From June 21st until July 4th, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops will hold yet another “Fortnight for Freedom” event. 2016 marks, I believe, the fifth year the USCCB has decided to conduct this pathetic affair. The theme of this year’s Fortnight is “Witness to Freedom.”
It’s likely the case that the phrase “Witness to Truth” was found to be not ecumenical enough. Indeed, suggesting that a Catholic gathering witnesses “to truth” is triumphalistic, or so the Modernist mind thinks. Better to portray Catholics as just one of many oppressed groups. “Witness to Freedom” accomplishes that.
In an effort to gin up support for their campaign, American Bishops are now taking out ads in various Catholic media outlets. Over at Crux, the USCCB has published the following letter. I want to go through each of that document’s paragraphs and then provide brief commentary after each one. Here is the opening salvo:
For decades, Catholics have worked to serve the common good in the United States. We have faced opposition at times, but our commitment to doing the works of mercy through our institutions, like hospitals, schools, and charities, has remained steadfast.
This sort of language is all too common in the Church today. The poor this, the poor that. Is the USCCB ignorant of the fact that “the common good” includes supernatural realities, and that “the works of mercy” also include the spiritual works of mercy? Hospitals, schools and charities are important. But what does it matter if a man is healthy, learned and sheltered but does not have the bread of life in him? This one-sided focus on the corporal works of mercy is intentional, as caring for the less fortunate is something even wretched Liberals consider an act of kindness.
The Bishops therefore begin their appeal by essentially saying, “Can’t you just let us off the hook? We love the poor and the marginalized just like you do. Doesn’t that outweigh the other stuff you hate us for?” Pretty lame coming from leaders of a divinely ordained religion.
In recent years, a new set of challenges has arisen. Laws, regulations, and executive orders have been passed that would require Catholics, as well as other people of faith both within and beyond religious institutions, to engage in activities that they believe to be immoral. In other words, ironically, we are told that we must drop our religious tenets if we want to live out our faith in service to others.
The term “executive order” is well placed. It makes it seem like the burdens on Catholics are due to some far off, dictatorial power acting unjustly. While Mr. Obama certainly has not been kind to us, the Church brought this on itself when at Vatican II it decided to no longer defend the Social Kingship of Christ and bought into the idea that a “Free Church” in a “Free State” could actually secure the liberty necessary for the Church to fulfill her earthly mission. The talk about “laws” and “regulations” are also somewhat effective, but come on, isn’t our battle with the powers of darkness and the prince of this world? Let’s get serious.
It is also interesting to note the use of the phrase “as well as other people of faith.” Faith is a Catholic virtue. It is what allows the intellect to submit itself to the truths revealed by God. Someone who is not Catholic does not possess, strictly speaking, faith. Thus, they cannot be considered “people of faith.” Modernists hold that faith is something welling up from the innermost dwellings of the human being – a sort of sentimental belief in a higher power. This is not Catholic. The Bishops betray their anti-Traditional theology here.
Next, the Bishops say that these laws require Catholics to “engage in activities that they believe to be immoral.” Why not just say, “these laws require Catholics to engage in activities taught by the natural law and proven by their rotten fruits to be not only immoral but also against the will of God and that will lead countless souls to hell”? Arguing that “Catholics believe these laws to be immoral” is a waste of time. It is an appeal based on emotion. Instead of speaking about the objectivity of the situation, the Bishops are playing right into the hands of the Liberals, who believe all moral judgements to be nothing more than personal opinions. The Liberal response will be, “well, we believe these laws are not immoral. Human rights demand that they be recognized.”
Back to the letter:
The USCCB is working with Stonyhurst College in England to coordinate a U.S. tour of relics of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher, two exemplary 16th century Catholics who bore witness to freedom in the face of a government that sought to violate the conscience rights of its citizens.
Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher did not die for “freedom of conscience,” at least not in the sense the USCCB is using that term. St. Thomas More and John Fisher died as martyrs for the Catholic faith, the one true religion established by Jesus Christ. They submitted and adhered to the one true Church of Christ with their intellects and their wills. Dying for this is not at all the same as someone who follows a false religion and who is persecuted by their government for their erroneous beliefs. To equate the two is nothing short of blasphemy.
The witnesses on whose lives we reflect this Fortnight were all committed to service to the people of their countries. But when they were forced to choose between loyalty to Christ and loyalty to the state or other ideology, they chose Christ.
St. Edith Stein found freedom in the truth of the gospel. Blessed Oscar Romero found freedom in speaking out for the poor. The Martyrs of Compiègne found freedom in offering their lives as martyrs for their country, roiled by revolution.
All of these Witnesses to Freedom found freedom in Jesus Christ. And that freedom was and is not a freedom of indifference, a freedom to simply do whatever we want. Rather, Christian freedom means freedom to put our faith into action by serving others, including our neighbors.
One way that Catholics have served our neighbors is by building institutions, which have become vital to the fabric of American society. We seek to build up the common good through our obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
It is through this service that we find true freedom. We ask for the space to continue to serve the common good.
Notice how the Bishops use very vague language. St. Edith Stein found freedom “in the truth of the gospel.” “Our obedience” is to “the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Whenever these undefined terms are invoked, the Bishops are trying to appeal to as broad (inter-religious) of an audience as possible. Of course, this approach comes at the expense of using Catholic-specific language. This politically-calculating strategy is an effort to get as many persons (Catholic or not) to join their cause. This numbers game is how men, not God, think. Sad.
The Bishops then speak about how the Church “finds true freedom” by “building institutions” (soup kitchens, hospitals, etc.) that have become “vital to the fabric of American society.” This is a betrayal of the glorious Catholic religion and Holy Mother Church. “Obedience to the gospel of Jesus” mandates that the Bishops teach all nations the Catholic faith. The USCCB’s choice of language indicates that they believe the mission of the Catholic Church is really no different than a non-profit concerned with the temporal well-being of men.
The reality is that the Church “builds up the common good” and “finds true freedom” by winning souls for Christ. More specifically, it quite literally saves the world from the snares of the devil by sending its priests out to say mass and hear confessions. It builds up nations when its women religious pray day and night and teach school children the Baltimore Catechism. And it makes countries holy by commissioning the laity to engage in Catholic Action, mortification and raise large families where modesty, respect and love permeate the hearts, souls and minds of its members.
This year’s Fortnight for Freedom will be a grand failure, just as it has been for the past several years. It has to be. God will not allow it to succeed. Our God is a jealous God who wants society all to himself. He does not want to share the public sphere with Mohammed, Luther or any other false religion. The Fortnight for Freedom does not ask for that to be done away with. It attempts to use the language of Liberalism against itself but in doing so, it turns the Church into a beggar, one that emberassingly pleads for scraps from the table of modern politics. Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher are rolling over in their graves.