Tag Archives: freedom of religion

Catholic Media Coalition Joins Bishops To Defend Religious Freedom Against the HHS Mandate

The Catholic Media Coalition praised the Catholic bishops of the United States today for their unanimous call to defend the First Amendment freedom of religion guaranteed to religious institutions and people of faith. The Obama administration’s mandate requiring religious institutions to provide contraception including abortifacients and requiring  individuals to participate in health plans covering these moral evils is a direct assault on the First Amendment freedom of religion and the free exercise clause.

Mary Ann Kreitzer, President, CMC president, said, “We join with our bishops in opposing the administration’s unprecedented assault on religious rights and freedom of conscience. The HHS mandate does not just impact Catholics, but every religious institution and individual who acts from deeply-held faith-based beliefs. Many of our forefathers fled the old world because of religious persecution. They established a new world where the right to worship God was respected and protected as an unalienable right. The Founders of this nation would be appalled at the abject tyranny of the Obama administration. As faithful laity, we stand in solidarity with our bishops and demand an end to the HHS mandate. There is no compromise that can make it acceptable to Catholics.”

Among the statements of the bishops applauded were the many letters read in dioceses throughout the country calling on the Catholic faithful to oppose the mandate and particularly the letter to the U.S. Bishops from USCCB head, Cardinal Timothy Dolan:

This is not just about contraception, abortion-causing drugs, and sterilization—although all should recognize the injustices involved in making them part of a universal mandated health care program. It is not about Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals. It is about people of faith. This is first and foremost a matter of religious liberty for all. If the government can, for example, tell Catholics that they cannot be in the insurance business today without violating their religious convictions, where does it end? This violates the constitutional limits on our government, and the basic rights upon which our country was founded.

CMC joins Cardinal Dolan in affirming that the issue is not simply contraception or abortion, but “religious liberty for all.” We call on all Catholics to stand in solidarity with our spiritual shepherds to protect the rights of people of conscience.

Truth — The most compelling and dangerous heretic of the world’s new order

 

Living Within the Truth

Religious liberty and Catholic mission in the new order of the world.
Spisske Podhradie, Slovakia, August 24, 2010

by Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Denver

Tertullian once famously said that the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church. History has proven that to be true. And Slovakia is the perfect place for us to revisit his words today. Here, and throughout central and eastern Europe, Catholics suffered through 50 years of Nazi and Soviet murder regimes. So they know the real cost of Christian witness from bitter experience – and also, unfortunately, the cost of cowardice, collaboration and self-delusion in the face of evil.

I want to begin by suggesting that many Catholics in the United States and Western Europe today simply don’t understand those costs. Nor do they seem to care. As a result, many are indifferent to the process in our countries that social scientists like to call “secularization” – but which, in practice, involves repudiating the Christian roots and soul of our civilization.

American Catholics have no experience of the systematic repression so familiar to your Churches. It’s true that anti-Catholic prejudice has always played a role in American life. This bigotry came first from my country’s dominant Protestant culture, and now from its “post-Christian” leadership classes. But this is quite different from deliberate persecution. In general, Catholics have thrived in the United States. The reason is simple. America has always had a broadly Christian and religion-friendly moral foundation, and our public institutions were established as non-sectarian, not anti-religious.

At the heart of the American experience is an instinctive “biblical realism.” From our Protestant inheritance we have always – at least until now – understood that sin is real, and men and women can be corrupted by power and prosperity.  Americans have often been tempted to see our nation as uniquely destined, or specially anointed by God. But in the habits of daily life, we have always known that the “city of God” is something very distinct from the “city of man.” And we are wary of confusing the two.

Alexis de Tocqueville, in his Democracy in America, wrote: “Despotism can do without faith, but liberty cannot.” Therefore, “What is to be done with a people that is its own master, if it is not obedient to God?”

America’s founders were a diverse group of practicing Christians and Enlightenment deists. But nearly all were friendly to religious faith. They believed a free people cannot remain free without religious faith and the virtues that it fosters. They sought to keep Church and state separate and autonomous. But their motives were very different from the revolutionary agenda in Europe. The American founders did not confuse the state with civil society. They had no desire for a radically secularized public life. They had no intent to lock religion away from public affairs. On the contrary, they wanted to guarantee citizens the freedom to live their faith publicly and vigorously, and to bring their religious convictions to bear on the building of a just society.

Obviously, we need to remember that other big differences do exist between the American and European experiences. Europe has suffered some of the worst wars and violent regimes in human history. The United States has not seen a war on its soil in 150 years. Americans have no experience of bombed-out cities or social collapse, and little experience of poverty, ideological politics or hunger. As a result, the past has left many Europeans with a worldliness and a pessimism that seem very different from the optimism that marks American society. But these and other differences don’t change the fact that our paths into the future are now converging. Today, in an era of global interconnection, the challenges that confront Catholics in America are much the same as in Europe: We face an aggressively secular political vision and a consumerist economic model that result – in practice, if not in explicit intent – in a new kind of state-encouraged atheism.

To put it another way: The Enlightenment-derived worldview that gave rise to the great murder ideologies of the last century remains very much alive. Its language is softer, its intentions seem kinder, and its face is friendlier. But its underlying impulse hasn’t changed – i.e., the dream of building a society apart from God; a world where men and women might live wholly sufficient unto themselves, satisfying their needs and desires through their own ingenuity.

This vision presumes a frankly “post-Christian” world ruled by rationality, technology and good social engineering. Religion has a place in this worldview, but only as an individual lifestyle accessory. People are free to worship and believe whatever they want, so long as they keep their beliefs to themselves and do not presume to intrude their religious idiosyncrasies on the workings of government, the economy, or culture.

Now, at first hearing, this might sound like a reasonable way to organize a modern society that includes a wide range of ethnic, religious and cultural traditions, different philosophies of life and approaches to living.

*

But we’re immediately struck by two unpleasant details.

First, “freedom of worship” is not at all the same thing as “freedom of religion.” Religious freedom includes the right to preach, teach, assemble, organize, and to engage society and its issues publicly, both as individuals and joined together as communities of faith. This is the classic understanding of a citizen’s right to the “free exercise” of his or her religion in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It’s also clearly implied in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In contrast, freedom of worship is a much smaller and more restrictive idea.

Second, how does the rhetoric of enlightened, secular tolerance square with the actual experience of faithful Catholics in Europe and North America in recent years?

In the United States, a nation that is still 80 percent Christian with a high degree of religious practice, government agencies now increasingly seek to dictate how Church ministries should operate, and to force them into practices that would destroy their Catholic identity. Efforts have been made to discourage or criminalize the expression of certain Catholic beliefs as “hate speech.” Our courts and legislatures now routinely take actions that undermine marriage and family life, and seek to scrub our public life of Christian symbolism and signs of influence.

In Europe, we see similar trends, although marked by a more open contempt for Christianity. Church leaders have been reviled in the media and even in the courts for simply expressing Catholic teaching. Some years ago, as many of you may recall, one of the leading Catholic politicians of our generation, Rocco Buttiglione, was denied a leadership post in the European Union because of his Catholic beliefs.

Earlier this summer we witnessed the kind of vindictive thuggery not seen on this continent since the days of Nazi and Soviet police methods: the Archbishop’s palace in Brussels raided by agents; bishops detained and interrogated for nine hours without due process; their private computers, cell phones, and files seized. Even the graves of the Church’s dead were violated in the raid. For most Americans, this sort of calculated, public humiliation of religious leaders would be an outrage and an abuse of state power. And this is not because of the virtues or the sins of any specific religious leaders involved, since we all have a duty to obey just laws. Rather, it’s an outrage because the civil authority, by its harshness, shows contempt for the beliefs and the believers whom the leaders represent.

My point is this: These are not the actions of governments that see the Catholic Church as a valued partner in their plans for the 21st century. Quite the opposite. These events suggest an emerging, systematic discrimination against the Church that now seems inevitable.

Today’s secularizers have learned from the past. They are more adroit in their bigotry; more elegant in their public relations; more intelligent in their work to exclude the Church and individual believers from influencing the moral life of society. Over the next several decades, Christianity will become a faith that can speak in the public square less and less freely. A society where faith is prevented from vigorous public expression is a society that has fashioned the state into an idol. And when the state becomes an idol, men and women become the sacrificial offering.

Cardinal Henri de Lubac once wrote that “It is not true … that man cannot organize the world without God. What is true, is that without God, [man] can ultimately only organize it against man. Exclusive humanism is inhuman humanism.”

The West is now steadily moving in the direction of that new “inhuman humanism.” And if the Church is to respond faithfully, we need to draw upon the lessons that your Churches learned under totalitarianism.

A Catholicism of resistance must be based on trust in Christ’s words: “The truth will make you free” (John 8:32). This trust gave you insight into the nature of totalitarian regimes. It helped you articulate new ways of discipleship. Rereading the words of the Czech leader Václav Havel to prepare for this talk, I was struck by the profound Christian humanism of his idea of “living within the truth.”  Catholics today need to see their discipleship and mission as precisely that: “living within the truth.”

Living within the truth means living according to Jesus Christ and God’s Word in Sacred Scripture. It means proclaiming the truth of the Christian Gospel, not only by our words but by our example. It means living every day and every moment from the unshakeable conviction that God lives, and that his love is the motive force of human history and the engine of every authentic human life. It means believing that the truths of the Creed are worth suffering and dying for.

Living within the truth also means telling the truth and calling things by their right names. And that means exposing the lies by which some men try to force others to live.

*

Two of the biggest lies in the world today are these: first, that Christianity was of relatively minor importance in the development of the West; and second, that Western values and institutions can be sustained without a grounding in Christian moral principles.

Before I talk about these two falsehoods, we should pause a moment to think about the meaning of history.

History is not simply about learning facts. History is a form of memory, and memory is a foundation stone of self-identity. Facts are useless without a context of meaning. The unique genius and meaning of Western civilization cannot be understood without the 20 centuries of Christian context in which they developed.  A people who do not know their history, do not know themselves. They are a people doomed to repeat the mistakes of their past because they cannot see what the present – which always flowers out of the past – requires of them.

People who forget who they are can be much more easily manipulated. This was dramatized famously in Orwell’s image of the “memory hole” in his novel 1984. Today, the history of the Church and the legacy of Western Christianity are being pushed down the memory hole. This is the first lie that we need to face.

Downplaying the West’s Christian past is sometimes done with the best intentions, from a desire to promote peaceful co-existence in a pluralistic society. But more frequently it’s done to marginalize Christians and to neutralize the Church’s public witness.

The Church needs to name and fight this lie. To be a European or an American is to be heir to a profound Christian synthesis of Greek philosophy and art, Roman law, and biblical truth. This synthesis gave rise to the Christian humanism that undergirds all of Western civilization.

On this point, we might remember the German Lutheran scholar and pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He wrote these words in the months leading up to his arrest by the Gestapo in 1943: “The unity of the West is not an idea but a historical reality, of which the sole foundation is Christ.”

Our societies in the West are Christian by birth, and their survival depends on the endurance of Christian values. Our core principles and political institutions are based, in large measure, on the morality of the Gospel and the Christian vision of man and government. We are talking here not only about Christian theology or religious ideas. We are talking about the moorings of our societies – representative government and the separation of powers; freedom of religion and conscience; and most importantly, the dignity of the human person.

This truth about the essential unity of the West has a corollary, as Bonhoeffer also observed: Take away Christ and you remove the only reliable foundation for our values, institutions and way of life.

That means we cannot dispense with our history out of some superficial concern over offending our non-Christian neighbors. Notwithstanding the chatter of the “new atheists,” there is no risk that Christianity will ever be forced upon people anywhere in the West. The only “confessional states” in the world today are those ruled by Islamist or atheist dictatorships – regimes that have rejected the Christian West’s belief in individual rights and the balance of powers.

I would argue that the defense of Western ideals is the only protection that we and our neighbors have against a descent into new forms of repression – whether it might be at the hands of extremist Islam or secularist technocrats.

But indifference to our Christian past contributes to indifference about defending our values and institutions in the present. And this brings me to the second big lie by which we live today – the lie that there is no unchanging truth.

Relativism is now the civil religion and public philosophy of the West. Again, the arguments made for this viewpoint can seem persuasive. Given the pluralism of the modern world, it might seem to make sense that society should want to affirm that no one individual or group has a monopoly on truth; that what one person considers to be good and desirable another may not; and that all cultures and religions should be respected as equally valid.

In practice, however, we see that without a belief in fixed moral principles and transcendent truths, our political institutions and language become instruments in the service of a new barbarism. In the name of tolerance we come to tolerate the cruelest intolerance; respect for other cultures comes to dictate disparagement of our own; the teaching of “live and let live” justifies the strong living at the expense of the weak.

*

This diagnosis helps us understand one of the foundational injustices in the West today – the crime of abortion.

I realize that the abortion license is a matter of current law in almost every nation in the West. In some cases, this license reflects the will of the majority and is enforced through legal and democratic means. And I’m aware that many people, even in the Church, find it strange that we Catholics in America still make the sanctity of unborn life so central to our public witness.

Let me tell you why I believe abortion is the crucial issue of our age.

First, because abortion, too, is about living within the truth. The right to life is the foundation of every other human right. If that right is not inviolate, then no right can be guaranteed.

Or to put it more bluntly: Homicide is homicide, no matter how small the victim.

Here’s another truth that many persons in the Church have not yet fully reckoned: The defense of newborn and preborn life has been a central element of Catholic identity since the Apostolic Age.

I’ll say that again: From the earliest days of the Church, to be Catholic has meant refusing in any way to participate in the crime of abortion – either by seeking an abortion, performing one, or making this crime possible through actions or inactions in the political or judicial realm. More than that, being Catholic has meant crying out against all that offends the sanctity and dignity of life as it has been revealed by Jesus Christ.

The evidence can be found in the earliest documents of Church history. In our day – when the sanctity of life is threatened not only by abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, but also by embryonic research and eugenic temptations to eliminate the weak, the disabled and the infirm elderly – this aspect of Catholic identity becomes even more vital to our discipleship.

My point in mentioning abortion is this: Its widespread acceptance in the West shows us that without a grounding in God or a higher truth, our democratic institutions can very easily become weapons against our own human dignity.

Our most cherished values cannot be defended by reason alone, or simply for their own sake. They have no self-sustaining or “internal” justification.

There is no inherently logical or utilitarian reason why society should respect the rights of the human person. There is even less reason for recognizing the rights of those whose lives impose burdens on others, as is the case with the child in the womb, the terminally ill, or the physically or mentally disabled.

If human rights do not come from God, then they devolve to the arbitrary conventions of men and women. The state exists to defend the rights of man and to promote his flourishing. The state can never be the source of those rights. When the state arrogates to itself that power, even a democracy can become totalitarian.

What is legalized abortion but a form of intimate violence that clothes itself in democracy? The will to power of the strong is given the force of law to kill the weak.

*

That is where we are heading in the West today. And we’ve been there before. Slovaks and many other central and eastern Europeans have lived through it.

I suggested earlier that the Church’s religious liberty is under assault today in ways not seen since the Nazi and Communist eras. I believe we are now in the position to better understand why.

Writing in the 1960s, Richard Weaver, an American scholar and social philosopher, said: “I am absolutely convinced that relativism must eventually lead to a regime of force.”

He was right. There is a kind of “inner logic” that leads relativism to repression.
This explains the paradox of how Western societies can preach tolerance and diversity while aggressively undermining and penalizing Catholic life. The dogma of tolerance cannot tolerate the Church’s belief that some ideas and behaviors should not be tolerated because they dehumanize us. The dogma that all truths are relative cannot allow the thought that some truths might not be.

The Catholic beliefs that most deeply irritate the orthodoxies of the West are those concerning abortion, sexuality and the marriage of man and woman. This is no accident. These Christian beliefs express the truth about human fertility, meaning and destiny.

These truths are subversive in a world that would have us believe that God is not necessary and that human life has no inherent nature or purpose. Thus the Church must be punished because, despite all the sins and weaknesses of her people, she is still the bride of Jesus Christ; still a source of beauty, meaning and hope that refuses to die – and still the most compelling and dangerous heretic of the world’s new order.

*

Let me sum up what I’ve been saying.

My first point is this: Ideas have consequences. And bad ideas have bad consequences. Today we are living in a world that is under the sway of some very destructive ideas, the worst being that men and women can live as if God does not matter and as if the Son of God never walked this earth. As a result of these bad ideas, the Church’s freedom to exercise her mission is under attack. We need to understand why that is, and we need to do something about it.

My second point is simply this: We can no longer afford to treat the debate over secularization – which really means cauterizing Christianity out of our cultural memory – as if it’s a problem for Church professionals. The emergence of a “new Europe” and a “next America” rooted in something other than the real facts of our Christian-shaped history will have damaging consequences for every serious believer.

We need not and should not abandon the hard work of honest dialogue. Far from it. The Church always needs to seek friendships, areas of agreement, and ways to make positive, reasoned arguments in the public square. But it’s foolish to expect gratitude or even respect from our governing and cultural leadership classes today. Naïve imprudence is not an evangelical virtue.

The temptation in every age of the Church is to try to get along with Caesar. And it’s very true: Scripture tells us to respect and pray for our leaders. We need to have a healthy love for the countries we call home. But we can never render unto Caesar what belongs to God. We need to obey God first; the obligations of political authority always come second. We cannot collaborate with evil without gradually becoming evil ourselves. This is one of the most vividly harsh lessons of the 20th century. And it’s a lesson that I hope we have learned.

That brings me to my third and final point today: We live in a time when the Church is called to be a believing community of resistance. We need to call things by their true names. We need to fight the evils we see. And most importantly, we must not delude ourselves into thinking that by going along with the voices of secularism and de-Christianization we can somehow mitigate or change things. Only the Truth can set men free. We need to be apostles of Jesus Christ and the Truth he incarnates.

So what does this mean for us as individual disciples? Let me offer a few suggestions by way of a conclusion.

My first suggestion comes again from the great witness against the paganism of the Third Reich, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “The renewal of the Western world lies solely in the divine renewal of the Church, which leads her to the fellowship of the risen and living Jesus Christ.”

The world urgently needs a re-awakening of the Church in our actions and in our public and private witness. The world needs each of us to come to a deeper experience of our Risen Lord in the company of our fellow believers. The renewal of the West depends overwhelmingly on our faithfulness to Jesus Christ and his Church.

We need to really believe what we say we believe. Then we need to prove it by the witness of our lives. We need to be so convinced of the truths of the Creed that we are on fire to live by these truths, to love by these truths, and to defend these truths, even to the point of our own discomfort and suffering.

We are ambassadors of the living God to a world that is on the verge of forgetting him. Our work is to make God real; to be the face of his love; to propose once more to the men and women of our day, the dialogue of salvation.

The lesson of the 20th century is that there is no cheap grace. This God whom we believe in, this God who loved the world so much that he sent his only Son to suffer and die for it, demands that we live the same bold, sacrificial pattern of life shown to us by Jesus Christ.

The form of the Church, and the form of every Christian life, is the form of the cross. Our lives must become a liturgy, a self-offering that embodies the love of God and the renewal of the world.

The great Slovak martyrs of the past knew this. And they kept this truth alive when the bitter weight of hatred and totalitarianism pressed upon your people. I’m thinking especially right now of your heroic bishops, Blessed Vasil Hopko and Pavel Gojdic, and the heroic sister, Blessed Zdenka Schelingová.

We need to keep this beautiful mandate of Sister Zdenka close to our hearts:

“My sacrifice, my holy Mass, begins in daily life. From the altar of the Lord I go to the altar of my work. I must be able to continue the sacrifice of the altar in every situation. It is Christ whom we must proclaim through our lives, to him we offer the sacrifice of our own will.”?

Let us preach Jesus Christ with all the energy of our lives. And let us support each other – whatever the cost – so that when we make our accounting to the Lord, we will be numbered among the faithful and courageous, and not the cowardly or the evasive, or those who compromised until there was nothing left of their convictions; or those who were silent when they should have spoken the right word at the right time. Thank you. And God bless all of you.

__________

REFERENCES

– Alexis de Tocqueville, “Democracy in America,” New York: Library of America, 2004.
– Henri de Lubac, “The Drama of Atheist Humanism,” San Francisco: Ignatius, 1998.
– Václav Havel, “The Power of the Powerless” (1978), in “Open Letters: Selected Writings 1965–1990,” New York: Knopf, 1991.
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Ethics,” London: SCM, 1983.
– Richard Weaver, “Relativism and the Crisis of our Times” (1961), in “In Defense of Tradition: Collected Shorter Writings of Richard M. Weaver, 1929–1963,” Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2001.
– “Novena to the Blessed Zdenka Schelingová,” at http://www.holycrosssisters.org/s_zdenka.html.

Pope Benedict XVI Speech, SERBIA: CHRISTIAN ROOTS OFFER VALUES FOR RECONCILIATION

VATICAN CITY, 21 FEB 2008 (VIS) – Today in the Vatican , Benedict XVI received the credential letters of Vladeta Jankovic , Serbia ’s new ambassador to the Holy See.

  In his speech to the diplomat, the Pope affirmed that the Holy See “greatly values its diplomatic links with Serbia , and hopes thereby to offer encouragement to the continuing efforts to build a future of peace, prosperity, reconciliation, and peaceful coexistence throughout the region, as Serbia and its neighbors seek to take their proper place within Europe ”.

  Few countries in the continent of Europe escaped the ravages of war in the last century”, said the Holy Father, “and all can learn from the lessons of the recent past.  As you work towards a more secure future, it is vital to remember that the identity and the rich cultural tradition of your nation, as of all European nations, is deeply rooted in the heritage of Christian faith and the Gospel of love”.

  “If we choose to live by the values drawn from our Christian roots”, Benedict XVI observed, “we discover the courage to forgive and to accept forgiveness, to be reconciled with our neighbors, and to build together a civilization of love in which all are accepted and respected.  I know how deeply the Serb people have suffered in the course of recent conflicts and I wish to express my heartfelt concern for them and for the other Balkan nations affected by the sad events of the last decade”.

  “The Holy See”, he added, “shares your earnest desire that the peace which has been achieved will bring lasting stability to the region.  In particular, with regard to the current crisis in Kosovo, I call upon all interested parties to act with prudence and moderation, and to seek solutions that favor mutual respect and reconciliation”.

  “Not least among the various divisions between the peoples of Europe are those resulting from the tragic loss of Christian unity over the past thousand years”, the Pope recalled. He then expressed joy for the progress in relations between the Catholic and Orthodox Christians in Serbia in recent years and for the beneficial collaboration made in various areas. “I earnestly hope that these positive developments will continue to bear fruit”, he said, “in particular through joint exploration of Christian social doctrine”.

  The Holy Father next spoke of the Serbia’s geographical situation on the border between Eastern and Western Christianity that offers “a unique opportunity to promote ecumenical dialogue, while its familiarity with Islam, both through its encounter with the Ottoman Empire and through the presence of many Muslims in the region today, opens up rich possibilities for progress in inter-religious dialogue.  Both of these processes are of the utmost importance in establishing greater mutual understanding and respect between peoples and nations in the modern world”.

  “Freedom of religion is an indispensable element in building the kind of society in which such harmony can develop, and the steps taken by Serbia in recent years to guarantee this fundamental human right are greatly appreciated”, Benedict XVI said.

  “The plan to restore to churches and religious communities property which had been nationalized by the Yugoslav Federation and the introduction of religious teaching in schools have contributed to the spiritual renewal of your country, and in this regard an important example has been given from which other governments can learn”.

  “I pray that this openness to religious values in society,” he concluded, “will continue to grow, so that public debate may be truly nourished by the principles derived from faith”.

Message of Pope Benedict XVI: Cuba Commemorates Anniversary of John Paul II’s Visit

VATICAN CITY, 22 FEB 2008 (VIS) – A message from Benedict XVI to the bishops of Cuba on the tenth anniversary of the visit made by John Paul II to that country (21-26 January 1998) was distributed yesterday afternoon. The message was delivered to the Cuban prelates by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State, who yesterday began a six-day visit to Cuba for the celebration.“The ten year anniversary marking those unforgettable days for the Church and the Cuban people that were lived as the enthusiastic world watched”, writes the Pope, “is without a doubt a duty of gratitude toward my venerated Predecessor as well as a sign of our passionate intention to renew the commitment to evangelization that he left deeply impressed in the hearts of all”.The Holy Father expressed his admiration for the Cuban bishops’ “pastoral unveilings” and his nearness to the “hopes and concerns of all the Cuban people. I constantly ask that the Lord give you the strength and generosity to live your faith ever more intensely and to work toward a world that is enlightened by the Gospel”.

“The proclamation of Christ’s Gospel continues to find hearts in Cuba that are ready to welcome it. This fact carries with it the constant responsibility to help them to grow in the spiritual life, proposing to them this ‘high standard of ordinary Christian living’ that is the call to holiness of all baptized persons”.

The Pope emphasized that “proclaiming true doctrine, beginning with listening to and deepening one’s understanding of the word of God, promoting the participation in the sacraments, and fostering a life of prayer are the primary goals of pastoral action, then bringing to all the salvation of Christ is the nucleus of the Church’s mission”.

Although recognizing that “some Christian communities are overwhelmed by difficulties due to scarcity of resources, indifference, or even misgivings that can lead to discouragement”, Benedict XVI encouraged the Cuban Catholics to “put your hope in Jesus Christ, our Savior who does not disappoint and who fills your hearts with joy, giving meaning and fruitfulness to your life of faith”.

“How many times”, he continued, “do small gestures of friendship and good will, simple and ordinary gestures of respect, of care for the one who suffers or who gives unselfishly for the good of others, reveal a glimpse of the limitless love that God has for each and every one of us”.

In this context, he writes, it is very important that “the Church’s mission in Cuba to those in most need acquires a great importance, with concrete works of service to and care for the men and women of all walks of life, who deserve to be supported not only in their material needs, but also welcomed with affection and understanding. The Pope deeply thanks the effort and sacrifice of the people and communities engaged in these works, following the example of Christ who ‘came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many'”.

Benedict XVI urged the faithful Cubans to make the proclamation of the Gospel, which arrived in their country five centuries ago, bear fruit. The values of the Gospel message “had a great influence in the birth of the nation, above all through the work of the Servant of God Félix Varela and José Martí, who preached of the love of God among Cubans and all persons. These values are also vital to the harmony and future of the nation”.

“This inheritance has deeply marked the Cuban soul that today needs your generous pastoral care to be renewed again and again, showing that the Church, focusing its gaze upon Jesus Christ, does good, promotes the dignity of the person, and, in sowing seeds of understanding, mercy, and reconciliation, contributes to the betterment of persons and of society”.

The Holy Father concluded his message with assurances of his concern and “the fraternal prayer and collaboration of the other churches throughout the entire world”.

Protecting the Church’s Freedom in Colorado By Charles J. Chaput

By Charles J. Chaput

Wednesday, February 6, 2008, 7:06 AM

On January 30, a coalition of social service providers gathered on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol. Ranging from Avista Adventist Hospital and the Denver Rescue Mission, which helps the homeless, to the Handprints Early Education Centers and Focus on the Family, the group had one thing in common. All of them were religiously based nonprofits offering some form of service to the general public. Among them was Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver, the largest nongovernment provider of social services in the Rocky Mountain region. And the source of their concern was a seemingly modest piece of state legislation, House Bill (HB) 1080.

Colorado HB 1080, pushed by the Anti-Defamation League after failing in a similar attempt last year, presents itself as an effort to bar discrimination. But the so-called “discrimination” HB 1080 targets is actually the legitimate freedom of religiously affiliated nonprofits to hire employees of like faith to carry out their mission. In practice, HB 1080 would strike down the freedom of Catholic Charities to preferentially hire Catholics for its leadership jobs if it takes state funds.

Of course, Catholic Charities can always decline public funds and continue its core mission with private money. In the Archdiocese of Denver, we’re ready to do exactly that. But the issues involved in HB 1080, and the troubling agenda behind it, are worth some hard reflection.

Religious groups have been delivering services to the poor a great deal longer than the government. The government uses religious social service agencies precisely because they’re good at it and typically more cost-effective in their work than the government could be. In fact, groups like Catholic Charities often lose money on government contracts, and the government knows it. Religious agencies frequently accept these losses as part of their mission to the general public. But their mission depends, of course, on leaders who share and safeguard their religious identity.

Bills like HB 1080 proceed from the assumption that public money, in passing through religious agencies to the poor, somehow miraculously commingles Church and state and violates the Constitution’s establishment clause.

This view is peculiar on at least two levels. First, accepting public money to perform a government-desired service does not make a private agency part of the government. Nor does it transform the government into a catechism class. But insofar as any “debt” exists in a government and religious agency relationship, it’s the government that owes the service provider, not the other way around. Obviously, if the government wants to carry the social burden it currently asks religious-affiliated groups to carry, that’s the government’s business—and so are the costs and problems that go along with it.

But if religious groups do help bear the burden, often at a financial loss to themselves, then they can reasonably insist on the right to protect their own mission. The privilege of helping the government is pretty thin soup if the cost involves compromising one’s religious identity.

The second and more dangerous problem with bills like HB 1080 is that they aggressively advance a secularist interpretation of the “separation of Church and state.” Whether they do it consciously or not, groups like the Anti-Defamation League seem to argue from the presumption that any public money passing through religious agency hands is somehow rendered “baptized” and therefore unable to serve the common good. Aside from being enormously offensive to religious believers, this view is also alien to American history, which is filled with examples of government and private religious cooperation to achieve common public goals.

It’s certainly reasonable for government to require that religious service agencies refrain from using public funds to proselytize. But Catholic Charities doesn’t do that anyway; that’s not its purpose. In fact, the overwhelming majority of the six hundred jobs at Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Denver are already open to anyone of goodwill and competence, regardless of religious background. The relatively few positions that do require a faithful, practicing Catholic are exactly the ones that help guarantee Charities’ “Catholic” identity and its grounding in the social ministry of the Church.

It’s unreasonable—in fact, it shows a peculiar hostility toward religion—to claim that religious organizations will compromise the public good if they remain true to their religious identity while serving the poor with public funds. That’s just a new form of prejudice, using the “separation of Church and state” as an alibi.

Bills like HB 1080 are now occurring all over the country. The lesson here for American Catholics is this: For more than forty years, we’ve worked to integrate, accommodate, and assimilate to American society in the belief that a truly diverse public square would have room for authentically Catholic life and faith. We need to revisit that assumption. It turns out that nobody gets anything for free. If we want to influence, or even have room to breathe in the American environment of coming generations, we’ll need to work for it and fight for it—always in a spirit of justice and charity, but also vigorously and without apology. Anyone who still has an easy confidence about the Catholic “place” in American life had better wake up.

Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., is archbishop of Denver.


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