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2013 Fortnight for Freedom Opening Homily Archbishop William Lori

 

Most Reverend William E. Lori,  Archbishop of Baltimore
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption
June 21, 2013 (Pdf Version)

Faith Enriches Public Life

Sargent Shriver was a great American; he was also a great Catholic.

A daily communicant and an advocate for the sanctity of human life at all  its stages, Sargent Shriver understood how faith, worship and service are  linked. They were certainly linked in his long life of service to our country,  whether it was launching the Peace Corps during the Kennedy administration or  Head Start, Vista and the Job Corps during the Johnson administration or, later  in his life, serving as Chair of the Special Olympics.

He was a living example of how faith enriches public life.

And there are countless others. Many people of faith enrich public life as  private employers who organize their businesses according to Christian  principles and strive to live up to those principles in how they conduct their  companies.

To echo Pope Francis, they seek to be full-time, not part-time, Christians.  Their faith too enriches public life.

What we see in the life of Sargent Shriver is writ large in the Church’s  daily life. Almost everywhere in the country Catholic Charities is the largest  non-governmental provider of social services. Last year, Catholic Charities in  the United States served 10 million persons.

Our country is also blessed by a network of wonderful Catholic hospitals  that served well over 5.5 million patients in 2012, with a record 101 million  outpatient visits, while providing billions of dollars of uncompensated  charitable care.

In almost every area of the country, Catholic schools educate more children  than any other non-governmental system. Last year, approximately 2 million  students were educated in Catholic schools, among them young people from  America’s most disadvantaged neighborhoods, and more than 940,000 were enrolled  in Catholic colleges and universities.

Yes, faith enriches public life in the sheer magnitude of the services it  provides.

Not Two Wings

None of this happens by accident. None of it is a sideline.

The Church does not have two wings: a "faith-and-worship" division on the  one hand, and a "service" division on the other. Quite the contrary.

We cannot claim to love God without loving our neighbor. What we believe and  how we worship gives rise to a life of service.

Pope Benedict told us that the Church’s deepest nature is expressed in three  ways: proclaiming the Word of God; celebrating the sacraments; exercising the  ministry of charity, including our charitable institutions and programs.

My old boss and mentor, James Cardinal Hickey, was once asked why the Church  educated so many non-Catholic inner-city students. His answer was simple: we  don’t do it because they’re Catholic, but because we are.

This doesn’t mean we Catholics claim to be better than others. It only  represents a sincere effort to bear witness to the Gospel through the example of  dedicated men and women of faith and through Catholic institutions of service,  health care and education, institutions that are shaped by compassion and moral  values that flow from the teachings that we profess in faith.

Happily, the same can also be said of other churches denominations.

Faith enriches public life not only by the magnitude of its services but by  the qualities of mind and heart, by the values and virtues it brings to the  task. Educating the young, healing the sick, serving the poor and vulnerable:  these activities are part of our baptismal DNA as Catholic Christians.

No wonder we shudder, no wonder we react so strongly, when governmental  authority slices and dices our Church … by separating in law and policy our  houses of worship from our charitable, health care and educational institutions  … on the score that the latter are somehow less religious than our churches.

And let’s be clear.

The efforts of the government to divide the Church into a worship wing  and a service wing do not spring from a theoretical interest in how  churches are organized. It is part of a broader movement to limit religious  freedom to freedom of worship — to accord a fuller degree of religious  liberty to houses of worship but a lesser degree of religious freedom to  charities, hospitals, and universities.

If left unchecked, this tendency will continue to diminish the influence of  religion in helping to shape the character of our country, not only by  our words but above all by the way we conduct our ministries of service.

In the case of the now infamous Health and Human Services mandate, only  parishes and institutions mainly dedicated to sharing the faith are fully  exempt from having to include in their employee health care  plans medications and procedures that are contrary to the Church’s  teaching. Catholic charities, hospitals, and universities are not exempt  but accommodated, but we believe that the so-called accommodation is  inadequate and will end up implicating our service institutions in  providing coverage for medications and procedures contrary to the  Faith: like abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and reproductive  counseling at odds with the Church’s teaching that extends even to underage  family members of Church employees.

Faith and worship inspire and sustain the service the Church offers, yet the  government is insinuating a contrary Gospel in the Church’s daily life.

Guarantees, Not Lip Service

Not long ago, Pope Francis spoke out in defense of religious freedom.

Echoing today’s reading from the Book of Genesis, which proclaims that each  person is created in God’s image, Pope Francis called upon the nations of the  world to uphold “the intangible dignity of the human person against every  attack.”

He spoke of how church and state should each do their part to promote “the  interests of the people and society.”

Yet he also declared that “religious freedom is more often talked about than  achieved” and told us that “it’s the duty of everyone to defend religious  freedom and to promote it for all people.”

We may be tempted to think that the Pope was talking to other people in other  parts of the world — but he was talking to us, too.

In tonight’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us the distinction between what belongs  to Caesar and what belongs to God (Matthew 22:21). This distinction rings true  in our hearts as believers and as American citizens, for we recognize the wisdom  of separating Church and State.

For as Pope Benedict taught so wisely, “The state may not impose religion,  but must guarantee religious freedom and harmony between the followers of  different religions.” And he added, “For her part, the Church, as the social  expression of the Christian faith, has a proper independence and is structured  on the basis of her faith as a community which the state must recognize. The two  spheres are distinct yet always interrelated” (Deus Caritas Est,  28).

Yet our government is taking from what belongs to God by state-sponsored  attempts to force the Church to compromise her own teachings as the price to be  paid for serving the wider community.

Caesar is taking from what belongs to God in promoting the view that it is a  form of bigotry to hold, as the Church does, that marriage is between one man  and one woman — and — by passing anti-discrimination laws aimed at this  venerable teaching of the Church.

Caesar is also taking from what belongs to God in laws passed in several  states that seek to criminalize Church-provided services to the  undocumented.

In these and other instances, our government is not only taking what belongs  to God; it is also taking what belongs to human dignity and the common good.

Again, to quote the wise teachings of Pope Benedict: “Denying the right to  profess one’s religion in public and the right to bring the truths of faith to  bear upon public life has negative consequences for true development”  (Caritas in Veritate, 56).

For by imperiling religious freedom, all human rights are put at risk. After  all, our deepest and most cherished rights are linked: the right to life, to  religious freedom, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.

And these rights are not granted to us by the state, but by the Creator — as  the Declaration of Independence robustly proclaims.

Human Freedom for the Good

When Pope Benedict was welcomed to the White House in 2008, this is what he  said: “Freedom is not only gift, but also a summons to personal  responsibility.”

It calls for sacrifice, for the development of virtue, for pursuit of the  common good, for a sense of responsibility towards the poor and vulnerable, and  respect for the dignity of human life from conception until natural death.

It requires of us courage to bring our deepest beliefs and values together  with a spirit of reasoned dialogue to our fractured public debates.

Indeed, “Freedom is ever new. It is a challenge held out to each generation,  and it must constantly be won over for the cause of good” (Benedict XVI).

How well Pope Benedict’s words bring into sharp focus St. Paul’s exhortation  to “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience and gentleness … to be  rich in good works, to be generous, ready to share …” (1 Timothy 6:17).

For through faith we see more clearly the dignity of the human  person created in God’s image and likeness” (Genesis 1:26-17). Through  faith we understand that every person is called to share God’s  life. Through faith we see more readily what a truly just and humane  society should be and we receive the strength we need to build a true  civilization of truth and love.

Faith serves the public life not only by the sheer magnitude of the  humanitarian services it offers but indeed by its witness to those moral truths  and values without which democracy cannot flourish.

And how much hangs in the balance!

We continue to live in an age of martyrs — when believers, not just  Christians, are being persecuted for professing and practicing their faith  — when believers are tortured and killed because they are believers, in  places like Iran, Iraq, China and Nigeria.

Let us keep the flame of faith and the flame of freedom burning brightly not  only for our children and our children’s children but also for the sake of these  persecuted believers who see in our form of government and in our great land a  beacon of hope.

May God bless us, may God bless our Church and all believers, and may God  bless these United States of America!



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