The Catholic Church in the United States has asked the faithful to pray and to act during its second annual Fortnight for Freedom, which began on June 21 and concludes on July 4. The purpose of the Fortnight is “to address many current challenges to religious liberty, including the August 1, 2013 deadline for religious organizations to comply with the HHS mandate, Supreme Court rulings that could attempt to redefine marriage in June, and religious liberty concerns in areas such as immigration and humanitarian services.”
A divided Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision Wednesday in Windsor v. United States, overturned the section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) defining marriage as between a man and a woman for federal legal purposes. In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy writes:
DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others…The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.
Arbitrary rights and false liberties, untethered from any objective order or truth, and based on the whim of a majority have triumphed yet again in this nation.
Currently, thirteen states have redefined marriage. Six of those states pushed this agenda forward within this past legislative year. As public opinion continues to rapidly change, faithful Christians and men and women of goodwill face potential alienation and persecution for upholding the traditional definition of marriage.
In the book, The Crisis of Cultures, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger writes, “The concept of discrimination is constantly enlarged, and this means that the prohibition of discrimination can be transformed more and more into a limitation on the freedom of opinion and on religious liberty.” Prophetically, Ratzinger warns, “Very soon, it will no longer be possible to affirm that homosexuality (as the Catholic Church teaches) constitutes an objective disordering in the structure of human existence.” The root of the problem in Ratzinger’s estimation is that liberty is “either badly defined or not defined at all.”
The Fortnight for Freedom directs us to the proper solution: to turn to God in prayer.
Many people live as if God did not exist. Consequently, this impacts every aspect of culture: our laws, literature, artwork, film, music, etc. For Ratzinger, “Our greatest need in the present historical moment is people who make God credible in this world by means of the enlightened faith they live.” In other words, our culture needs saints like St. Benedict of Nursia, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Thomas More, St. Therese of Liseux, or St. Gianna Molla.
We need men and women from all walks of life to respond generously to the call of holiness in the midst of everyday life. In 2010, Francis Cardinal George stated: “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.” The latter part of the quotation is the key.
There is always continuity that God Himself sustains no matter how difficult the times may become for the faithful. In the words of St. Thomas More, “The times are never so bad that a good man cannot live in them.” We should never grow disillusioned or discouraged in the battle to protect life and the family regardless of public opinion or what our own friends and family members think of our Christian worldview.
Throughout the world, the Church will celebrate the witness of Saints Peter and Paul on June 29. This feast is a great reminder of these two great pillars of courageous love. When the state opposed the spread of the Christian faith, they were willing to lay down their lives for the Truth Incarnate. There is no greater proclamation of truth in charity then the act of martyrdom. Yet for most of us we will not be called to receive this red crown.
The majority of Christians are called to the dry martyrdom – suffering social persecution day in and day out for our adherence to the faith that Saints Peter and Paul have passed down from Jesus Christ. The Fortnight reminds us that the source of our strength comes from the grace of God and never our own human efforts.
Above all, the source and summit for our freedom is found in the Holy Eucharist. “This is my Body given up for you.” Jesus freely gives himself out of love for us in the Eucharist that we might be transformed through the grace of sanctification so we can serve the Body of Christ in the midst of the world.
Day in and day out, our Lord teaches us how to be a gift for others. This is the true freedom that can never be taken away by any federal or state law.
Let us continue to pray, sacrifice, and work well beyond the end of this second annual Fortnight remembering that God’s law of selfless love has already triumphed. In the words of Cardinal George, “The world divorced from the God who created and redeemed it inevitably comes to a bad end. It’s on the wrong side of the only history that finally matters.” The Fortnight for Freedom is a timely reminder of how we can stay on the right side of history.