“Freedom! America! Roman Catholic!”
The USCCB has called for a Fortnight for Freedom to be celebrated from 21 June to 4 July. They have also developed a political advertisement about American Catholics voting for values this November. Finally, they have written a Statement of Religious Freedom that asserts that “we are Catholic and we are American.” All of these statements are poorly veiled calls to vote Republican in the fall. The political advertisement that asks us to vote for values occurs in a political culture in which “values” are associated with the Republican party, and the cry for a Fortnight for Freedom stresses the value of freedom of religious liberty — a negative freedom, not a positive one — the state will not interfere with our religious freedom.
The USCCB makes its primary mistake, however, in identifying themselves as Catholics and Americans! Today’s America is not Christian, much less Catholic. People in the US idolize the dollar and death. So when the bishops state that we have values other than gas prices or a faltering economy they miss the point. They are fighting over dollars not over life.
For true freedom — Catholic freedom — insists, not only on a protection of the right to non-interference in my life, but to protection of a positive right to life. Freedom is essential to that positive right to life — but it is not simply a freedom from; it is a freedom, in the words of Paul VI, “To do more, to learn more, to have more.”
I say, let us join with the USCCB — let us rejoice in freedom, but let’s be Catholic about our freedom. We should have freedom
- of conscience — which means, not only the freedom to follow my conscience no matter what as the Catachsim demands, but freedom to form my conscience through a quality education supported by taxes.
- “On his part, man perceives and acknowledges the imperatives of the divine law through the mediation of conscience. In all his activity a man is bound to follow his conscience in order that he may come to God, the end and purpose of life. It follows that he is not to be forced to act in manner contrary to his conscience. Nor, on the other hand, is he to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience, especially in matters religious.” The Catechism of the Catholic church, quoting from Vatican II’s “Gaudium et Spes,” notes, ”Conscience is man’s most secret core, and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths” (1795).
- of self-determination — which means, not only non-interference, but freedom to learn who I am through education and freedom to pursue who I am through progressive taxation.
- of love — which means, not only non-interference in living a loving life, but freedom learn to love in a culture that does not condemn me for who I love.
Those are truly Catholic freedoms, but they require us to reject American society, to reject a culture of death, and to reject political parties which do not honor all of our freedoms. The right to life is the fundamental right. Anything that demeans or degrades or unfairly treat that life violates that fundamental right. Justice is not something separate but something integral to the right to life, and until Catholics — bishops and priests, religious and lay — embrace tat integrity we will forever be divided and un-Catholic and, much more sadly, un-Christ-like.