The Fortnight of Freedom continues during a historic week in the United States, as we all await the Supreme Court’s ruling on the president’s health care law. Whatever happens Thursday, conscience rights remain unprotected in the U.S., and the education and prayers of these 14 days will remain a service to all Americans who value freedom itself.
Catholic Voices USA is a new effort based on a British model to make the case for the Church in the public square. (You can get a sense of the approach from my interview with one of the British founders, here. Austen Ivereigh is the author of a new book, How to Defend the Church without Raising Your Voice, which is a pretty Christian goal!) Just a few weeks ago now, a group of 16 volunteers gathered in the northeast for an apostolic training — with mock interviews, Mass, and policy briefings.
I’d like to take the opportunity here to inspire you as I have been. We interviewed so many ordinary Americans who want to be a part of defending the Church they love more effectively, more lovingly. This is answering the call of the laity! So meet Melissa Moschella, one of the new Catholic Voices USA family, for a start. She talks with me about the Fortnight, the Church, and this moment in history.
What does the Fortnight mean to you?
I see the Fortnight as a time for Catholics and all people of good will to come together in support of the fundamental right to worship God and serve the common good in accordance with one’s deeply held beliefs, and to raise awareness of the unprecedented and growing threats to that right in our own nation today.
What are you doing to make these days different?
In addition to praying especially for this intention during the Fortnight, I am trying to educate others about the importance of religious freedom and the current dangers to that freedom. I’ve written an op-ed on the subject and will be giving a lecture later this week.
What about religious liberty and protecting it resonates with you?
God made us free, because without freedom there can be no love. God knows how we ought to use our freedom in order to be happy and fulfilled, and he tries in so many ways to mark out the path for us — to the point of becoming man in order to give us an example and redeem us from our sins — but God respects our consciences even when we’re wrong. He wants us to seek the truth, and he wants us to follow the truth as we understand it. That’s why, as a Catholic, my faith has taught me to have a great love for freedom and defend the freedom of others to live in accordance with their beliefs even when I disagree with them. If even God won’t force people to act against their consciences, how can any government presume to do so?
What do you wish everyone would appreciate about this moment in our history?
The strong consensus about the fundamental importance of conscience rights and freedom of religion that has characterized our nation since its founding is eroding, perhaps because in our materialistic consumer culture it’s so easy to lose sight of the transcendent, to realize that moral integrity is worth more than anything that money can buy. But it’s not too late to turn the tide. People are thirsting for more, and now is the time to offer a credible public witness – not just with our words, but with our actions – of the joy and beauty of a coherent Christian life.
Is there a war on women?
There is a war on women. That war is being waged by the many forces in our society that want to turn women into sex objects by exploiting their bodies to sell anything and everything, by giving them cancer-causing pills to make sure they’re sexually available with no consequences, and, in case the pills don’t work, by giving them the “choice” of an abortion — a “choice” that, as the Guttmacher Institute has shown, the vast majority of women are driven to only because they lack the emotional and financial support they need, because they lack real alternatives. The vast majority of early converts to Christianity were women. Why? Because they understood that permissive sexual mores, easy divorce, and abortion were an affront to their dignity, a barrier to true equality. The early feminists of the late 19th and early 20th century understood the same. Despite what the mass media would have us think, the teachings of the Catholic Church protect the true dignity and equality of women.
What’s your reaction to what the bishops have been saying and doing?
I am proud that the Bishops have taken a strong and courageous stand to protect our God-given right to religious freedom against these unprecedented incursions on the part of our government, and I’m also glad that they’re calling the laity to task — it’s our job as lay people to step up to the plate and defend the rights of believers in the public square.
What made you step up to be a Catholic Voice? What do you wish everyone could know about your Church and why?
The Church has a beautiful and positive vision of how to live life to the full, but unfortunately that vision is so often misunderstood, even by Catholics, and it is certainly not conveyed by the mainstream media. People are seeking truth and meaning in their lives, and I believe that the Catholic Church has a view of life that can answer the deepest longings of the human heart. I know this is true because I experience it my own life, and see it in the lives of so many others as well. I chose to become a Catholic Voice because I see the urgent need to communicate this joyful, hopeful, love-filled vision of life to as many people as possible.
Melissa, who just got her PhD. from Princeton, will be speaking on religious liberty in New York on Thursday night. Details here.