Monday, April 23, 2012

Religious Freedom and The Year of Faith (October 11, 2012 - November 24, 2013)

Note: The Vatican II document “Dignitatis Humanae” begins enunciatiating the two dimensions of freedom: “for” truth and “from” coercion:

“Contemporary man is becoming increasingly conscious of the dignity of the human person: more and more people are demanding that men should exercise fully their own judgment and a responsible freedom in their actions and should not be subject to the pressure of coercion but be inspired by a sense of duty. At the same time they are demanding constitutional limitation of the powers of government to prevent excessive restriction of the rightful freedom of individuals and associations.”

      All Catholics are on board for the first time on the Church’s teaching on contraception since the publication of Humanae Vitae in 1968. The government has crossed the line of separation of Church and State by infringing on our right to form our consciences in line with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. The problem is that we have not formed our consciences in line with the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, and hence we are screaming for a freedom we have already lost, and we scream because it now comes down to money. The bishops are calling American Catholics to civil disobedience, but it will result basically in an exercise of authoritative rhetoric (hot air) since we lack the interior vitality to risk death for the truth (the truth of the human person). We haven’t risked it for the last 50 years on this issue and its progeny. Hence, Benedict XVI call for a Year of Faith. A year of silence and prayer is the only way we will come to experience and become conscious of the gifted and relational dimension of the human person. Only with this and the wise and courageous teaching of Humanae Vitae and The Theology of the Body will the sin of contraception be vanquished. 

            Facts: On January 20, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reaffirmed a rule forcing virtually all private health care plans to cover sterilization, abortion-inducing drugs, and contraception. These are listed among "preventive services for women" that all health plans will have to cover without co-pays or other cost-sharing -- regardless of whether the insurer, the employer or other plan sponsor, or even the woman herself objects to such coverage. 

The exemption provided for "religious employers" was so narrow that it failed to cover the vast majority of faith-based organizations—including Catholic hospitals, universities, and charities—that help millions every year.  Ironically, not even Jesus and his disciples would have qualified for the exemption, because it excludes those who mainly serve people of another faith.
On February 10, the Obama Administration made this rule final “without change”; delayed enforcement for a year against religious nonprofits that were still not exempted (our charities, hospitals, and colleges); and promised to develop more regulations to “accommodate” them by the end of that additional year.  But that promised “accommodation” still forces them to pay for “services” that violate their religious convictions.

            The Pope: January 19, 2012: Move on this!! “With her long tradition of respect for the right relationship between faith and reason, the Church has a critical role to play in countering cultural currents which, on the basis of an extreme individualism, seek to promote notions of freedom detached from moral truth. Our tradition does not speak from blind faith, but from a rational perspective which links our commitment to building an authentically just, humane and prosperous society to our ultimate assurance that the cosmos is possessed of an inner logic accessible to human reasoning[RAC1] . The Church’s defense of a moral reasoning based on the natural law is grounded on her conviction that this law is not a threat to our freedom, but rather a "language" which enables us to understand ourselves and the truth of our being, and so to shape a more just and humane world. She thus proposes her moral teaching as a message not of constraint but of liberation, and as the basis for building a secure future.

The Church’s witness, then, is of its nature public: she seeks to convince by proposing rational arguments in the public square. The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation.

In the light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion[RAC2] . Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.

Here once more we see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society. The preparation of committed lay leaders and the presentation of a convincing articulation of the Christian vision of man and society remain a primary task of the Church in your country; as essential components of the new evangelization, these concerns must shape the vision and goals of catechetical programs at every level.”

USNCCB: “We are Catholics. We are Americans. We are proud to be both, grateful for the gift of faith which is ours as Christian disciples, and grateful for the gift of liberty which is ours as American citizens. To be Catholic and American should mean not having to choose one over the other. Our allegiances are distinct, but they need not be contradictory, and should instead be complementary. That is the teaching of our Catholic faith, which obliges us to work together with fellow citizens for the common good of all who live in this land. That is the vision of our founding and our Constitution, which guarantees citizens of all religious faiths the right to contribute to our common life together… It is a sobering thing to contemplate our government enacting an unjust law. An unjust law cannot be obeyed. In the face of an unjust law, an accommodation is not to be sought, especially by resorting to equivocal words and deceptive practices. If we face today the prospect of unjust laws, then Catholics in America, in solidarity with our fellow citizens, must have the courage not to obey them[RAC3] . No American desires this. No Catholic welcomes it. But if it should fall upon us, we must discharge it as a duty of citizenship and an obligation of faith (my emphasis).

The bishops statement can be misleading as if there were two different realms with two distinct sets of principles. America did not enjoy religious freedom in fact and in law (first amendment) without the interior exercise of a living Christian faith and the truth of conscience over at least 150 years [1620-1776]: the dignity of the human person as image of the divine Persons. There is no religious freedom before the state without the internal adherence of the believer to the Word of God, the Person of Christ. This internal adherence changes the experience and consciousness of the person such that he experiences autonomy and freedom of self-determination with regard to the worship of God.
The Reality: The freedom from coercion to exercise religion and the freedom of conscience are not two different realms. They both come from the notion of the human person as made in the image of God. True Freedom of religion will not be achieved until we achieve freedom from the contraceptive.
Dignitatis Humanae: ties the freedom from exterior coercion to the freedom of adhering to the truth once known and the obligation to seek it.
            “The Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. Freedom of this kind means that all men should be immune from coercion on the part of individuals, social groups and every human power so that , within due limits, nobody is forced to act against his convictions nor is any one to be restrained from acting in accordance with his convictions in religious matter in private or in public, alone or in association with others. The Council further declares that the right to religious freedom is based on the very dignity of the human person as known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself. This right of the human person to religious freedom must be given such recognition in the constitutional order of society as will make it a civil right” [2] (my bold).
This means that the consciousness of the dignity of the human person to self-determination with regard to God comes first and foremost from the experience of Christian faith as an act of self-transcendence, i.e. the reception of the Word of God into the self by an act of self-giving. That act yields the experience of the dignity of the self and the right and freedom to not be coerced by any external force. To contracept is neither to believe nor self-transcend, and as a result there is no consciousness of the right to religious freedom as immunity from coercion.
My Thesis: Reports continually offer 90% (+ -) of all women in the child bearing age, including Catholics, to be using a contraceptive agent for the last 40-50 years. We are awash in a universal galvanization of Catholicity by bishops and catholic publicity against making the Church pay for what is against conscience on the books. But the reality is that we are claiming a freedom that we have already given away at its root. That is, we have already given away our religious freedom by the silence and complicity in the sin of contraception and its Sequela (above).
BECAUSE: Contraception is the denial of the freedom of the person to be gift. What is freedom?

1) “‘If you abide in my Word, you shall be my disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth, and truth shall make you free.’ They answered him, ‘We are the children of Abraham, and we have never yet been slaves to anyone. How sayest thou, ‘You shall be free?”” Jesus answered them, ‘Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin…” (Jn. 8, 32).

2) John Paul II: “Veritatis Splendor” (#85): “The Crucified Christ reveals the authentic meaning of freedom; he lives it full in the total gift of himself and calls his disciples to share in his freedom.”

3) “The real God is bound to himself in threefold love and is thus pure freedom. Man’s vocation is to be this image of God, to become like him…. The person who can merely choose between arbitrary options is not yet free. The free person is only someone who takes the criteria for his action from within and needs to obey no external compulsion. For this reason the person who has become at one with his essential nature, at one with truth itself, is free.” J. Ratzinger, Church, Ecumenism and Politics. Crossroad, 274.

Happy fault this government directive! Perhaps it is the moment to confront why the mandate to pay for contraception (“love” without life) and its derivatives: IVF (life without “love”), the frozen embryo, designer embryo, pre-natal adoption, the breakdown of marriage, homosexuality, promiscuous organ donation from the “brain dead|,” etc., is grave moral evil.
 And the key to understanding the moral evil of contraception is the understanding of the human person as made in the image and likeness of the Trinitarian Persons as revealed by Jesus Christ. Such a public and secular issue has its ontological and epistemological grounding in such an apparently remote revelation as the Trinity of God – and this because the very meaning of the human person is Jesus Christ, the Trinitarian Son of the Father Who is the concrete and historical God-man (“Feel me and see that a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” [Lk. 24. 30-43]). As the divine Persons, the human person is constitutively relational [1]and “finds self only by sincere gift of self” (Gaudium et spes #24). The prohibition of contraception by the Catholic Church was semantically expressed in the encyclical of July 25, 1968:
Text of Humanae Vitae 11-12:
The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life. (12)
Union and Procreation
12. This particular doctrine, often expounded by the magisterium of the Church, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.
The reason is that the fundamental nature of the marriage act, while uniting husband and wife in the closest intimacy, also renders them capable of generating new life—and this as a result of laws written into the actual nature of man and of woman. And if each of these essential qualities, the unitive and the procreative, is preserved, the use of marriage fully retains its sense of true mutual love and its ordination to the supreme responsibility of parenthood to which man is called. 
Therefore, Benedict XVI has called for a “Year of Faith” so that we might be able to understand Vatican II, its first encyclicals Populorum Progressio, and Humanae Vitae and the subsequent Magisterium of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
Porta Fidei:  The “door of faith” (Acts 14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church. It is possible to cross that threshold when the word of God is proclaimed and the heart allows itself to be shaped by transforming grace. To enter through that door is to set out on a journey that lasts a lifetime. It begins with baptism (cf. Rom 6:4), through which we can address God as Father, and it ends with the passage through death to eternal life, fruit of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, whose will it was, by the gift of the Holy Spirit, to draw those who believe in him into his own glory (cf. Jn 17:22)….
 5. In some respects, my venerable predecessor saw this Year as a “consequence and a necessity of the postconciliar period”,[8] fully conscious of the grave difficulties of the time, especially with regard to the profession of the true faith and its correct interpretation. It seemed to me that timing the launch of the Year of Faith to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council would provide a good opportunity to help people understand that the texts bequeathed by the Council Fathers, in the words of Blessed John Paul II, “have lost nothing of their value or brilliance. They need to be read correctly, to be widely known and taken to heart as important and normative texts of the Magisterium, within the Church's Tradition ... I feel more than ever in duty bound to point to the Council as the great grace bestowed on the Church in the twentieth century: there we find a sure compass by which to take our bearings in the century now beginning.”[9] I would also like to emphasize strongly what I had occasion to say concerning the Council a few months after my election as Successor of Peter: “if we interpret and implement it guided by a right hermeneutic, it can be and can become increasingly powerful for the ever necessary renewal of the Church.”[10]
6. The renewal of the Church is also achieved through the witness offered by the lives of believers: by their very existence in the world, Christians are called to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us. The Council itself, in the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, said this: While “Christ, ‘holy, innocent and undefiled’ (Heb 7:26) knew nothing of sin (cf. 2 Cor 5:21), but came only to expiate the sins of the people (cf. Heb 2:17)... the Church ... clasping sinners to its bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal. The Church, ‘like a stranger in a foreign land, presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God’, announcing the cross and death of the Lord until he comes (cf. 1 Cor11:26). But by the power of the risen Lord it is given strength to overcome, in patience and in love, its sorrow and its difficulties, both those that are from within and those that are from without, so that it may reveal in the world, faithfully, although with shadows, the mystery of its Lord until, in the end, it shall be manifested in full light.”[11]
The Year of Faith, from this perspective, is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Saviour of the world. In the mystery of his death and resurrection, God has revealed in its fullness the Love that saves and calls us to conversion of life through the forgiveness of sins (cf. Acts 5:31). For Saint Paul, this Love ushers us into a new life: “We were buried ... with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4). Through faith, this new life shapes the whole of human existence according to the radical new reality of the resurrection. To the extent that he freely cooperates, man’s thoughts and affections, mentality and conduct are slowly purified and transformed, on a journey that is never completely finished in this life. “Faith working through love” (Gal 5:6) becomes a new criterion of understanding and action that changes the whole of man’s life (cf. Rom 12:2; Col 3:9-10; Eph 4:20-29; 2 Cor 5:17).

[1] See J. Ratzinger’s “Introduction to Christianity” Ignatius (2004) 183-184: “‘He is not called Father with reference to himself but only in relation to the Son; seen by himself he is simply God’ [Augustine]. Here the decisive point comes beautifully to light. ‘Father’ is purely a concept of relationship. Only in being for the other is he Father; in his own being in himself he is simply God. Person is the pure relation of being related, nothing else. Relationship is not something extra added to the person, as it is with us; it only exists at all as relatedness.
                “Expressed in the imagery of Christian tradition, this means that the first Person does not beget the Son as if the act of begetting were subsequent in the finished Person. It is the act of begetting, of giving oneself, of streaming forth. It is identical with the act of self-giving. Only as this act is it person, and therefore it is not the giver but the act of giving, ‘wave’ not ‘particle’…In this idea of relatedness in word and love, independent of the concept of substance and not to be classified among the ‘accidents,’ Christian thought discovered the kernel of the concept of person, which describes something other and infinitely more than the mere idea of the ‘individual.’”

 [RAC1] Reason needs faith in order to be truly reason. Without faith, reason is not reason. It cannot “see” Being fully.  The self-transcending self is the light of reason. Without faith, we light lanterns at noon.

 [RAC2]Freedom of religion as a political truth is a result of reason’s obedience to the Word of God in the Magisterium


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