Tuesday, October 2, 2012

When even the Pope is concerned about American freedom, it's time to stop being silent

In my last post I mentioned some outrageous things about Obama. These and other things should worry us, but as Catholics, we have another big clue that something very unsettling is going on in our land: Pope Benedict XVI himself has sounded the alarm about America's "grave" political situation.

On January 19 of this year, the Pope addressed the American bishops on their ad limina visit to the Vatican. I've reprinted his words here, with some of my own emphases and comments. I was working on editing this down to make it easy for everyone to read, but then I thought: How often does the Pope speak directly to the politics of the day, calling out the forces that undermine freedom in my own nation? We need to ingest all of it.

And besides, it's not that long and I think you can handle it. ;)

So please, as Catholics, let us pay close attention to the words of the Vicar of Christ on earth, who is our trustworthy Shepherd and our beloved Papa:

Dear Brother Bishops,

I greet all of you with fraternal affection and I pray that this pilgrimage of spiritual renewal and deepened communion will confirm you in faith and commitment to your task as Pastors of the Church in the United States of America. As you know, it is my intention in the course of this year to reflect with you on some of the spiritual and cultural challenges of the new evangelization.

One of the most memorable aspects of my Pastoral Visit to the United States was the opportunity it afforded me to reflect on America’s historical experience of religious freedom, and specifically the relationship between religion and culture. At the heart of every culture, whether perceived or not, is a consensus about the nature of reality and the moral good, and thus about the conditions for human flourishing. In America, that consensus, as enshrined in your nation’s founding documents, was grounded in a worldview shaped not only by faith but a commitment to certain ethical principles deriving from nature and nature’s God. Today that consensus has eroded significantly in the face of powerful new cultural currents which are not only directly opposed to core moral teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but increasingly hostile to Christianity as such.

For her part, the Church in the United States is called, in season and out of season, to proclaim a Gospel which not only proposes unchanging moral truths but proposes them precisely as the key to human happiness and social prospering (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 10). To the extent that some current cultural trends contain elements that would curtail the proclamation of these truths, whether constricting it within the limits of a merely scientific rationality, or suppressing it in the name of political power or majority rule, they represent a threat not just to Christian faith, but also to humanity itself and to the deepest truth about our being and ultimate vocation, our relationship to God. When a culture attempts to suppress the dimension of ultimate mystery, and to close the doors to transcendent truth, it inevitably becomes impoverished and falls prey, as the late Pope John Paul II so clearly saw, to reductionist and totalitarian readings of the human person and the nature of society.

With her long tradition of respect for the right relationship between faith and reason, the Church has a critical role to play in countering cultural currents which, on the basis of an extreme individualism, seek to promote notions of freedom detached from moral truth. Our tradition does not speak from blind faith, but from a rational perspective which links our commitment to building an authentically just, humane and prosperous society to our ultimate assurance that the cosmos is possessed of an inner logic accessible to human reasoning. The Church’s defense of a moral reasoning based on the natural law is grounded on her conviction that this law is not a threat to our freedom, but rather a “language” which enables us to understand ourselves and the truth of our being, and so to shape a more just and humane world. She thus proposes her moral teaching as a message not of constraint but of liberation, and as the basis for building a secure future.

The Church’s witness, then, is of its nature public: she seeks to convince by proposing rational arguments in the public square. The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation.

In the light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life. Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. [People!! He's talking about Obama's HHS mandate!] Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience. [Again, this is all Obama and the Democrats. No one else is doing this.]

Here once more we see the need for an engaged, articulate and well-formed Catholic laity endowed with a strong critical sense vis-à-vis the dominant culture and with the courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate about the issues which are determining the future of American society. The preparation of committed lay leaders and the presentation of a convincing articulation of the Christian vision of man and society remain a primary task of the Church in your country; as essential components of the new evangelization, these concerns must shape the vision and goals of catechetical programs at every level.

In this regard, I would mention with appreciation your efforts to maintain contacts with Catholics involved in political life and to help them understand their personal responsibility to offer public witness to their faith, especially with regard to the great moral issues of our time: respect for God’s gift of life, the protection of human dignity and the promotion of authentic human rights. As the Council noted, and I wished to reiterate during my Pastoral Visit, respect for the just autonomy of the secular sphere must also take into consideration the truth that there is no realm of worldly affairs which can be withdrawn from the Creator and his dominion (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 36). There can be no doubt that a more consistent witness on the part of America’s Catholics to their deepest convictions would make a major contribution to the renewal of society as a whole.

Dear Brother Bishops, in these brief remarks I have wished to touch upon some of the pressing issues which you face in your service to the Gospel and their significance for the evangelization of American culture. No one who looks at these issues realistically can ignore the genuine difficulties which the Church encounters at the present moment. Yet in faith we can take heart from the growing awareness of the need to preserve a civil order clearly rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, as well as from the promise offered by a new generation of Catholics whose experience and convictions will have a decisive role in renewing the Church’s presence and witness in American society. The hope which these “signs of the times” give us is itself a reason to renew our efforts to mobilize the intellectual and moral resources of the entire Catholic community in the service of the evangelization of American culture and the building of the civilization of love. With great affection I commend all of you, and the flock entrusted to your care, to the prayers of Mary, Mother of Hope, and cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in Jesus Christ our Lord.


Catholics, we are the voices and votes of our Church here in America. When we keep our voices silent, or when we use our votes in contradiction to the Truth, we are complicit. There is no justification for silence any more. It's time for every one of you to find your voice and start speaking up. I know it's scary, and it's difficult, but silence in the name of "getting along" is just not an option anymore.

In addition, we all should commit to an increase in prayer (the bishops' Rosary Novena for Life and Liberty starts soon) and also take up fasting before this election. If nothing else, it will increase our spiritual fortitude for the future. Because ultimately, this is a spiritual battle we're fighting.

Related post: To Lukewarm Catholics: This is your moment. Defend your Mother.



  1. "I know it's scary, and it's difficult, but silence in the name of "getting along" is just not an option anymore."

    This is so true! A few weeks ago, at Sunday mass, our priest addressed this very issue. He used the bible verse in the Book of Revelations, about Lukewarmness: “So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.” He explained that in these critical times, we must not be lukewarm, indifferent, and silent...just to be liked by people and get along with everybody. God would rather know where we stand. We can either truly love God and testify to this or we can hate Him and reject His teachings...there is no middle ground! He explained that the opposite of love isn't hate, but that it's indifference aka lukewarmness.

    SO for those of us who would rather not get involved and remain silent in order to be liked and tolerated by people--we need to WAKE UP! By being lukewarm, we are in the worst possible position! God sure does not appreciate hypocrites, who have the faith and the knowledge, but refuse to live it out.

  2. Did you read about the pro-lifers who were arrested

  3. In front of the White House over the weekend?

  4. Agnes, you are so right! And that verse has always been in the front of my mind, helping to focus and remember priorities.

    I wrote a post to lukewarm Catholics, here: http://littlecatholicbubble.blogspot.com/2012/02/to-lukewarm-catholics-this-is-your.html

    Sew, yes, I heard! I pictured myself in jail one day, did you?

  5. I appreciate your posting the Pope's full comments. We are living in very serious times indeed.

  6. Why do we jail protestors in this country, anyway? If only somebody on the national stage would take a stand against that sort of thing.

  7. Thank you for this post, Leila! We go with my husband every Sunday to an Evangelical church (after we go to Mass). There is such a sense in the Evangelical community that things are changing. There's something different in the world's view of Christianity. Things are shifting. And these things are a sign of the times. They are saying a lot of the same things the Pope said in January. It's very interesting to me the unity, in a sense, in the message.

  8. It is always a joy to read the pope's words. I think he makes an excellent point about the culture feeding the political issues. I agree we do need to do a better job of being witnesses to our faith.

    But I think it is important to remember the witness isn't just for the flashy things. It isn't just the voting and the protests. It is being patient with strangers, helping out co-workers, being kind to our neighbors. It is the little acts of love which will always be more powerful and have a further reach than any vote we cast.

    I love America and I love being an American. Just as my ancestors loved Ireland and being Irish. In the end though....we are Catholics first- it is the lives we lead that matter.

  9. StarFIreKK, I couldn't agree with you more on the fact that we need to be saints first and foremost. But in this address, the Pope was very specifically talking about the political climate and cultural forces which seek to undermine Catholic voices in the public square. He was talking about American politics, and what our place is in the public square. He was not talking about general virtue and goodness, which he certainly addresses in myriad other ways and speeches. I just really beg everyone to see that the focus of this address is most definitely the danger of a free society (America) becoming less free, and a Church becoming oppressed by the state, via pressure from an ever more secular culture.

    The Pope often talks about political realities to Catholics in oppressed nations around the world, and it's just terribly sad that this "grave threat" has now come to our nation, and needed to be addressed.

    I think even the Pope sees that America was/is sort of the last beacon of true freedom and opportunity on earth. That is why so many immigrants (like my dad, like your ancestors) came here. If we lose freedom, who is left to speak and fight for us, like America has spoken and fought for others around the world? As a German who lived through Nazism and saw the communism that hit Christian Europe, the Pope is in a unique position to see the dangers to America that we often fail to see. I would think that this wise man is as concerned as we are about the looming loss of religious freedom and growth of centralized government as we become more secular. He has seen where it leads, and it's not pretty.

  10. While on the topic of breaking silence, I thought you would appreciate the "Speak Up" movement if you haven't already stumbled across it. I appreciated this take on freedom of speech, and I do feel strongly that silencing our religious leaders from certain types of political speech is wrong. This is a country of public discourse. If big business, big government, non-profits, charities, and organizations like Planned Parenthood, private citizens, and everything in between can openly discuss political candidates, then our pastors should be allowed to preach it from the pulpit too.


  11. Amen, Elizabeth!! And, everyone should support the ADF. They do so much and defend faith and family in so many ways. I am proud to call the head of the ADF a personal friend and a member of my community (and a great convert!). He even wrote a guest post for the Bubble:


    (ADF used to stand for Alliance Defense Fund but now it's Alliance Defending Freedom, which is appropriate these days!)

  12. Will ADF need a new attorney about two years from now ;)?

  13. Elizabeth, you need to look into their Blackstone program!!!

  14. Haha...Actually, we did. God seems to want my husband in the environmental/natural resource law world as opposed to the ADF field. It was a very competitive year last year, and we were all shocked -- including my husband's professors who participate in Blackstone -- when he was rejected by Blackstone. It seems that God closed that door and wants us somewhere else. As a geologist with a loaded resume, he is highly sought after in the natural resource law world. So I will be thankful for His clear direction and promising future :). I still sort of wish we could go in the Blackstone/ADF direction!

  15. Hmmmm, I wonder if our husbands' areas of expertise overlap? Email me! :)

  16. Mother Catherine of the Passionist nuns has asked us oblates to call for reparation. We have to vote and speak out, but that is not enough. We have to make reparation. The protestants have a "clean cross" in their churches. We Catholics have the crucifix. We do not avoid suffering. We rejoice in it.

    "Now I rejoice in my suffering for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the Church...."

    More here on Reparation --> http://www.catholic.org/featured/sheen.php?ID=1302


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