Friday, June 29, 2012

The Bishops's Statement and the Fortnight of Freedom

   I think it is important to realize religious freedom is won by obedience to conscience as informed by the Magisterium of the Church, and conscience is the consciousness arising from the experience of conformity to the "ontological tendency" of being image of the divine Person of the Son. Since 90% of American women in the child-bearing age use contraceptives, they have already forfeited this freedom. It would have to be won back in the internal forum by a life of self-gift in conjugal relations. Lacking that, we have nothing to defend. We do not have real religious freedom because, as the bishops say in their statement, we are Americans. We are Americans with religious freedom because the founding fathers reflected 159 years of the Christian experience (1620-1779) that had become consciousness. 

   What impedes our consciousness now? 44 years of contracepting since (at least) July 25, 1968 and a century and a half glut of things that has spun its web of impoverty about our souls dumbing down our minds into a dictatorship of relativism. The icon of freedom, as John Paul II wrote in 1993 in Veritatis Splendor #85, is Christ crucified. It is the gift of self to death. 

   Let it be clear: the opening salvo of the bishops' statement on Religious Liberty is flawed. It says that "We are Catholics... 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." This last remark is a flawed assertion. Our true freedom comes from Christ crucified not from being Americans, and the religious freedom we enjoy as Americans does not come from the Bill of Rights and the Constitution but from the experience of imaging God as relation. 

 Consider the experience of Whittaker Chambers in Quakerism:

“Men may seek God alone. They must worship him in common. The words of Miguel de Unamuno also express my own conviction: ‘A Miserere sung in a cathedral by a multitude tormented by destiny is equal to a philosophy.’ The God it worships is what a nation is, and how he worships Him defines what a man is. I sought a congregation in which I could worship God as the expression of a common need. For I had not changed from secular to religious faith in order to tolerate a formless good will vaguely tinctured with rationalized theology and social uplift. I was not seeking ethics; I was seeking God. My need was to be a practicing Christian in the same sense that I had been a practicing Communist. I was seeking a community of worship in which a daily mysticism (for I hold that God cannot be known in any other way) would be disciplined and fortified by an orderly, and even practical, spirit and habit of life and the mind. Some instinctive sense of my need, abetted by a memory of a conversation with my grandmother Chambers, which I have written about earlier, drew me powerfully to the Religious Society of Friends, the Quakers.”[1]

“Three hundred years after it was written, Fox’s Journal is still less a book than a voice for those to whom it speaks. It was a voice that spoke peculiarly, As Quakers say, ‘to my condition.’ It summoned me to a direct daily experience of God and told me that His revelation is continuous to those who seek to hear His voice in the silence of all distractions of this world. It summoned me to know the Inward Light of God within myself, as within all other men without exception. It enjoined on me a simplicity of the spirit whose first commandment is compassion, which is expressly commanded not to judge, and whose answer to the surging enmity of the word must be yea yea and nay nay ‘because more than this cometh of evil.’ In short, it summoned me to the most difficult of vocations – to be a Christian as in the first century….[2]

            “I was in fact, though not yet in name, a Quaker. An in ward experience itself, beyond any power of the mind, had reached me. For what had happened to me, Robert  Barclay has given the expression that all Quakers know because it is final for all who have suffered it: ‘Of which I myself, in part, am a true witness; who not by strength of arguments or by a particular disquisition of each doctrine, and convincement of my understanding thereby, came to receive and bear witness to the Truth, but by being secretly reached by that life. For, when I came into the silent assemblies of God’s people, I felt a secret power among them, which touched my heart; and as I gave way unto it, I found the evil weakening in me and the good raised up…’”[3]

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