As we prepare for the celebration of our national Independence Day on July 4, it is incumbent on us as American Catholics to understand the scriptural and theological foundations of our own teaching on religious liberty.
Our concerns about recently announced federal policies directly challenging our right to free exercise of religion, guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, are not based solely on legal or political arguments. Catholic social teaching on religious liberty, firmly rooted in the nature of the human person and human actions, has a long and quite interesting history of development of which every Catholic should be aware. Surprisingly as it may be to some no doubt, Church teaching is much closer to the foundational principles of our constitutional republic than many of our contemporaries might be aware of.
Our bishops are calling on us to participate in a “Fortnight for Freedom,” a 14-day period of prayer, education and action in support of religious freedom, June 21-July 4. As you may have read in last week’s Tablet, this initiative is taking place on both national and local levels. Readers may continue to inform themselves by consulting the website of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (usccb.org), by reading our diocesan paper and consulting their pastors, who have received directions from our diocesan bishop.
We strongly suggest, as a good way to begin, a prayerful and reflective reading of Dignitatis Humanae. Contrary to the distortion that is being widely disseminated throughout the secular media — that this is somehow an attempt by the Church to impose its unpopular (and often misunderstood) teaching on contraception (cf. Humanae Vitae) — the current challenge is a dagger to the heart of the fundamental human right to follow one’s conscience.
Vatican II issued a Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), which can be found in The Documents of Vatican II, ed. Walter M. Abbott (New York: Guild Press, 1966). The bishop’s quote from this document in the Statement on Religion Liberty, Our First, Most Cherished Liberty, found on the USCCB website — is also highly recommended reading.
To participate intelligently and, therefore, effectively in this most important national issue that affects all Americans, it is imperative that all Catholics fully inform ourselves not only of the fundamental human and civil liberties that are on the line but also of the basic teachings of our own faith which uphold them. Our hope and prayer is that every reader will take this challenge seriously. If we do not understand and defend our rights and freedoms, who else will?
Thanks to Sister Angela
As the academic year draws to a close in parishes and schools throughout the diocese, a moment of prayerful reflection and thanks is in order.
Today’s catechists, teachers and other lay pastoral ministers form the core of our faith formation teams. We are mindful of their faithful service in so many ways, which often extends well above and beyond the terms of a contract or a commission. No one serves as a more radiant example and no one is singularly more responsible for the development of our lay ministries than Sister Angela Gannon, C.S.J.
On Saturday, June 16, a celebration of lay ministry benefiting the Pastoral Institute of the Diocese and its Scholarship Fund will be held in Sister Angela’s honor at the Immaculate Conception Center, Douglaston. We strongly urge the support of our readers. In addition to her many years of pastoral service as an educational and administrative professional, Sister Angela, currently secretary for Catholic Education and Formation of the Diocese of Brooklyn, has fostered the work of the Pastoral Institute for 10 years.
Those wishing to attend the Mass at 5 p.m., the dinner-dance to follow, or to sponsor an ad in the journal, may find more information on the diocesan website, dioceseofbrooklyn.org.
Your prayerful and personal support is a way of participating in the evangelizing mission of the Church and a spiritual work of mercy. May God continue to bless Sister Angela and add many fruitful years to her work in the vineyard.