I understand that in a democratic society, the Catholic Church and its members must try to shape social and political policies and to have their voices heard on the pressing moral issues of the day. There is no doubt that an increasing number of recent actions (beyond the HHS contraception and sterilzation mandates) taken by the Obama administration pose real and imminent threats to our God given and constitutionally recognized fundamental right - freedom of religion. Freedom loving people of all religious persuasions and those of no religious affiliation must stand up and defend this fundamental principle – one which no man, no government, no nation has the right to restrict.
Nonetheless, I am at a loss to understand how political strategizing and judicial skirmishes, no matter how well-intentioned and necessary they both may be, should take precedence over the Church’s primary duty - the sanctification and salvation of souls.
The Catholic Church has a duty to preach Christ’s Truths in their completeness, not just the more palatable and less controversial ones, to all peoples, not just those who identify themselves as Catholic. The fact that many if not a majority of Americans, Catholic and non-Catholic, may not believe abortion, contraception, sex outside a sacramental marriage, sterilization and in-vitro fertilization are intrinsically evil acts – neither changes those Truths nor exempts the Church from explaining and teaching those Truths to everyone. Jesus charged us to “make disciples of all nations” did He not?
Instead of using the present attack on our religious freedoms as an opportunity to simultaneously explain, with clarity, courage and love, why the Catholic Church teaches that the acts listed above are intrinsically evil, our current approach suggests we will defer that portion of our duty until after the public fight over our religious freedom has been resolved.
We may never have a better opportunity to save souls or a wider platform from which to explain God’s teachings in these areas to a broader audience than that which God has presented us with now. In fact, we may not have the freedom to do so at all in the future.
It seems to this simple man, that at least for now, too many are content to just preserve the rights of some Catholics to believe these Truths and wait to an unspecified time in the future to explain why all of us (Catholic and non-Catholic) should believe and live out these Truths in our individual lives. What of the lives ruined and the souls lost in the interim?
When was the last time you heard a homily on any of these evils? When did you last hear a priest preach on Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae (Human Life) or on Evangelium Vitae (Gospel of Life) written by Pope John Paul II or suggest that you prayerfully read and study these documents? When was the last time you read an article in your local secular or diocesan newspapers or had a parish speaker explaining the compelling reasons behind these fundamental teachings of the Catholic Church and the eternal consequences to those who reject them?
The more than forty years of silence in local parishes and in many Dioceses on these issues goes a long way toward explaining why more Catholics are not engaged in this most vital fight to preserve religious freedom in this country.
Make no mistake – the Catholic Bishops are absolutely correct to warn us of this unprecedented attack on religious freedom and to call us to pray and fight to preserve this God-given right.
But let me ask you this: What if we are successful in preserving religious freedom but continue silently condemning untold souls to eternal separation from a loving God because we lack the courage to teach and challenge them to live the Truth?
Now is the time to end the silence!