As part of a national effort to educate, the USCCB announced this morning a text campaign to create a network so that people of goodwill can stay informed on the latest news and projects concerning efforts to promote and defend our religious freedom.
Here’s how it works: Send a text to 377377 with either the word “freedom” or “libertad,” depending on whether you want your updates in English or Spanish. You’ll get an automatic response asking for your email and zip code. Then you’ll be connected to a network in solidarity with the bishops that will notify you to pray, learn and act on specific items.
I’m honored to be the opening speaker today at the Festival For Freedom, near Rochester, NY.
And I’ll try to post regularly on the Reflections offered by the USCCB. The reflections are available in English and Spanish. [My comments will be in English, maybe with a smattering of Italian.]
Today’s Reflection, from the Declaration on Religious Liberty (Dignitatis Humanae), n. 3, Dec. 7, 1965:
Further light is shed on the subject if one considers that the highest norm of human life is the divine law-eternal, objective and universal-whereby God orders, directs and governs the entire universe and all the ways of the human community by a plan conceived in wisdom and love. Man has been made by God to participate in this law, with the result that, under the gentle disposition of divine Providence, he can come to perceive ever more fully the truth that is unchanging. Wherefore every man has the duty, and therefore the right, to seek the truth in matters religious in order that he may with prudence form for himself right and true judgments of conscience, under use of all suitable means.
Truth, however, is to be sought after in a manner proper to the dignity of the human person and his social nature. The inquiry is to be free, carried on with the aid of teaching or instruction, communication and dialogue, in the course of which men explain to one another the truth they have discovered, or think they have discovered, in order thus to assist one another in the quest for truth. Moreover, as the truth is discovered, it is by a personal assent that men are to adhere to it.
Much could be said about these two paragraphs. Indeed, much has been said. But I’ll offer a couple of quick take away points in hopes that they’ll be of use.
- Life should make sense. There’s an order to everything. When we experience angst it’s usually because we know, at least on some level, that things are off kilter, that things are not as they should be. Every one of us — even those of us who claim to be the live-and-let-live type — has a sense within us of what should or should not be done. That’s evidence of the natural law written in our hearts, the law that allows us to participate with God. Like God, we are able to evaluate and judge things. Unlike God, we don’t always get it right. But it’s the very fact of being created in his image that makes it possible to take in nature and to see the order that should exist in it. That’s why varied cultures share similar values even when they don’t share religious beliefs. We share a participation in the natural law/order.
- In order to seek the truth, people should be free to do it. If they are coerced to believe something, then they don’t really believe it. They accept it because they have to, but it’s not part of their core belief. The Catholic Church has not always been the best example of honoring this fundamental right as John Paul II acknowledged in his apologies for the failings of the Church in the past. Yet, it’s the Catholic Church that has been a voice for the freedom of religion of those of other beliefs, particularly in the past hundred years.
- To know the truth, it must be taught and experienced. It’s a somewhat receptive process. We don’t determine truth for ourselves. We witness it in others, in study, in religious beliefs. We take that into ourselves and, in essence, decide that we want to be part of it because it resonates with our very being. It’s a personal process but that doesn’t mean that we come to it on our own or that we shouldn’t be involved in providing education so that we, with others, can come to know greater truth. It’s a personal work, not done alone.