WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights - that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men”
These words were contained within the birth certificate of the United States of America, the “Declaration of Independence.” They have informed our history as a free people. In a few short days we will pause and celebrate that Independence. Yet, as we look at the text we note something extremely important. Our forebears were not declaring their independence from Divine Providence. Rather, they were trusting in the primacy of the Governance of God over their own lives and their noble undertaking. The principles which they set forth in this Declaration were to be a measuring stick against which all governments of men must be measured.
Those courageous men were influenced by the great treasury brought to Western Civilization by the Christian Church. They believed there actually were truths to be held and that those truths are self evident. Those truths include the existence of unalienable rights which are given to all men and women by a Creator. They believed that those truths and those rights can be discerned by all men and women because they are revealed by the Natural Law which is written on all human hearts and is a participation in God’s law.
The question which we need to ask ourselves in the United States of America as we come to the celebration of our Independence is a sobering one, What Truths do we Still Hold?
Right before he began his service to the Church and the world as Pope Benedict XVI then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger warned of the dangers of what he called a “Dictatorship of Relativism”:
“How many winds of doctrine have we known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking? The small boat of the thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves - flung from one extreme to another: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism and so forth. Every day new sects spring up, and what St Paul says about human deception and the trickery that strives to entice people into error (cf. Eph 4: 14) comes true.
“Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be "tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine", seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one's own ego and desires.
“We, however, have a different goal: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. An "adult" faith is not a faith that follows the trends of fashion and the latest novelty; a mature adult faith is deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. It is this friendship that opens us up to all that is good and gives us a criterion by which to distinguish the true from the false, and deceit from truth. We must develop this adult faith; we must guide the flock of Christ to this faith.”
Tuesday, June 30, 2009 I will join with leaders from throughout the United States who represent broad sectors of the Christian community. We will gather in Washington, D.C. Together we share a common belief in what the late CS Lewis called “Mere Christianity.” The term is sometimes misunderstood to mean a kind of lowest common denominator approach to Christian cooperation. Lewis actually meant the basic “kerygma” of the Gospel message which all orthodox Christians should hold in common. That is what I mean as well.
Much of my life has been spent in sincere efforts to collaborate with other Christians in building a new culture of life and civilization of love. I have done this as a Catholic Christian because I believe it is my obligation if I want to be faithful to the teaching of my own Church. I have also done it as an American who is deeply concerned about the current moral state of a Nation which I deeply love.
On Tuesday we will come together as a “Freedom Federation” not to form any new organization but to stand together as Christians who are Americans and pledge, as did the founders of this Nation, our life our liberty and our sacred honor. At the top of our list of common areas wherein we will try to work together are these commitments to common action:
“To secure the sanctity of human life by affirming the dignity of and right to life for the disabled, the ill, the aged, the poor, the disadvantaged, and for the unborn from the moment of conception. Every person is made in the image of God, and it is the responsibility and duty of all individuals and communities of faith to extend the hand of loving compassion to care for those in poverty and distress;
"To secure our national interest in the institution of marriage and family by embracing the union of one man and one woman as the sole form of legitimate marriage and the proper basis of family; to secure the fundamental rights of parents to the care, custody, and control of their children regarding their upbringing and education.; To secure the free exercise of religion for all people, including the freedom to acknowledge God through our public institutions and other modes of public expression and the freedom of religious conscience without coercion by penalty or force of law.”
There are truths to be held. Any legitimate exercise of freedom must be exercised within a moral constitution. Otherwise it can become what the late John Paul II warned of in “The Gospel of Life” of as a “counterfeit notion of freedom” and what his successor Pope Benedict XVI warned of as “anarchic freedom.” The men and women of this age hunger for truth and, like men and women of every age, they yearn to be truly free.
The contemporary age has become intoxicated on the wine of a false notion of freedom as a raw power over others who are weaker and the "right" to do whatever one wants. That is not freedom. In fact, it is a threat to true freedom and a threat to our future. For that reason I will join with others in this “Freedom Federation” and I invite others to do the same.