25 December 2012

Merry Christmas

25 DECEMBER 2012. Today, the celebration of the Solemnity of the Nativity of our Lord, greetings and peace to all! Our Saviour has come. Alleluia!

23 November 2012

Clement I

23 NOVEMBER 2012. Today the Church celebrates as an optional memorial the feast of Pope Saint Clement I, the first Apostolic Father of the Church.

Not much is known of Clement's life. According to Tertullian, writing in A.D. 199, the Roman Church claimed that Clement was ordained by St. Peter. Although there is some discrepancy in the ancient literature, the Church generally acknowledges Saint Clement as the third ruler of the Roman Church after Saint Peter.

Starting in the 3rd and 4th century, tradition has identified him as the Clement that Paul mentions in Philippians 4:3 as a fellow laborer in Christ.

The Liber Pontificalis, which documents the reigns of popes, states that Clement had known Saint Peter. It also states that he wrote two letters (though the second letter, 2 Clement, is no longer ascribed to him) and that he died in Greece in the third year of Emperor Trajan's reign, or 101 AD.

According to apocryphal acta, dating to the 4th century at earliest, Clement was banished from Rome to the Chersonesus (Crimea) during the reign of the Emperor Trajan and was set to work in a stone quarry. Finding on his arrival that the prisoners were suffering from lack of water, he knelt down in prayer. Looking up, he saw a lamb on a hill, went to where the lamb had stood and struck the ground with his pickaxe, releasing a gushing stream of clear water. This miracle resulted in the conversion of large numbers of the local pagans and his fellow prisoners to Christianity. As punishment, Saint Clement was martyred by being tied to an anchor and thrown from a boat into the Black Sea. The legend recounts that every year a miraculous ebbing of the sea revealed a divinely built shrine containing his bones. However, the oldest sources on Clement's life, Eusebius and Jerome, note nothing of his martyrdom.

The Inkerman Cave Monastery marks the supposed place of Clement's burial in the Crimea. A year or two before his own death in A.D. 869, Saint Cyril brought to Rome what he believed to be the relics of Saint Clement, bones he found in the Crimea buried with an anchor on dry land. They are now enshrined in the Basilica di San Clemente. Other relics of Saint Clement, including his head, are claimed by the Kiev Monastery of the Caves in Ukraine.

Saint Clement is also the only Pope to have a Russian Orthodox church dedicated to him.

Saint Clement Church, Pyatnitskaya Street, Moscow

The First Epistle of Clement is a letter of Saint Clement to the faithful in Corinth, where certain of the clergy there had been deposed, apparently without moral cause. Saint Clement calls for repentance the reinstatement of the clergy in his letter to the faithful, which was read, along with the Scriptures, to the faithful in Corinth beginning in A.D. 170. Although not a part of the Bible properly, the reading of the First Epistle of Clement by the fourth century had  also spread to other churches.

All-powerful and ever-living God,
we praise your power and glory
revealed to us in he lives of all your saints.
Give us joy on this feast of Saint Clement,
the priest and martyr
who bore witness with his blood o the love he proclaimed
and the gospel he preached.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

22 November 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

22 NOVEMBER 2012. In this land of plenty, where our society often seeks--perhaps even idolizes--not only freedom from want, as epitomized in the famous Norman Rockwell painting, but also accumulation to excess of things, we take this time to give thanks. And, we of faith especially give thanks this day, as we do all days, for the gifts of God and His providential care. Our Lord Jesus Christ is with us this day and every day in the Holy Eucharist, and the Holy Spirit provides us continually with the care and assistance of the Lord. Our Lady, the Blessed Virgin, provides for all of us, her children, with the constant protection and aid of her prayer. And, we can rely on the prayers of all the angels and saints in heaven who sing of God's glory without end.

And, so, Happy Thanksgiving to all!

IMAGE: Freedom from Want, Norman Rockwell, 1943.


19 November 2012

Blessed James Benefatti

19 NOVEMBER 2012. Today the Order of Preachers celebrates the optional memorial of Blessed James Benefatti, friar and bishop.

From the Supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours for the Order of Preachers we read:
Blessed James was born at Mantua, Italy in the latter half of the thirteenth century. He entered the Order there and came to the notice of Nicholas Boccassini, Master of the Order, who made him his socius. Blessed James continued as his advisor when Nicholas was created cardinal in 1298 and when Nicholas became Pope as Benedict XI he was named bishop of Mantua in 1304. There he fought against the hatred and division which plagued the city. Because of his devotion to the poor during a time of pestilence and famine he was called "Father of the Poor." He died on November 19, 1332.


Eternal God,
you established Blessed James as a model for your flock
and made him renowned for his zeal for peace
and for his mercy towards your people.
By his prayers and example
may we be united in the truth of your word
and ever ardent in your divine love.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,]
one God, for ever and ever.


03 November 2012

Prayer for Those Impacted by Natural Disaster

O Lord, our cries rise to you.
Why have these disasters befallen us?
Why have You hidden your face from your beloved?
I trust, I trust in the Lord, my God.
I stay stalwart in my faith and recline in trust
of my God.
Why have You allowed disaster to strike us, O Lord?
Is it because in this moment we can truly be Christ to our neighbor?
Is it because in this moment we can truly comfort the injured?
Give shelter to the homeless?
Clothe the naked?
Feed the hungry?
Give rest to the weary?
Yes. Dear God we have faith in You.
Your yoke is gentle and your burden light.
We sing of your mercy and kindness and love.
And, so, Lord, with your grace,
we persevere.
May we be instruments of your Divine Will.
Destroy our willfulness, O God,
so that in every thought and work of ours,
we may be truly Yours.
Breathe in our breathing.
Work in our working.
Give in our giving.
Console in our consolation of others.
Pray in our prayer.
Circulate in our Blood,
O Holy and Divine Will of God.
May we serve the Lord all our days,
especially in these days of difficulty.
May we remain faithful to Our God, who
will always remain faithful to us, his people.
Thank you Lord for hardship, to show Your love.
Thank you Lord for difficulty, to show Your mercy.
Thank you Lord for this day.
May it be for those for whom I pray,
and in some small measure for myself,
profitable in heaven and at the end of time.


21 October 2012

Seven New Saints Today!

21 OCTOBER 2012. Today in the Eternal City the Church received seven new saints. From Zenit, here is the Holy Father's homily:

Dear Brother Bishops,

Dear brothers and sisters!

Today the Church listens again to these words of Jesus, spoken by the Lord during his journey to Jerusalem, where he was to accomplish the mystery of his passion, death and resurrection. They are words which enshrine the meaning of Christ’s mission on earth, marked by his sacrifice, by his total self-giving. On this third Sunday of October, on which we celebrate World Mission Sunday, the Church listens to them with special attention and renews her conviction that she should always be fully dedicated to serve mankind and the Gospel, after the example of the One who gave himself up even to the sacrifice of his life.

I extend warm greetings to all of you who fill Saint Peter’s Square, especially the official delegations and the pilgrims who have come to celebrate the seven new saints. I greet with affection the Cardinals and Bishops who, during these days, are taking part in the Synodal Assembly on the New Evangelization. The coincidence between this ecclesiastical meeting and World Mission Sunday is a happy one; and the word of God that we have listened to sheds light on both subjects. It shows how to be evangelizers, called to bear witness and to proclaim the Christian message, configuring ourselves to Christ and following his same way of life. This is true both for the mission ad Gentes and for the new evangelization in places with ancient Christian roots.

The Son of Man came to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (cf. Mk 10:45)

These words were the blueprint for living of the seven Blessed men and women that the Church solemnly enrols this morning in the glorious ranks of the saints. With heroic courage they spent their lives in total consecration to the Lord and in the generous service of their brethren. They are sons and daughters of the Church who chose a life of service following the Lord. Holiness always rises up in the Church from the well-spring of the mystery of redemption, as foretold by the prophet Isaiah in the first reading: the Servant of the Lord is the righteous one who "shall make many to be accounted as righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities" (Is 53:11); this Servant is Jesus Christ, crucified, risen and living in glory. Today’s canonization is an eloquent confirmation of this mysterious saving reality. The tenacious profession of faith of these seven generous disciples of Christ, their configuration to the Son of Man shines out brightly today in the whole Church.

[in French] Jacques Berthieu, born in 1838 in France, was passionate about Jesus Christ at an early age. During his parish ministry, he had the burning desire to save souls. Becoming a Jesuit, he wished to journey through the world for the glory of God. A tireless pastor on the island of Sainte Marie, then in Madagascar, he struggled against injustice while bringing succour to the poor and sick. The Malagasies thought of him as a priest come down from heaven, saying, You are our "father and mother!" He made himself all things to all men, drawing from prayer and his love of the sacred heart of Jesus the human and priestly force to face martyrdom in 1896. He died, saying "I prefer to die rather than renounce my faith". Dear friends, may the life of this evangelizer be an encouragement and a model for priests that, like him, they will be men of God! May his example aid the many Christians of today persecuted for their faith! In this Year of Faith, may his intercession bring forth many fruits for Madagascar and the African Continent! May God bless the Malagasy people!

[in English] Pedro Calungsod was born around the year sixteen fifty-four, in the Visayas region of the Philippines. His love for Christ inspired him to train as a catechist with the Jesuit missionaries there. In sixteen sixty-eight, along with other young catechists, he accompanied Father Diego Luís de San Vitores to the Marianas Islands in order to evangelize the Chamorro people. Life there was hard and the missionaries also faced persecution arising from envy and slander. Pedro, however, displayed deep faith and charity and continued to catechize his many converts, giving witness to Christ by a life of purity and dedication to the Gospel. Uppermost was his desire to win souls for Christ, and this made him resolute in accepting martyrdom. He died on the second of April, sixteen seventy-two. Witnesses record that Pedro could have fled for safety but chose to stay at Father Diego’s side. The priest was able to give Pedro absolution before he himself was killed. May the example and courageous witness of Pedro Calungsod inspire the dear people of the Philippines to announce the Kingdom bravely and to win souls for God!

[in Italian] Giovanni Battista Piamarta, priest of the Diocese of Brescia, was a great apostle of charity and of young people. He raised awareness of the need for a cultural and social presence of Catholicism in the modern world, and so he dedicated himself to the Christian, moral and professional growth of the younger generations with an enlightened input of humanity and goodness. Animated by unshakable faith in divine providence and by a profound spirit of sacrifice, he faced difficulties and fatigue to breathe life into various apostolic works, including the Artigianelli Institute, Queriniana Publishers, the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth for men, and for women the Congregation of the Humble Sister Servants of the Lord. The secret of his intense and busy life is found in the long hours he gave to prayer. When he was overburdened with work, he increased the length of his encounter, heart to heart, with the Lord. He preferred to pause before the Blessed Sacrament, meditating upon the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, to gain spiritual fortitude and return to gaining people’s hearts, especially the young, to bring them back to the sources of life with fresh pastoral initiatives.

[in Spanish] "May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you" (Ps 32:22). With these words, the liturgy invites us to make our own this hymn to God, creator and provider, accepting his plan into our lives. María Carmelo Sallés y Barangueras, a religious born in Vic in Spain in 1848, did just so. Filled with hope in spite of many trials, she, on seeing the progress of the Congregation of the Conceptionist Missionary Sisters of Teaching, which she founded in 1892, was able to sing with the Mother of God, "His mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation" (Lk 1:50). Her educational work, entrusted to the Immaculate Virgin Mary, continues to bear abundant fruit among young people through the generous dedication of her daughters who, like her, entrust themselves to God for whom all is possible. [in English] I now turn to Marianne Cope, born in eighteen thirty-eight in Heppenheim, Germany. Only one year old when taken to the United States, in eighteen sixty-two she entered the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis at Syracuse, New York. Later, as Superior General of her congregation, Mother Marianne willingly embraced a call to care for the lepers of Hawaii after many others had refused. She personally went, with six of her fellow sisters, to manage a hospital on Oahu, later founding Malulani Hospital on Maui and opening a home for girls whose parents were lepers. Five years after that she accepted the invitation to open a home for women and girls on the island of Molokai itself, bravely going there herself and effectively ending her contact with the outside world. There she looked after Father Damien, already famous for his heroic work among the lepers, nursed him as he died and took over his work among male lepers. At a time when little could be done for those suffering from this terrible disease, Marianne Cope showed the highest love, courage and enthusiasm. She is a shining and energetic example of the best of the tradition of Catholic nursing sisters and of the spirit of her beloved Saint Francis.

[in English] Kateri Tekakwitha was born in today’s New York state in sixteen fifty-six to a Mohawk father and a Christian Algonquin mother who gave to her a sense of the living God. She was baptized at twenty years of age and, to escape persecution, she took refuge in Saint Francis Xavier Mission near Montreal. There she worked, faithful to the traditions of her people, although renouncing their religious convictions until her death at the age of twenty-four. Leading a simple life, Kateriremained faithful to her love for Jesus, to prayer and to daily Mass. Her greatest wish was to know and to do what pleased God. She lived a life radiant with faith and purity.

[in French] Kateri impresses us by the action of grace in her life in spite of the absence of external help and by the courage of her vocation, so unusual in her culture. In her, faith and culture enrich each other! May her example help us to live where we are, loving Jesus without denying who we are. Saint Kateri, Protectress of Canada and the first native American saint, we entrust to you the renewal of the faith in the first nations and in all of North America! May God bless the first nations!

[in German] Anna Schaeffer, from Mindelstetten, as a young woman wished to enter a missionary order. She came from a poor background so, in order to earn the dowry needed for acceptance into the cloister, she worked as a maid. One day she suffered a terrible accident and received incurable burns on her legs which forced her to be bed-ridden for the rest of her life. So her sick-bed became her cloister cell and her suffering a missionary service. She struggled for a time to accept her fate, but then understood her situation as a loving call from the crucified One to follow him. Strengthened by daily communion, she became an untiring intercessor in prayer and a mirror of God’s love for the many who sought her counsel. May her apostolate of prayer and suffering, of sacrifice and expiation, be a shining example for believers in her homeland, and may her intercession strengthen the Christian hospice movement in its beneficial activity.

Dear brothers and sisters, these new saints, different in origin, language, nationality and social condition, are united among themselves and with the whole People of God in the mystery of salvation of Christ the Redeemer. With them, we too, together with the Synod Fathers from all parts of the world, proclaim to the Lord in the words of the psalm that he "is our help and our shield" and we invoke him saying, "may your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you" (Ps 32:20.22). May the witness of these new saints, and their lives generously spent for love of Christ, speak today to the whole Church, and may their intercession strengthen and sustain her in her mission to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world.

14 October 2012

The Year of Faith

14 OCTOBER 2012. In these first days of the year of faith, I will begin a prayer effort that Catholics take more advantage of the opportunities to truly learn the depth and beauty of the faith from reasoned truth.

As St. Thomas Aquinas taught, while God reveals articles of faith to us through Divine revelation, some of those articles of faith can be learned without the benefit of Divine revelation (e.g., the existence of God, who was discovered by Aristotle, although Aristotle did not call Him by the name of the Israelites--I am) and some of those articles of faith cannot be penetrated by the human mind and can only be known by Divine revelation (e.g., the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation). For the endeavors of the faithful in this Year of Faith, how better to engage with the Church than to truly explore this integrative relationship of faith and reason?

Stay tuned . . . .


03 October 2012

Wonderful Words from the Holy Father on the Mass

3 OCTOBER 2012. On the eve of the feast day of St. Francis, our Seraphic Father, today brings this gem from The Holy Father's general audience this morning:

It is not the individual priest or member of the faithful, or the group, which celebrates the liturgy. Rather, the liturgy is primarily the action of God through the Church with all her history, her rich tradition and her creativity. This universality and fundamental openness, which is specific to all the liturgy, is one of the reasons for which it cannot be invented or modified by a single community or by experts, but must remain faithful to the forms of the universal Church.

The Church becomes fully visible in the liturgy, the Holy Father concluded, "the act by which we believe that God enters our lives and we can encounter Him. The act in which ... He comes to us and we are illuminated by Him.

20 September 2012

et alia

20 SEPTEMBER 2012. These pages have been silent for much longer than a fortnight now. With apologies from your scribe and host, things have been quite busy on other fronts as of late.

Running on at the keyboard:

I was in New York City last week and tasted the first real glimpse of Autumn. It was, for sure, still warm, but the mornings were chilly. And, besides work, which is all I tend to do when I am in the City, I did get the opportunity to catch a baseball game at Citi Field between the Mets and Nationals. What a beautiful ballpark, in some ways it reminds me of Camden Yards, but it's still New York. The Mets, on the other hand, were anything but beautiful; maybe next year Mets fans.

When in New York I also got out for a couple of hours and spent that time at St. Patrick's Cathedral. I  wanted to speak with Cardinal Dolan, if he was around, but learned that he was out of town. My thought was to simply thank him for his service and leadership for our stateside Church.

We are in full press campaign season now for the Presidential and congressional races. Redistricting has also been redone this year in Florida, so all seats in both houses of the Legislature are up for grabs. Having said that, I have yet to see a political candidate that I can be enthusiastic about. I have certainly seen a number that I can enthusiastically oppose, but none that I can get behind with gusto. Is there any candidate out there that really presents a model of the Magisterium carried into the world? I am looking for her or him.

Remember a vote for anyone other than Romney, or staying at home (for that matter), is in fact a vote for Obama. So, get out and vote.

Speaking of President Obama, please continue to support an end to the HHS mandate and oppose any so called health care reform law that does not have an appropriate conscience protection and that falls to respect the dignity of human life, in all stages of development, from conception to natural death.

I feel for the faithful in Philadelphia with all that they have endured over the last year, including the near-to-home abuse incidents at Penn State. I pray for healing for all victims and for the community that is put in shambles by such violence and breach of trust.

I am thoroughly confused by the LCWR, why do they not put their own agenda's behind the obligation to be faithful and obedient to the Church? Why can't they see the misplaced priorities when they replace Christianity for humanitarian works. I recall Mother Theresa once saying, in response to some praise for her humanitarian work, "No! I am not engaged in humanitarian work. I am living the Gospel of Jesus Christ." I pray that the so many good religious sisters that are represented by the LCWR will put their own aspirations behind the desire to live God's Will, put their own agendas behind fidelity to the Church, put their own sense of self importance behind their truly important work of being Christ to those they encounter, put their own sense of worth, under the boot of living to be truly worthy in God's eyes. Sisters, I pray, be a model for the world!

I have also spent a great deal of time in Orlando over the last several months, but I have not been to Disney World since 1991.

With all of the news coverage over the recent Middle Eastern protests against the United States, and the pointless violence and harm that has occurred with those protests, has anyone seen any mainstream media coverage of Pope Benedict XVI's trip to Lebanon? His words on peace and respect between the Christian West and the Islamic East were indeed profound and communicated well his true and real good will in brining a positive message of peace to the region. It is a shame that the mainstream media did not consider his apostolic journey to be more noteworthy. Their loss. The world's loss.

I am also in my first semester of studies in the Master of Arts in Theology program at Holy Apostles College and Seminary through the college's distance learning outreach. Carving out enough time for study and to complete readings and papers has been a challenge. It truly makes me appreciate, now in retrospect, how good a life I had during college and grad school. I wish I had understood better how fortunate I was at the time, but--as it is said--youth is wasted on the young.

Pray to the Dominican Saints for their intercession for all your needs:
St. Dominic, pray for us.
St. Catherine of Siena, pray for us.
St. Martin de Porres, pray for us.
St. Mary Magdalen, pray for us. (Patroness of the Order)
St. Thomas Aquinas, pray for us.
St. Albert the Great, pray for us.
St. Rose of Lima, pray for us.
St. Vincent Ferrer, pray for us.
St. Pius V, pray for us.
All you holy angels and saints, pray for us.
Blessed Virgin Mary, Most Chaste Spouse of the Holy Spirit, pray for us.

Dear readers, please pray for me, and I will pray for you.


05 August 2012

Quote Two (But, know the fullness of the Church's teaching):

But the proper reaction to crimes committed against homosexual persons should not be to claim that the homosexual condition is not disordered. When such a claim is made and when homosexual activity is consequently condoned, or when civil legislation is introduced to protect behavior to which no one has any conceivable right, neither the Church nor society at large should be surprised when other distorted notions and practices gain ground, and irrational and violent reactions increase.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 10.
1 October 1986

04 August 2012


It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 10.
1 October 1986

10 July 2012

Catholic St. Louis, Missouri

The Gateway Arch is one of the most iconic monuments in the United States. Built entirely of stainless steel and standing 630 feet tall on the banks of the Mississippi River in St. Louis. The Gateway Arch was completed in A.D. 1965.

A picture of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis from the street. The round, modern looking building in the foreground is the chancery.

The main altar of the basilica. From this vantage point you can see into two of the domes, although a picture (especially with most of the interior lights dimmed as we found the basilica on this day) cannot do it justice.

Saint Louis IX, King of France, himself, holding our Lord's crown of thorns, a relic that he purchased from Baldwin II, the Latin Emperor of Constantinople. Today, the crown of thorns is preserved at Notre Dame Cathedral.

Bishop Robert Hermann, Auxiliary Bishop emeritus of Archdiocese of St. Louis has his own designated confessional in the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. There are several of these confessionals in the basilica, offering both face-to-face or behind-the-screen opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. A very nice setup.

The All Saints chapel inside the basilica. The Cathedral Basilica boasts the largest mosaic installation in the world, with nearly every surface covered with mosaic tile. Also available now is a life size bronze replica of Michelangelo's Pieta, which is stunning.

04 July 2012

Fortnight for Freedom - Draw your Voice in Prayer

The Fortnight - July 4, 2012

These reflections and readings from the Vatican II document Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae) are intended for daily use during the Fortnight for Freedom, a national campaign designated by the U.S. Catholic bishops for teaching and witness in support of religious liberty. The readings and the questions that follow can be used for group discussion or for personal reflection.

The fact is that men of the present day want to be able freely to profess their religion in private and in public. Religious freedom has already been declared to be a civil right in most constitutions, and it is solemnly recognized in international documents. The further fact is that forms of government still exist under which, even though freedom of religious worship receives constitutional recognition, the powers of government are engaged in the effort to deter citizens from the profession of religion and to make life difficult and dangerous for religious Communities.

This sacred Synod greets with joy the first of these two facts, as among the signs of the times. With sorrow, however, it denounces the other fact, as only to be deplored. The Synod exhorts Catholics, and it directs a plea to all men, most carefully to consider how greatly necessary religious freedom is, especially in the present condition of the human family.

All nations are coming into even closer unity. Men of different cultures and religions are being brought together in closer relationships. There is a growing consciousness of the personal responsibility that weighs upon every man. All this is evident.

Consequently, in order that relationships of peace and harmony may be established and maintained
within the whole of mankind, it is necessary that religious freedom be everywhere provided with an
effective constitutional guarantee, and that respect be shown for the high duty and right of man freely to lead his religious life in society.

Declaration on Religious Liberty
(Dignitatis Humanae), no. 15
December 7, 1965

In concluding its Declaration of Religious Freedom, the Council rejoices in the fact that religious freedom has been enshrined in the constitutions of many countries as well as in international statements. However, the Council Fathers are well aware that religious freedom is not guaranteed merely when it is stated on a piece of paper. It must be exercised by a living body of people. Moreover, there are actual governments that act against religious communities, sometime in
the name of religion. The Council Fathers find such situations appalling and ask that Catholics and all
people of goodwill work to rectify this injustice.

Since the Vatican Council, has religious freedom improved or deteriorated throughout the world? What is the relationship between growing religious diversity, as well as growing interactions among people of different faiths, and religious liberty?

03 July 2012

Fortnight for Freedom - Day 13

Day 13 - July 3, 2012

In turn, where the principle of religious freedom is not only proclaimed in words or simply incorporated in law but also given sincere and practical application, there the Church succeeds in achieving a stable situation of right as well as of fact and the independence which is necessary for the fulfillment of her divine mission. This independence is precisely what the authorities of the Church claim in society.

At the same time, the Christian faithful, in common with all other men, possess the civil right not to
be hindered in leading their lives in accordance with their conscience. Therefore, a harmony exists between the freedom of the Church and the religious freedom which is to be recognized as the right of all men and communities and sanctioned by constitutional law.

Declaration on Religious Liberty
(Dignitatis Humanae), no. 13
December 7, 1965

While insisting upon the religious freedom of the Church, the Council Fathers do not wish to give the
impression that in some manner the Catholic Church is special when it comes to religious liberty. Thus, the Council first states above that where the principle of religious liberty is present, the Church is able to peaceably fulfill her divine mission. It is this amicable relationship between herself and civil authorities that the Church always wishes to pursue and ensure.

In the light of this, the Church also champions the religious and civil rights of all so that all people can live “their lives in accordance with their conscience.” In this way there is no conflict with what the Church demands for herself and what she demands for others—the freedom to follow one’s
conscience in matters religious. This religious freedom for all is what the Council once more believes should be acknowledged and sanctioned within the constitutional law of countries.

In the United States, religious freedom is protected in the Constitution, as the Council desires. Are those constitutional protections enough? Are they growing stronger or weaker in our society today?
What else, apart from the law, can strengthen or weaken religious liberty? What should Catholics do to defend and foster religious liberty in America today? What have Catholics done in the past when religious liberty was threatened? 

02 July 2012

Fortnight for Freedom - Day 12

Day 12 - July 2, 2012

Among the things which concern the good of the Church and indeed the welfare of society here on earth—things therefore which are always and everywhere to be kept secure and defended against all injury—this certainly is preeminent, namely, that the Church should enjoy that full measure of freedom which her care for salvation of men requires. This freedom is sacred, because the only-begotten Son endowed with it the Church which He purchased with His blood. It is so much the property of the Church that to act against it is to act against the will of God. The freedom of the Church is the fundamental principle in what concerns the relations between the Church and governments and the whole civil order.

Declaration on Religious Liberty
(Dignitatis Humanae), no. 13
December 7, 1965

In Chapter I, the Council Fathers considered the nature of religious freedom from a rational and philosophical perspective—the dignity and equality of human beings and the natural right to religious liberty. In Chapter II, they turn to examining religious liberty in the light of Christian Revelation.

In this context, the Council Fathers forthrightly insist that the Church must “enjoy that full measure
of freedom which her care for salvation of men requires.” Jesus became man, died, and rose from the
dead so that all men and women would come to salvation—to know the fullness of truth and the fullness of the Father’s love. This is why the Church’s religious freedom is “sacred.” Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, founded the Church as the means by which his saving message and presence would go forth to all the world. Only then would Jesus’ Gospel be lived out among all nations and peoples. Only if the Church is free can she rightly fulfill her divine commission. This is why the Church jealously guards her freedom while simultaneously fostering harmonious, appropriate, and just relations with various governments throughout the world.

What present circumstances threaten the freedom of the Catholic Church particularly? Are threats
to the Church’s freedom always from without, or do threats arise from within the Church itself? What
threats in the past has the Church in our country had to contend with?

01 July 2012

Litany for Liberty

Christ the Lord has called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. Let us turn to him in humble but fervent petition, seeking the grace to root out from our hearts all trace of darkness, and all that holds us back from walking in the full freedom of the children of God. As Christ is our great model for that inner freedom, which enables us to do the right, let us turn to him with confidence that we, too, may follow him to the fullness of spiritual freedom.

Lord, have mercy;

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy; 

Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy; 

Lord, have mercy.

Jesus, victor over sin and death

Free our hearts.
Jesus, source of light and hope

Free our hearts.
Jesus, fullness of truth and mystery

Free our hearts.
Jesus, teacher of seeking hearts

Free our hearts.
Jesus, healer of body and soul

Free our hearts.
Jesus, bringer of mercy and justice

Free our hearts.
Jesus, who humble the heart and mind

Free our hearts.
Jesus, release of captives

Free our hearts.
Jesus, voice against violence

Free our hearts.
Jesus, courage for the lowly/downtrodden

Free our hearts.
Jesus, origin of all authority and power

Free our hearts.
Jesus, true lawgiver

Free our hearts.
Jesus, unity of order and passion

Free our hearts.
Jesus, freedom of the Spirit

Free our hearts.
Jesus, obedient Son of the Father

Free our hearts.

For the freedom to love

Give us your grace.
For the freedom to believe

Give us your grace.
For the freedom to hope

Give us your grace.
For the freedom to worship

Give us your grace.
For the freedom to serve in charity

Give us your grace.
For the freedom to care for the suffering

Give us your grace.
For the freedom to comfort the sick

Give us your grace.
For the freedom to feed the hungry

Give us your grace.
For the freedom to shelter the homeless

Give us your grace.
For the freedom to proclaim the Gospel

Give us your grace.
For the freedom to walk in chastity

Give us your grace.
For the freedom to live in peace

Give us your grace.
For the freedom to work in good conscience

Give us your grace.
For the freedom to stand in solidarity

Give us your grace.
For the freedom to seek justice

Give us your grace.
For the freedom to reject sin

Give us your grace.
For the freedom to reject coercion

Give us your grace.
For the freedom to reject falsehood

Give us your grace.
For the freedom to reject evil temptations

Give us your grace.
For the freedom to reject injustice

Give us your grace.

O God, who gave one origin to all peoples and willed to gather from them one family for yourself, fill all hearts, we pray, with the fire of your love and kindle in them a desire for the just advancement of their neighbor, that, through the good things which you richly bestow upon all, each human person may be brought to perfection, every division may be removed, and equity and justice may be established in human society. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.



Fortnight for Freedom - Day 11

Day 11 - July 1, 2012

Furthermore, society has the
right to defend itself against possible abuses committed on pretext of freedom of religion. It is the special duty of government to provide this protection. However,
government is not to act in arbitrary fashion or in an unfair spirit of partisanship. Its action is to be controlled by juridical norms which are in conformity with the objective moral order.

These norms arise out of the need for effective safeguard of the rights of all citizens and for peaceful settlement of conflicts of rights. They flow from the need for an adequate care of genuine public peace, which comes about when men live together in good order and in true justice. They come, finally, out of the need for a proper guardianship of public morality. These matters constitute the basic component of the common welfare: they are what is meant by public order.

For the rest, the usages of society are to be the usages of freedom in their full range. These require
that the freedom of man be respected as far as possible, and curtailed only when and in so far as necessary.

Declaration on Religious Liberty
(Dignitatis Humanae), no. 7
December 7, 1965

The Council Fathers are well aware that, while various religious groups are meant to live in harmony,
each accepting the equal rights of others, yet, in reality, conflicts frequently arise between various
religions. This may be due to what a specific religion holds concerning the nature of its own beliefs in relation to the beliefs of other religions. While each religious group has the right to profess that its religious beliefs are true and that other religious beliefs are either inadequate or contain erroneous tenets, no religious group has the right to persecute or seek to suppress other religious groups. Similar conflict may arise within a religion, in which case, the cause of the conflict does not reside in the religious belief as such, but in a misinterpretation of those beliefs that prompts misguided attacks on other religious groups.

Given the reality of such religious conflicts, the Council Fathers acknowledge that the government is responsible for keeping public order, not by taking sides, but by enacting just laws and guarding the equal rights of all.

What causes religious conflicts today? Do governments always adequately respond to such conflicts?
What distinguishes “public order” (which limits religious freedom) from an ordinary policy preference of government (which does not)?

30 June 2012

Fortnight for Freedom - Day 10

Day 10 - June 30, 2012

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

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?

29 June 2012

Prayer for the Protection of Conscience Rights

Father, we praise you and thank you for your most precious gifts of human life and human freedom.

Touch the hearts of our lawmakers with the wisdom and courage to uphold conscience rights and religious liberty for all. Protect all people from being forced to violate their moral and religious convictions.

In your goodness, guard our freedom to live out our faith and to follow you in all that we do. Give us strength to be bold and joyful witnesses.

We ask this through Christ, our Lord.

Source: USCCB

Fortnight for Freedom - Day 9

Day 9 - June 29, 2012

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

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?

28 June 2012

Fortnight for Freedom - Day 8

Day 8 - June 28, 2012

Since the family is a society in its own original right, it has the right freely to live its own domestic
religious life under the guidance of parents. Parents, moreover, have the right to determine, in accordance with their own religious beliefs, the kind of religious education that their children are to receive.

Government, in consequence, must acknowledge the right of parents to make a genuinely free choice of schools and of other means of education. The use of this freedom of choice is not to be made a reason for imposing unjust burdens on parents, whether directly or indirectly. Besides, the rights of parents are violated if their children are forced to attend lessons or instructions which are not in agreement with their religious beliefs. The same is true if a single system of education, from which all religious formation is excluded, is imposed upon all.

Declaration on Religious Liberty
(Dignitatis Humanae), no. 5
December 7, 1965

The Council Fathers now address the religious freedom that is enjoyed by the family. Families have the right to live out their faith within the family. Moreover, parents have a natural right to religiously guide their families. They are the ones who have primary responsibility for the care and education of their children, and this is especially true of the religious education of their children. Thus, while parents are primarily responsible for the religious education, they are also free to choose the kind of religious education their children receive.

From within the Catholic tradition, Vatican II stated that the family is a “domestic church,” that is,
it is within the family that children are first taught the Gospel, are taught to pray and to keep the Commandments. Together the members of a family live out the Gospel life of love. In keeping with this, the Council states that parents must be free to choose their children’s schooling. The exercise of this freedom should not be the cause of undue financial burdens upon the family. Likewise, children should not be forced to attend instruction that is contrary to the religious belief of their families. Lastly, if there is only one form of education within a country, this does not mean that all religious instruction should be forbidden. Accommodation is to be made. What we see here is the Church ardently wanting to assure a broad and extensive scope for families to live out their faith as families,
and this extends to the education of children.

Why is the above important for parents and their families? Are the above aspects of domestic religious freedom jeopardized today?

27 June 2012

Half Way through the Fortnight: What is Religious Freedom?

27 JUNE 2012. Today, the feast day of Saint Cyril of Alexandria, the Church in the United States reaches the halfway point of the U.S. Bishops' Fortnight for Freedom campaign. At this point in the journey, it seems an important question to examine what religious freedom is. I believe that it is in the definition of religious freedom, and religion itself, that our religious freedom is being most threatened.

Religious freedom is the ability to exercise one's faith in public and in private without government sponsored or government's direct coercion. It is the ability to live one's life in accord with one's faith and in accord with one's conscience that has been formed by that faith. Indeed, the Church has said that if one has no faith at all, government must not use its coercive power to require one to profess a faith. But, how can this work in a pluralistic society such as the United States, which is comprised of so many faiths and such a diversity of cultures and backgrounds?

The answer lies, in part, in the law's approach to freedom of speech. The courts, in interpreting the First Amendment in its guaranty of free speech, have generally worked from the premise that the marketplace of ideas must be allowed to operate, and that marketplace will ultimately and should utltimately determine the value of speech and its propogation or not--not government limitation on speech. There are, of course, exeptions to the rule, such as speech that poses a direct danger and can do harm to others (yelling "Fire." in a darkened theater) or speech that is clearly contrary to community norms of decency (such as obsenity). But generally the marketplace of ideas should be allowed to operate, so goes the jurisprudential theory, so that each idea, even if in the tiniest minority of the marketplace, can live or die on the merit the marketplace gives it. This protects minority interests. It ensures those of the minority view have the opportunity to inject their thoughts into the marketplace.

On the contrary, the courts and legislatures have for decades been working to free another minority--who wants no influence from religion whatsoever--from faith's shadow. The U.S. Supreme Court's interpretation of the Establishment Clause has been particularly damaging in this area. The marketplace of faith is not permitted to function. Instead, the minority has pushed, and the courts and legislatures have been complicit in the effort, to remove altogether the interaction of religion with the marketplace of ideas. That minority uses the law as a sword to prevent the most basic of religious expression from entering the marketplace. In many contexts, prayer is illegal. Under this approach, the minority becomes the tyrant. And, it is that tyranical march that has been pushed, ever with more ferver in the last 30 or more years, to exclude the minority's expression of faith from many aspects of contemporary life in the United States. And, they march on.

Coupled with this tyranny of the minority--with one leading the other or, at least, the two acting in concert--the popular culture has developed the idea that religious belief is a merely personal, private endeavor that has no place in one's workplace, school, or the public square. This idea, supporting the evolution of the law, is closing the noose around religious freedom and around the ability of individuals to freely live in accord with their conscience formed by their faith. Where religion is defined as being purely private, then is can be given no regard in one's public life.

This is, at its core, the approach that the HHS Mandate takes and why a true exemption to provide meaningful conscience protection is being fought so by the Obama administration. The administration seeks to further push religion into the private and individual sphere, which necessitates that it be given no space in public policy, in the workplace, in schools, in the law. Then, of course, religious truth can be ignored as a private endeavor and all that is necessary to control public life is the ability to garner and wield political power. It is brute political force that controls, and President Obama resides in the White House.

This is exactly the message that Mr. Obama brought to the University of Notre Dame, as he was honored by a Catholic University that ought to have known better. He said: our disagreement should be respectful, but I am in charge and it is my view that will control.

This is the true threat to religious freedom, and the reason that the Fortnight for Freedom campaign is so important, if only to push faith into the marketplace and public discourse.

Truth is not a private matter. All faiths that seek the truth must be permitted their place in the marketplace, indeed to the extent they are minorities in that marketplace, their point of market entry must be protected by law. If political speech of any stripe is given the highest protection by law in our country--where politics is nothing more than a common scramble to satisfy unlimited desires with limited means, and, so, the garnering of political power at the expense of others is the ultimate aim--certainly, the faithful search for truth through religious conviction and exercise, and the freedom of everyone to live in accord with that faithful search, must be given all the greater protection.

NOVUS (29.VI.2012 9:01 a.m.):

Given our country's preoccupation with the law and the courts in these recent days following the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling upholding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, it would be important to consider the U.S. Bishop's statement on the ruling. The Bishops urge Congress to fix the three significant flaws in the health care overhaul law, namely: no funding of abortion with tax dollars, directly or indirectly; the necessity of a proper and meaningful conscience protection provision that preserves religious freedom; and the fair treatment of immigrant workers so that they are not prohibited from purchasing health care coverage, which "undermines the [a]ct's stated goal of promoting access to basic life-affirming health care for everyone, especially those most in need."


Fortnight for Freedom - Day 7

DAY 7 - June 27, 2012

Religious bodies also have the right not to be hindered in their public teaching and witness to their faith, whether by the spoken or by the written word. However, in spreading religious faith and in
introducing religious practices, everyone ought at all times to refrain from any manner of action which might seem to carry a hint of coercion or of a kind of persuasion that would be dishonorable or unworthy, especially when dealing with poor or uneducated people. Such a manner of action would have to be considered an abuse of one’s own right and a violation of the rights of others.

In addition, it comes within the meaning of religious freedom that religious bodies should not be
prohibited from freely undertaking to show the special value of their doctrine in what concerns the organization of society and the inspiration of the whole of human activity. Finally, the social nature of man and the very nature of religion afford the foundation of the right of men freely to hold meetings and to establish educational, cultural, charitable, and social organizations, under the impulse of their own religious sense.

Declaration on Religious Liberty
(Dignitatis Humanae), no. 4
December 7, 1965
While the Council Fathers insist that religious bodies must be free to teach and bear witness to their faith, they equally stress that this freedom must never be abused. It is not only governments that can deny their freedom; in attempting to spread their own beliefs, religions should not force others, physically or psychologically, to convert. Rather, each person’s dignity and freedom must be maintained. The accepting of religious beliefs must be an act of freedom, otherwise it is done not because it is believed to be true but rather out of fear and force. The right to profess and
proclaim one’s own faith cannot violate the same right of another.

That being said, religious bodies should be free to provide reasons as to why their beliefs are true and
why it would be of value for others to believe whatthey believe. They should also be free to address how their beliefs contribute to the good of society.

What contemporary examples are there of religious bodies using coercion in an attempt to spread their faith or hindering others from exercising their faith? What contributions does the Catholic Church make to society and culture?

26 June 2012

Fortnight for Freedom - Day 6

DAY 6 - June 26, 2012

The freedom or immunity from coercion in matters religious which is the endowment of persons as individuals is also to be recognized as their right when they act in community. Religious bodies are a requirement of the social nature both of man and of religion itself.

Provided the just requirements of public order are observed, religious bodies rightfully claim freedom in order that they may govern themselves according to their own norms, honor the Supreme Being in public worship, assist their members in the practice of the religious life, strengthen them by instruction, and promote institutions in which they may join together for the purpose of ordering their lives in accordance with their religious principles.

Religious bodies also have the right not to be hindered, either by legal measures or by administrative
action on the part of government, in the selection, training, appointment, and transferral of their own ministers, in communicating with religious authorities and communities abroad, in erecting buildings for religious purposes, and in the acquisition and use of suitable funds or properties.

Declaration on Religious Liberty
(Dignitatis Humanae), no. 4
December 7, 1965

The Council once more addresses the public nature of religious belief. Religious communities have a right to act as a community of faith, for this is inherent within the social nature of human beings and religious belief itself. Provided that the just civil and religious rights of others are not transgressed, religious bodies must possess the freedom to live out publicly what they believe. They must be free to gather for worship, to instruct their members, and to develop institutions that further the religious life of their members. From within the Catholic tradition this would include religious institutes and orders, schools, fraternities and sodalities, prayer groups, and Bible study groups.

Likewise, religious bodies must be free to appoint and train their own ministers. For Catholics, that means the Church’s freedom at least to appoint bishops and ordain priests. It also means that Catholics are free to be loyal to their church and its leaders while also being loyal to their country and its leaders. Religious bodies should also be free to govern themselves financially.

Consider examples in contemporary life where governments—federal, state, or local—fail to respect the above rights? What is the relationship between the religious freedom of individuals and institutions?

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.

Source: USCCB

25 June 2012

Fortnight for Freedom - Day 5

DAY 5 - June 25, 2012

There is a further consideration. The religious acts whereby men, in private and in public and out of a sense of personal conviction, direct their lives to God transcend by their very nature the order of terrestrial and temporal affairs. Government, therefore, ought indeed to take account of the religious life of the people and show it favor, since the function of government is to make provision for the common welfare. However, it would clearly transgress the limits set to its power were it to presume to direct or inhibit acts that are religious.

Declaration on Religious Liberty
(Dignitatis Humanae), no. 3
December 7, 1965

What the Council Fathers teach in this short paragraph is very important. They previously stated that governments should not deny religious liberty. Here they state what governments should positively do with regards to religion. Since people, through their religious beliefs, direct their lives toward God, governments are positively to take this into account. Not only should governments not hinder religious life, they should also “show it favor.” Since religious belief is a good within culture and society, governments should foster and aid the good that religion brings to the commonwealth. This does not mean that a government should favor one religion over another or that it should attempt to direct what religions should believe or do. Rather, governments are to create an environment in which religious life flourishes for the good of all. In providing such an environment where religious life prospers, governments contribute to the good of individuals as well as to the good of society as
a whole.

How does religion contribute to the good of society? In what ways might it hinder the good of society? Do contemporary Western governments view religion in a positive or negative light? How can governments today foster or aid the good of religious belief?

24 June 2012

Fortnight for Freedom Daily Reflections

24 JUNE 2012. Today is the fourth day of the U.S. Bishops' nationwide campaign to teach and provide witness to the importance of the religious freedom in the United States. Each day of the Fortnight (two weeks), the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has prepared a brief reflection to highlight the teaching of the Church on religious freedom and provide an opportunity for specific prayer and reflection. The Reflections for days 1-4 are below. Beginning tomorrow, AS will republish the daily reflections until the conclusion of the Fortnight on July 4.


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

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?


It is in accordance with their dignity as persons—that is, being endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility—that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth.

However, men cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom. Therefore, the right to religious freedom has its foundation, not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature. In consequence, the right to this immunity continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it. Nor is the exercise of this right to be impeded, provided that the just requirements of public order are observed.

Declaration on Religious Liberty
(Dignitatis Humanae), no. 2
December 7, 1965

The Council Fathers note that it is precisely because human beings are “endowed with reason and free will” that they naturally seek what is true and good and also, then, have “a moral obligation” to search for the truth. This is especially the case of seeking religious truth. Moreover, the truth they believe they have come to know binds them to that truth. Even if the “truth” they believe is not actually true, yet, because they believe it is true, they are bound to follow their conscience. As long as what they believe does not infringe the just rights of others, they cannot be coerced into giving up or changing what they believe.

Moreover, the Council states that in order for human beings to fulfill their obligation to seek the truth and live by it, they must be free to do so. No one or no authority is to force them to believe something to which they themselves have not freely given their consent.

Why does the Council stress the need to seek freely religious truth? Why do those who believe what is actually false still possess religious freedom?


Further light is shed on the subject if one considers that the highest norm of human life is the divine law—eternal, objective, and universal—whereby God orders, directs, and governs the entire universe and all the ways of human community, by a plan conceived in wisdom and love. Man has been made by God to participate in this law, with the result that, under the gentle disposition of divine Providence, he can come to perceive ever increasingly the unchanging truth. Hence every man has the duty, and therefore the right, to seek the truth in matters religious, in order that he may with prudence form for himself right and true judgments of conscience, with the use of all suitable means.

Truth, however, is to be sought after in a manner proper to the dignity of the human person and his social nature. The inquiry is to be free, carried on with the aid of teaching or instruction, communication, and dialogue. In the course of these, men explain to one another the truth they have discovered, or think they have discovered, in order thus to assist one another in the quest for truth. Moreover, as the truth is discovered, it is by a personal assent that men are to adhere to it.

Declaration on Religious Liberty
(Dignitatis Humanae), no. 3
December 7, 1965

God is the author of all truth and all good. All of what is true and good in our world and cosmos finds its source in God, the Creator of all. Moreover, what is true and good about ourselves as human beings finds its source in God in that he created us in his image and likeness. Thus, for the Council Fathers, all that exists is in conformity with the divine law, the providential plan of God.

Because of this, the Council emphasizes that truth must be “sought after in a manner proper to the dignity of the human person and his social nature.” This means that human beings must be free to seek the truth. However, human beings do not seek the truth as isolated individuals. The search for the truth is common to all, and so all share in the finding of truth and all share in the receiving of truth from others. Because the search for truth, the finding of truth, and the sharing of truth is a social exercise, human beings must not only be free to search for truth in the hope of finding it, they must also be free to communicate and discuss together the truth they believe they have found. It is through our free assent that we each personally lay hold of the truth.

What are the contemporary means of seeking, finding, and sharing truth? In what ways can this freedom to seek, to find, and to share be inhibited?


On his part, man perceives and acknowledges the imperatives of the divine law through the mediation of conscience. In all his activity a man is bound to follow his conscience faithfully, in order that he may come to God, for whom he was created. It follows that he is not to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his conscience. Nor, on the other hand, is he to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience, especially in matters religious.

For, of its very nature, the exercise of religion consists before all else in those internal, voluntary, and free acts whereby man sets the course of life directly toward God. No merely human power can either command or prohibit acts of this kind.

However, the social nature of man itself requires that he should give external expression to his internal acts of religion; that he should participate with others in matters religious; that he should profess his religion in community. Injury, therefore, is done to the human person and to the very order established by God for human life, if the free exercise of religion is denied in society when the just requirements of public order do not so require.

Declaration on Religious Liberty
(Dignitatis Humanae), no. 3
December 7, 1965

It is through their consciences that human beings perceive the requirements of the divine law. Human beings must follow faithfully their conscience if they are to grow in their knowledge of and union with God. Again, the Council restates that, because of this, no one should either be forced to act contrary to his or her conscience or be forbidden to act in accordance with his or her conscience. This is especially the case when it involves one’s religious beliefs. The Council Fathers note that this applies not only to one’s internal private religious acts but also to public communal religious acts. Human beings hold religious beliefs within a community of like-minded believers and so have the right to publicly live out their beliefs. To forbid the just and proper public expressions of religious belief would be contrary to the order that God has established for human beings as social and religious beings.

The Council Fathers want to ensure that religious liberty is understood to be both private and public. It cannot be limited to what takes places in houses of worship. Rather, since religion is by its nature a social phenomenon, its presence within the broader society and culture should not be hindered or forbidden.

In what ways is religion being reduced to the merely personal and private? Why should religion have a voice in the public square?

19 June 2012

Litrugical Reform of Vatican Council II

19 JUNE 2012. With a nod of appreciation to the good folks over at New Liturgical Movement, below is a video from Catholic News Service, featuring comments from Father Jeremy Driscoll, OSB on the liturgical reforms of Vatican Council II. Father Driscoll's points are well said, and I would only take issue with one use of language.

At the end of the video, Father describes the Mass as a "product." In our consumer driven world, the term "product" may give the impression that the Mass is something there for the assembly's consumption. Indeed, the Mass is a sacrament--an external reality of an internal grace--but, the purpose of the Mass is to worship our loving God and creator and savior of mankind; not to have a deep connection with person your holding hands with. If I could suggest any change to Father Driscoll, it would be to replace "product" with "expression of the sacrament." Otherwise, kudos to Father Driscoll. This is well said.

Note especially Father Driscoll's explanation that the history of the Mass is not expressive, but impressive. It forms us, and is always bigger than any community that celebrates the Mass.