Posts Tagged ‘religious freedom’

During Lent, Americans Retrace Ancient Pilgrimage Routes in Rome

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014
George Weigel writes in the Wall Street Journal about a wonderful tradition in Rome…that is undertaken by Americans! (It was begun by seminarians and student-priests from the Pontifical North American College…where I used to be stationed.) As we prepare to begin Lent, I thought you’d enjoy this piece:

“On March 5, Ash Wednesday, hundreds of residents of Rome will begin a six-and-a-half-week long pilgrimage to the Roman station churches of Lent—a tradition that began in the earliest days of legalized Christianity but, until recently, had lain fallow…

The station churches themselves, especially those off the tourist track, often astonish. The apse mosaic in the Basilica of Sts. Cosmas and Damian is a startling sixth-century anticipation of 20th-century art deco. The little church of St. Praxedes, hidden behind the vast basilica of St. Mary Major atop the Esquiline Hill, contains the golden mosaic St. Zeno Chapel, one of the most beautiful rooms on the planet.

Amid the world’s continuous wayfaring, the Roman station church pilgrimage has a unique character, combining history, art, architecture and the human quest for truth. Built on the foundation of martyrs’ homes, it is a reminder that religious freedom is never cost-free. And its revival by Americans, who lead it today, is a fine act of gratitude from the New World to the Old.”

Read the rest here.

Standing Up for Persecuted Christians in the Middle East

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Recently I read this moving piece on the plight of Christians in the Middle East. It is our duty to stand up for them as is eloquently outlined by Johnnie Moore, author and Professor of Religion and Vice President at Liberty University, on FoxNews.com:

I wept as I heard their stories, and I wondered why Christians around the world weren’t incensed by it all.

Ironically, that meeting in Jordan was not convened by Christians, but by Muslims who cared about the plight of their Christian neighbors.

At one point, Jordan’s strong and kind king said that “it is a duty rather than a favor” to protect the Christians in the region, and Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, a senior adviser to the king, acknowledged that “Christians were in this region before Muslims.” He said, “They are not strangers, nor colonialists, nor foreigners. They are natives of these lands and Arabs, just as Muslims are.”

While I was deeply encouraged by the tone of these Islamic leaders, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “I wonder how many Christians in the West even care about those in the East?”

In that moment, I decided I would be their advocate.

Read the rest here.

Supporting the Euromaidan Movement in Ukraine

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Along with many others in the New York community, I am following the somber situation in Ukraine with growing alarm.

Last August, I was honored to be part of the dedication of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church’s Resurrection Cathedral, in Kiev, and was in awe at the youth and vitality of a Church that had been starved, jackbooted, imprisoned, tortured, persecuted and martyred by Hitler, Stalin, and company.  With thousands of others, I praised God for an apparent new springtime where Democracy, human rights, and religious freedom were in bloom in Ukraine.

Those high summer hopes have now turned as cold as this New York winter day.  What began as inspirational, prayerful, peaceful, powerful protest, dubbed the Euromaidan Movement, characterized by prayer and song led by Jewish, Orthodox, and Catholic clergy, has turned brutal and nasty, with government thugs relishing the chance to bludgeon and harass the hundreds of thousands of patriotic Ukrainians, and oppressive laws quickly passed to suppress freedoms.

Two men I deeply admire — the Metropolitan Archbishop of Kiev, the head of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, His Beatitude, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, and Bishop Borys Gudziak, one of the founders of the promising Catholic University of Ukraine — keep in touch.  They’ve been leaders urging peace and restraint, while prophetic on behalf of human dignity, civil rights, and the place of religion in the reconstruction and renewal of Ukraine.  They are near tears, and look in vain for allies in their noble cause.

We Catholics in the United States cannot let these brave Ukrainians, whose allegiance to their religious convictions has survived “dungeon, fire, and sword,” languish.  They deserve our voices and our prayers.

Nor can we as American citizens fail them, as we call for our government to stand with them.

Respecting Life in New York

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

Sunday is always colorful, interesting, and inspirational at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, as thousands from all over the world crowded in for prayer, to light a votive candle, or to worship at one of a dozen Masses.

Last Sunday seemed even more so.  I started the day meeting the leadership of our Knights of Columbus, the largest volunteer organization in the country.  We spoke about our common efforts to protect the innocent, fragile life of the baby in the womb, but also about their sterling work to assist poor, mostly immigrant children attend our first-rate inner city Catholic schools, and their touching initiatives on behalf of our “special kids” with physical and mental challenges.

It was frigid outside as I processed to the Cathedral for 10:15 Mass, and I noticed a larger than usual number of police officers.  When I asked why, I was told that a Fundamentalist sect had warned that they would protest in front of St. Patrick’s, to blast the Church for being “gay-friendly,” for welcoming people with same-sex attractions, and for the teaching of the catechism that gays were God’s children, with an inherent right to dignity and respect.  Nothing new – – these fringe folks had picketed us before.

Sunday’s was a special “Right-to-Life” Mass, penance for the tragedy of abortion on demand, and recommitment to the civil right to life for the baby in the womb.  The Knights were there, as mentioned earlier, and the Mass as SRO with others in the pro-life movement.  The Sisters of Life were there, for instance, with mothers and their babies who had gotten through a “problem pregnancy” with the sisters’ love.  A high school basketball team from California, on their way to a championship game, then to D.C. for the renowned March for Life on Wednesday were there, and there was the police officer, his wife, three other children, and their new baby, whom I would have the joy of christening after Mass.  That beautiful new baby had Down’s Syndrome, reason enough for an abortion, as 90% of such babies are aborted, in this culture Pope Francis calls “throwaway.”  Not for this loving family!

After the moving Mass, back out to the cold, in yet another “Pro Life” project, the Feeding Our Neighbor initiative, sponsored by Catholic Charities and the United Jewish Appeal.  Last year, 900,000 meals were provided the hungry by the food donated in parishes and synagogues last Sabbath and next.

A reporter asked if the scheduling of the event had anything to do with the Birthday of Reverend Martin Luther King.  I replied that the date was chosen since it’s the coldest time of the year; when a lot of the food donated at Christmas had already run out; because it was close to the January 22nd Respect Life observance, and to feed the hungry was sure pro-life; and, yes, because Reverend King preached the Bible, that all are God’s children, made in his image and likeness, and that wherever life was threatened – – violence, poverty, hunger, discrimination, abortion – – God’s People defend it.

On the way back into the Cathedral, I greeted many of the great folks from the Dominican Republic, now proud New Yorkers, jamming St. Patrick’s for their feast of “Our Lady of Altagracia.”  I know so many of them as Catholics active in immigration reform, pro-life, curbing of gun-violence in their neighborhood, and keeping our inner-city schools open for their kids.

A good Sunday at St. Patrick’s Cathedral . . .does any of this seem “extremist” to you?

Insight from the New York Daily News

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

I recently came across two insightful opinion pieces in the New York Daily News this week, that I would like to share with you.

On Sunday, Dr. George Mussalli, a former chairman of obstetrics and gynecology at St. Vincent’s Hospital- Manhattan, wrote an excellent op-ed on how Catholic healthcare actually does more to truly support  women.

Here is an excerpt:

The ACLU suit is clearly not about medical care. It is an unfortunate attempt to target Catholic health-care facilities writ large — which, if successful, would endanger one-sixth of all hospital beds in America, including the only hospital in Muskegon, where Means might need future care.

Catholic hospitals are open to all: the uninsured, the unborn, the undocumented, those of all cultures, creeds or no creed at all. If forced to make a terrible choice between participating in abortions and closing, I fear that still more Catholic hospitals will choose to close. With Americans struggling to find dignified access to health care, that’s the last thing we need.

Click here to read the whole column.

This morning, the New York Daily News published an editorial on Judge Brian Cogan’s excellent ruling on religious freedom. You may have seen the Archdiocese of New York’s statement yesterday about Judge Cogan’s decision.

Here is an excerpt from the editorial:

Three federal appeals courts have reached conclusions similar to Cogan’s, in challenges to Obamacare’s contraception mandates filed by profit-making companies whose owners conduct their businesses according to religious principles. Two additional appeals panels have dismissed such claims on the ground that corporations cannot hold religious views. The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide the issue.

The one-size-must-fit-all structure of Obamacare explains why the President wound up breaking his pledge that Americans could keep their health coverage if they like it. He ordered up new provisions for everyone, so the policies people liked went over the side.

Here, forced uniformity has pitted the President against a basic tenet of life in these United States. Not where he should be.

To read the whole editorial, click here.

Rev. Martin Luther King and the Value of Faith

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Yesterday, during my radio program, Conversation with the Cardinal, that is broadcast on The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM, I talked about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the great impact his faith had on his life.  Here’s a little of what I had to say:

“Where would we be without his enlightened leadership?  But once again, would you find that today those who would extol, rightly, the Reverend Martin Luther King’s leadership would also very often might not be on our side with religious values being in the public square?  In other words, today it is kind of a secularist mindset that religion, morality, the Bible, teachings that we have from our religion, our churches, those are best kept private.  And I’m thinking to myself, ‘Wow, I’m sure glad Martin Luther King didn’t believe that.’  I’m sure glad that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King did not believe that what he prayed on Sunday morning was not to be implemented on Monday morning.  For him, politics was shot through with religious values and for him there was no apologizing for the fact that the Bible, that Jesus, that the Old Testament prophets, they were definitive in culture, in life, in our nation….So, I’m proud of him as a religious leader, as a clergyman, as a minister, as a preacher, that he’s the one that led us in this great act of freedom and emancipation.”

I’m also happy that I got to participate in NBC-TV’s celebration of Dr. King’s speech, in what they’re calling #DreamDay.  You can find my video here.

A Call to Counter Cultural Witness

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Sad . . . worrisome . . . but hardly surprising.

That’s how I answered another concerned person who asked my sentiments about Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision allowing the redefinition of marriage.

Sad, because the ominous erosion of the pivotal institution of society and civilization — marriage – has been accelerated.  Yes, the decision could have been more troublesome, but it’s still somber.

The understanding of marriage as the lifelong, faithful, loving union of one man and one woman, as a husband and a wife become a mom and dad to their babies, and bring about a family, is a given in the human heart, a constant in history, flowing from what philosophers term the natural law, a definition embedded in reasoned reflection on the human person, antedating any government, written law, or religion.

To protect and foster that union has been the driving force of civilization.  Sure, it’s been under pressure from the start – by, for instance, cheating on one’s spouse, abandoning spouse and children, lack of selfless love, or divorce, just to mention a few threats — but culture has always understood that such pressures could not prevail, and that this ancient institution had to be cherished if the human community were to flourish.  Governments then have a duty to enact and defend laws that protect this special relationship, in order to promote the common good of all.

For those of us who believe in God, things get even better, because this God has revealed that this foundational relationship of marriage is a mirror of the way God loves us!  In other words, God loves us like a wife loves her husband, like a husband loves his wife.  Since God’s love for us is forever, faithful, and fruitful (bringing life), so is marriage!

The creator elevated this natural understanding of marriage as between one man and one woman, faithful and forever, giving us new life in babies, to a supernatural level, as Jesus taught.

In recent decades, this fundamental relationship of marriage has been under dramatic pressure:  no-fault, easy divorce; living together like a husband and wife before marriage, or even for years without the formal bond; glorification of promiscuity; and even same-sex “marriage.”

In the face of each threat, people of faith, and thoughtful, reflective people of no faith at all, have expressed genuine concern that the ordinary, intended, given definition of marriage was almost becoming the exception.  People of faith have tried — not always successfully, I admit — to do this in a non-judgmental, calm way.  In other words, we discourage divorce, without harshly judging those who have to suffer through it; we oppose same-sex “marriage” while never condemning those with same-sex attraction (a bigotry God also abhors); we consider adultery wrong, while forgiving adulterers.  In other words, we’re pro-marriage, not anti-anyone.  Thus, while we highly respect the Supreme Court, we find very troubling the statement that one’s defense of marriage as historically and naturally understood to be based only on bigotry.  The justices have the responsibility to interpret law, not the motives of honest citizens.

We love many people:  our parents and siblings, our good friends.  But we don’t marry them.  Marriage is about love, yes, but a unique love that procreates children.

This past Wednesday, marriage as classically defined, naturally understood, and historically defended, took a big hit.  That makes us sad.

We’re also worried, because those of us who will continue to hold to the definition of marriage consonant with reason, nature, tradition, and faith, might now be coerced to accept, promote, and allow what we find so sad and ominous.  We’ll be told to “keep our oppressive, bigoted, medieval, outmoded” opinions to ourselves.  If we want to hand those “opinions” on to our children, teach them to our people, behave in accord with them, and exercise the duties of our faith publicly — to serve, teach, heal — we’re worried we’ll be harassed.

We’re worried enough to ask, now just who is doing the imposing?  We’ve been stereotyped as imposing our strange “view” of marriage upon others.  We worry, because now the highest court in our land has undermined the definition of marriage, and imposed a new definition on everyone else.

We also worry about an apparent understanding of government that considers itself able to exercise such power.  If I remember my American Studies courses correctly, the wisdom of our founders, as we’ll celebrate Thursday, was that they viewed government as a human construct to protect and defend mediating institutions such as family, marriage, and faith, not to change or tamper with them!  Kings claimed a “divine right” to alter the natural order, and our founders rebelled against that claim.

So, as one commentator observed, “The government can talk and issue rulings all it wants, but nobody can change the very definition of marriage.”

Sad, worried, but hardly surprised.  I confess that I won a $5 bet last week, as I had wagered months ago that the Supreme Court would follow this rush.  The powerful engine to redefine marriage left the station about a decade ago.  Somberly, we’ve come to realize that, once Hollywood, the entertainment industry, college professors, the society and editorial pages of our big urban newspapers, the sit-coms, movies, and talk shows get behind something, get out of the way.

What becomes normative, then, is not natural law but the polls, not the Constitution but the “correct,” not the Bible but the blogs and the TV, not the Church but the chic.

No surprise . . .

What to do?  We can get mad, bitter, angry, and harsh.  Forget it.  That’s hardly decent, and it’s counterproductive.

We could “circle the wagons” and retreat from a culture that more and more finds our values toxic and wants to stifle us.  Don’t go there.  We’re to engage the culture, not run from it.

We could long for the “good old days,” and wring our hands about these awful modern times.  Of course, the older you get, the more you realize there were no good old days, and that our job is “to make pasta with the dough we got,” to work and live honorably and justly in the here and now.

We better start with ourselves, because, a good chunk of people of faith, even among our own Catholic people, do not share this sense of sadness and worry over Wednesday’s decisions.  Part of the New Evangelization is to present the timeless teachings of our faith – - like true marriage – - in a cogent, coherent, fresh way, re-convincing our people.

We remind ourselves of what Blessed John Paul II called our duty to be counter cultural:  that our beliefs are often at odds with contemporary trends, but that this reality only encourages us to live them out more heroically.  True freedom is not the license to do whatever we want, but the liberty to do what we ought.

We recover a sense of faithful citizenship, and, as loyal American citizens, continue to explore every method of reversing this sad and worrisome decision, reminding our elected officials and magistrates that the rights of conscience and religious freedom are not government favors or concessions, but flow from the very nature and dignity of the human person.

And, we never give up hope.  The witness given by our husbands and wives, moms and dads, to faithful, life giving, lifelong love is more cherished and essential than ever.  These days, the vocation of a man and woman, united forever in faithful love, leading to babies and families, is as potent a sign as celibacy is for priests!

Besides, “the truth shall set us free!”  That always gives us encouragement, and trumps worry and sadness, right?

A blessed Independence Day!

HHS Mandate Decision

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Did you hear about the decision last week by U.S. District Court Judge Brian M. Cogan in the lawsuit brought by the Archdiocese of New York, ArchCare, (the agency coordinating our Catholic healthcare in the archdiocese) and three plaintiffs from the Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island, against the administration for the unconstitutional HHS mandate?

You probably did not, as there seems to have been virtually no mention of the decision – in favor of the archdiocese, by the way – in any local newspaper or on television.  As far as I can tell, and I’ve looked rather carefully, there hasn’t even been a story in the New York Times, which couldn’t wait to publish an editorial this past October, admonishing the bishops, when a federal judge in Missouri found for the administration and dismissed a similar case brought by a private, for-profit, mining company.   (The Times also didn’t have much to say last week, when the appeals court temporarily blocked the bad Missouri decision the Times had gushed over.)

(UPDATE: The Staten Island Advance DID publish a story last week.  My apologies to Maura Grunlund for not remembering!)

Judge Cogan’s decision last week turned back a motion by the administration to have our lawsuit dismissed.  You’ll remember, perhaps, that back in May, the Archdiocese of New York, ArchCare, the Diocese of Rockville Centre, Catholic Charities of Rockville Centre, and Catholic Health Systems of Long Island filed a lawsuit in federal court in Brooklyn, one of more than two dozen similar lawsuits filed around the country that day.  These lawsuits argue that the mandate from Health and Human Services would unconstitutionally presume to define the nature of the Church’s ministry, and force religious employers to violate their conscience or face onerous fines for not providing services in our health insurance that are contrary to our consciences and faith.

The judge’s decision doesn’t settle the case, but allows the case to proceed so that it might be heard in court.  (Two of our original co-plaintiffs, the Diocese of Rockville Centre and Catholic Charities of Rockville Centre, have been dismissed from the suit, as the judge found that their insurance plans would not presently be affected by the HHS mandate.  The Archdiocese of New York, ArchCare, and CHSLI remain as plaintiffs.)   That’s significant, because the administration has been successful in getting some of the other cases dismissed, but in his decision Judge Cogan found that there was very real possibility that we plaintiffs would “face future injuries stemming from their forced choice between incurring fines or acting in violation of their religious beliefs.”

And what of the administration’s contention that the suit should be dismissed because they were going to change the HHS mandate to address the concerns of religious employers? As Judge Cogan wrote, “…the First Amendment does not require citizens to accept assurances from the government that, if the government later determines it has made a misstep, it will take ameliorative action. There is no, ‘Trust us, changes are coming’ clause in the Constitution.”

Bravo, Judge Cogan!

Of course, there is still a long way to go before these cases are final, and it would be our hope that the administration will be true to their word and amend the HHS mandate so that it does provide a real religious exemption and freedom of conscience protection.

Until then, we will continue to seek justice in the courts.  Thanks to last week’s decision in Federal Court in Brooklyn, it looks like we will have that chance.  We’ll keep you posted.

Cardinal Dolan Congratulates President Obama on Re-election

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

The following press release was issued today by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on the President Barack Obama’s re-election.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CARDINAL DOLAN CONGRATULATES PRESIDENT OBAMA ON RE-ELECTION

WASHINGTON—Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, congratulated President Barack Obama, November 7, the day after his re-election as President of the United States.

Cardinal Dolan promised the prayers of the bishops saying that “The Catholic Bishops of the United States offer our prayers that God will give you strength and wisdom to meet the difficult challenges that face America.”

He added that “In particular, we pray that you will exercise your office to pursue the common good, especially in care of the most vulnerable among us, including the unborn, the poor, and the immigrant. We will continue to stand in defense of life, marriage, and our first, most cherished liberty, religious freedom. We pray, too, that you will help restore a sense of civility to the public order, so our public conversations may be imbued with respect and charity toward everyone.”

His letter follows.

Dear President Obama,

In my capacity as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I write to express my congratulations on your re-election as President of the United States.  The people of our country have again entrusted you with a great responsibility.  The Catholic Bishops of the United States offer our prayers that God will give you strength and wisdom to meet the difficult challenges that face America.

In particular, we pray that you will exercise your office to pursue the common good, especially in care of the most vulnerable among us, including the unborn, the poor, and the immigrant.  We will continue to stand in defense of life, marriage, and our first, most cherished liberty, religious freedom.  We pray, too, that you will help restore a sense of civility to the public order, so our public conversations may be imbued with respect and charity toward everyone.

May God bless you and Vice President Biden as you prepare for your second term in service to our country and its citizens.

Sincerely yours,

Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York
President
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Let Freedom Ring!

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Last night, I had the honor to speak at the annual John Carroll Society Lecture about religious freedom. I thought I would share a copy of my talk with all of you.

Here is an excerpt:

Thus, the defense of religious freedom is not some evangelical Christian polemic, or wiley strategy of discredited Catholic bishops, but the quintessential American cause, the first line in the defense of and protection of human rights.

See, religious freedom has always been understood in this land as one of a cluster of fundamental freedoms; that is, spheres of free thought and action essential to individual liberty and a civil society. The normative idea of a constitutionally, democratically restrained government – - a government that makes no theological judgments (religious freedom), that does not handcuff the media (freedom of the press), that does not dictate thought or culture (free speech), and that does not dominate all the room a humane society needs (freedom of assembly) – - is predicated on the belief in human equality and dignity.

So, my proposition is that, in “letting freedom ring,” we citizens of any and all faiths, or none at all, are not just paranoid and self-serving in defending what we hoard as “ours,” but we are, in fact, protecting America. We act not as sectarians, but as responsible citizens. We act on behalf of the truth about the human person.

Click here to view my speech as a PDF.