Home Page Home Page Events Events Photos Photos Diocese of Ogdensburg Home Page  
Follow Us on Facebook

Archives Follow Me
Celebrating Religious Freedom Week

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

June 10, 2020

Beginning June 22nd, the Feast of the martyrs Saints Thomas More and John Fisher, the Church in the United States will celebrate Religious Freedom Week. Religious freedom is a fundamental element of Catholic teaching on human dignity. Today, in so many ways, the dignity of every human person from the moment of conception to that of natural death is challenged, even denied. Vatican Council II declared that “the right to religious freedom is based on the very dignity of the human person as known through the revealed word of God and by reason itself.” (Dignitatis Humanae, 2) The Church Fathers went on to insist that this religious freedom must be recognized and made a civil right.

Over the past several years, it has become increasingly evident that this essential element of the Church’s social teaching has been ignored or even opposed by many, including some of our leaders. The Bishops of the United States determined that it was important for our nation’s social welfare and our own personal good to highlight this teaching and civil right, particularly during Religious Freedom Week.

Religious freedom means that the Church has the space to carry out her mission to serve the vulnerable. The Church invented the hospital as we know it today. For centuries, the Church has carried on the healing ministry of Christ by building institutions dedicated to medicine and accompaniment of the dying. For instance, religious orders like the Little Sisters of the Poor serve elderly low-income Americans of all backgrounds. But their ministry is at risk because they and many of our Catholic hospitals are constantly defending themselves against lawsuits and government orders that try to force them to participate in harmful procedures, such as sterilization, gender reassignment surgery, and even abortion. The Sisters and so many in the health care profession, are expected to undermine the Church’s mission to heal by destroying innocent life and harming the persons for whom we are called to care. Religious freedom allows these Sisters and all in the health care field to give witness to their faith by refusing to participate in medical procedures that wound rather than heal.

Religious freedom enables us to actively engage in the building up of our communities. Catholic social teaching urges our involvement in the political process. Clearly, there is a gaping political divide in our nation today. Dialogue about how to meet challenges has become increasingly harsh, and personally hostile. The lack of civility, decency and respect in our conversations leads to further alienation and divisiveness. Such “dialogue” is non-productive and, frankly, embarrassing. Our Church has taught that we should participate in the political process. Yet, honest, civil dialogue is hard to come by these days. Understandably, many shy away from active political engagement in such disrespectful dialogue.

A most egregious example of our disrespect for every human person is evidenced in our tragic history and ongoing disrespect for people of a different race. You’ve seen the blatant disregard for human life and the sense of deep frustration and immense pain suffered by so many. I remember well a question posed years ago by one such victim: “Why can’t we just get along?” That will begin to happen when we treat one another as a child of God and equal in dignity and respect. That’s what we say we believe. The jury is still out.

We ask for the help of the Mother of the Church, the Blessed Virgin Mary, in following her Son so that prejudice and animosity will no longer infect our minds or hearts but will be replaced with a love that respects the dignity of each person. Good St. Joseph, Patron Saint of our nation, Pray for us!

North Country Catholic North Country Catholic is
honored by Catholic Press
Association of US & Canada

Copyright © Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg. All rights reserved.