In God We Trust: But Not The Government

The greatest country in the history of the world is celebrating her 236th birthday today.  I think the United States is facing the most important election season since the Civil War.  As an American and a Catholic, I believe one of most important issues challenging us is the threat of losing our religious freedom.  The current administration has seriously attached our fundamental right to freely practice our religious liberty.  The HHS mandate forces Catholic institutions like hospitals and charities to betray our Catholic teachings against artificial contraception and abortion.  Despite the Church’s attempts to dialogue with administration officials, no solution has yet been found.  Recently 43 Catholic institutions and dioceses filed suit to stop the implementation of the mandate.  The future of this civil action will be played out in the courts for months or even years to come.  In the mean time, our bishops have identified six areas of significant concern in the upcoming election (“Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, US Bishops, 2011 update).
 
The first of these fundamental problems is that of abortion and other threats to human life including euthanasia, assisted suicide, cloning, embryonic stem cell research, the death penalty, genocide and unjust war.  When we say we’re “pro-life” we have to include all these issues.  Secondly, the bishops include the administration’s “renewed efforts to force Catholic ministries — in health care, education and social services — “to violate their consciences or stop serving those in need.”  The bishops include in their concerns the ongoing efforts to redefine marriage away from “the permanent, faithful, and fruitful union of one man and one woman.”  The Church also sees our current economic crisis and all the suffering that flows from it as a threat to our freedom as Catholics and Americans.  Our future generations are being saddled with an almost-insurmountable debt which threatens their freedom and security.  The fifth problem facing our country is what the bishops describe as our “broken immigration system.”  The security of our borders remains a fundamental threat to our safety while families separated by immigration suffer.  The evil of human trafficking and the unresolved status of millions of undocumented persons already living in America are part of the immigration mess, too.  Lastly, the the bishops emphasize ongoing wars, terrorism and violence worldwide, but especially “the absence of justice, security and peace” in the Middle East as a national problem.
 
Since June 21 Catholics across America have been led by our bishops to observe a “Fortnight for Freedom” leading up to July 4th. During these two weeks, parishes throughout the country have been offering additional prayer opportunities, special liturgies and Masses, and other reminders of our need to pray for our country at this important time.  The starting date of June 21 holds a special place in Catholic history and religious freedom.  That day is the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More.  Both these Catholic Englishmen suffered and died for their beliefs in religious freedom and so are heroic reminders for us that true freedom of conscience is worth a great, and even terrible price.  Independence Day celebrates our birth as a nation founded on the principles of freedom, liberty, justice, and self-determination.  These past two weeks of prayerful observance have reminded us of our dual heritage as Americans and Catholics.  We honor this heritage by participating in the political process.  As Christians, we have a moral obligation to build a more just and peaceful world.  The bishops remind us that it is our duty to insure that “the weak and vulnerable are protected and human rights and dignity be defended.”  Doing this means making sure that we’re well-informed about issues and candidates and developing an equally well-formed conscience through prayer, study and the willingness to act courageously to fulfill our duties as Catholic citizens.  Two websites are available as resources which can assist us as we prepare ourselves.  Both ww.FaithfulCitizenship.org and www.usccb.org offer a wide range of relevant documents, prayers, and study materials to help us get ready.  Don’t miss your opportunity to participate in this vital election season.  Our great country needs each of us to bring our principles and moral convictions into the public arena by being informed voters on election day.  May God bless America!
 
“In God We Trust.”
                                   —-The official motto of the USA since 1956

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