Bishop Lori Defends Religious Liberty, Marriage, Life, Church before US Congress
I am here today to call to your attention grave threats to religious liberty that have emerged
Religious liberty is ...prior to the state itself. It is not merely a privilege that the government grants us and so may take away at will. Instead, religious liberty is inherent in our very humanity, hard-wired into each and every one of us by our Creator. Thus government has a perennial obligation to acknowledge and protect religious liberty as fundamental, no matter the moral and political trends of the moment. The Declaration of Independence boldly proclaimed as a self-evident truth that our inalienable rights are "endowed by our Creator"-not by the State.
Bishop William C. Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - I have followed the courageous leadership of Bishop William C. Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut for years. He is not only a faithful and inspiring shepherd of the Church; he is a heroic defender of religious freedom, marriage and life at a critical time in our Nation's history. We must face the facts, the first freedom is under assault and the Catholic Church is increasingly threatened in her mission. We were thrilled when the Bishops selected this Bishop to Chair their new Committee for Religious Liberty.
On Wednesday, October 26, 2011 the Bishop gave testimony before the Judiciary Committee of the United States House of Representatives, Subcommittee on the Constitution. It is critically important testimony and insightful. We present much of it below. The full text can be read here. His testimony clearly articulates the teaching of the Catholic Church - as well as the constitutional law of the United States - in a way which should be studied by all of the faithful and used as a guide in our Catholic Action. There is much to be done and we must prepare ourselves.
The Bishop does not mince words in exposing the abuses being committed by the current US Administration. He also did not back away from calling for the proper enforcement of the law and protection of the fundamental human and Constitutional rights which are at risk. The Bishop's testimony is a model, in both content and manner, for every Catholic to follow as we engage in our vital work as faithful citizens serving the true common good.
Bishop William C. Lori of Bridgeport, Connecticut
...I hope to address three topics today. First, I would like to offer a few brief reflections on the Catholic vision of religious freedom for all, as rooted in the inherent dignity of every human person, and this vision's deep resonance with the American experiment. Second, I would like to identify certain threats to religious liberty that have emerged with particular urgency in America today. And third, I would urge you to action in support of particular legislative measures that would secure religious liberty against these threats.
I. Religious liberty is not merely one right among others, but enjoys a certain primacy. As the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI recently explained: "It is indeed the first of human rights, not only because it was historically the first to be recognized but also because it touches the constitutive dimension of man, his relation with his Creator." (Pope Benedict XVI, Address to Diplomatic Corps, 10 Jan. 2011.) The late Pope John Paul II taught that "the most fundamental human freedom [is] that of practicing one's faith openly, which for human beings is their reason for living." (Pope John Paul II, Address to Diplomatic Corps, 13 Jan. 1996, No. 9.) Not coincidentally, religious liberty is first on the list in the Bill of Rights, the charter of our Nation's most cherished and fundamental freedoms. The First Amendment begins: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.." It is commonly, and with justice, called our "First Freedom."
Religious liberty is also prior to the state itself. It is not merely a privilege that the government grants us and so may take away at will. Instead, religious liberty is inherent in our very humanity, hard-wired into each and every one of us by our Creator. Thus government has a perennial obligation to acknowledge and protect religious liberty as fundamental, no matter the moral and political trends of the moment. This insight as well is reflected in the laws and traditions of our country from its very inception. The Declaration of Independence boldly proclaimed as a self-evident truth that our inalienable rights are "endowed by our Creator"-not by the State....
Religious freedom is most commonly understood as an individual right, and it certainly is that. ...But religious freedom also belongs to churches and other religious institutions, comprised of citizens who are believers and who seek, not to create a theocracy, but rather to influence their culture from within. The distinction between Church and State, between God and Caesar, remains "fundamental to Christianity" (Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, No. 28). We look to the State not to impose religion but to guarantee religious freedom, and to promote harmony among followers of different religions.
The Church has "a proper independence and is structured on the basis of her faith as a community the State must recognize" (Ibid.). An indispensable element of this independence is the right of churches "not to be hindered, either by legal measures or by administrative action on the part of government, in ...
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