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Election of Abp Kurtz and Cdl DiNardo Reaffirms Leadership on Life, Marriage and Religious Freedom

By Deacon Keith Fournier
November 14th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The election of Archbishop Kurtz and Cardinal DiNardo reaffirms the leadership of the Catholic Church on Life, Religious Freedom and Marriage at a critical time in our history.  It also exposes the annoying and tiring effort to place in opposition the welcome direction from Pope Francis to lead with mercy and love and the prophetic mission of the Church to defend life, family and freedom. Like so many things Catholic, it is not either/or but both/and.

BALTIMORE, MD (Catholic Online) -The leadership of the Bishops of the United States is now in the hands of two men strongly identified with the defense of life, marriage and religious Freedom. These two men are also filled with the love of God and committed to the dynamic orthodoxy which should characterize all of our lives as Catholic Christians in this new missionary age of the Church.

There is no contradiction between fidelity to the teaching of the Church and showing merciful love. The efforts by some in the media to equate the direction of Pope Francis calling pastors to lead with the mercy and love of God and moving away from fidelity to the social teaching of the Church is mistaken.  There is nothing loving or merciful about denying the truths which lead to human freedom, fulfillment and flourishing and help build a truly human and humane society.

I was very happy to hear the news of the selection of Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville as the new President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. I still remember November 15, 2010, when he was elected as the Vice President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. On the opening day of that conference in 2010 the Archbishop compared the attack on marriage and the family to Roe v. Wade.

He asked his brother Bishops: If you had seen Roe v. Wade coming three years out, what would you have done differently? He continued, In our Nation we find ourselves at a moment of great opportunity but also great consequence ...The urgency of our priority to promote, protect and strengthen marriage has not abated.... So, in a sense, today is like 1970 for marriage.

He was correct. In fact, he was prophetic. He has served as the chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Marriage with distinction. His election as president of the USCCB is no accident. He is a merciful pastor and faithful to the teaching of the Church. Like Pope Francis, he is a loyal son of the Church with a big heart. 

The United States of America is experiencing the devastating effects of the undermining of marriage and the family - and the society founded upon them. The Archbishop understands the indispensable role of the two parent, opposite sex, marriage bound family as the foundation of the social order. He knows that protecting marriage and the family serve the common good of the whole society.

Along with the effort to reaffirm the first task of evangelizing, showing Christian love and reaching out to the poor in all of their manifestations, we have to be honest; there is a cultural revolution underway in the West. It is not merciful or loving to pretend it is not happening. 

We also need to remember that this is not the first time in our two thousand year history that the Church has found itself in a culture which has lost its moral compass because it turned away from God and His loving plan for all men and women. In fact, we grew up in weather like this. We are called to become the soul of the world again. 

We should not join the ranks of some contemporary Chicken Little's complaining that the sky is falling; we should hold the sky up while we proclaim and demonstrate the new way of life in Jesus Christ. We should not wag our fingers at those who disagree. However, we should engage them with the loving truth of Christianity, precisely because we do love them with the Love of God.

Those who oppose the Right to Life of our first neighbors, children in the first home of the whole human race - their mother's womb - have temporarily entrenched the intrinsic evil of abortion on demand in the positive law of this Nation.  Now, some demand that a legal equivalency be enforced between homosexual or lesbian relationships and true marriages. Neither social effort can be ignored. Opposing them and proposing an alernative is a matter of real social justice, not the counterfeit being hoisted upon us all by cultural revolutionaries.

Those who endorse the social experiment which calls a relationship which can never be a marriage to be a marriage - and then wants the Police Power of the State compel all to accept this mistake - are often the most intolerant of anyone who disagrees. In their zeal, some of these folks believe they are fashioning a better world. However, homosexual sexual acts, even if engaged in with one partner for a long time, can never be the equivalent of a marriage - no matter what any court or legislature may say. They can never fulfill the ends of marriage.

The Church will always resist such an assault on marriage and family life. We do so out of love for all men and women and fidelity to the objective moral truth, as well as acknowledgement of the structure of reality. Marriage between one man and one woman - and the family founded upon it - is the foundation of civil societies which cross ethnic, geographical, religious and cultural divides. Marriage is the great unifier, civilizer and liberator of people around the globe.

Marriage is also not simply a religious construct. It is an institution revealed by the Natural Moral Law which can be known by all through the exercise of reason. Marriage - and the family founded upon it - is the first society, the first church, the first hospital, the first school, the first economy, the first government and the first mediating structure of our social order.  When marriage and family flourish, society flourishes. When they don't, we falter and begin to decline.

While we offer the witness of Christian marriage and family life as an alternative in the midst of this movement toward legalizing a counterfeit for marriage, we will stand firm against efforts to compel the Church to deny the truth. Just as the truth about marriage has won the day before in cultures which gave themselves over to error and license masquerading as liberation in the past, it will do so once again.   

At the forefront of the movement to undermine marriage are current efforts by homosexual equivalency activists to equate in the law how one engages in non-marital sexual acts with a member of the same sex to being a member of a particular race or gender. The goal is to make the practice of the homosexual lifestyle equivalent to being a member of a protected class for civil rights purposes. This is legally and socially dangerous. One is a status; the other involves a behavior and a lifestyle.

It will also unleash a fury of persecution against the Church. While we respect the human dignity of every human person, including those with same sex attraction, we cannot and will not ever condone homosexual acts or support the granting of a moral and legal equivalency between homosexual and lesbian partnerships and marriage. Therefore, we will soon run afoul of the State if the current trajectory continues to unfold in the United States.

In his apostolic exhortation on the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Charity, Pope Emeritus Benedict summarized the duty of Bishops, all the Clergy and all of the lay faithful when confronted with this kind of an assault on authentic marriage:  Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is injurious to society itself.

Through his leadership in defending marriage and family the Archbishop of Louisville, now the President of the USCCB, Joseph Kurtz, has become a hero to the faithful. His efforts have been of great importance in the assaults against marriage. His election to this important post of leadership is a sign of God's goodness to both Church and Nation.

So too is the selection of the Vice President of the Bishops conference, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston. He is a stalwart defender of Religious Freedom and the dignity of every human life, at every age and stage.  His letters to Congress on the egregious violations of the First Amendment in the application of the Affordable Care Act through the HHS regulations have been outstanding.

His August 3, 2012 letter was a masterful example of how such letters should be written. It reveals a thorough grasp of the constitutional issues and presents the position of the Church without compromise or equivocation. In his Archdiocese is situated one of the gems in the crown of the renewal of Catholic higher education in the United States, the University of St Thomas in Houston. Among what it calls its Centers of Excellence is a Center for Faith and Culture.

The Center for Faith and Culture offers a Masters Degree in Faith and Culture. Its curriculum is outstanding. I have spent my career at the intersection of Faith and Culture and am thrilled to see the approach they are taking to help prepare leaders for the work which lies ahead.  At a recent gathering sponsored by the Center, the Cardinal spoke eloquently, forcefully and clearly about his opposition to the HHS mandate through which the Affordable Care Act will be enforced - including its efforts to define what constitutes a religious institution. 

In his strong and prophetic challenge to the federal government's effort to confine the work of the Church to the four walls of the church building, he pointed to the Catholic University as an example of the outreaches of the Church which will soon suffer persecution and declared: It's the Lord Jesus and our Church that defines our mission. The University of St. Thomas as a Catholic institution is not outside the total mission of what it means to be Catholic... It's like saying you're nothing but a hobby.

This Cardinal is a defender of the first freedom, religious freedom, insisting with the teaching office of the Catholic Church, that Religious freedom is a fundamental human right. His role as the new Vice President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is a great asset and will strengthen the whole Church for the important work which lies ahead.

Back in 2010, Cardinal DiNardo offered a statement as the Chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The entire month of October was dedicated to the theme The Measure of Love is to Love Without Measure. A few excerpts show the communications skills of this man and the clarity of his convictions:

With each passing year, the need for personal and public witness grounded in God's boundless love for each and every human being grows more urgent. With over one million innocent children dying from abortion each year, the plague of abortion remains embedded in our culture. It is encouraging to see the continuing decline nationwide in the number and rate of abortions-due in large part to fewer teens becoming sexually active, and to growing recognition of the humanity of the unborn child.

Yet the loss of even one child, and the pain experienced by the child's mother and father in the aftermath of abortion, should impel us to redouble our efforts to end legal abortion, and to ensure that every pregnant woman has whatever help she needs to turn away from this heartbreaking choice.

For those the pro-life community could not reach and assist before they underwent an abortion, the Catholic Church throughout the United States offers compassionate, confidential counseling through its Project Rachel ministry. In contacting Project Rachel, no one need fear that they will encounter anything less than a reflection of God's love and mercy and His constant offer of forgiveness and healing.

In many areas of public policy, the rift continues to widen between the moral principles expressed by a majority of Americans and the actions of government. For example, Americans oppose public funding of abortion by wide margins, with 67% opposing federal funding of abortion in health care in one recent poll.

In early 2009, Catholics and others sent over 33 million postcards, and countless e-mails and letters to Members of Congress, urging them to "retain laws against federal funding and promotion of abortion." Yet in March of this year, Congress passed a health care reform law that allows for federal funding of abortion in some programs and could pressure millions of Americans to help subsidize other people's abortions through their health care premiums.

Ensuring that health care reform will meet the urgent needs for which it has been proposed, and is not misused to promote abortion or to trample on rights of conscience, will be an urgent task in the coming year. Defenseless human life is also placed at risk today in the name of science, when researchers seek to destroy human life at its embryonic stage for stem cell research-and demand the use of all Americans' tax dollars to support this agenda.

In a recent poll commissioned by the Catholic bishops' Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, 57 percent of respondents favored funding only stem cell research avenues that do not harm the donor, using stem cells from cord blood, placentas, and other "adult" tissues; only 21 percent favor funding all stem cell research, including research that requires killing embryonic human beings.

Yet the current Administration issued guidelines last year to fund human embryonic stem cell research, and some in Congress are preparing legislation to ensure continued funding despite a federal court's finding that these guidelines may violate the law.

At the other end of life, seriously ill patients are again under threat from a renewed campaign for legalizing physician-assisted suicide. Instead of addressing these patients' real problems by providing love, support and relief of suffering, this agenda urges us to eliminate the patient as though he or she is the problem.

Marching under the false banner of "compassion" and "choice," it raises the fearsome prospect of a future in which the only "choice" cheerfully granted to our most vulnerable patients is a lethal overdose of drugs.

Becoming a voice for the child in the womb, and for the embryonic human being at risk of becoming a mere object of research, and for the neglected sick and elderly is one of many ways we can teach our fellow citizens that "The Measure of Love is to Love Without Measure."

While critics want to portray the Church's witness as a narrow and negative ideology, it is just the opposite: A positive vision of the dignity of each and every human being without exception, each loved equally by God and so equally deserving of our love and our nation's respect.

.In our homes, schools, workplaces, and in public, if we constantly witness to the inestimable worth and dignity of each human life through a loving concern for the good of others, if we allow the dignity of every human life to guide the decisions we make as voters and public policy advocates, we can surely succeed in creating a more just and humane society.

Our efforts, of course, must always be undergirded with prayer-the silent space for personal daily prayer that allows us to hear God's voice deep in our hearts, and communal prayer that asks God to transform our culture into one that welcomes every human person.

The election of Archbishop Kurtz and Cardinal DiNardo reaffirms the leadership of the Catholic Church on Life, Religious Freedom and Marriage at a critical time in our history as Church and Nation.  It also exposes the annoying and tiring effort to place in opposition the welcome direction from Pope Francis to lead with mercy and love and the prophetic mission of the Church to defend life, family and freedom. Like so many things Catholic, it is not either/or but both/and.

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