Sunday, November 17, 2013

Religious Persecution Homily

“Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name.”  These are words from our Lord in today’s gospel.  Persecution is guaranteed for the Christian.  Regarding persecution, the U.S. Bishops have issued a “Special Message” which they rarely do.  Furthermore, it has unanimous passage of the bishops.  I’m not sure how many but we have 265 active and 180 retired bishops in this country.  Archbishop Schnurr has asked priests to spread it far and wide.  It can be found in its entirety at or at

I read part of it at Mass today: “[T]he government is refusing to uphold its obligation to respect the rights of religious believers. Beginning in March 2012, in United for Religious Freedom, we identified three basic problems with the HHS mandate: it establishes a false architecture of religious liberty that excludes our ministries and so reduces freedom of religion to freedom of worship; it compels our ministries to participate in providing employees with abortifacient drugs and devices, sterilization, and contraception, which violates our deeply-held beliefs; and it compels our faithful people in business to act against our teachings, failing to provide them any exemption at all.  Despite our repeated efforts to work and dialogue toward a solution, those problems remain. Not only does the mandate undermine our ministries’ ability to witness to our faith, which is their core mission, but the penalties it imposes also lay a great burden on those ministries, threatening their very ability to survive and to serve the many who rely on their care.”

The ministries that suffer are feeding the poor, healing the sick, educating the young.  If all the bishops of this country are correct—and I’d like to think they are—it brings to mind several questions:  What is the hold up? Why has this persecution been happening for over an year and a half?  Are we in denial that a persecution is actually happening?  Maybe this is why about a year ago Francis Cardinal George of Chicago said: “I will die in my bed. My successor will die in prison. His successor will be martyred.”  Back to the questions that come to mind: Is religious freedom not important any more?  It was important to our founding fathers.

We have had a major election since March of 2012 when all this started.  If Catholics are such a large voting block, why are the persecuting politicians still in office?  Have we willingly forfeited the very basic human right of religious freedom in exchange for a promise of handouts of temporal goods?  Is it too abstract?  I hope not.  It forces people to pay for the killing of human beings.  It forces people to pay for the very things that have been proven to destroy families over the last 50 years.

There is Good News:  Christ has a plan that works.  The challenge is the same:  Christ has a plan that works.  The evil one and the culture of death do not want us to bring about his plan.  The Lord tells us in today’s Gospel: “It will lead you to giving testimony.”  The message is countercultural, and Catholic Christians will have to act in a countercultural way.

I wanted to preach on vocations today.  The Archdiocese is celebrating Vocation Awareness Week.  I love preaching on vocations.  However, the more time I spent with this Gospel, the more I kept coming back to the Special Message of the Bishops.  It reminds me of the thing the bishops have been saying over the past year and a half:  We didn't ask for this fight.  We would rather not be in it.  We would rather be in the business of teaching, healing, feeding.

Are we up to the challenge of the Cross?  Are we up to giving the Christian testimony to the next generation by our example?  Christ has set the example for us.  Now we are to set the example.  Hopefully, the Lord’s words at the end of the Gospel will be consoling: “By your perseverance, you will secure your lives.”

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Catholics: Get active in politics.

It looks like there are currently three opportunities for faithful Catholics to participate in the political process right now.  We must get active.  Our voices must be heard in the public arena.  If our voices for the culture of life are not heard, only those of the culture of death will be heard.

1.  The United States House of Representatives has passed the Pain-Capable Abortion Ban.  This would make abortion illegal after 20 weeks, which is when scientific evidence shows babies in the womb are able to feel pain.  The bill has been introduced in the Senate.  One source reports that it would save about 18,000 lives per year.  This would be a nice incremental step in the right direction.  We would still have another million lives per year to save in this country.  We should contact our senators asking them to support the ban.

2. The Senate has passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act which has been hanging around Washington for about the last 20 years.  The last news I heard was that John Boehner, Speaker of the House, was not going to allow it for a vote.  This is good news!  The Catholic Bishops of the United States oppose the bill because it would punish those who disapprove of sexual conduct outside of marriage.  We should contact Speaker Boehner asking him to hold firm in his decision not to allow the vote.  We should also contact our own representatives asking them to oppose the bill.

Be forewarned: One thing we will continue to hear from those in the culture of death is that the Church should not be concerned because churches, their offices, and parochial schools will be exempt.  This drives me crazy.  What about the Catholic business owner who wants to live his or her faith in the workplace?  Freedom of religion goes well beyond the 50 minutes we spend in church on Sundays.  We are called to have Christ as Dominus of our lives.  I use the Latin "Dominus" instead of the English "Lord" to show we should let Him dominate our lives.  I cannot take credit for that.  Fr. Robert Barron just said it about an hour ago in a speech in Philadelphia.

3. Cardinal Dolan recently sent a letter to John Boehner asking him for swift action on immigration reform.  We should support the efforts of the bishops as they strive to protect human dignity.  With our broken system the way it is, we end up with an unjust arrangement that makes it easy for human beings, made in God's image, to be exploited.  They deserve protection of the law from exploitation because they are made in God's image.  Then there are the issues of destruction and separation that happen to the family because of the current broken system.  We need policies for strong families because families are the building blocks of society.