree, Napoleon ordered the closing of all religious institutions in Italy, including those in the city of Verona, the home of our Foundress, Saint Magdalene of Canossa. She was still working out her plans to begin a new religious congregation that, much like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, focused on the welfare of the sick and dying, and education of the poor. But of course, she needed a place in which to carry out her works of charity and to house and prepare her followers for this work. Napoleon had made himself a guest of the Canossa palace, and Magdalene understood that she would need approvals from his government in order to obtain the abandoned convent of Saint Joseph for her works.

It is interesting to note, that despite the fact that Magdalene’s works of charity were clearly based on religious principles, Napoleon was able to appreciate them as a benefit for the society. Her request for the acquirement of the convent of Saint Joseph’s was approved for her works of charity, and thus, May 8, 1808 the Canossian Daughters of Charity – Servants of the Poor was born in an abandoned convent of Saint Joseph’s in Verona, Italy.

Napoleon, who obviously had no regard for religious (demonstrated by the decree of 1806, ousting religious from their convents), was able to recognize the good in a young woman’s works of charity, and grant her the approval to open a house to fulfill them. How is it that the United States government cannot see the harm of restricting religious from equally acting for the good of society through their works of charity, according to their good conscience?

Read the full story at:

And, join each day during the Fortnight for Freedom.

Fortnight for Freedom – Day Nine: Government a Guardian of Freedom

DAY 9: Government as a Guardian of Religious Freedom

The protection and promotion of the inviolable rights of man ranks among the essential duties of government. Therefore, government is to assume the safeguard of the religious freedom of all its citizens, in an effective manner, by just laws and by other appropriate means. Government is also to help create conditions favorable to the fostering of religious life, in order that the people may be truly enabled to exercise their religious rights and to fulfill their religious duties, and also in order that society itself may profit by the moral qualities of justice and peace which have their origin in men’s faithfulness to God and to His holy will. Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 6 December 7, 1965

Reflection for Day Nine

Once again, the Council Fathers turn to what they consider a very important issue. It is not simply that governments should not deny or impede the religious freedom of their citizens, it is also of the utmost importance that they positively, through just laws, be the guardians of religious freedom, so that no constituency—religious or secular—within society would seek to undermine the religious freedom of all. While few today would consider this, the next point that the Council Fathers make is also very significant. Governments should actually “help create conditions favorable to the fostering of religious life.” While governments do not control religions, they should recognize their value and so promote their well-being. This allows all religious bodies and their members to exercise their religious rights and “fulfill their religious duties.” The government’s fostering the religious life of its citizens not only benefits those citizens but also, the Council states, contributes to the good of society as a whole. It helps society grow in its understanding and implementation of what contributes to justice and peace. This justice and peace find their origin in God, who desires the good of all.

How do governments protect and promote the religious life of their citizens? Do governments take this into consideration today? In the U.S., how does the government foster religious life while respecting the principle of separation of church and state?

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 Seven, Day Eight

For more on Fortnight to Freedom, visit the USCCB Website

Fortnight for Freedom: Reflections on Religious Liberty

Religious groups in the United States have been questioning the wisdom of the Health and Human Services Mandate, that narrowly defines a religious organization to the extent that most Catholic service organizations (and many other religious groups) would not qualify for exemption from the mandate to include contraceptive and abortion services as part of their healthcare plans for their workers.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have made the case, the HHS Mandate is not a battle over healthcare (as it may seem on the service level), but is in truth, a redefining religious freedom in America; a redefinition which strips the human person of living according to their conscience.

For this reason, the US Bishops have proposed a Fortnight for Freedom, from June 21st to July 4th, reflecting on the right to religious liberty and our need to protect it for all peoples.

I will be posting the Bishops’ daily reflections on my blog, encouraging you to consider, what does it mean for us, as human beings, when we cannot act according to conscience? Where will it lead our society?

Let us Begin!

Day 1 – June 21st:

The Vatican Synod declares

that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that in matters religious no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs. Nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his own beliefs, whether privately or publically, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

The Synod further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person, as this dignity is known through the revealed Word of God and by reason itself. This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed. Thus it is to become a civil right. Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), no. 2 December 7, 1965

Reflection for Day One

In the opening chapter of Declaration on Religious Liberty, the Council Fathers at Vatican II forthrightly declared that “the human person has a right to religious freedom.” This right is founded upon the intrinsic dignity of the human person. From God’s revelation we know that the dignity of human beings resides in their being created in the image and likeness of God (Gn 1:27). Like God we are intelligent beings with free will. Because of this we can know the truth and perform God-like actions, such as being loving, kind, forgiving, etc. Reason itself, in knowing what a human being is, confirms that we possess a dignity and worth that exceeds the rest of creation and that cannot be violated, but rather needs to be protected and fostered.

What human beings believe concerning God is of supreme importance. Religious belief lies at the very center of who we are in relation to what is most central and cherished in our lives. Therefore, the Council insists that the religious convictions of individuals or groups should never be coerced but must be held freely, protected by a civil constitutional right.

What challenges to religious liberty do you see within our contemporary world? When the Council says that religious liberty must be upheld “within due limits,” what would fall outside of “due limits”? What religious belief would seriously offend the moral order or a just law?

Available in PDF.

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.

More on Fortnight for Freedom:

Catholic Bishops launch “Fortnight for Freedom” protest over HHS contraception mandate << Hotair

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

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.