Category Archives: Faith & the Public Order

Defining the Church’s charitable mission

Today, Pope Benedict spoke to the volunteers who work with the Cor Unum group led by Cardinal Robert Sarah. He defines very clearly charitable work. Pay attention Communion and Liberation people!!!

I am grateful for the opportunity to greet you as you meet under the auspices of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum” in this European Year of Volunteering.

Let me begin by thanking Cardinal Robert Sarah for the kind words he has addressed to me on your behalf. I would also like to express my deep gratitude to you and, by extension, to the millions of Catholic volunteers who contribute, regularly and generously, to the Church’s charitable mission throughout the world. At the present time, marked as it is by crisis and uncertainty, your commitment is a reason for confidence, since it shows that goodness exists and that it is growing in our midst. The faith of all Catholics is surely strengthened when they see the good that is being done in the name of Christ (cf. Philem 6).

For Christians, volunteer work is not merely an expression of good will. It is based on a personal experience of Christ. He was the first to serve humanity, he freely gave his life for the good of all. That gift was not based on our merits. From this we learn that God gives us himself. More than that: Deus Caritas est – God is love, to quote a phrase from the First Letter of Saint John (4:8) which I employed as the title of my first Encyclical Letter. The experience of God’s generous love challenges us and liberates us to adopt the same attitude towards our brothers and sisters: “You received with paying, give without pay” (Mt 10:8). We experience this especially in the Eucharist when the Son of God, in the breaking of bread, brings together the vertical dimension of his divine gift with the horizontal dimension of our service to our brothers and sisters.

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Defending Our First Freedom, Archbishop José Gomez, decries slowly losing sense of religious liberty in America

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.

But lately, this is becoming harder and harder for us to do. Just last week, the federal government declined a grant request from the U.S. bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services agency. We are not really sure why. No reason was given. Our agency has been working well with the government since 2006 to help thousands of women and children who are victims of human trafficking.

Recently, the government had been demanding that our agency provide abortions, contraception and sterilizations for the women we serve. We hope our application was not denied because we refused to provide these services that are unnecessary and violate our moral principles and religious mission.

And this is not an isolated case. Right now, the federal government is also trying to force private employers to provide insurance coverage for sterilizations and contraception–including for medications that cause abortions. This not only violates the consciences of Catholic business owners, it also undermines the religious autonomy of Church employers.

For several years now, it seems that whenever there is a merger or expansion involving a Catholic hospital, some legislator or government agency tries to block it unless our Catholic hospitals and doctors will start providing abortions and sterilizations. So far, these efforts at coercion have failed. What’s troubling is that these efforts continue, without regard to the historic contributions of Catholic health care or to the First Amendment.

More recently, the push to legalize “same-sex marriages” has posed a new set of challenges to our freedoms. Church adoption and foster-care ministries have already been forced to shut down rather than submit to government demands that they place children with same-sex couples or provide benefits for same-sex employees.

And in an ominous development, the U.S. Justice Department went on record this summer as saying that those who defend the traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman are motivated by bias and prejudice.

Of course, that is our ancient Catholic belief, rooted in the teachings of Jesus and also the Jewish Scriptures. It is a belief held by many Protestants, the Orthodox, and also by Jews and Muslims, among others. But scholars like Princeton’s Robert P. George warn that this belief might now be labeled as a form of bigotry and lead to new challenges to our liberties.

We are also concerned about the signals the federal government is sending in a case now before the U.S. Supreme Court, Hosanna-Tabor v. EEOC. Experts say that if the government’s case prevails, it will have broad new powers to regulate the inner workings of Church institutions–even to possibly interfere in areas of Church practice and doctrine.

All of this is troubling and represents a sharp break with our history and American traditions. Religious liberty has always been “the first freedom” in our Bill of Rights and in our national identity. Our country’s founders recognized that religious freedom is a right endowed by God, not a privilege granted by government. And they respected that what God has given, no one–not a court, a legislature, or any institution–can rightly deny.

In our history, religious freedom has always included the rights of churches and religious institutions to establish hospitals, schools, charities, media outlets, and other agencies–and to staff these ministries and run them, free from government intrusion.

And religious freedom has always included the churches’ rights to engage in the public square to help shape our nation’s moral and social fabric. We see this throughout our history–from the abolitionist movement, to the civil rights movement, to the pro-life movement.

America’s founders understood that our democracy depends on Americans’ being moral and virtuous. They knew the best guarantee for this is a civil society in which individuals and religious institutions were free to live, act, and vote according to their values and principles. We need to help our leaders today rediscover the wisdom of America’s founding. And we need to help believers once more understand the vital importance of this “first freedom.” At stake are not just our liberties but also the future character of our democracy.

Clarifying the meaning of religious freedom

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):

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
.” (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

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Maronite Bishop admonishes Obama for rebuff of Patriarch Béshara Raï

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:

Patriarch Rai2.jpg

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

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

Catholic bishops and religious freedom

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]
coat of arms



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