The character of our way of life depends on the character of my way life, multiplied by the tens of millions. We shouldn’t waste time being shocked or baffled by the evil in the world. It has familiar
roots. It begins in the little crevices of each human heart – especially our own.
…(V)ast numbers of American young adults are, in effect, morally illiterate. They’re not “bad” people — far from it. But they often lack the moral vocabulary and roots in a living religious tradition that would enable them to reason independently through complex ethical problems. They believe in God,
but in a generic, feel-good deism sense, with God’s main job reduced to giving them what they
want when they want it.
The polemic of the recent campaign has done very little to shore up the decaying foundation of American society. America is strong only when her families are strong. But today, we witness the breakdown in family life.
As we say, religious freedom has never been red or blue, left or right, Catholic or non-Catholic. It is American. Let’s keep it that way. In America, religious belief and practice are protected by the First Amendment. It is the first freedom in the Bill of Rights. The threats to it today are outrageous.
The strong individualism of our American culture undermines the sense of a collective identity in which Catholicism is experienced as a distinctive way of life.
In one sense, Blanshard was right. Our Catholic values and moral beliefs are “dangerous.” They are “dangerous” because they demand that we look at ourselves and what we value. They are “dangerous” because they demand conversion. They are “dangerous” because they demand conviction. They are “dangerous” because if we live them in our daily lives, we will fundamentally change the culture — but not through revolution, not through imposing our will, but through the example of what the faith alive can mean in the Church Alive! as a faith lived.
But what Blanshard refused to understand is that Catholic values do not contradict American freedoms —they fulfill them. Catholic values lived — lived by you and me — are the key to renewal, the key to reconciliation, the key to solve so much that plagues us.
Poverty in America is a scandal, certainly not to the poor. There is no scandal to being poor. The scandal is for those of us who could help by using our influence and resources to promote community and government programs to assist and do not do so.
Recently, sadly, a prominent Catholic political leader (on Capitol Hill) stated that “The Church needs to get over their conscience thing.” No, we don’t; no, we can’t; as believers, as Americans.
Unless Catholics continue to fight in the courtroom, in the voting booth, and on our knees in prayer, religious liberty in the United States will quickly erode and fade into the annals of our history. Now is the time to protect the legacy that began the American experiment. Now is the time to bring religious freedom to the forefront of the American legal system once more.
This desire to be “free from God” has cursed us since the Garden of Eden. Words such as subjection, lordship, kingdom, and servant are hardly popular in our American vocabulary. In our religious lexicon, though, they are at the core of our relationship with God. We know that America, like any other nation on earth, indeed, like the Israel of the Hebrew Scriptures, is at its best when it acknowledges its absolute reliance upon God and its trust in His sovereignty and providence.
For Christians, patriotism is a virtue. Love of country is an honorable thing. As Chesterton once said, if we build a wall between ourselves and the world, it makes little difference whether we describe ourselves as locked in or locked out. But God has made us for more than the world. Our real home isn’t here.
We must be loyal Americans by being bold and courageous Catholics! Is that not in the tradition of St. Joan of Arc, the sixth centennial of whose birth we celebrate this year? Is that not why the Servants of God Emil Kapaun and Vincent Capodanno died serving as priests to their men? Do not the values of our faith contribute to our fidelity as citizens?
From the start, believers – alone and in communities – have shaped American history simply by trying to live their faith in the world. The American experience of personal freedom and civil peace would be inconceivable without a religious grounding and a predominantly Christian inspiration. The reason is simple. What we believe about God shapes what we believe about man. And what we believe about man shapes what we believe about the purpose and proper structure of human society. So it should surprise no one that at the heart of American life is a Christian-informed definition of what it means to be human.
Through the Church, Christ scatters seed upon American soil that is dry, rocky, and sown with weeds — soil that has built up a certain resistance to authentic religious experience.
Religious freedom is the lifeblood of the American people, the cornerstone of American government. When the Founding Fathers determined that the innate rights of men and women should be enshrined in our Constitution, they so esteemed religious liberty that they made it the first freedom in the Bill of Rights.