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Truth or Freedom:

Go forth and convert all nations, baptizing them in the name of

Democracy, Liberty and Freedom of Religion?

Fr. Michael Rodríguez POSTED: 2/20/12

Did He Really Die for Liberty?

(  On the verge of being condemned to death, Jesus Christ responds to Pontius Pilate, “For this I was born, and for this came I into the world, that I should give testimony to the truth.”  (Jn 18:37)  Jesus Christ was not born for “freedom of conscience” or “religious liberty”; He was born to bring the truth, and hence salvation, to a fallen world.  Erat lux vera . . . He was the true light.   Only adherence to the truth nurtures our God-given freedom and allows it to thrive and prosper properly.  Listen carefully to our Savior’s own words, “the truth shall make you free.” (Jn 8:32)  Pope Leo XIII, Vicar of Christ, teaches, “the best parent and guardian of liberty amongst men is truth” (Immortale Dei 40, November 1, 1885).

On January 20, 2012, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that nearly all employers, including the Roman Catholic Church, will soon be forced to cover the cost of contraceptives, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs in their health insurance plans.  Fortunately, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has spoken out against this brazen and blasphemous assault on the holy law of God, the sanctity of life, and the good of souls.  Unfortunately, their response has thus far been spiritually feeble and morally anemic, i.e. it has revolved largely around the protection of religious liberty, freedom of conscience, and First Amendment rights, while remaining devoid of explicit reference to the absolute moral truths revealed by God and entrusted to the Holy Catholic Church.

Almost all 21st century Americans, and most modern-day Catholics, mistakenly assume that freedom is an absolute good.  In his 1993 Encyclical Letter, Veritatis Splendor, Pope John Paul II writes extensively about human freedom.  In paragraph #34, he teaches, “there can be no morality without freedom [because] it is only in freedom that man can turn to what is good.”  The raison d’être of freedom is for one to decide in favor of what is true, beautiful, and good.  Our benevolent God has blessed man with free will precisely so that man may freely choose to submit to God’s commandments.

Already at the end of the nineteenth century, Pope Leo XIII was warning us about many who were “perverting the very idea of freedom” with “false and absurd notions.”  In paragraph #1 of his 1888 Encyclical Letter on the nature of true liberty, Libertas Præstantissimum, he wrote, “Man, indeed, is free to obey his reason, to seek moral good and to strive unswervingly after his last end.”  Pope Leo XIII is reminding us that we are to exercise our freedom in order to:  (1) obey reason and accept the truth, (2) do what is morally good, (3) save our souls, which is man’s final end.  “The supreme end to which human liberty must aspire is God.”  (Libertas Præstantissimum 11)  Our Holy Father also alerts us to the obvious danger:  by abusing his freedom and choosing evil, man will “disturb rightful order and fall headlong into the destruction which he has voluntarily chosen.” (Libertas Præstantissimum 1)

In Veritatis Splendor, #32, Pope John Paul II laments that “certain currents of modern thought have gone so far as to exalt freedom to such an extent that it becomes an absolute.”  In terms of metaphysics, placing freedom “above” truth is a calamitous error.  Morally speaking, freedom and “individual rights” may never be divorced from the truth.  No one can claim a “right” to espouse moral error or a false religion.

I hope and pray that our bishops will respond to the grace offered only to them as Successors of the Apostles.  Behold, dear Bishops, now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation!  (2 Cor 6:2)  The Health and Human Services “contraception mandate” is simply the latest manifestation of the pernicious moral relativism that continues to ravage both society and the Church.  In order to truly combat this hideous “smoke of satan,” our bishops must tread in the hallowed footsteps of the Apostles, cast aside false notions of “religious liberty,” and proclaim the truth with valor, “Whoever wishes to be saved must, above all, keep the Catholic Faith.  For unless a person keeps this Faith whole and entire, he will undoubtedly be lost forever.”  (Symbol of St. Athanasius)

With respect to the HHS “contraception mandate,” I urge our nation’s bishops to implement the following ten-point plan.

(1)  Pray to St. John Fisher, plead with him to intercede for you, and beg for the grace to imitate his indomitable example.  John Fisher (1469-1535) was a model bishop of the Diocese of Rochester for twenty-three years in an age when the lives of many bishops were less than edifying.  Under pressure from King Henry VIII, about 95% of the English bishops and clergy betrayed Our Lord and Holy Mother Church, but not Fisher.  On June 22, 1535, St. John Fisher, seventy-one years old and hardly able to walk, was taken from the Tower of London to nearby Tower Hill.  Upon the scaffold, right before he was beheaded, St. John Fisher spoke, “I am come here to die for Christ’s Catholic Church.  And I thank God . . . ”

(2)  Munus docendi:  teach the truth.  According to Apostolorum Successores (Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, Feb. 22, 2004) 57, “As an authoritative teacher of the faith, the Bishop sets revealed truth at the heart of his pastoral action.”  Central to the bishop’s munus docendi (teaching office) is “to proclaim always and everywhere the moral principles of the social order.” (#120)  U.S. Bishops, please teach with clarity and charity that the following are intrinsic evils:  abortion, homosexual acts, contraception, and direct sterilization (against fertility) (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2271, 2357, 2370, 2399).  Use your full episcopal authority to instruct all Catholics that each of these mortal sins is never acceptable, no Catholic may support anyone else in committing these terrible crimes against God, and every single Catholic must oppose these sins both in the private and public spheres.

(3)  Devotion to Christ the King.  In order to govern with the mind and heart of Christ the Lord, a bishop must “lie prostrate” at the feet of Christus Rex.  U.S. Bishops, please read and study our Holy Father, Pope Pius XI’s Encyclical, Quas Primas (December 11, 1925), which established the Feast of Christ the King.  Pope Pius XI writes, “And we remember saying that these manifold evils in the world were due to the fact that the majority of men had thrust Jesus Christ and His holy law out of their lives, that these had no place either in private affairs or in politics” (#1); “When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony” (#19); and “Oh, what happiness would be Ours if all men, individuals, families and nations, would but let themselves be governed by Christ!” (#20)

(4)  Munus regendi:  “Catholic” politicians.  U.S. Bishops, please exercise your munus regendi (office of governing) by applying the truths of the Catholic religion, outside of which there is no salvation, to “Catholic” politicians.  It is not at all sufficient to urge the laity to “write to their senators and congressmen.”  You are the Successors of the Apostles!  You are the ones who have been strengthened by the Holy Spirit!  You are the ones who have been blessed with apostolic grace!  For the sake of the purity of our Catholic Faith, you must work diligently and prudently to win over the minds and hearts of so many “Catholic” politicians who have lost, or are on the brink of losing, the Faith.  No Catholic politician may in any way support these sins (i.e. abortion, homosexual unions, contraception, direct sterilization) against God, the truth, human life, and mankind itself.  If a “Catholic” public figure remains obstinate in such sin and persists in giving public scandal, you Bishops must, for the good of souls, issue the necessary excommunication, always with the goal and hope of the sinner’s eventual repentance and conversion.

(5)  Munus regendi:  the lay faithful.  U.S. Bishops, please exercise your munus regendi by applying the truths of the Catholic religion, outside of which there is no salvation, to the lay faithful.  With paternal solicitude, and always bearing in mind the salvation of souls, take the necessary measures to correct and discipline the lay faithful who are obstinate in supporting politicians and public officials who condone or promote abortion, homosexual unions, contraception, or direct sterilization.

(6)  Munus regendi:  the presbyterate.  U.S. Bishops, please exercise your munus regendi by applying the truths of the Catholic religion, outside of which there is no salvation, to your presbyterates.  Out of fidelity to Jesus Christ and His Church, and for the good of souls, insist that every single priest make it a pastoral priority to teach on the intrinsic evil of abortion, homosexual acts, contraception, and direct sterilization.  Be vigilant, as is proper to your office, and provide, as needed, the appropriate encouragement, formation, correction, or disciplinary action with respect to your priests.  Every single Catholic bishop and priest should teach what the Roman Catholic Church teaches.  No excuses, no exceptions, abundant joy, overflowing charity!

(7) Foster true participation of the laity in the life of the Church.  Apostolorum Successores, 110 (b), touches on the importance of participation in politics by the lay faithful, particularly in “addressing fundamental moral principles which do not admit of exception, derogation or compromise” and included in this list are “abortion, euthanasia, and the promotion and protection of the family based on monogamous marriage between a man and a woman.”  Thus, well-aware of our country’s dire need for authentic Catholic politicians, every U.S. Bishop should make it a concern to foster these “vocations.”  It is morally irresponsible to neglect the formation, encouragement, and support of true Catholic statesmen, while demanding that the faithful go out and vote when the only alternative available to them is settling for “the lesser of two evils.”

(8)  Restore Catholic Marriage and the Family.  Apostolorum Successores, 202, states, “As the one primarily responsible for the pastoral care of the family, which is the foundation and original cell of society and of the Church, the Bishop should establish this apostolate as a clear priority within the diocesan pastoral program.”  In order to carry out this apostolate in a manner that is truly faithful to the perennial teachings of Holy Mother Church, I urge the U.S. Bishops to read and study our Holy Father, Pope Pius XI’s Encyclical on Christian Marriage, Casti Connubii (December 31, 1930).  God willing, the core of each diocese’s pastoral program to restore Catholic Marriage and the Family will consist of promoting the following truths:  chastity before and within marriage, the primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of children, St. Joseph as the role model for all Catholic fathers, the Blessed Virgin Mary as the role model for all Catholic mothers, the Divine Child as the role model for all Catholic children, modest dress, especially for Catholic women.

(9)  Prayer.  St. Paul writes, “Put you on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil.  For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.  Therefore take unto you the armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect.”  (Eph 6:11-13).  Dear U.S. Bishops, we are in the midst of an epic spiritual battle, and truth be told, we are currently getting whipped.  Please, lead the priests and faithful of your dioceses as often as possible in Holy Hours before the Blessed Sacrament  and in the recitation of the Holy Rosary.  Sancta Dei Genetrix, ora pro nobis.

(10)  Munus sanctificandi:  the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.  I chose to save the most important one for last.  In order to crush the diabolic HHS mandate, and every other evil that is afflicting the Church and society, Bishops must exercise their munus sanctificandi (office of sanctifying) and work tirelessly to restore the Mass of All Ages.  Fr. Philip Wolfe, FSSP, preached very wisely in 2003, “What we do in the Liturgy determines what goes on out in the world.  The most divine thing we can participate in this side of heaven is the Sacred Liturgy.  During the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass the floodgates of heaven open up and all the graces come pouring down off the altar, through the congregation, out across to all creation.  The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the most important thing in the universe.  When things are properly done, the Liturgy raises earth up towards the level of heaven and it reorders and fixes the damage done by Adam and his descendants.”

Lex orandi, lex credendi:  the Church believes as she prays.  (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1124)  If the majority of Catholics no longer believe as the Church believes, e.g. that abortion, contraception, and homosexual activity are intrinsically evil and thus forbidden, this is necessarily a consequence of Catholics no longer worshipping God as the Church has always worshipped God.  U.S. Bishops, please be obedient to the liturgical directives of Pope Benedict XVI.  He refers to the Roman Missal promulgated in 1962 as “a precious treasure to be preserved” (Universæ Ecclesiæ 8, April 30, 2011), and declares that it “must be given due honor for its venerable and ancient usage” (Summorum Pontificum, art. 1, July 7, 2007).  Even more importantly, please be obedient to the venerable Roman liturgical tradition of two millennia, and the “timeless” liturgical truth transmitted by all the Popes in succession.  As the glorious Roman Rite spreads its divine beauty and aroma throughout  U.S. dioceses, the true lex orandi is sure to restore the true lex credendi.

The Son of God did not come down from heaven to “be free” and guarantee “First Amendment rights.”  No, He took flesh from the Immaculate Virgin Mary, in order to die on the cross, vanquish sin, and witness to the truth.  Only the truth safeguarded in the “womb” of the Catholic Church can set us free. 

(Fr. Michael Rodríguez is the parochial vicar of Santa Teresa Catholic Church in Presidio, Texas, Diocese of El Paso.)

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