Catholic World News

Archbishop Wenski: acquiescence to threats to religious liberty is ‘not an option’

August 01, 2012

In a homily preached to state Catholic conference directors, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami contrasted the “healthy secularity” of America’s founding documents with the “radical” and “reductive secularism” that threatens religious liberty today.

“For much of our nation's history, Catholics were regarded by many of their neighbors with suspicion if not with hostility because of the prevailing prejudice towards the Catholic faith in a predominantly Protestant America,” he preached in his July 31 homily. “Yet because of a healthy secularity promoted by our civil order and the Bill of Rights' first freedom, the freedom of religion, Catholics were able to prosper in America: We built parishes, schools, hospitals, orphanages and other charitable institutions; we started businesses; we served honorably in our nations wars and held public office.”

“Today, that healthy secularity that provided for the separation of Church and State but not of religion from society, that healthy secularity that guaranteed the freedom of people of faith to serve the common good, is increasingly under siege in America,” he continued. “A radical secularism has emerged that seeks to reduce religious belief to just a "subjective opinion" and to privatize faith by denying it any public expression … These efforts to restrict religious liberty are seemingly founded in a reductive secularism that has more in common with the French Revolution than with America's founding.”

Archbishop Wenski added:

To acquiesce is not an option. To adapt to the prevailing mentality, out of human respect or convenience, to fail to warn our brothers and sisters against ways of thinking or acting that are contrary to truth and right conduct, is to fail in the charity that we owe them.

Spirituality in our Catholic tradition is more than just narcissistic navel-gazing or an over-simplified sentimentalism that reduces spirituality to a one-time acceptance of Jesus. It is not a self-absorbed seeking after self-fulfillment found through esoteric teachings or practices. Christianity’s invitation is to look outwardly and beyond. The heart of Christian life is "charity" …

Most of you, I suppose, were involved in one way or another in the various observances of the Fortnight of Freedom called for by the US bishops … It reminded us, in this election year, that religious freedom is under threat for the first time in American history employers will be forced to provide services they consider morally objectionable.

“We bishops have not told anyone who to vote for nor should we; nor will we,” he concluded. “We are, however, seeking to form consciences, and seeking to protect our right to do so …The stakes are high. Separation of Church and State does not require the exclusion of religion from society. To exclude people of faith from making their contributions and their proposals in the public square would impoverish us all.”

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  • Posted by: unum - Aug. 02, 2012 8:17 AM ET USA

    Bishop Wenski, who I admire, continues the misstatement of our freedom of religion when he says, "... that healthy secularity that provided for the separation of Church and State". The left has used Jefferson's "separation of Church and State" phrase our of context for years in an attempt to banish our religious beliefs from the public square. Our founders believed that religion in the public square assured a populace that would behave morally, free from government control.