Bob and I read this statement by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and we were so filled with the Holy Spirit and love for our country and for our Church, we could not rest until we sent this to you and prayed you would read the bishops’ entire statement, for yourself. We thought we knew the history of our country, but after reading this statement, we find ourselves hungering to know more – and more- and more! What you see before you are just some small excerpts from the entire statement. We pray you will be touched as we were and read on – and on- and on! If you would like a copy of the whole statement issued by the bishops, just let us know and we will be most happy to e-mail it to you.
The word the Lord has been giving us, for the longest time, is – We must unite, one Cross, one Flag, one body of Christ, one Book, one Bible, one truth from God! We do not remember reading anything like this attack on our First Amendment, in all our years as first children, then as husband and wife, then as grandparents. Where were these truths so important to the future of our country and our life? We have had the gift to travel to the four corners of the world, and we have loved all our brothers and sisters abroad, and the places we have researched; but the great truth we came away with is – we are Americans – and we have it the best!
Then we started to study! What has made our country so precious! And the more we study, here and abroad, the more we find out why we have come away with this great love for our country. We want our children and our grandchildren, and those who follow, to learn what their country is about and what has made it so. There have been times when we wanted to run to another country; but with all due respect, even with her faults, theUnited Statesis the best in the whole world.
The religious freedom the bishops speak of does not affect solely the Catholic Church, and all other Religions, it affects all our freedoms under the Bill of Rights. It is that which our fathers and grandfathers left everything behind to come to our land of the free; and we have been that land of freedom for the last 200 years. It is what our brothers and sisters fought for in foreign lands, some losing their lives and others coming home a shadow of their former selves. We refuse to accept they fought and died for nothing!
At least when a baseball game is about to begin, we can hear our children cry out it is time to salute the flag and sing the National Anthem. We cannot chime in without seeing our fathers and mothers and grandparents, before us, proudly saluting the flag and/or pressing their hands lovingly on their hearts. We cannot lose our rights!! Our families paid too high a price for these freedoms!
I would like to take this time to share with you parts of the bishops’ “Statement on Religious Liberty.”
“It is by no accident that when the Bill of Rights was ratified, religious freedom had the distinction of being the First Amendment. Religious liberty is indeed the first liberty. We must stand up and defend our right to religious freedom, under the First Amendment, which guarantees that Congress will make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
“Recently, in a unanimous Supreme Court judgment affirming the importance of that first freedom, the Chief Justice of the United Statesexplained that religious liberty is not just the first freedom for Americans; rather it is the first in the history of democratic freedom, tracing its origins back to the first clauses of the Magna Carta of 1215 and beyond.
“Chief Justice Roberts illustrated our history of religious liberty in light of a Catholic issue decided upon by James Madison, who guided the Bill of Rights through Congress and is known as the architect of the First Amendment.
“That is our American heritage, our most cherished freedom. It is the first freedom because if we are not free in our conscience and our practice of religion, all other freedoms are fragile. If citizens are not free in their own consciences, how can they be free in relation to others, or to the state? If our obligations and duties to God are impeded, or even worse, contradicted by the government, then we can no longer claim to be a land of the free, and a beacon of hope for the world.
“In his famous ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ in 1963, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. boldly said, ‘The goal ofAmerica is freedom.’ As a Christian pastor, he argued that to callAmerica to the full measure of that freedom was the specific contribution Christians are obliged to make. He rooted his legal and constitutional arguments about justice in the long Christian tradition:
‘I would agree with Saint Augustinethat an unjust law is no law at all.’ Now what is the difference between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.’
“It is a sobering thing to contemplate our government enacting an unjust law. An unjust law cannot be obeyed. In the face of an unjust law, an accommodation is not to be sought, especially by resorting to equivocal words and deceptive practices. If we face today with the prospect of unjust laws, then Catholics inAmerica, in solidarity with our fellow citizens, must have the courage not to obey them. No American welcomes it. But if it should fall upon us, we must discharge it as a duty of citizenship and an obligation of faith.
“The Christian church does not ask for special treatment, simply the rights of religious freedom for all citizens. Rev. King also explained that the church is neither the master not the servant of the state, but its conscience, guide, and critic.
“The Lord Jesus came to liberate us from the dominion of sin. Together with our fellow Christians, joined by our Jewish brethren, and in partnership with Americans of other religious traditions, we affirm that our faith requires us to defend the religious liberty granted us by God and protected in our Constitution.
“What we ask is nothing more than that our God-given right to religious liberty be respected. We ask nothing less than that the Constitution and laws of the United States, which recognize that right, be respected.
“In insisting that our liberties as Americans be respected, we know, as bishops, that what our Holy Father said is true. This work belongs to ‘an engaged, articulate and well- formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture.’
“There is an urgent need for the lay faithful, in cooperation with Christians, Jews and others, to impress upon our elected representatives the importance of continued protection of religious liberty in a free society. We address a particular word to those holding office. It does not serve the common good to treat the good works of religious believers as a threat to our common life; to the contrary, they are essential to its proper functioning. It is also your task to protect and defend those fundamental liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.
“Our country deserves the best we have to offer, including our resistance to violations of our first freedom.
A fortnight for Freedom
“Both our civil year and liturgical year point us on various occasions to our heritage of freedom. Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power – St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More,St. Johnthe Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. We suggest that the fourteen days from June 21- the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More – to July 4, Independence Day be a special period of prayer, study, and catechesis which would culminate in a great national celebration of Christian and American heritage of religious liberty.
“The bishops also invite everyone to join them in an urgent prayer for religious liberty;”
“Almighty God, Father of all nations,
For freedom you have set us free in Christ Jesus (Gal 5:1)
We praise and bless you for the gift of religious liberty,
the foundation of human rights, justice and the common good.
Grant to our leaders the wisdom to protect and promote our liberties;
By your grace may we have the courage to defend them, for ourselves and for all
those who live in this blessed land.
We ask this through the intercession of Mary Immaculate, our patroness,
and in the name of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
with whom you live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen