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Part Two: A Clash of Freedoms

9/3/2003 - 3:10 PM PST

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Deacon Keith A Fournier
(c) Third Millennium, LLC


I just returned from Sunday Mass on this Feast of Peter and Paul, Apostles. The visiting priest was a delightful man. He just celebrated his fiftieth anniversary as a priest and a Glenmary Missioner this past year. His countenance and his message were a refreshing breath of fresh air. Still faithful and still in love with the same Jesus who had captured his heart as a young man and prompted him to say yes to Holy orders as a celibate priest, he filled the sanctuary with his joy.

He knew then what every man or woman who hears the call to consecrated celibacy should know. Those who are called to remain celibate "for the Gospel" are forsaking something good, marriage, for something prophetic and beautiful, marriage to Christ and His Church. After fifty faithful years this priest is still in love with both. Given our current crisis, he was a reminder of what is good with the Church!

He is stationed in the outer edges of the western part of my Diocese and pastors two small mission churches. Filled with the hope that characterizes a Christian who has a deep prayer life, he told us that his community had “doubled in size” since he accepted the assignment, making it “the fastest growing Church in our Diocese”. He then went on to explain that the parish began with eight members and now has sixteen!

The point was humorous but also profound. The fact is, the numbers did not really matter. The faithful preaching of the Good News of the Catholic Christian faith and this wonderful humble servant’s authentic witness of being configured to Christ the High Priest, was, as it was in the time of Peter and Paul, “turning the world upside down” (See, Acts of the Apostles 17:6).

Throughout his homily, this humble servant repeatedly reminded all who had gathered for the Eucharist, that by virtue of our Baptism we are all missionaries.

So we are.


The mission we face in our day is the very same mission that the great Apostles Peter and Paul undertook. We continue the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ on the earth as members of His Body. This mission has not and will not change. So too, the world that we are sent into has not really changed all that much either.

I write the second of these installments in this article “A Clash of Freedoms” intentionally using my clerical title, “Deacon”, because I want to make a statement. My assessments of the legal implications of the decision in Lawrence v Texas, set forth in “Part One” of the article, were made as a constitutional lawyer.

This bleak assessment was not intended to imply that I do not have hope! To the contrary, I am filled with hope. It was simply offered as realistic legal analysis. It was also a missionary assessment. How can we be effective in our mission if we do not understand the turf? Some would say we are living in a “post-Christian” age. I choose instead to say we are living in a “pre-Christian” age.

The culture into which we have been sent is one that resembles more the ancient Rome into which the great Apostles and missionaries of the first millennium were sent than we perhaps realized. It is time to accept the fact that some of the vestiges of Jewish and Christian influence in the West, even in our beloved America, are now minimal in their impact. This is not necessarily the case in the lives of the ordinary folk, but in some of our institutions, infected as they are with the “isms” of a new contemporary pagan philosophy and worldview.

We are the missionaries to the Third Christian Millennium, now sent to “turn the world upside down” with our message.

I think a mistake we sometimes make is to think that we have a legal structure that actually favors our message. I have practiced law for twenty three years. I know better. Much of my career has been in the trenches of the most important human rights struggle of our age, the first freedom, the freedom to be born and the inalienable right to life. I have also championed religious freedom, standing on behalf of those who, because of their deeply held religious faith, suffer the brunt of hostility. The current judicial climate is not conducive to our cause.

The same mistake has all too often been made as it pertains to the field of politics. If there really ever was a strong Christian influence in America, I am not sure there is now. If so, why have we had unrestricted abortion on demand since 1973? Oh, I believe we have turned the corner on that issue in public opinion as medical science has confirmed what we all knew, that the child in the womb is our neighbor.

However, the profane notion that the “freedom to choose” means the freedom to take innocent life is entrenched in our political rhetoric as well as in our judicial decisions. If the “religious right” had made so many advances, ...

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