National Catholic Prayer Breakfast - Uphold Religious Freedom; Enemies May Become Friends
Attendees to the Eighth Annual Breakfast in Washington Called to Action for their Faith
"We come to publicly offer thanks for the blessings of American liberty... We also come to publicly affirm our determination to preserve that liberty, for us and for our fellow citizens, and to ask the Lord's guidance in doing so." Supreme Knight Carl Anderson
Supreme Knight Carl Anderson Addressing the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast
Then, the breakfast took a remarkable turn, as Mother Agnes Mary put these challenges in the context of the love of Christ and, during the Benediction, Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson reminded everyone of Augustine's perspective where adversity turns to opportunity for evangelization.
The speakers for the event were Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, the current Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus and Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, Superior General of the Sisters of Life.
Carl Anderson was the first to speak on the theme and didn't waste time getting to the heart of the matter regarding a concern shared by most, if not all, of those in attendance.
Anderson began by saying, "We come together at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast to publicly offer thanks for the blessings of American liberty, a freedom which, in its extent and its endurance, is unique in human history.
"We also come to publicly affirm our determination to preserve that liberty, for us and for our fellow citizens, and to ask the Lord's guidance in doing so.
"There are times when we need that help more than others. This is such a time.
"I venture to say that, never in the lifetime of anyone present here, has the religious liberty of the American people been as threatened as it is today."
Taking lessons from our own history as well as quotes from our Founding Fathers, he reviewed the importance of God and religious liberty in the founding of our nation.
"Washington's Farewell Address," he explained, "insisted that religion and morality are 'indispensible supports of our political prosperity,' warning that 'reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can be retained without religion.'
"Adams asserted that 'Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is,' he said, 'wholly inadequate to the government of any other.'
"Those views have echoed down through our history.
In contrast to those founding values, current rhetoric with regard to religious liberty is changing the goal posts in the middle of the game. He cited the case last year, Hosanna-Tabor vs EEOC, where the Administration pushed for placing limits on the autonomy of churches and religious organizations unlike anything in history.
They argued for a "ministerial exception" that would be limited to those employees who perform exclusively religious functions. As Anderson pointed out, "That caused Chief Justice John Roberts to ask during oral argument whether even the pope could meet the Administration's definition of a religious minister."
Anderson summarized the concern regarding government intervention saying, "A government willing to affect the faith and mission of the church is a government willing to change the identity of the church."
He invited the group to become part of the solution to the problem, particularly by uniting in prayer.
"As Christians we are called to be witnesses. But to be true witnesses we must preserve our Catholic identity-and like St. Thomas More-preserve it especially from the heavy hand of government.
"We are also called to sustain our witness through prayer.
"How appropriate then that our bishops have called upon us to take up a great fortnight of prayer for religious freedom from the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More to July 4th."
The Supreme Knight reminded the group of Blessed John Paul II's view of a "new springtime" for the Gospel. He mentioned that, had the Holy Father been an American, he might have referred to a "new Great Awakening" in our country.
Born and raised in India Archbishop Chullikatt has held diplomatic posts for the Vatican in Iraq and Jordon. At the breakfast he said that religious liberty is a subject very much close to his heart.
He talked about bishops, priests, deacons and the lay faithful across the world, many who were friends of his, that have been martyred for the faith. His call was plain and simple, to rise up now for the rights of the disenfranchised in other parts of the world.
"When religious freedom is recognized, it is not just a moral right but a civil right," he said. He went on to explain that this was more than just the freedom of worship, but must include the right to preach, educate, evangelize and participate in political life of a nation.
He warned the attendees that totalitarianism exists not just where ...
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