I hope you had a Happy Fourth of July! It is always a great day to celebrate with family and friends, fireworks and cookouts. We celebrate our freedom and liberty as Americans and rejoice that we have overthrown the shackles of British oppression endured by our forefathers. However, as we rejoice in our freedoms as citizens of this nation, we also must consider that we are called to be faithful Catholic Citizens.
In a time, when many object to any form of religious expressions in public and others reject any attempt to speak the moral truth in the public square, we must be mindful of our role both as citizens of our nation and disciples of our Lord. Our Catholic teaching about “the dignity of the human person” and “the sanctity of human life,” teaches that the unique nature of humans, unlike any other creature, is something to be elevated and considered sacred as it demands our special respect and protection.
When human dignity is violated it is to do evil. When we serve human dignity, we do good. We live in a culture that often speaks loudly about protecting the environment and rescuing species on the brink of extinction. But it then casually licenses the killing of unborn children and easily legalizes euthanasia. The Founders of our country acknowledged the existence of natural law and natural rights. These rights are inalienable and guaranteed by a Creator; by “nature’s God,” to use the words of the Declaration of Independence.
Such ideas have grown out of fashion in much of legal theory and social science today. But they’re very much alive in the way we actually reason and behave in our daily lives. Our faith teaches us that we have basic rights that come with the special dignity of being human. These rights are inherent to human nature. In other words, they’re part of who we are. No government and no other person can legitimately take them away.
However, if “nature’s God” is forced out of any human dialogue and political debate in the public square, then our rights become nothing more than a mere social convention. And social conventions can and do often change. Thus the very definition of who is and who is not a human can easily change to suit the latest social convention. Our Catholic Faith teaches that all human life, no matter how broken or flawed, young or old, large or small is sacred because it comes from God. And as both Catholics and citizens we have an obligation to defend human life and dignity. The dignity of a human life and its right to exist are guaranteed by God.
Catholic teaching on life and sexuality is part of the same integral vision of the human person that fuels Catholic teaching on immigration, poverty, justice, racism, and peace. Our great American tradition of freedom has always given people a right to freely bring their beliefs to bear on every social, economic and political problem facing their community. However, many in our nation and our state seek to stifle such free speech and ban moral beliefs in the public square.
Yet for us as Catholic Citizens it is not only a privilege and not just a right. It’s a demand of the Gospel and our Catholic Faith to speak the truth even in the public square. We also have a duty to treat with charity and justice those people who do not share our beliefs. But that must never be an excuse for silence on matters of grave importance even when such truths of our faith are unpopular and seemingly inconvenient. This requires of all Catholics to truly be courageous witnesses to our moral convictions and seek to advance what we believe about key moral issues in the public square. This is not a matter of imposing our beliefs upon others but rather an act of truth-telling. Such truth is vital to the well being of our democracy. It is a duty and responsibility for each of us as faithful citizens of our nation to speak the truth with charity.
In this time of moral confusion in our culture and erosion of morality in the public square, consider the words of St Augustine in the 4th century: “Bad times, hard times, this is what people keep saying, but let us live well, and times will be good. We are the times. Such as we are, such are the times.”
God Bless! Be well. Do Good. Go Sox! God Bless America!!