Monthly Archives: November 2014

Politics and Religion Pt. 6 – “Religious Liberty”

Free will is at the very core of the message of the entire Bible. In my book, Behold Your Mother – A Biblical and Historical Defense of the Marian Doctrines, in the chapter (12) entitled, “Other Redeemers? Understanding God’s Plan of Salvation,” which is a lead-in to chapter 13, “Mary’s Saving Office,” I explain:

Catholics believe man was constituted by God as naturally and essentially free, and that this freedom is not destroyed when a man comes to God through Christ. We say that grace never destroys nature; rather, it heals and perfects it. And this freedom is precisely what we see in Scripture. From God’s commandment to Adam in Genesis 2:17 not to eat “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” lest he die, to God’s word to Israel in Deuteronomy 30:19 to choose between life and death, to our Lord telling us in Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him,” the Bible is clear: Man is free either to accept or reject God’s call to follow him…

Our Lord himself removed all doubt concerning man’s freedom when he revealed that as God from all eternity he willed to gather “Jerusalem” as his own, but they refused him:

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often I would have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not (Matt. 23:37)!

Freedom vs. Coercion

It is because of the centrality of freedom in matters religious that coercion (excepting where free commitments have been made and duties assumed) has always been condemned by the Church. In fact, the infamous forced baptisms of some Jews in the Middle Ages were not only condemned by the Church, but led the Church to consider in a deeper way the absolute necessity of intention on the part of adult converts to be baptized. What constitutes “intention” was debated, but the necessity of intention in adults was clarified as being essential Catholic teaching. As St. Thomas Aquinas stated it in The Summa Theologiae, Pt. 3, Q. 68, Art. 7, Reply to Obj. 2:

If an adult lack the intention of receiving the sacrament, he must be re-baptized.

Today, the Code of Canon Law, Can. 865 §1, decrees:

For an adult to be baptized, the person must have manifested the intention to receive baptism, have been instructed sufficiently about the truths of the faith and Christian obligations, and have been tested in the Christian life through the catechumenate. The adult is also to be urged to have sorrow for personal sins.

What’s Love Got to do with it?

CCC 1861 sums up the importance of freedom when it declares: “Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself.”

It doesn’t get any more important than love. And yet, without freedom, the Catholic Church teaches, there simply is no love at all.

I like to think of this truth by way of the analogy of marriage. If a man has a gun to an unwilling woman’s head on their wedding day, would that be love? I think not! Why? Because the freedom that is the foundation of love is lacking.

Thus, free will is not just an abstract concept for Catholics. Free will is sacred. And because it is sacred, this is precisely why the Obama administration’s attempt to force Catholic Christians (or any person of good will) to act contrary not only to their divinely revealed Faith, but to basic points of the Natural Law, like, “Thou shalt not kill,” is so egregious. The idea that Catholics are being forced to pay for reprehensible things like contraception, sterilization, and even abortion, is outrageous.

Thus, “Religious Liberty” is our sixth “non-negotiable” when it comes to a truly Catholic perspective on religion and politics. All of us must rally to the cause. And that means first we must resist in every lawful way we can the intrusion upon religious liberty we see coming from Washington, D.C. This, along with the violation of the other “non-negotiables” we have discussed, is leading the United States of America toward the abyss at an ever-increasing pace.

Secondly, it means all of us must vote for candidates who will protect religious liberty. It seems unbelievable that we even have to say this in a country that at least used to understand religious liberty to be central to who we are as a people. But given the last two presidential elections, it obviously must be stated again, and again, and again.

Vatican II was Prophetic

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a huge fan of the documents of Vatican II. All 16 of them. In Dignitatis Humanae (the Declaration on Religious Freedom) 2, we find one among many profound and truly prophetic declarations from the Council:

This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself.(2) This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law  whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right.

It is in accordance with their dignity as persons-that is, beings endowed  with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility-that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound  by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are  also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth. However, men cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy  immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom. Therefore the right to religious freedom has its foundation not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature. In consequence, the right to this immunity continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it and the exercise of this right is not to  be impeded, provided that just public order be observed.

How prophetic indeed in view of what is happening around the world with Christians being persecuted as never before. How prophetic in view of what the Obama administration is doing to Christians–most especially Catholic Christians–even as we speak, with the infamous HHS Mandate.

A Catholic Contradiction?

I must pause here a moment and note the objection some make to the above-cited declaration from DH 2 (that’s what you get when you read an apologists’ blog!).  The claim is made that this and other similar statements from the Council contradict earlier Magisterial teachings of the Church that condemn “religious freedom,” and so, must be considered heretical.

And one can certainly see how a surface reading of Magisterial statements like this one from Pope Gregory XVI could be so construed:

This shameful font of indifferentism gives rise to that absurd and erroneous proposition which claims that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone. It spreads ruin in sacred and civil affairs, though some repeat over and over again with the greatest impudence that some advantage accrues to religion from it. “But the death of the soul is worse than freedom of error,” as Augustine was wont to say. When all restraints are removed by which men are kept on the narrow path of truth, their nature, which is already inclined to evil, propels them to ruin. Then truly “the bottomless pit” is open from which John saw smoke ascending which obscured the sun, and out of which locusts flew forth to devastate the earth. Thence comes transformation of minds, corruption of youths, contempt of sacred things and holy laws–in other words, a pestilence more deadly to the state than any other. Experience shows, even from earliest times, that cities renowned for wealth, dominion, and glory perished as a result of this single evil, namely immoderate freedom of opinion, license of free speech, and desire for novelty (Pope Gregory XVI, Encyclical Letter, Mirari Vos, 14, Aug. 15, 1832).

Pope Leo XIII, in his Encyclical Letter, Libertas, 42, June 20, 1888, is also used to this end:

From what has been said it follows that it is quite unlawful to demand, to defend, or to grant unconditional freedom of thought, of speech, or writing, or of worship, as if these were so many rights given by nature to man. For, if nature had really granted them, it  would be lawful to refuse obedience to God, and there would be no restraint on  human liberty. It likewise follows that freedom in these things may be tolerated wherever there is just cause, but only with such moderation as will prevent its degenerating into license and excess. And, where such liberties are in use, men should employ them in doing good, and should estimate them as the Church does; for liberty is to be regarded as legitimate in so far only as it affords greater facility for doing good, but no farther.

Two points in Response

1. These declarations of the Holy See condemn absolute religious freedom without the constraints of Natural Law and Church authority. This is essentially different from what DH is speaking about. Notice, DH 2 includes key phrases like, ”within due limits,” and “provided that just public order be observed,” to emphasize limitations on religious liberty. There is not even a hint of its approval of what Pope Leo XIII called “unconditional freedom…”

2. The Council Fathers were careful to define what the Church means by “religious freedom” in the context of DH.

This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power

By “religious freedom,” the Council meant men “are to be immune from coercion.” This is absolutely consonant with Catholic teaching.

And notice as well the Council spoke of the evil of coercion by human power. This in no way means man is not bound by God’s law, or by divine authority. That was not even a consideration here.

And this is not to say God, or any divine authority, coerces either when it comes to man responding to God’s gracious invitation to come to him. God has given man freedom to either choose him or reject him. But it is to emphasize the context of DH. The fathers of the Council were responding to the problem of earthly despots or any political authority that would attempt to coerce with regard to matters religious.

Did Vatican II Condemn the Idea of “Catholic Nations?”

The claim is made also made that this alleged “unconditional freedom” taught by Vatican II ipso facto rejects the idea of a truly Catholic nation giving preferential treatment to the true Faith. This would be in stark contrast to the Magisterial teaching of Pope Leo XIII, for example, in his Encyclical Letter, Immortale Dei, 34, of Nov. 1, 1885:

Thus, Gregory XVI in his Encyclical Letter Mirari Vos, dated August 15, 1832, inveighed with weighty words against the sophisms which even at his time were being publicly  inculcated-namely, that no preference should be shown for any particular form of worship; that it is right for individuals to form their own personal judgments about religion; that each man’s conscience is his sole and all-sufficing guide; and that it is lawful for every man to publish his own views, whatever they may be, and even to conspire against the State. On the  question of the separation of Church and State the same Pontiff writes as  follows: “Nor can We hope for happier results either for religion or for  the civil government from the wishes of those who desire that the Church be  separated from the State, and the concord between the secular and ecclesiastical authority be dissolved. It is clear that these men, who yearn for a shameless liberty, live in dread of an agreement which has always been fraught with good, and advantageous alike to sacred and civil interests.”

Pope Pius IX, in his Encyclical Letter, Quanta Cura, 3, Dec. 8, 1864, joins the chorus in condemning the notion:

that a right resides in the citizens to an absolute liberty, which should be restrained by no authority whether ecclesiastical or civil, whereby they may be able openly and publicly to manifest and declare any of their ideas whatever, either by word of mouth, by the press, or in any other way.

Of course, Vatican II’s Dignitatis Humanae, in no way advocates for this condemned notion of “absolute liberty.” So once again, the attack leveled at Vatican II is without merit. DH, or Vatican II in general for that matter, never says states have no right to establish themselves as truly Christian nations, or to grant a privileged status to God’s true Church on earth. The “rights” DH are concerned with are rooted in a freedom from coercion that is in complete harmony with a Catholic understanding of the moral law that has been taught all the way back to our Lord and Master himself as stated above.

Dignitatis Humanae is Prophetic

DH is indeed prophetic in that it approaches the topic of liberty from a different vantage point than the above-mentioned Pontiffs. The earlier Popes were arguing from the perspective of trying to either preserve or restore the idea of a “Christendom,” or, at least, Christian nations that preserve the Faith and the moral law as properly understood by the Church as part of their respective Constitutions. And, of course, this is praiseworthy.

Vatican II comes from the perspective of the historical dissolution of Christendom. By 1960, Christian kings, or even Christian states, had become a distant memory — the stuff of history books. And today, we find ourselves, as Catholic Christians, far from ruling Catholic countries. According to an Amnesty International report in 2001, Christians are being persecuted in an unprecedented 149 nations of the world. And that number is probably even greater today.

Though the persecution in the early 1960′s was not what it is today, it was certainly on the rise with communism spreading around the globe. It was truly prophetic, facing the coming reality that we today are facing in an unprecedented way, when the Church at Vatican II asserted the Fundamental right of man to be free from the tyranny of coercion in his attempt to worship the true God as He revealed that worship to be offered in Jesus Christ and his One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. And, in the process of asserting this perennial and unchangeable truth, the Church also heralded its veracity not just for Catholics, but the entire world. The freedom from coercion in religious matters, “within due limits,” as the Council made clear, is not a Catholic only club. This is a truth rooted in “the laws of nature, and of nature’s God.”

Final Thought

When we consider the magnitude of the issues involved when we speak the words, ”religious freedom,” the words of the Council become all the more crucial for us to take to heart both today, and as we move forward toward darkening clouds on the horizon.

As we come to the close of 2014, I must say it has been absolutely unbelievable to me to watch our country’s leaders, in a nation once founded on the principle of freedom of religion, turn their legislative guns on the Church in ways unthinkable just 25 years ago. This administration, in particular, the Obama administration, has done more to take away our rights than perhaps any other in our history. And yet, so-called “Catholics” basically put him in office in both of his elections.

Of course, as Pope St. John Paul the Great famously stated in his Apostolic Exhortation, Christifidelis Laici, 38:

Above all, the common outcry, which is  justly made on behalf of human rights-for example, the right to health, to home,  to work, to family, to culture- is false and illusory if the right to life, the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other  personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination.

When the United States of America has legalized murder in the womb, is it really a surprise when it starts taking away basic rights to freedom from coercion in religious matters?

I suppose not.

Over these last six blog posts, we have spoken quite directly about abortion, Euthanasia, Embryonic Stem-cell research, cloning, homosexual “marriage,” and more, all of which are being practiced or experimented with all over the United States and around the world.

But even this is not really surprising. Once you reject the creator as our nation has over these last several decades there is no where else to go but toward the chaos of lawlessness and ultimate despair.

But what is most surprising is the level of ignorance among Catholics as to just what is happening right before our very eyes. What is most unsettling is the fact that Catholics (and Christians in general, I might add) have not represented the answer to the masses in need of the balm of Gilead. We have been a major part of the problem.

May God help us as a Catholic people to, “Awake O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light” (Eph. 5:14). We still have a real principle of redress in this country of ours. We can still vote. We can still get involved politically. And more importantly, we can still participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This is the most powerful weapon for our spiritual warfare. There is nothing close.

If you enjoyed this post, I recommend you click here.

Politics and Religion Pt. 5 – Homosexual “Marriage”

Elections have consequences. Has anyone else noticed how there is a deafening silence from those who did intellectual somersaults in order to justify their “Catholic” vote for Barack Obama?

It was insane then, and it would be even more insane now to even try.

This administration has been a disaster when we consider all of the most important moral issues of our time that we have been discussing over my last four posts. President Obama has placed radically pro-death and pro-homosexual “marriage” people in virtually every area of government, perhaps most importantly, the two Supreme Court Justices he selected (Elena Kagan and  Sonia Sotomayor), and now hundreds of federal judges that will eventually impact the lives of every citizen in the United States, and will continue to do so for many years to come.

The Last Straw?

As we now consider the fifth of the “non-negotiables” we’ve been discussing, so-called homosexual “marriage,” this may well be the last stand for our civilization. Because the marriage and family is the very foundation of civilization, its demise, which is what homosexual “unions” represents, leaves our nation without any semblance of a true foundation. And with 30 states now having approved homosexual “unions” (though the overwhelming majority have not really been “approved,” they have been coerced by a tyrannical judicial branch of our governments on both the federal and state level), it doesn’t look good for the future of our country (and we could add here for Western Civilization in general).

The people of the United States are now conceding more and more freedoms to the government and at such a speed that it is truly frightening. We will discuss non-negotiable #6, “Freedom of Religion,” in my next post, but the combination of a nation spiraling out of control morally, and a deadened population that is more interested in protecting their “rights” to kill babies in the womb, contracept, and watch porn, then to even consider questions like, ”Who am I?” “Where do I come from?” “Is there a God to whom I owe worship and obedience?” – You know, little questions like these – we are in a precarious situation as a nation, and as a people.

Folks, I can’t think of a more important time in our history for us to stand up for truth as Catholics here in the good ole’ U.S.A.

Homosexual “Unions”

The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in a document entitled: “Considerations of Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons,” 10, declared:

When legislation in favor of the recognition of homosexual unions is proposed for the first time in a legislative assembly, the Catholic lawmaker has a moral duty to express his opposition clearly and publicly and to vote against it. To vote in favor of a law so harmful to the common good is gravely immoral.

Notice, in this declaration, Catholic opposition is not limited to homosexual “marriage;” rather, it is to “homosexual unions,” which includes so-called civil unions as well. Catholics must reject any type of homosexual “union” that either involves sexual relations between homosexual persons, or any kind of “union” granting “rights” to these “couples” analogous to marriage rights… period. In fact, I am placing quotations around homosexual “marriage” in this post because, technically speaking, there is no such thing. “Homosexual ‘marriage’” is an oxymoron. Marriage is by definition, as the CCC says, “A covenant or partnership between a man and woman, which is ordered to the well-being of the spouses and to the procreation and upbringing of children” (Glossary definition of “marriage”, Cf. CCC 1601).

But unfortunately, we have to deal with the reality today that homosexual “unions” exist as “real privations,” which is the essence of what evil is. We must confront the reality that presents itself to us.

Homosexual unions are immoral on multiple levels. CCC 2357 declares concerning the illicit sexual behavior that underlies the reason why homosexual “unions” are always and in every situation to be opposed by Catholics:

[1] They are contrary to natural law. [2] They close the sexual act to the gift of life. [3] They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

CCC 2357 also says:

Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity (here the Church cites Gen. 19:1-29; Rom. 1:24-27; I Cor. 6:10; I Tim. 1:10), tradition has always declared that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered” (here the Church cites the “Declaration on Sexual Ethics” from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, paragraph 8).

Those who argue in favor of homosexual unions often proceed from a false assumption. They assume that because someone may have an impulse to commit a homosexual act, they should have the “right” to act on that impulse. But this is, of course, false. I am a German-Irishman—my “impulse” is to get drunk and take over the world! I am joking, of course! But seriously, I do tend to have a temper. Perhaps that comes from my German-Irishness, or perhaps it comes from the Marine in me… I don’t know. But I do know that my temper does not give me the “right” to punch someone in the nose! We all have all sorts of “impulses” that if we acted upon, most of us would be in jail right now!

Pedophiles from NAMBLA (the North American Man-Boy Love Association) make the argument that they were “born that way” and they should, therefore, be able to “fulfill who they are!” No! Folks, No! This is an unacceptable expression of what they would call “love;” we would call a perversion. Likewise, homosexual acts are unacceptable expressions of love that are really not expressions of love at all; rather, they become selfish expressions of narcissism and hedonism that do not respect one’s own nature or the nature of the other in this unhealthy relationship.

Bottom Line:

I will leave you with this thought concerning “homosexual unions.” As a former United States Marine, I can tell you that according to the UCMJ under which I served (the Uniform Code of Military Justice), both adultery and homosexual acts were against the law and a Marine, or any military personnel, who engaged in these acts, could have been prosecuted and thrown out of the military as a result of these acts.

Because of the “Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Act” of 2010, this has all changed. And not only has it changed, but I now sound like a “radical” because I am in favor of what had been law in the United States Marines since its inception on Nov. 10, 1775.

In fact, not long ago I was shouted down during a talk I gave at a Catholic parish in Southern California for simply stating that I am in favor of a government passing laws in accordance with the Natural Law, including laws against sodomy and bestiality.

I was shouted down with these words: “That’s Fascism! How can you say that!”

Well, folks, the truth is: that is not Fascism. That is what is called morality. 

I Am Neither a Prophet Nor the Son of a Prophet… But…

When I published the CD set called “The Five Non-Negotiables” at Catholic Answers back in 2008, I stated this:

I find it fascinating that the military still holds on to these laws [against adultery and homosexuality] even though the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled, in essence, homosexual acts to be a “right,” according to the Supreme Court Ruling, “Lawrence vs. Texas” of June 26, 2003. This ruling overturned all existing anti-sodomy laws in well over 20 states when it overturned “Bowers vs. Hardwick,” the 1986 Supreme Court decision that upheld the states’ rights to pass those same anti-sodomy laws.

As then Senator Rick Santorum, the Senator from Pennsylvania, said concerning this decision on the floor of the Senate [By the way, I have since talked with Senator Santorum about this and he corrected me. This was actually an interview he gave to the media, not a statement he made on the floor of the Senate], we have pulled the rug out from our own feet with this ruling because we now no longer have a principle of law in the United States of America. For hundreds of years, Western civilization in general, as well as the United States, has based its laws upon Natural Law, which is nothing other than mankind’s rational participation in the Eternal Law, who is God himself.

Rooted in the idea that “we do hold these truths to be self-evident” as the Declaration of Independence said it, we have always understood that knowledge of God and the moral law is not a matter of supernatural religion that can only be known via the special revelation of Scripture and that involves membership in a particular Church. All can know God exists and all can know the essence of and obligations of the moral law through the use of reason alone.

With this foundation, we can know that homosexual acts are gravely disordered and contrary to “the laws of nature and of nature’s God” to use the language of the Declaration of Independence. Folks, the United States Marine Corps has understood that if you want a strong and viable fighting force, you must have strong families…

You introduce homosexuality into the mix and you are adding perversion and problems beyond measure. Folks, a fighting force, a nation, a culture or a Church is only as strong as its families. Homosexual acts are contrary to the nature of love and life; they are contrary to the family. The Military understands this [used to!], and our culture once understood this as well. Yet, today we have a government that seems bent on jamming not only homosexual “unions,” but abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research and cloning down our throats [and now we can add the taking away of our religious liberty!]. And at times, it can seem as though we are powerless to do anything about it!

Well, my friends, I’ve got good news for you. I John 4:4 tells us “greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world.” I John 5:4 tells us “this is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.” Can you imagine what would happen if 67 million Catholics [Now, over 70 million] in the United States alone began to act like Catholics? What if 67 million Catholics in the US began to vote like Catholics! We would change this nation in one generation. My friends, it is time for us to stand up and act like Catholics. Sirach 4:28 tells us “fight for the truth unto the death and God will fight for you.” And as St. Paul said in Romans 8:31, “If God be for us, who can be against us!”

Unfortunately, we have now seen the military go the way of immorality as was predicted after “Lawrence vs. Texas.”

I recently had a long discussion with a retired Marine Colonel who worked his way up the ranks from a private all the way to Colonel, and was guaranteed “a star” (to be a General) if he were to remain in the Marine Corps. He turned it down and left the Marines because, in his words, “Tim, this is not the same Marine Corps you joined in 1983, and that I joined in 1986.”

He told me of spending about 4.5 days of his 5-day work week, before leaving the Marines in 2013, “dealing with sexual deviants.” Since 2010, there is no moral norm any longer. One of his last official acts as a Marine officer was to sign the paperwork to expel a 23 year-old WM (“woman Marine”) for raping her female Marine roommate.

According to this Marine Colonel, there is no leaking information like this to the media for fear of this administration coming down you like a ton of bricks!

But folks, the bottom line is this: Psalm 11:3 says, “If the foundations are destroyed,
what can the righteous do”? Our foundations have been destroyed.

But the good news is, as I said above, we serve a God who has a penchant for restoring that which has been destroyed by sin. I don’t know about you, but I am going to trust in him.