Friday, April 29, 2016

Vocation of the Family

Pope Francis

Amoris Laetitia (61-88)

Marriage is a gift from God that must be safeguarded.  It is a “community of life and love.”  It involves mutual self-giving that integrates the sexual and affective dimensions of matrimonial love in the lives of a couple.  Marriage implies unity, fidelity, indissolubility, mutual support toward spiritual union with one another and God, and openness to life. This openness to life “does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfillment” (80).  “[The child] does not appear at the end of a process, but is present from the beginning of love as an essential feature, one that cannot be denied without disfiguring that love itself.  From the outset, love refuses every impulse to close in on itself; it is open to a fruitfulness that draws it beyond itself.  Hence no genital act of husband and wife can refuse this meaning, even when for various reasons it may not always in fact beget a new life” (80).  “A child deserves to be born of that love…”not as something owed, but as a gift.  “According to the order of creation, conjugal love between a man and a woman, and the transmission of life are ordered to each other” (81). 

The family is the sanctuary of life, for young and old.  It is therefore “a horrendous contradiction when it becomes a place where life is rejected and destroyed.  So great is the value of a human life, and so inalienable the right to life of an innocent child growing in its mother’s womb, that no alleged right to one’s body can justify a decision to terminate that life, which is an end in itself and which can never be considered the ‘property’ of another human being” (83). 

The primary right of educating children and forming the domestic Church is entrusted to parents.  By virtue of the Sacrament of Matrimony, parents become ministers of their children’s education.  In this education children learn the value of endurance, work, fraternal love, forgiveness, self-sacrifice and divine worship.

Marriage is a gift that is intended to be indissoluble for love is indissoluble.  In imitation of God, as a communion of “Persons,” married life is a life that is lived in communion, inseparable as God is inseparable.  It is a union in imitation of God’s love for his people, his Church, his Bride.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Challenges to the Modern Family: The Culture of the Ephemeral

Pope Francis

Amoris Laetitia (31-57)

39.  “[The family is suffering from] various symptoms of a ‘culture of the ephemeral.’  [This is seen in the] speed with which people move from one affective relationship to another.  They believe, along the lines of social networks, that love can be connected or disconnected at the whim of the consumer, and the relationship quickly ‘blocked….’  We treat affective relationships the way we treat material objects and the environment--everything is disposable; everyone uses and throws away, takes and breaks, exploits and squeezes to the last drop.  Then goodbye.  Narcissism makes people incapable of looking beyond themselves, beyond their own desires and needs.  Yet sooner or later, those who use others end up being used themselves, manipulated and discarded by that same mind-set.”

Symptoms of a culture of the ephemeral:
  • An extreme individualism, narcissism, or self-centeredness that makes the necessary self-giving for communal life, family life, difficult if not impossible.   
  • Obsession with possessions, materialism, consumerism, self-pleasuring, and self-centeredness have made the possibility of marriage and family life difficult.
  • An economic structure and work environment which makes family life difficult to begin and maintain, and which denies that the family is a good which a society cannot do without.  Exhausted from work, too tired to talk, too tired to share a family meal, and an addiction to television and the internet hinder the proper formation of marriages and family life.  Seeking family security often blinds one to the enjoyment of the present, of making the present precious.  The burdens on the family from work and societal structures can fail the family in becoming the cell of society, the school of virtues, the school of love, the domestic church.
  • A secular culture that has lost touch with noble goals and personal discipline—where all is permissible, where no truth exists--has made marriage unattractive to many young people.
  • The idea that marriage is a dynamic path to personal development and happiness has been surpassed by a vision of marriage as a burden that can be fled from at the first sign of inconvenience or boredom.
  • The current spread of pornography and the commercialization and objectification of the body has led to a distorted image of personhood, sexuality, and married life.  The spiritual dimension to sex has been lost in many cases.
  • Attempts to separate biological sex from the socio-cultural role of sex (gender)—i.e., same-sex unions--is destructive to authentic femininity, masculinity, and destructive to the proper formation of the self-identity of children, teenagers, and young adults.

As the family goes, so does society.  “No one can think that the weakening of the family as that natural society founded on marriage will prove beneficial to society as a whole.  The contrary is true; it poses a threat to the mature growth of individuals, the cultivation of community values and the moral progress of cities and countries….  But nowadays who is making an effort to strengthen marriages, to help married couples overcome their problems, to assist them in the work of raising children and, in general, to encourage the stability of the marriage bond?”

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Francis Principle

Fr. John J. Pasquini, Th.D.

Pope Francis recognizes that the West has fallen and that Christendom has passed on.  Secularism is the well-entrenched worldview of the West.  

There have been consequences of this new worldview.  By observing cultural trends since the 1960s in the United States the following can be observed: 

  • One out of four children conceived is aborted in the United States.
  • Post Abortion Trauma (PTSD) has reached epidemic proportions.
  • Cohabitation has increased from 500,000 to 4 million.
  • Divorce has increased from 400,000 to 1.2 million per year.
  • Single-parent families have risen from 9 to 32 percent.
  • Illegitimate births have increased from 200,000 to 1.5 million per year.
  • Teenage pregnancy has increased from 30 to 110 per 1000 girls annually.
  • One out of four Americans has a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
  • Child abuse affects 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 7 boys in the United States.
  • Crime rates have increased by 510 percent.
  • Healthcare in the richest country that has ever existed is a complete catastrophe.
  • Approximately 4 million children under the age of 12 and 27 million adults in the United States goes to bed hungry; 300,000 to 700,000 on any given night are homeless!
  • Those who promote traditional marriages and traditional lifestyles and traditional morals are pegged as dangerous to society.
  • The list goes on….

Attempts to stem the growth of secularism and to protect the rights of the religious is now a thing of the past.  The last bastion of traditional values in the West, the United States, began its downward spiral under the Clinton administration and completely fell under the Obama administration.  America has been Europeanized.  Our current elections are symptomatic of this current.

And so how are we to act as Christians, and in particular as Catholics, in the midst of this time of darkness? How are we to act during a time when that which is “regressive” is called “progressive”?

Francis has given us what I call the “Francis principle” which is not new or original to Pope Francis, but has been the hallmark of his papacy.  The Francis principle is one of “accompaniment.”  Its focus is directed primarily at two groups: the secularists and the secular infected Catholics.

History has never seen a successful secular period. All secular periods in history have had tragic endings. Whether one believes in God or not, secularism is contrary to the evolutionary nature of man.  Thus it always fails. 

The role of the Catholic under the “Francis principle” is to proclaim the truth, explain the truth, and accompany secularists along the road of life.   When secularism fails, Catholics must be there with the truth, the way, and the means of living life abundantly and fully.

The role of the Catholic in regards to secular infected Catholics or Christians—i.e., Cafeteria or Menu Catholics—is likewise to accompany them along the road of life.  The fullness of life can only be lived out by the living out the Gospel virtues.  Those who live contrary to the 2000 year tested values of the Gospel ultimately end up recognizing that there is something missing from their lives.  By accompanying them along the journey, the Catholic is called to be there in their time of need.

Pope Francis has recognized that the West has fallen.  He is teaching us how to live as an anawim community of faith, how to live as the early Church lived—in a culture that is foreign to the Gospel and often outright hostile.  He is reminding us what Saint Francis of Assisi taught so many years ago:  “Preach the Gospel, and if you have to, use words.”

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Catholic Schools: Leaven in the Human Community

Paul VI

The influence of the Church in the field of education is shown in a special manner by the Catholic school. No less than other schools does the Catholic school pursue cultural goals and the human formation of youth. But its proper function is to create for the school community a special atmosphere animated by the Gospel spirit of freedom and charity, to help youth grow according to the new creatures they were made through baptism as they develop their own personalities, and finally to order the whole of human culture to the news of salvation so that the knowledge the students gradually acquire of the world, life and man is illumined by faith. So indeed the Catholic school, while it is open, as it must be, to the situation of the contemporary world, leads its students to promote efficaciously the good of the earthly city and also prepares them for service in the spread of the Kingdom of God, so that by leading an exemplary apostolic life they become, as it were, a saving leaven in the human community.

Since, therefore, the Catholic school can be such an aid to the fulfillment of the mission of the People of God and to the fostering of the dialogue between the Church and mankind, to the benefit of both, it retains even in our present circumstances the utmost importance. Consequently [the Church] proclaims anew what has already been taught in several documents of the magisterium, namely: the right of the Church freely to establish and to conduct schools of every type and level. And the [Church] calls to mind that the exercise of a right of this kind contributes in the highest degree to the protection of freedom of conscience, the rights of parents, as well as to the betterment of culture itself.

But let teachers recognize that the Catholic school depends upon them almost entirely for the accomplishment of its goals and programs. They should therefore be very carefully prepared so that both in secular and religious knowledge they are equipped with suitable qualifications and also with a pedagogical skill that is in keeping with the findings of the contemporary world. Intimately linked in charity to one another and to their students and endowed with an apostolic spirit, may teachers by their life as much as by their instruction bear witness to Christ, the unique Teacher. Let them work as partners with parents and together with them in every phase of education give due consideration to the difference of sex and the proper ends Divine Providence assigns to each sex in the family and in society. Let them do all they can to stimulate their students to act for themselves and even after graduation to continue to assist them with advice, friendship and by establishing special associations imbued with the true spirit of the Church. The work of these teachers, this sacred synod declares, is in the real sense of the word an apostolate most suited to and necessary for our times and at once a true service offered to society. The [Church] also reminds Catholic parents of the duty of entrusting their children to Catholic schools wherever and whenever it is possible and of supporting these schools to the best of their ability and of cooperating with them for the education of their children.

Cf. Gravissimum Educationis, Paul VI, #8, 1965.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Reforming the Supreme Court with the Historical Critical Method

Fr.  John J. Pasquini, Th.D.

Every governmental system that survives for any extensive period of time needs reform.  In fact, without reform a system can implode, cease to exist, or evolve into something never intended and never wanted. 

The Founding Fathers viewed the Constitution as a living and breathing document similar to an elastic band that can expand and contract, all the while still remaining a rubber band.  This approach by the Fathers was intended to make the Constitution relevant for every generation.  

A major flaw by the Fathers, however, was their failure to place within the Constitution a clear method or spirit of interpretation.  This has led to the Constitution being interpreted, for all practical purposes, in almost any manner—much like the Bible today is interpreted.  Hence, the Supreme Court has become over the years less an interpretive body and more a legislative body, at times flirting with becoming oligarchic—a threat to the very core of our democracy and the separation of powers.

Antonin Scalia recognized this major flaw and sought to apply the Catholic historical critical method of interpreting the Bible to the Constitution—a brilliant, innovative and needed approach.  The historical critical method—a hermeneutical method--is the only means to assure a properly functioning judicial branch.  So what is this historical critical method that Scalia, I argue, used? 

Two Greek terms are needed at this time.  Exegesis and Eisegesis. 

Exegesis is the process of letting the text say what it says, not what someone wants it to say.  Exegesis seeks to understand the original meaning and context of the text within its cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic milieu.  It seeks the author’s or authors’ intent.  Once this original meaning is understood then one can apply the same meaning or principle to new developments. 

Eisegesis, on the other hand, is the taking of one’s or the modern culture’s presuppositions, views, agendas, or biases and forcing them into the text.  It is a way of jamming a belief or interpretation into a text that in no way supports such a belief. 

Eisegesis is what is avoided by Exegesis.  But sadly, eisegesis is the norm amongst many who serve or have served on the Supreme Court.  Eisegesis is a threat to the Supreme Court’s standing as a purely judicial structure within the separation of powers intended by the Fathers. 

Exegesis promotes objective interpretation; Eisegesis introduces the subjective into a text or document. 

Antonin Scalia was an exegete.  The Supreme Court, if it is to survive as a valid guardian of the Constitution, must be an exegetical body, not an eisegetical body. 

Those nominated to the Supreme Court should be trained, upon their selection, in the historical critical method.  The country depends on it!

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Divine Image in Humans

Fr. John J. Pasquini, Th.D.

“The divine image is present in every man.  It shines forth in the communion of persons, in the likeness of unity of the divine persons among themselves” (CCC 1702).

All people bear the divine image.  Thus, what we do to others we do to God, to his image and likeness.  An attack on innocent human life in the womb is an attack on the image and likeness of God, on God himself.  The euthanizing of the ill is an attack on the image and likeness of God, on God himself. Acts of terrorism are an attack on the image and likeness of God, on God himself.  Any act of injustice is an attack on the image and likeness of God.

When we recognize that all are created in his image and likeness, then our perspective on life changes radically.  As I write, a genocide is taking place in the Middle East.  Yet our President and many in the West are silent.  Should we be surprised?  If one is indifferent to abortion, which is an attack on God, which is the aborting of the image and likeness of God in the womb, in its most fragile stage, how can we expect such people or nations to have a concern for others!

To be in the image and likeness of God is to recognize that we are part of a communion of persons.  In theological terms there is one God in three “persons” or “modes of expression.”  There is no division, confusion, or change between the three “persons” or “modes of expression.”  Being in this “Trinitarian” image means we are called to love so intensely that our love builds a world, a communion of persons, where the experience of coming together becomes the source and summit of our reason for being, where the world images its Maker.

We were created in the image and likeness of God.  We bear the imprint of God.  Let us live up to our nature!  

Friday, April 15, 2016

On Religious Freedom: A Right Based on Truth and Justice

 Dignitatis Humanae

Paul VI 

1. A sense of the dignity of the human person has been impressing itself more and more deeply on the consciousness of contemporary man, and the demand is increasingly made that men should act on their own judgment, enjoying and making use of a responsible freedom, not driven by coercion but motivated by a sense of duty. The demand is likewise made that constitutional limits should be set to the powers of government, in order that there may be no encroachment on the rightful freedom of the person and of associations. This demand for freedom in human society chiefly regards the quest for the values proper to the human spirit. It regards, in the first place, the free exercise of religion in society. This Vatican Council takes careful note of these desires in the minds of men. It proposes to declare them to be greatly in accord with truth and justice. To this end, it searches into the sacred tradition and doctrine of the Church-the treasury out of which the Church continually brings forth new things that are in harmony with the things that are old.

First, the council professes its belief that God Himself has made known to mankind the way in which men are to serve Him, and thus be saved in Christ and come to blessedness. We believe that this one true religion subsists in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, to which the Lord Jesus committed the duty of spreading it abroad among all men. Thus He spoke to the Apostles: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have enjoined upon you" (Matt. 28: 19-20). On their part, all men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His Church, and to embrace the truth they come to know, and to hold fast to it.

This Vatican Council likewise professes its belief that it is upon the human conscience that these obligations fall and exert their binding force. The truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it makes its entrance into the mind at once quietly and with power.

Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.

Over and above all this, the council intends to develop the doctrine of recent popes on the inviolable rights of the human person and the constitutional order of society.

2. This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

The council further declares that the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person as this dignity is known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself. This right of the human person to religious freedom is to be recognized in the constitutional law whereby society is governed and thus it is to become a civil right.

It is in accordance with their dignity as persons-that is, beings endowed with reason and free will and therefore privileged to bear personal responsibility-that all men should be at once impelled by nature and also bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth, once it is known, and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth. However, men cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom. Therefore the right to religious freedom has its foundation not in the subjective disposition of the person, but in his very nature. In consequence, the right to this immunity continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it and the exercise of this right is not to be impeded, provided that just public order be observed.

3. Further light is shed on the subject if one considers that the highest norm of human life is the divine law-eternal, objective and universal-whereby God orders, directs and governs the entire universe and all the ways of the human community by a plan conceived in wisdom and love. Man has been made by God to participate in this law, with the result that, under the gentle disposition of divine Providence, he can come to perceive ever more fully the truth that is unchanging. Wherefore every man has the duty, and therefore the right, to seek the truth in matters religious in order that he may with prudence form for himself right and true judgments of conscience, under use of all suitable means.

Truth, however, is to be sought after in a manner proper to the dignity of the human person and his social nature. The inquiry is to be free, carried on with the aid of teaching or instruction, communication and dialogue, in the course of which men explain to one another the truth they have discovered, or think they have discovered, in order thus to assist one another in the quest for truth.

Moreover, as the truth is discovered, it is by a personal assent that men are to adhere to it.

On his part, man perceives and acknowledges the imperatives of the divine law through the mediation of conscience. In all his activity a man is bound to follow his conscience in order that he may come to God, the end and purpose of life. It follows that he is not to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his conscience. Nor, on the other hand, is he to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience, especially in matters religious. The reason is that the exercise of religion, of its very nature, consists before all else in those internal, voluntary and free acts whereby man sets the course of his life directly toward God. No merely human power can either command or prohibit acts of this kind. The social nature of man, however, itself requires that he should give external expression to his internal acts of religion: that he should share with others in matters religious; that he should profess his religion in community. Injury therefore is done to the human person and to the very order established by God for human life, if the free exercise of religion is denied in society, provided just public order is observed.

There is a further consideration. The religious acts whereby men, in private and in public and out of a sense of personal conviction, direct their lives to God transcend by their very nature the order of terrestrial and temporal affairs. Government therefore ought indeed to take account of the religious life of the citizenry and show it favor, since the function of government is to make provision for the common welfare. However, it would clearly transgress the limits set to its power, were it to presume to command or inhibit acts that are religious.

4. The freedom or immunity from coercion in matters religious which is the endowment of persons as individuals is also to be recognized as their right when they act in community. Religious communities are a requirement of the social nature both of man and of religion itself.

Provided the just demands of public order are observed, religious communities rightfully claim freedom in order that they may govern themselves according to their own norms, honor the Supreme Being in public worship, assist their members in the practice of the religious life, strengthen them by instruction, and promote institutions in which they may join together for the purpose of ordering their own lives in accordance with their religious principles.

Religious communities also have the right not to be hindered, either by legal measures or by administrative action on the part of government, in the selection, training, appointment, and transferal of their own ministers, in communicating with religious authorities and communities abroad, in erecting buildings for religious purposes, and in the acquisition and use of suitable funds or properties.

Religious communities also have the right not to be hindered in their public teaching and witness to their faith, whether by the spoken or by the written word. However, in spreading religious faith and in introducing religious practices everyone ought at all times to refrain from any manner of action which might seem to carry a hint of coercion or of a kind of persuasion that would be dishonorable or unworthy, especially when dealing with poor or uneducated people. Such a manner of action would have to be considered an abuse of one's right and a violation of the right of others.

In addition, it comes within the meaning of religious freedom that religious communities should not be prohibited from freely undertaking to show the special value of their doctrine in what concerns the organization of society and the inspiration of the whole of human activity. Finally, the social nature of man and the very nature of religion afford the foundation of the right of men freely to hold meetings and to establish educational, cultural, charitable and social organizations, under the impulse of their own religious sense.

5. The family, since it is a society in its own original right, has the right freely to live its own domestic religious life under the guidance of parents. Parents, moreover, have the right to determine, in accordance with their own religious beliefs, the kind of religious education that their children are to receive. Government, in consequence, must acknowledge the right of parents to make a genuinely free choice of schools and of other means of education, and the use of this freedom of choice is not to be made a reason for imposing unjust burdens on parents, whether directly or indirectly. Besides, the right of parents are violated, if their children are forced to attend lessons or instructions which are not in agreement with their religious beliefs, or if a single system of education, from which all religious formation is excluded, is imposed upon all.

6. Since the common welfare of society consists in the entirety of those conditions of social life under which men enjoy the possibility of achieving their own perfection in a certain fullness of measure and also with some relative ease, it chiefly consists in the protection of the rights, and in the performance of the duties, of the human person. Therefore the care of the right to religious freedom devolves upon the whole citizenry, upon social groups, upon government, and upon the Church and other religious communities, in virtue of the duty of all toward the common welfare, and in the manner proper to each.

The protection and promotion of the inviolable rights of man ranks among the essential duties of government. Therefore government is to assume the safeguard of the religious freedom of all its citizens, in an effective manner, by just laws and by other appropriate means.

Government is also to help create conditions favorable to the fostering of religious life, in order that the people may be truly enabled to exercise their religious rights and to fulfill their religious duties, and also in order that society itself may profit by the moral qualities of justice and peace which have their origin in men's faithfulness to God and to His holy will.

If, in view of peculiar circumstances obtaining among peoples, special civil recognition is given to one religious community in the constitutional order of society, it is at the same time imperative that the right of all citizens and religious communities to religious freedom should be recognized and made effective in practice.

Finally, government is to see to it that equality of citizens before the law, which is itself an element of the common good, is never violated, whether openly or covertly, for religious reasons. Nor is there to be discrimination among citizens.

It follows that a wrong is done when government imposes upon its people, by force or fear or other means, the profession or repudiation of any religion, or when it hinders men from joining or leaving a religious community. All the more is it a violation of the will of God and of the sacred rights of the person and the family of nations when force is brought to bear in any way in order to destroy or repress religion, either in the whole of mankind or in a particular country or in a definite community.

7. The right to religious freedom is exercised in human society: hence its exercise is subject to certain regulatory norms. In the use of all freedoms the moral principle of personal and social responsibility is to be observed. In the exercise of their rights, individual men and social groups are bound by the moral law to have respect both for the rights of others and for their own duties toward others and for the common welfare of all. Men are to deal with their fellows in justice and civility.

Furthermore, society has the right to defend itself against possible abuses committed on the pretext of freedom of religion. It is the special duty of government to provide this protection. However, government is not to act in an arbitrary fashion or in an unfair spirit of partisanship. Its action is to be controlled by juridical norms which are in conformity with the objective moral order. These norms arise out of the need for the effective safeguard of the rights of all citizens and for the peaceful settlement of conflicts of rights, also out of the need for an adequate care of genuine public peace, which comes about when men live together in good order and in true justice, and finally out of the need for a proper guardianship of public morality.

These matters constitute the basic component of the common welfare: they are what is meant by public order. For the rest, the usages of society are to be the usages of freedom in their full range: that is, the freedom of man is to be respected as far as possible and is not to be curtailed except when and insofar as necessary.

8. Many pressures are brought to bear upon the men of our day, to the point where the danger arises lest they lose the possibility of acting on their own judgment. On the other hand, not a few can be found who seem inclined to use the name of freedom as the pretext for refusing to submit to authority and for making light of the duty of obedience. Wherefore this Vatican Council urges everyone, especially those who are charged with the task of educating others, to do their utmost to form men who, on the one hand, will respect the moral order and be obedient to lawful authority, and on the other hand, will be lovers of true freedom-men, in other words, who will come to decisions on their own judgment and in the light of truth, govern their activities with a sense of responsibility, and strive after what is true and right, willing always to join with others in cooperative effort.

Religious freedom therefore ought to have this further purpose and aim, namely, that men may come to act with greater responsibility in fulfilling their duties in community life.

9. The declaration of this Vatican Council on the right of man to religious freedom has its foundation in the dignity of the person, whose exigencies have come to be are fully known to human reason through centuries of experience. What is more, this doctrine of freedom has roots in divine revelation, and for this reason Christians are bound to respect it all the more conscientiously. Revelation does not indeed affirm in so many words the right of man to immunity from external coercion in matters religious. It does, however, disclose the dignity of the human person in its full dimensions. It gives evidence of the respect which Christ showed toward the freedom with which man is to fulfill his duty of belief in the word of God and it gives us lessons in the spirit which disciples of such a Master ought to adopt and continually follow. Thus further light is cast upon the general principles upon which the doctrine of this declaration on religious freedom is based. In particular, religious freedom in society is entirely consonant with the freedom of the act of Christian faith.

10. It is one of the major tenets of Catholic doctrine that man's response to God in faith must be free: no one therefore is to be forced to embrace the Christian faith against his own will. This doctrine is contained in the word of God and it was constantly proclaimed by the Fathers of the Church. The act of faith is of its very nature a free act. Man, redeemed by Christ the Savior and through Christ Jesus called to be God's adopted son, cannot give his adherence to God revealing Himself unless, under the drawing of the Father, he offers to God the reasonable and free submission of faith. It is therefore completely in accord with the nature of faith that in matters religious every manner of coercion on the part of men should be excluded. In consequence, the principle of religious freedom makes no small contribution to the creation of an environment in which men can without hindrance be invited to the Christian faith, embrace it of their own free will, and profess it effectively in their whole manner of life.

11. God calls men to serve Him in spirit and in truth, hence they are bound in conscience but they stand under no compulsion. God has regard for the dignity of the human person whom He Himself created and man is to be guided by his own judgment and he is to enjoy freedom. This truth appears at its height in Christ Jesus, in whom God manifested Himself and His ways with men. Christ is at once our Master and our Lord and also meek and humble of heart. In attracting and inviting His disciples He used patience. He wrought miracles to illuminate His teaching and to establish its truth, but His intention was to rouse faith in His hearers and to confirm them in faith, not to exert coercion upon them. He did indeed denounce the unbelief of some who listened to Him, but He left vengeance to God in expectation of the day of judgment. When He sent His Apostles into the world, He said to them: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved. He who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16). But He Himself, noting that the cockle had been sown amid the wheat, gave orders that both should be allowed to grow until the harvest time, which will come at the end of the world. He refused to be a political messiah, ruling by force: He preferred to call Himself the Son of Man, who came "to serve and to give his life as a ransom for the many" (Mark 10:45). He showed Himself the perfect servant of God, who "does not break the bruised reed nor extinguish the smoking flax" (Matt. 12:20).

He acknowledged the power of government and its rights, when He commanded that tribute be given to Caesar: but He gave clear warning that the higher rights of God are to be kept inviolate: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's" (Matt. 22:21). In the end, when He completed on the cross the work of redemption whereby He achieved salvation and true freedom for men, He brought His revelation to completion. For He bore witness to the truth, but He refused to impose the truth by force on those who spoke against it. Not by force of blows does His rule assert its claims. It is established by witnessing to the truth and by hearing the truth, and it extends its dominion by the love whereby Christ, lifted up on the cross, draws all men to Himself.

Taught by the word and example of Christ, the Apostles followed the same way. From the very origins of the Church the disciples of Christ strove to convert men to faith in Christ as the Lord; not, however, by the use of coercion or of devices unworthy of the Gospel, but by the power, above all, of the word of God. Steadfastly they proclaimed to all the plan of God our Savior, "who wills that all men should be saved and come to the acknowledgment of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4). At the same time, however, they showed respect for those of weaker stuff, even though they were in error, and thus they made it plain that "each one of us is to render to God an account of himself" (Romans 14:12), and for that reason is bound to obey his conscience. Like Christ Himself, the Apostles were unceasingly bent upon bearing witness to the truth of God, and they showed the fullest measure of boldness in "speaking the word with confidence" (Acts 4:31) before the people and their rulers. With a firm faith they held that the Gospel is indeed the power of God unto salvation for all who believe. Therefore they rejected all "carnal weapons: they followed the example of the gentleness and respectfulness of Christ and they preached the word of God in the full confidence that there was resident in this word itself a divine power able to destroy all the forces arrayed against God and bring men to faith in Christ and to His service.  As the Master, so too the Apostles recognized legitimate civil authority. "For there is no power except from God", the Apostle teaches, and thereafter commands: "Let everyone be subject to higher authorities.... He who resists authority resists God's ordinance" (Romans 13:1-5).  At the same time, however, they did not hesitate to speak out against governing powers which set themselves in opposition to the holy will of God: "It is necessary to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). This is the way along which the martyrs and other faithful have walked through all ages and over all the earth.

12. In faithfulness therefore to the truth of the Gospel, the Church is following the way of Christ and the apostles when she recognizes and gives support to the principle of religious freedom as befitting the dignity of man and as being in accord with divine revelation. Throughout the ages the Church has kept safe and handed on the doctrine received from the Master and from the apostles. In the life of the People of God, as it has made its pilgrim way through the vicissitudes of human history, there has at times appeared a way of acting that was hardly in accord with the spirit of the Gospel or even opposed to it. Nevertheless, the doctrine of the Church that no one is to be coerced into faith has always stood firm.

Thus the leaven of the Gospel has long been about its quiet work in the minds of men, and to it is due in great measure the fact that in the course of time men have come more widely to recognize their dignity as persons, and the conviction has grown stronger that the person in society is to be kept free from all manner of coercion in matters religious.

13. Among the things that concern the good of the Church and indeed the welfare of society here on earth-things therefore that are always and everywhere to be kept secure and defended against all injury-this certainly is preeminent, namely, that the Church should enjoy that full measure of freedom which her care for the salvation of men requires.  This is a sacred freedom, because the only-begotten Son endowed with it the Church which He purchased with His blood. Indeed it is so much the property of the Church that to act against it is to act against the will of God. The freedom of the Church is the fundamental principle in what concerns the relations between the Church and governments and the whole civil order.

In human society and in the face of government the Church claims freedom for herself in her character as a spiritual authority, established by Christ the Lord, upon which there rests, by divine mandate, the duty of going out into the whole world and preaching the Gospel to every creature. The Church also claims freedom for herself in her character as a society of men who have the right to live in society in accordance with the precepts of the Christian faith.

In turn, where the principle of religious freedom is not only proclaimed in words or simply incorporated in law but also given sincere and practical application, there the Church succeeds in achieving a stable situation of right as well as of fact and the independence which is necessary for the fulfillment of her divine mission.

This independence is precisely what the authorities of the Church claim in society. At the same time, the Christian faithful, in common with all other men, possess the civil right not to be hindered in leading their lives in accordance with their consciences. Therefore, a harmony exists between the freedom of the Church and the religious freedom which is to be recognized as the right of all men and communities and sanctioned by constitutional law.

14. In order to be faithful to the divine command, "teach all nations" (Matt. 28:19-20), the Catholic Church must work with all urgency and concern "that the word of God be spread abroad and glorified" (2 Thess. 3:1). Hence the Church earnestly begs of its children that, "first of all, supplications, prayers, petitions, acts of thanksgiving be made for all men.... For this is good and agreeable in the sight of God our Savior, who wills that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:1-4). In the formation of their consciences, the Christian faithful ought carefully to attend to the sacred and certain doctrine of the Church. For the Church is, by the will of Christ, the teacher of the truth. It is her duty to give utterance to, and authoritatively to teach, that truth which is Christ Himself, and also to declare and confirm by her authority those principles of the moral order which have their origins in human nature itself. Furthermore, let Christians walk in wisdom in the face of those outside, "in the Holy Spirit, in unaffected love, in the word of truth" (2 Cor. 6:6-7), and let them be about their task of spreading the light of life with all confidence and apostolic courage, even to the shedding of their blood.

The disciple is bound by a grave obligation toward Christ, his Master, ever more fully to understand the truth received from Him, faithfully to proclaim it, and vigorously to defend it, never-be it understood-having recourse to means that are incompatible with the spirit of the Gospel. At the same time, the charity of Christ urges him to love and have prudence and patience in his dealings with those who are in error or in ignorance with regard to the faith. All is to be taken into account-the Christian duty to Christ, the life-giving word which must be proclaimed, the rights of the human person, and the measure of grace granted by God through Christ to men who are invited freely to accept and profess the faith.

15. The fact is that men of the present day want to be able freely to profess their religion in private and in public. Indeed, religious freedom has already been declared to be a civil right in most constitutions, and it is solemnly recognized in international documents. The further fact is that forms of government still exist under which, even though freedom of religious worship receives constitutional recognition, the powers of government are engaged in the effort to deter citizens from the profession of religion and to make life very difficult and dangerous for religious communities.

This council greets with joy the first of these two facts as among the signs of the times. With sorrow, however, it denounces the other fact, as only to be deplored. The council exhorts Catholics, and it directs a plea to all men, most carefully to consider how greatly necessary religious freedom is, especially in the present condition of the human family. All nations are coming into even closer unity. Men of different cultures and religions are being brought together in closer relationships. There is a growing consciousness of the personal responsibility that every man has. All this is evident. Consequently, in order that relationships of peace and harmony be established and maintained within the whole of mankind, it is necessary that religious freedom be everywhere provided with an effective constitutional guarantee and that respect be shown for the high duty and right of man freely to lead his religious life in society.

May the God and Father of all grant that the human family, through careful observance of the principle of religious freedom in society, may be brought by the grace of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to the sublime and unending and "glorious freedom of the sons of God" (Rom. 8:21).

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Call for Leadership: No Leading from Behind


Defending human life, building peace, combating poverty and despair, and protecting freedom and human rights are not only moral imperatives—they are wise national priorities that will make our nation and world safer.

The increasing interconnectedness of our world calls for a moral response, the virtue of solidarity. In the words of St. John Paul II, "Solidarity is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good" (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, no. 38). A more just world will likely be a more peaceful world, a world less vulnerable to terrorism and other violence. The United States has the responsibility to take the lead in addressing the scandal of poverty and underdevelopment. Our nation should help to humanize globalization, addressing its negative consequences and spreading its benefits, especially among the world's poor. The United States also has a unique opportunity to use its power in partnership with others to build a more just and peaceful world.

The United States should take a leading role in helping to alleviate global poverty through substantially increased development aid for the poorest countries, more equitable trade policies, and continuing efforts to relieve the crushing burdens of debt and disease. 

US policy should promote religious liberty and other basic human rights. In particular, US policy should promote and defend the rights of religious minorities throughout the world, especially in regions where people of faith are threatened by violence simply because of their faith. 

The United States should provide political and financial support for beneficial United Nations programs and reforms, for other international bodies, and for international law, so that together these institutions may become more responsible and responsive agents for addressing global problems. 

Asylum should be afforded to refugees who hold a well-founded fear of persecution in their homelands. Our country should support protection for persons fleeing persecution through safe haven in other countries, including the United States, especially for unaccompanied children, women, victims of human trafficking, and religious minorities. 

Our country should be a leader—in collaboration with the international community—in addressing regional conflicts. Leadership on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an especially urgent priority. The United States should actively pursue comprehensive negotiations leading to a just and peaceful resolution that respects the legitimate claims and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians, ensuring security for Israel, a viable state for Palestinians, respect for Lebanon's sovereignty, and peace in the region.

Defending human life, building peace, combating poverty and despair, and protecting freedom and human rights are not only moral imperatives—they are wise national priorities that will make our nation and world safer.

USCCB, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, #90.

Monday, April 11, 2016

US Bishops on Marriage and Family

70. The family founded upon marriage is the basic cell of human society. The role, responsibilities, and needs of families should be central national priorities. Marriage must be defined, recognized, and protected as a lifelong exclusive commitment between a man and a woman, and as the source of the next generation and the protective haven for children.8 The institution of marriage is undermined by the ideology of "gender" that dismisses sexual difference and the complementarity of the sexes and falsely presents "gender" as nothing more than a social construct or psychological reality, which a person may choose at variance with his or her biological reality (see Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, no. 224). As Pope Francis has taught, "the removal of [sexual] difference creates a problem, not a solution" (General Audience, April 22, 2015). "Thus the Church reaffirms . . . her no to 'gender' philosophies, because the reciprocity between male and female is an expression of the beauty of nature willed by the Creator" (Pope Benedict XVI, Address to the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Jan. 19, 2013). This affirmation in no way compromises the Church's opposition to unjust discrimination against those who experience "deep-seated homosexual tendencies," who "must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2358).

Policies on taxes, work, divorce, immigration, and welfare should uphold the God-given meaning and value of marriage and family, help families stay together, and reward responsibility and sacrifice for children. Wages should allow workers to support their families, and public assistance should be available to help poor families to live in dignity. Such assistance should be provided in a manner that promotes eventual financial autonomy.

71. Children, in particular, are to be valued, protected, and nurtured. As a Church, we affirm our commitment to the protection and well-being of children in our own institutions and in all of society. Pope Francis has stressed, "Children have a right to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child's development and emotional maturity" (Address on the Complementarity Between Man and Woman, Nov. 17, 2014). Children who may be placed in foster care or with adoptive parents have a right to be placed in homes with a married man and woman, or if not possible, in environments that do not contradict the authentic meaning of marriage. Child welfare service providers, consistent with their religious beliefs, have a right to place children in such homes rather than in other environments. We oppose contraceptive and abortion mandates in public programs and health plans, which endanger rights of conscience and can interfere with parents' right to guide the moral formation of their children.

USCCB, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.

Friday, April 8, 2016

United States Bishops on War and Peace

68. Catholics must also work to avoid war and to promote peace. This is of particular importance, as there is a danger in the present time of becoming indifferent to war because of the number of armed conflicts. War is never a reflection of what ought to be but a sign that something more true to human dignity has failed. The Catholic tradition recognizes the legitimacy of just war teaching when defending the innocent in the face of grave evil, but we must never lose sight of the cost of war and its harm to human life. Nations should protect the dignity of the human person and the right to life by finding more effective ways to prevent conflicts, to resolve them by peaceful means, and to promote reconstruction and reconciliation in the wake of conflicts. Nations have a right and obligation to defend human life and the common good against terrorism, aggression, and similar threats, such as the targeting of persons for persecution because of their religion, including Christians. In the words of Pope Francis, people are being killed "for the sole reason of being Christians" (Homily, Feb. 17, 2015), and there are "more martyrs in the Church today than there were in the first centuries" (Homily, June 30, 2014). "The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard by everyone who can still distinguish between good and evil. All the more this cry must be heard by those who have the destiny of peoples in their hands" (Message of Pope Francis to Patriarch Abuna Matthias of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church, April 20, 2015). Indeed, the duty of nations to defend human life and the common good demands effective responses to terror, moral assessment of and restraint in the means used, respect for ethical limits on the use of force, a focus on the roots of terror, and fair distribution of the burdens of responding to terror. The use of torture must be rejected as fundamentally incompatible with the dignity of the human person and ultimately counterproductive in the effort to combat terrorism. The Church has raised fundamental moral concerns about preventive use of military force.7 Our Church honors the commitment and sacrifice of those who serve in our nation's armed forces, and also recognizes the moral right to conscientious objection to war in general, a particular war, or a military procedure.

69. Even when military force can be justified as a last resort, it should not be indiscriminate or disproportionate. Direct and intentional attacks on noncombatants in war and terrorist acts are never morally acceptable. The use of weapons of mass destruction or other means of warfare that do not distinguish between civilians and soldiers is fundamentally immoral. The United States has a responsibility to work to reverse the spread of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, and to reduce its own reliance on weapons of mass destruction by pursuing progressive nuclear disarmament. It also must end its use of anti-personnel landmines and reduce its predominant role in the global arms trade. The use of military force confronts us with urgent moral choices. We support the proportionate and discriminate use of military force to protect civilians in a way that recognizes the continuing threat of fanatical extremism and global terror, minimizes the loss of life, and addresses the humanitarian and refugee crises in war-torn regions, and the need to protect human rights, especially religious freedom.

Though we recognize the justifiable use of military force, we encourage the reallocation of resources from armed conflict to the urgent needs of the poor and the root causes of violence. Further, we support policies and actions that protect refugees of war and violence, at home and abroad, and all people suffering religious persecution throughout the world, many of whom are our fellow Christians.

USCCB, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.

Criteria for a Just War (In Summary)
              Recourse to war is permissible when the following conditions are met (2309; 2313-2314; ST II-II, 64,7):
  1. The cause must be just.
  2. All means of avoiding war or ending aggression must be seen to be “impractical and ineffective.”
  3. There must be an adequate prospect for success in putting an end to the aggression or evil.
  4. The use of weaponry must be used with prudence.  They must not “produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated.”
  5. Every act of self-defense or war that is aimed at the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities is prohibited. Non-combatants must never be targeted.

Catechism of Catholic Church.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Bishops’ Teachings on Human Life

64. Our 1998 statement, Living the Gospel of Life, declares, "Abortion and euthanasia have become preeminent threats to human life and dignity because they directly attack life itself, the most fundamental good and the condition for all others" (no. 5). Abortion, the deliberate killing of a human being before birth, is never morally acceptable and must always be opposed. Cloning and destruction of human embryos for research or even for potential cures are always wrong. The purposeful taking of human life by assisted suicide and euthanasia is not an act of mercy, but an unjustifiable assault on human life. Genocide, torture, and the direct and intentional targeting of noncombatants in war or terrorist attacks are always wrong.

65. Laws that legitimize any of these practices are profoundly unjust and immoral. Our Conference supports laws and policies to protect human life to the maximum degree possible, including constitutional protection for the unborn and legislative efforts to end abortion, assisted suicide, and euthanasia. We also promote a culture of life by supporting laws and programs that encourage childbirth and adoption over abortion and by addressing poverty, providing health care, and offering other assistance to pregnant women, children, and families.

66. The USCCB calls for greater assistance for those who are sick and dying, through health care for all and effective and compassionate palliative care and hospice care. The end of life is a holy moment, a moment that marks a preparation for life with God, and it is to be treated with reverence and accompaniment. The end of life is as sacred as the beginning of life and requires treatment that honors the true dignity of the human person as created in the image of the living God. We recognize that addressing this complex issue effectively will require collaborative efforts between the public and private sectors and across party lines. Policies and decisions regarding biotechnology and human experimentation should respect the inherent dignity of human life from its very beginning, regardless of the circumstances of its origin. Respect for human life and dignity is also the foundation for essential efforts to address and overcome the hunger, disease, poverty, and violence that take the lives of so many innocent people.

67. Society has a duty to defend life against violence and to reach out to victims of crime. The Catholic Church has accepted the death penalty in the past for particularly egregious crimes when there was a serious continuing threat to society and no alternative was available. But our nation's continued reliance on the death penalty cannot be justified. Because we have other ways to protect society that are more respectful of human life, the USCCB supports efforts to end the use of the death penalty and in the meantime to restrain its use through broader use of DNA evidence, access to effective counsel, and efforts to address unfairness and injustice related to application of the death penalty.

USCCB, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.