This week’s intention and reflection:
Intention: For all people of faith who fight to preserve religious freedom, that the Lord will strengthen their resolve to hold firm in their witness.
Reflection: Religious freedom is a fundamental right not only for Catholics and Christians but for all human persons. In the U.S., freedom of religion is an inalienable constitutional right that protects citizens and institutions from government interference with the exercise of their religious beliefs. However, freedom of religion does not arise solely or originally from the U.S. Constitution. Rather, as the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council declared in Dignitatis Humanae (the Declaration on Religious Freedom), “the right to religious freedom has its foundation in the very dignity of the human person” (DH, 2).
Because men and women are created with reason and free will, they “are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His Church, and to embrace the truth they come to know, and to hold fast to it” (DH, 1). Thus, the U.S. Constitution simply secures the right that inherently belongs to each person by virtue of his or her personhood. The fact that religious freedom is rooted in the dignity of the human person reminds us that we are praying and fasting not for an abstract concept called religious freedom, but for the full dignity of all men and women, created to seek the truth and hold fast to it.
Did you know? A bill titled the “Health Care Conscience Rights Act” was just introduced in the House earlier this week by Rep. Diane Black. The bill would protect Americans’ First Amendment rights by providing a full exemption for all those whose religious beliefs run counter to the HHS mandate. The bill would also protect institutions and individuals from forced participation in abortion. Click here to take action to support H.R. 940!
- Learn about the Bishops’ Call to Prayer for Life, Marriage, and Religious Liberty
- Sign the pledge to fast on Fridays for life, marriage, and religious liberty
- Join the Call to Prayer Facebook event
Marriage (the union of one man and one woman as husband and wife) and religious liberty are two distinct goods that are also related to each other.
Marriage and religious liberty are both goods in their own right, meaning that both deserve our care and protection. The Church does not promote and defend marriage simply out of a concern for possible consequences to religious freedom if marriage were redefined. As said elsewhere on the website, “Marriage must be protected for its own sake, and not just for the sake of preserving religious liberty.” Marriage contributes greatly to the common good and is worth protecting, period.
The protection of each good follows from the duty to protect the inviolable dignity of the human person.
The Church’s teaching on marriage and on religious liberty both find their roots in Christian anthropology, that is, the understanding of the human person and his or her dignity. Concerning marriage, upholding the meaning of marriage as the union of one man and one woman upholds human dignity by, among other things, honoring the uniquely complementary natures of man and woman, their capacity for union and fruitfulness, and the child’s birthright of being given the best chance to know and be raised by his own father and mother. Concerning religious liberty, as was said in a previous post, man’s ability – and responsibility – to seek truth and conform his life to it necessitates religious freedom. In fact, Bl. Pope John Paul II saw religious freedom as so important to human dignity that he called it the “source and synthesis” of rights basic to human flourishing (Centesimus Annus, no. 47). Concern for the human person means concern for marriage, and for religious liberty.
But even more directly, the legal protection of marriage as the union of one man and one woman also protects the religious freedom of those who adhere to that vision of marriage.
More on this later. Suffice it to say that changing the legal definition of marriage will have – and already has had – a direct effect on the ability of persons and institutions who hold a definition of marriage other than that of the state to “live in the truth of [their] faith,” as Bl. John Paul II put it.
Answer from: Marriage & Religious Liberty FAQ #2
Next: How could changing the legal definition of marriage have any effect on religious liberty?
Fortnight for Freedom posts:
- Sunday Pope Quote: Fortnight for Freedom edition
- What is religious freedom?
- St. Thomas More, married saint and hero of religious liberty
Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, addressed the UN Human Rights Council on March 9 regarding a report on “Discriminatory Laws and Practices and Acts of Violence against Individuals based on their Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.” In his remarks, Archbishop Tomasi emphasized that the Catholic Church rejects violence against any one for any reason. In addition, the Church has repeatedly and specifically condemned violence against persons who experience same-sex attraction, calling such violence “deplorable,” for example, in a 1986 letter sent from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to all bishops. As that letter stated, “The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action, and in law.”
At the same time, Archbishop Tomasi raised a concern that the language of the above-mentioned UN report confused the just protection of persons from treatment antithetical to their dignity with the unjust proposal to redefine or further erode marriage. So while the report asserts that “States are not required, under international law, to allow same-sex couples to marry,” it goes on to say that States have an obligation “to ensure that unmarried same-sex couples are treated in the same way and entitled to the same benefits as unmarried opposite-sex couples.”
Commenting on this passage, Archbishop Tomasi told the Human Rights Council,
In this regard, the Holy See expresses grave concern that, under the guise of “protecting” people from discrimination and violence on the basis of perceived sexual differences, this Council may be running the risk of demeaning the sacred and time-honoured legal institution of marriage between man and woman, between husband and wife, which enjoyed special protection from time immemorial.”
Continuing, the Archbishop reminded those assembled that marriage makes a key and irreplaceable contribution to society:
Marriage contributes to society because it models the way in which women and men live interdependently and commit, for the whole of life, to seek the good of each other. The marital union also provides the best conditions for raising children; namely, the stable, loving relationship of a mother and a father; it is the foundation of the natural family, the basic cell of society.
Marriage’s identity explains the state’s responsibility toward it, explained Archbishop Tomasi: “States confer legal recognition on the marital relationship between husband and wife because it makes a unique and essential contribution to the public good.”
Finally, the Archbishop cautioned against the consequences of redefining marriage:
If marriage were to be re-defined in a way that makes other relationships equivalent to it, as has occurred in some countries and as the High Commissioner seems to be encouraging in her Report, the institution of marriage, and consequently the natural family itself, will be both devalued and weakened.
- Read the entire text of Archbishop Silvano Tomasi’s speech at News.Va: “Holy See addresses UN Human Rights Council on Gender”
- As reported by Catholic News Service: “Recognizing gay unions devalues marriage, official tells UN council“