Montana Catholic Conference Comments on U.S. Supreme Court Ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges

Today the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion effectively redefining marriage across the country and requiring states to allow and recognize same-sex “marriage.” We are disappointed in, though not surprised by, the court’s decision as it fails to uphold the right of states to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman and to recognize under the law only such marriages.

Persons with same-sex attraction deserve the respect and dignity that is theirs as human beings and should be treated with compassion and love. At the same time, we affirm the sacred beauty of the natural institution of marriage between one man and one woman and firmly hold that such a marriage most suitably provides for children, the family and the common good.

The Roman Catholic Bishops in the State of Montana hold the position consistently articulated by Pope Francis, including recently during an address on June 8, that complementarity between man and woman is at the root of marriage and the family.

 

Most Reverend George Leo Thomas                                                                       Diocese of Helena

 

Most Reverend Michael W. Warfel                                                                         Diocese of Great Falls-Billings

Fortnight for Freedom

Fortnight for Freedom: Freedom to Bear Witness

Recently the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) announced the fourth “Fortnight for Freedom” will be observed June 21-July 4, 2015. The purpose of the Fortnight is to raise awareness of the concerns related to religious freedom in the United States and around the world. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Freedom to Bear Witness,” and it is meant to highlight the integral connection between religious liberty and the call to bear witness to the truth of the gospel.

A simple review of news headlines from around the world makes it clear that religious freedom is seriously threatened both here and abroad. The Fortnight provides us with an excellent opportunity to reflect on the nature and purpose of freedom including religious liberty.

True freedom is the power and right to do that which is right and good and is an essential requirement of human dignity.

Regarding freedom, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Freedom is the power, rooted in reason and will, to act or not to act, to do this or that, and so to perform deliberate actions on one's own responsibility. By free will one shapes one's own life. Human freedom is a force for growth and maturity in truth and goodness; it attains its perfection when directed toward God, our beatitude” (CCC, 1731).

We become increasingly free to the extent that we turn away from sin and choose instead to direct our lives toward God in service to one another doing what we ought rather than merely what we want. Again, the Catechism states, “The more one does what is good, the freer one becomes. There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just. The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to ‘the slavery of sin’” (CCC, 1733). And Saint Paul wrote, “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. . . For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love” (Galatians 5:1, 13).

It is the duty of civil authorities to protect the rights of all to choose that which is good. However, such protection does not mean granting persons license to do what whatever they choose. The Catechism reminds us that “the exercise of freedom does not imply a right to say or do everything” (CCC, 1740). Nevertheless, it appears that at times we are inching ever closer to an understanding of freedom that is, in fact, a perversion of freedom and an effective weapon in the destruction of the foundations of a free society.

Seemingly, many embrace a concept of freedom that lacks reference to objective moral truth instead elevating personal autonomy as the greatest good. While it is true that few advocate for a society with no legal boundaries, the movement away from recognition of an objective and knowable truth has set in motion a cultural acceptance of a “freedom” that allows one to do simply what one chooses rather than what is good.
The caveat that such freedom should be limited to the extent that what one does ought not harm another is of limited value when the human person is no longer understood as social by nature and truth has been deemed relative. Freedom then becomes simply defined by the boundaries imposed by those exercising power, not necessarily reflecting a reasoned understanding of the “good” but rather echoing in law what the majority (or powerful minority) value.

As we reflect on religious liberty in our country, perhaps it is also wise to consider the Declaration of Independence and the window it provides into the minds of our founders at the birth of our nation. The oft recited words ring in our ears in a special way this time of year: “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.”

Is there any question that our founders recognized the existence of a Natural Law and objective truth?
Without the limits imposed by these, freedom can devolve into license and erode the very foundations of a free society. The result is a society that invokes “freedom” as the basis for permitting and advocating for the social weaponry that seeks to destroy authentic freedom.

As is always the case for the Christian, there is hope and the promise of a life lived in the true freedom of Christ. For many the sacrifice has been great. This is true for members of civil society as well as members of the Church. We have countless martyrs who have given their very lives in service of the gospel. Notably, during the Fortnight our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political powers—St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome.

We know that there is no substitute for prayer and it is essential for the preservation of freedom and the cultural reform our nation and world so desperately need.

Hand in hand with a deepening commitment to prayer is our call to evangelize. We have been entrusted to one another and as Christians have vowed to bring Jesus Christ to the rest of the world. It is a mission for which, by God’s grace, we are well-equipped and the Fortnight provides each of us with an opportunity to respond in prayer and service.

I encourage you to find some way to participate in this year's"Fortnight for Freedom." Parishes can find a list of 14 ways to celebrate the Fortnight by visiting http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/fortnight-for-freedom/upload/Fortnight-for-Freedom-Parish-Ideas.pdf. You’ll also find a variety of prayer resources at http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/fortnight-for-freedom/fortnight-freedom-prayer-resources.cfm, including suggestedPrayers of the Faithful, a Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty and a Holy Hour Template.

For more information and additional resources I encourage you to visit www.fortnight4freedom.org and take a look at the materials the USCCB has made available to help individuals and parishes participate in this year's "Fortnight for Freedom." Please continue to check the Fortnight website, www.fortnight4freedom.org, which will be updated with new content, such as videos, over the coming weeks. Once again, USCCB staff will be posting ideas from various dioceses on the Fortnight Diocesan Activities page so take a moment to see what others are doing to celebrate the Fortnight.

Thank you for your support of this year’s Fortnight for Freedom!



Matthew Brower, Executive Director
Montana Catholic Conference

Key Challenges Facing American Catholics

 

RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
From the USCCB Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty:
Our First, Most Cherished Liberty
Religious Liberty at Home

HEALTH CARE
HHS Mandate Information and Resources

CONSCIENCE PROTECTION
What's New

MARRIAGE
Frequently Asked Questions in Defense of Marriage
DOMA and Proposition 8

IMMIGRATION
Catholic Social Teaching on Immigration

PHYSICIAN ASSISTED SUICIDE
The Wrong Approach to End of Life Care
by F. Michael Gloth III, M.D.

To stay up to date on Religious Liberty issues, text "Freedom" to 377377.


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