by Ed Wilkinson
The separation of church and state is the most misunderstood issue in the country. The founders of the nation wrote in the “separation” in order to protect religion. But today, the concept is being misinterpreted to disconnect the church from the public arena.
That’s impossible to do, as Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio pointed out in his homily to the Brooklyn-Queens Holy Name Society of the New York City Police Department last weekend. Catholic members of the Finest have been getting together for prayer and a Communion-breakfast every year for the past 92 years. From attendance at Mass to the parade from the church to the catering hall, the annual event is a great witness to the faith of the men and women in blue.
As the bishop explained in his talk, the Judeo-Christian concept of the Ten Commandments is the basis for our system of law and order. You shall not kill, etc. The country is founded on the same principles as are present in the Ten Commandments. As someone once wisely proclaimed, “These are not the Ten Suggestions.”
“The battle line is that some people are trying to erase the connection between the church and human society,” he said. “Some might even question why police departments have chaplains or why they should have a Communion-breakfast.
“If we forget that religion must be part of our society, all these laws and all the police departments in the world will never make the world safe,” he said.
Bishop DiMarzio assured the men and women of the Finest that they have the appreciation of the public and that theirs is a noble cause.
At the breakfast that followed, the commitment and appreciation was never in doubt. From the stirring talk by N.Y. Daily News columnist Denis Hamill to the standing ovations given to the Cops of the Year, the love and support of the public in the room was much in evidence.
Sgt. Ed Conroy, president of the Brooklyn-Queens Holy Name Society, was the usual genial emcee, complete with good will bantering between himself and the chiefs and chaplains. Among the members of the dais were local chaplains, Msgrs. Robert Romano and David Cassato, both dedicated and tireless in their efforts with the department.
When a police officer is injured, no one has to wait long for one of the chaplains to respond and no one questions the value of having that chaplain at the scene. The connection between church and state becomes apparent in such cases.
This past week, the bishops of New York State spent two days in Albany to speak with local representatives there about spiritual values and the law. More than 1,000 laypeople joined them as they visited state offices and prayed in the diocesan cathedral in Albany.
Some might question why the Church is permitted to make such visits. Some might question the “separation” between church and state. The early citizens of the United States were here because they fled religious oppression around the world. Those fleeing persecution continue to come here because they realize that the American spirit is the free spirit and it is one that respects the laws of God and man.
Nowhere is that proper relationship more evident than in the cop at prayer, inspired by a higher calling, striving to protect his fellow citizens.