July 8, 2016

As a nation, we recently marked the 240th anniversary of our independence and our beginnings as a sovereign country. Amid festivities celebrating our history, enjoying the fellowship of family and friends, and praying for our country, Independence Day is also a time for us to reflect on our cherished ideals about freedom, as well as to consider what it means to be a part of a union—an alliance of diverse states, yes, but also a country that guarantees and protects the freedoms of all faiths, peoples, and communities: E pluribus unum.

In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul reminds us that independence cannot be separated from our natural interdependence; Christian freedom is always tied to the common good: "For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love" (Gal. 5:13). For Paul, freedom does not begin and end with the individual; rather, it is a gift from God with which we build up the Kingdom of Christ on earth in love.

When one member or group of our society is oppressed or denied one of their fundamental freedoms, it is more than just one party who suffers. When nurses or doctors are penalized for conscientiously objecting to participation in abortion, our society is deprived of caring, compassionate healers. When adoption agencies are forced to cease their charitable activities because of commitment to the true nature of marriage, children awaiting loving homes must wait even longer for a family. When women religious like the Little Sisters of the Poor face burdensome government mandates forcing them to provide abortion-inducing drugs in their health plans, the sick and the elderly that they serve face possible neglect.

Because of our interdependence as a nation, we must uphold the rights and freedoms of others. Our failure to do so is a failure to uphold our Constitution, as well as a failure to serve the common good—that "more perfect union" that it envisions.

Independence Day has passed, but the work of protecting our rights as American citizens remains vital. Let us, as Catholics, speak joyfully of our faith to others and continue to pray for the protection of religious liberty, as so many did during the recent Fortnight for Freedom celebrations across the country. In this way, we can help uphold freedom and proclaim the dignity of every human being, so as to live in peaceful interdependence and service of others.

Caitlin Thomas is a staff assistant for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For more on the bishops' pro-life work, see To join continuing prayer efforts, visit