“A Christian may never think of belief as a private act. Faith is choosing to stand with the Lord so as to live with him.”
Three days after two Catholic vice-presidential candidates debated for the first time in history, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore repeated these words from Pope Benedict XVI, introducing the concept of a “Year of Faith” among Catholics which began last week.
“Faith opens our eyes to human life in all its grandeur and beauty,” B16 wrote and Lori repeated. “Faith is the key to wisdom and to the right use of human reason,” Archbishop Lori observed Sunday preaching at a Mass in Washington, D.C.
Lori introduced a prayer effort on life and liberty turned toward Mary, the Mother of God, who Catholics believe helps us turn to her Son with more trusting surrender:
Mary is the Seat of Wisdom because she is first and foremost the woman of faith, the one who believed like no other that God’s word to her would be fulfilled. With her prayers, we seek to have the fire of our faith rekindled — our faith in the person of Christ, our faith in all the Church believes and teaches, our confidence in the Church’s teachings, our courage in sharing those teachings, not just with family and friends, but also in the public square — with our elected and appointed leaders and with those who influence public opinion.
With a message that is hard to escape, the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’s religious-freedom committee continued:
Yet, dear friends, secularism is able to make such inroads against life and liberty primarily because so many people have set aside their religious faith by ceasing to practice their faith or by compartmentalizing it in their lives, like elected officials who say they are personally opposed to intrinsic evils such as abortion while doing everything in their power to promote them.
The archbishop may very well have had the homily written before the vice-presidential debate. Regardless, it appears clear that he is shepherding the faithful away from “I accept it in my personal life” but not in my public life, as Vice President Joe Biden explained his abortion position as a “ practicing Catholic” last week. (It was not the first time, of course, we’ve heard the “personally opposed” construction.)
Archbishop Lori has spoken about evil when talking about our civic voting responsibility before.
What is this “Year of Faith” the pope opened last week in Rome about? What is the “New Evangelization” Catholic bishops are currently meeting in Rome about? Lori explained:
If we want to turn back the powerful incursions of secularism against the dignity of human life and the freedom to practice our faith . . . then we must . . . stand with Christ, to know our faith, to love our faith, to share our faith, to invite those who have stopped practicing the faith to return home to the Church and to reach out in truth and love to those who are searching for truth and love.
Two days after the U.S. Catholic bishops’ conference corrected the vice president on the issue of religious freedom and the Obama Department of Health and Human Services’ abortion-drug, contraception, sterilization mandate, Lori elaborated on the current situation and on why it is our moral responsibility to protect liberty:
The freedom that wisdom prompts us to advocate for is the most fundamental of human goods and rights, namely, the right to life and the right of individuals not only to profess their faith but also to live their faith, to allow it to influence their daily decisions at home and at work.
The freedom for which we are advocating is the freedom of churches to go about their mission of serving the needs of society in accord with their teaching, a mission of educating the young, building up family life, serving the poor, providing good health care and much, much more.
With charity, civility and persistence, “whether in season and out of season,” we must insist on the Church’s right and the rights of individuals to put our God-given liberties at the service of human life without the government forcing us to disobey our own teaching by fining our institutions or by taking away their accreditation, by penalizing private employers with conscientious objections or any of the other means the government has at its disposal.
As believers and as citizens we must robustly engage in the political process by voting with a properly formed conscience and by continually letting our elected officials know that we expect them to protect the God-given rights of life and liberty.
Yes wisdom tells us that the decisions facing us these days aren’t just economic.
By wisely using our freedom for the good, by placing our most precious freedom, religious liberty, at the service of life, we are recognizing that a culture of life is also a culture of freedom and that a culture of death is a culture of oppression, indeed a dictatorship of relativism.
If you’re waiting for Catholic bishops to speak up with a little moral guidance this election cycle, you might listen closer.