Sunday, July 1, 2012

Independence Day and Our Religious Freedom

Chaplain Jacob Duché leading the first prayer in the First Continental Congress at Carpenter's Hall, Philadelphia, September 1774: mezzotint, 1848.- Granger Collection - artist unknown

As we celebrate our nation’s independence, we thank God for this country. We thank all those people of faith, all the soldiers and all the conscientious citizens who served our land over the last two centuries. We remember that America was founded on the principle that all men are created equal and have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Catholics have come a long way in the political spectrum. As a matter of fact, we were not really accepted until the middle of the 20th century. Though our country believed in freedom of religion, Catholics had to endure much discrimination. Even in Maryland, named after the Mother of God and where most Catholics settled, discrimination occurred when non Catholics held political power. So, today politically we are in the mainstream. What, nevertheless, remains is the need to treat us fairly across the boards. This means that the entertainment and news media should not have a prejudice against us when it rightfully considered taboo to do so against any other faith. We know that the Church, religious and practicing Catholics are often ridiculed or unfairly judged in films and other venues. This is a good reason to support The Catholic League for Civil Rights mentioned in another part of this bulletin. So, equality must include Catholics as well.

This is the time we should especially recall the right of freedom to practice religion which our forefathers so cherished. We must not be compelled to do something that is against our conscience.

The HHS mandate of the Obama administration requires insurance companies to provide contraceptive services for all. This includes abortions. It’s a smokescreen to say that Catholic institutions do not have to pay for this because their insurance companies will have to do so. The fact is that the government is forcing the Church to condone something that is wrong. It goes against the Catholic conscience. The issue once again is freedom of conscience -- to practice one’s faith without government interference.

Whether Mr. Obama or Kathleen Sebelius, the head of HHS, agrees with the moral teaching of our Church is immaterial. Knowing the principles upon which our nation was founded, they must respect the Catholic conscience.

Father Stanley

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