The Cardinal’s Column
Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.
June 23 - July 6, 2013
Faith and Freedom
Cardinal George’s Schedule
- June 23: 11 a.m., 100th Anniversary Mass, Ascension School, Oak Park; 3 p.m., Mass, Lay Ecclesial Ministry Rite of Calling, Our Lady of Hope, Rosemont
- June 24: 7:30 a.m., Fortnight for Freedom Rosary, Morning Air Program, Relevant Radio; 4 p.m., Senior Priests' Dinner, Mundelein Seminary
- June 26: 6 p.m., Mass, Chicago Chapter of Legatus, St. Paul of the Cross, Park Ridge
- June 30-July 4: Meeting of the Council of Cardinals, Rome, Italy
- July 5-6: Vacation
Cardinal George approved the following clergy appointment April 9. All appointments are effective immediately:
Rev. Raymond Novak to be the associate pastor of Holy Name Cathedral Parish, North State Street, effective immediately.
The series of readers used in the Catholic schools of the Archdiocese many years ago was called the Faith and Freedom series. No matter the grade or the content of the reader, the message was that our Catholic faith and our American freedom were at home with each other.
The U.S. Bishops have again this year called on American Catholics to pray, from June 21 to July 4, for the protection of religious freedom. June 22 is the feast of St. Thomas More, a layman and a lawyer, and of St. John Fisher, a bishop, both of whom were martyred for their Catholic faith when King Henry VIII ruled England and made the church entirely subject to the English crown. July 4 is, of course, the anniversary of the declaration of their independence from the English crown by the thirteen American colonies on the east coast of North America. These fourteen days of prayer have been named a “Fortnight for Freedom.” Our parishes will celebrate it in diverse ways.
The Bishops of our country are concerned for the protection of religious freedom around the world, as is our Holy Father. Religious freedom is being weakened in some Muslim countries that have recently experienced revolutions. It is constantly threatened in countries filled with civil warfare. Many Christians and their parishes have been deliberately targeted for destruction in these countries, and believers live in fear because they are Christians.
In our own country, the dangers to religious freedom are cultural and legal. Previous legal protections for the confidentiality of religious records and pastoral activity have all but disappeared in the wake of the sexual abuse scandal. Restrictions on Catholic family ministry follow on the passage of same sex marriage legislation. But the most immediate conflict between the liberty of the Church and the power of the State remains the well-known mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services that Catholic institutions have to pay for “services” that are immoral.
Religious freedom is compromised when the government, for the first time in this country, decides which of our institutions are sufficiently “religious” by the government’s standards to merit a conscientious exemption from paying for abortifacient drugs, elective sterilization and direct contraception. Not only does covering the expense of these “services” bring an institution or an individual into cooperation with evil and the danger of giving scandal, but the largely unspoken fear is that the government, having won the day on our paying for these procedures, will move on to demand that they take place in all hospitals that receive payments from public programs. In other words, every public institution will become a government directed institution, and the distinctive voice of the Gospel will disappear from health care and, eventually, from other areas of public service as well.
Ceding public life entirely to the government reduces religious liberty to freedom from religion, not freedom of religion. The free exercise of religion is guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, so this issue will eventually be decided by the Court that determines what the Constitution really means from generation to generation. In the end, all instances of government have to take account of what people will or will not put up with. Hence the need for an informed and alert citizenry. The Bishops hope that Catholics in this country will understand this public issue in the light of their faith and exercise their obligations as citizens in shaping public policy.
If Catholics and people of other religions remain steadfast in their faith and lead lives filled with love of God and others, our society will not become publicly godless. Our Catholic faith and our American freedom will be at home with each other. I have confidence, born of faith, that this will eventually be the case. May we pray and work to protect religious liberty in our country. God bless you.