Faith & the Public Order: October 2011 Archives

José H. Gomez.jpg

On 25 October 2011, Los Angelus Archbishop José H. Gomez, STD,  60, spoke on the slow loss of America's first freedom. On March 1, 2011, Archbishop Gomez became the Archbishop of Los Angelus, after being the Archbishop of San Antonio; he's been a bishop for nearly 11 years.  A stellar article follows:

There is much evidence to suggest that our society no longer values the public role of religion or recognizes the importance of religious freedom as a basic right. As scholars like Harvard's Mary Ann Glendon and Michael Sandel have observed, our courts and government agencies increasingly treat the right to hold and express religious beliefs as only one of many private lifestyle options. And, they observe, this right is often "trumped" in the face of challenges from competing rights or interests deemed to be more important.

These are among the reasons the U.S. Catholic bishops recently established a new Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty. My brother bishops and I are deeply concerned that believers' liberties--and the Church's freedom to carry out her mission--are threatened today, as they never have been before in our country's history.

Catholics have always believed that we serve our country best as citizens when we are trying to be totally faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Church. And since before the founding of the American Republic, Catholics--individually and institutionally--have worked with government agencies at all levels to provide vital social services, education, and health care.

A timely piece to think seriously about daily is the notion of religious freedom not only around the globe, but also and significantly here in the USA. Today, the Most Reverend William E. Lori addressed the Judiciary Committee of the United States House of Representatives, Subcommittee on the Constitution. Here are a few paragraphs (the link to the full text is noted below):

Religious liberty is not merely one right among others, but enjoys a certain primacy. As the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI recently explained: "It is indeed the first of human rights, not only because it was historically the first to be recognized but also because it touches the constitutive dimension of man, his relation with his Creator." (Pope Benedict XVI, Address to Diplomatic Corps, 10 Jan. 2011.) The late Pope John Paul II taught that "the most fundamental human freedom [is] that of practicing one's faith openly, which for human beings is their reason for living." (Pope John Paul II, Address to Diplomatic Corps, 13 Jan. 1996, No. 9.) Not coincidentally, religious liberty is first on the list in the Bill of Rights, the charter of our Nation's most cherished and fundamental freedoms. The First Amendment begins: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...." It is commonly, and with justice, called our "First Freedom."

Patriarch Béshara Raï, 71, is making a pastoral visit to the Maronite Catholic communities in both US eparchies from 4 to 23 October 2011. His Beatitude will visit Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon  and the Eparchy of St Maron of Brooklyn.

President Barack Obama has roundly refused to meet the Patriarch. Bishop Gregory openly makes the case that it is a mistake of the current administration to ignore His Beatitude's visit to the USA.

Béshara Raï, was elected on March 15, 2011 as the 77th Patriarch of the Maronite Church.

Bishop Gregory's letter:

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September 30, 2011

Dear Mr. President:

I am terribly disappointed with the rebuff of Patriarch Bechara Peter Rai who is the Catholic leader of the Maronites worldwide and one of the most respected Christian leaders in Lebanon and the Middle East . The motto of his coat of arms reflects his personality and is call for "communion and love." He has been trying to achieve what no other Middle Eastern political or a religious leader has been able to do: meet others with respect and love, not take sides, and build bridges to a future that will hopefully lead to peace and happiness for all people in the Middle East.

Muslim and Christian groups have all found in him a real father, a Patriarch.  Because he has spoken out expressing his concern for the future of Christians in the Middle East , he has been rebuffed by you and your Administration. It is pure hypocrisy for the leader of the free world to refuse to meet with Patriarch Rai especially since the Prime Minister of Israel can come and completely disregard essential parts of a peace plan and still be given a warm welcome, and the King of Saudi Arabia, where Christians have no freedom whatsoever, can be received with highest honors. Mr. President, you are ignoring the plight of Christians in the Middle East!

Patriarch Rai's warning about the future of Christians in Syria is not taboo. Christians are in a state of peril in the same way that Christians of Iraq were a few years ago when two thirds of them migrated out of the country and are still not protected to this day. To say the Patriarch supports dictators and sides with terrorists is pure nonsense. With his own unique charisma, Patriarch Rai has reached out to all Lebanese with whom he has to live side-by-side. It is a beautiful outreach, one that is uniquely his, without having to be beholden to anyone.  He speaks with love and tempers the divisive, hateful talk of many. He gives hope

A new day is dawning in the Middle East. The Arab Spring is happening with little vision for the summer that will ensue.  Mr. President, you do not have to agree on everything with Patriarch Rai, but there is no need to avoid or rebuff him.  By doing so, you are showing your disrespect for him and for all Christians of the Middle East.

Mansour, Gregory John.jpg+ Gregory J Mansour

Bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn

Amy Sullivan of Time magazine wrote a piece today, "Why Catholic Bishops are Targeting Obama on Religious Freedom." I don't particularly think Sullivan's article is not all that informative, in fact, I think she needs to review it again and republish it. She does, however, indirectly say that Catholics --indeed all people of faith-- better wake up today and get with the program: the current presidential administration of the US government is narrowing an understanding and practice of religious freedom. Catholics, unlike the Jews or the Muslims are too often slow to know the horizons of the debate. Catholics don't often go up to Mount Nebo to survey the geography or their own history. Whether recent events are the most egregious in 30 years is a matter of opinion, but the trampling (or reduction) of religious freedom harms everybody, atheist and the Legion of Mary member alike.

It's time to get fluent in the terms of religious freedom, pun intended.

This is not a Catholic issue. This is an issue for all people who live a life of faith.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]



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About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Faith & the Public Order category from October 2011.

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