Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore is one of the Chairmen of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee for Religious Liberty. He recently celebrated what is known as a “Red Mass”, an annual event throughout the church for lawyers, judges, legislators and others in the legal profession, at St. Benedict Catholic Church in Richmond, Va. In his homily, he addressed issues of religious liberty pertinent to Americans today.
First, he stressed the link between sound society and morality:
In his farewell address, George Washington famously said: “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports.”
Think of the many social problems we are striving to restrain by the force of law. Think of the many social problems could be averted if more and more people lived not under the law but under grace – that is to say – if they were interiorly freed to choose the good and to choose it generously.
It is, I would submit, in the interest of the government and the common good not to establish a state religion but to encourage religion generally, to encourage the moral formation of citizens that so often occurs through religious institutions such as parishes, schools, and indeed our charitable institutions. I would also submit that it is not in the best interests of our society for the government to pressure the very religious institutions that serve common good such as schools, hospitals, and charities, to violate their moral teaching – be it ever so counter-cultural.
He also noted our personal responsibilities:
It is so easy for us to make compromises, both professional and personal, that render us unprepared to serve the common good & to bear witness to our faith.
“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty!” we are told, and how true it is that you and I must be keenly aware of those things that threaten religious liberty, including religious freedom – not only outward hate crimes, reprehensible as those are, but also those laws, regulations, and polices which chip away at the fundamental freedoms that belong to us “not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God” (J.F.K., Inaugural).
Many of the threats to religious freedom are in fact to be found in government rule making, licensure and accreditation, local ordinances & state laws which may appear on the surface to uphold some important value but which erode a fundamental freedom for which many have given their lives.