In case you missed it, here is a transcription of Archbishop Carlson’s Sermon given at the closing Mass of the Fortnight For Freedom, July 3rd, 2013. For the time being at least, you can click here to hear and see the St. Louis Review’s video made at the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica, with about 1,500 in attendance. It may go behind the paywall, we don’t know. The transcript was made from the video by a Credo Board member, and he added some footnotes and hyperlinks. The opening greetings have been omitted. Without further ado, the Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis:
… As I welcome you to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, as we gather to pray this day for the protection of Religious Freedom, we do so on the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle. St. Thomas is probably best remembered for the passage in today’s Gospel that speaks about his doubt of the resurrection of our Lord. But through God’s great mercy and love, he was able to encounter in a personal way as each of must Jesus Christ. And through God’s good Grace, his heart was opened. And he said to the Lord as we read in today’s Gospel making his great act of faith “my Lord and my God1”.
As Blessed John Paul once said, “This is the faith we should renew, following in the wake of innumerable Christian generations who for two thousand years have confessed Christ, the invisible Lord, even to the point of martyrdom. Like the many who have preceded us we should make the words of St Peter in his first Letter our own: ‘You have not seen, yet you love him; now believing in him without seeing him, you feel an indescribable joy.2’”
It is that grace and that joy which draws us here together. For this is genuine faith, and today each one of us from our hearts call upon the Lord who tells is in the Scriptures, responding actually to St. Thomas the Apostle, “I am the way, I am the Truth, and I am the Life. And no one comes to the Father but through me.3” This must be our focus in this time of great challenge.
Our relationship with Jesus affects each one of us in the way we live, in the things that we say and the things that we do. And every action and every decision we make either holds up or tears down out preparedness, our openness, our preparation for eternal life. This vision and promise is rooted in the Apostles. And we say clearly, each one of us by our presence here today, that we have met the Lord, and we will not live according to the logic of the world. Christ has given us a freedom that no one can take from us; its practice leads to freedom, and makes possible a freedom in which we can express our faith, and no one, no matter who they are, can ever take that from us.
In last Sunday’s readings, St. Paul taught us “For freedom Christ set us free4.” Remember if you will those of you closer to my age, that once popular hymn Faith of our Fathers. Do you remember the words? Our fathers chained in prisons dark were still in heart and conscience free5. And no unjust law, no act of any administration will ever deny us the freedom which we have through our baptism in Jesus Christ. We must never forget that, we must stand tall, for we are called in our day to represent the Lord in the marketplace. And to never, never be silent to what we are called to do.
No political leader can take away our deep freedom, for by baptism God has given us the gift of freedom in Jesus Christ. And by prayer we can live boldly that freedom even in the darkest of times.
Even the Declaration of Independence, that founding document of our nation, recognizes freedom as a gift from God and calls it an inalienable right. And we are here today to pray in justice that that inalienable right will be protected in our day. That we gather to pray for the protection of that right in our nation today, and tomorrow, and all the days.
Catholics in this country, through the leadership of the bishops, just in case anybody wanted to know, started pressing for adequate healthcare coverage for decades; decades before the current administration took office. And in the Christian Tradition, we understand that basic medical care is a matter of social justice and human dignity. Let no one misunderstand that.
However, the HHS Mandate, which the Obama administration refuses to withdraw or reasonably modify, violates our moral and religious convictions with its focus on contraceptives, abortion inducing drugs, and sterilization. And I say “No, never!” Are you with me?
I regret that Washington DC cannot get it straight. Maybe it’d be good for them to get outside the beltway and come to the heartland, and find out how life is really lived.
In case anybody wants to know, we do not serve others because they are Catholic – we serve others in need because we are Catholic, and we do not intend to stop no matter if they can’t get it straight. We will serve, we will help, we’ll reach out to any brother in need. And we’re big enough that we can do it.
But make no mistake about it, we are defined by our faith, which is how we do, and how we understand God and human dignity and the world in which we live. The most important thing we do is to pray, and that’s why we came here. And at the same time, to turn to the public square and to present, and to argue, and to act on the Catholic understanding of the sacredness of life from conception to natural death.
And now just when you thought things could not get any worse, the administration in its refusal to uphold the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, and the astonishing decision of the Supreme Court, we find marriage in this nation redefined to include connections that lack what gives marriage its fundamental role in human life; making it impossible to articulate and to justify as a true vocation of Almighty God.
As our Holy Father Pope Francis said, commenting on the situation in his native Argentina, “Let’s not be naive, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and to deceive the children of God.6” And we are not confused, and we are not deceived. We understand this for what it is, and we reject it – we say “no!”
Our role is to understand what the Church teaches and to communicate it boldly and to communicate it well. We cannot accept the culture’s way of thinking, as it is self-focused. Truth is whatever somebody chooses to believe, and often it is anti-Catholic, and anti-human. We need, each one of us, to reeducate ourselves on the Natural Law, the social encyclicals of our Popes, the study and teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas and other classical thinkers, and we must be critical thinkers about what this culture promotes, especially the intrusive mass media.
As Archbishop Charles Chaput said “Christians concerned for the rights of unborn children, as well as for their mothers, have dealt with bias in the media and dishonesty from the nation’s abortion syndicate for 40 years. But there’s a special lesson in our current situation. Anyone who thinks that our country’s neuralgic sexuality issues can somehow be worked out respectfully in the public square in the years ahead, without a parallel and vigorous defense of religious freedom, had better think again.7”
Freedom requires constant vigilance and we are awake. As our first President George Washington said in his farewell address “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness.8” I would like to suggest that the members of the Supreme Court and our current administration read these great words of our first President.
My brothers and sisters, we need to pray for life. We need to pray for marriage. We need to pray for religious freedom. But we must also ask this question of our culture: “Does your thinking work in the shadow of Heaven?” And we say “no”.
1 John 20:28
2 1 Peter 1:8; John Paul II, Address to Police School Students [Italian text], 9 April 1983
3 John 14:6
4 Galatians 5:1
5 This hymn is the work of many hands; words originally published in 1849 by Fr. William Frederick Faber; adapted in 1874 by James Walton and set to the Henri Frederick Hemy tune St. Catherine. There was at least one anonymous contributor as well.
6 Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio, in a 2009 address to the priests of Buenos Aires.
7 The Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia in his weekly column 24 May 2013.
8 President George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796.