Church & State
Q: How do you feel about this tension between Catholicism and Congress?
A: Of course, it is not natural to seek arguments and difficult discussions for the sake of tension. However, in order to enlighten or instruct our lawmakers, there are times we, as Catholics, must communicate directly with our nation’s leaders. This is why I, as a bishop, must encourage our leaders when they do the right thing and call them into question when they do not.
We see from some Catholic politicians that they openly practice their Catholic faith in their office of leadership, whereas others fail to do so and, instead, set a poor example, for you.
For example, when a Catholic in office respects the life of an unborn child, he or she is practicing his or her faith. When they do not, they betray the unborn child and our very faith.
As fellow Americans, we should be grateful we enjoy the freedom to encourage or to challenge our civic leaders. In many countries of this world, my taking to task our nation’s leaders could be punished by time in prison, or worse.
Together let us pray that the United States of America allows religious freedom to continue, for we presently are at the crossroads of this very same freedom.
Q: Are Catholics who live in the United States presently being persecuted for their faith? If so, how?
A: This is a particularly timely question for as a bishop, as a leader in the Catholic Church, I have the ability to view the “larger picture” of the Church in our beloved country. Persecution comes in many forms and at times can even attempt to cloak its existence and its intention. For instance, the recent national health care initiative, while attempting to fulfill the right of health care available for all people, directly attacks the religious rights of all believers. Unfortunately, our concerns are going unheeded to the extent our government refuses to uphold its obligation to respect religious rights of religious believers. Laws which violate our faith beliefs are a direct form of persecution. We also must remember that it is not just non-Catholics who persecute Catholics, but also Catholics who persecute Catholics. Unfortunately, we realize this is not altogether new for even the New Testament provides proof that this occurred in the early years of the Church.
I just attended meetings (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops) in Baltimore and was edified to witness firsthand the fraternal resolve we bishops possess to defend our religious freedom and to challenge the heavy burden placed on us fellow citizens by an unjust health care provision mandate. This mandate reduces freedom of religion to freedom of worship. To be a Catholic is not to be a “member of a club,” which meets every Sunday. In order to be truly free to exercise our faith is to be unfettered to live our faith 24/7. Religious freedom permits one to live his or her faith outside the box (church building).
Together let us celebrate the fact that Jesus Christ remains among us for he wishes all of us to go to heaven and has provided us with guardian angels to look over us. May our nation and its government preserve our religious freedom so that we may freely exercise Jesus’ invitation to “come and follow me.” How may our younger brothers and sisters follow Jesus? Pope Francis has instructed that we should take to heart the following Beatitudes as we prepare for World Youth Day 2016, in Krakow, Poland: “Blessed are the poor in spirit. For theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. ... Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. ... Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (Mt 5: 3, 8, 7).