At this critical moment in history, there are two social justice priorities for the Catholic Church in the United States: the defense of life at all stages and in all conditions, and the defense of religious freedom for all. During this Fortnight for Freedom, in which the U.S. bishops are calling all Catholics to pray and work for religious freedom, it’s important to reflect on the linkage between these two great causes. As the language of the First Amendment to the Constitution indicates, religious freedom in the United States has always been understood as one of a cluster of fundamental freedoms—spheres of free thought and action essential to individual liberty and civil society.
Most Americans haven’t the foggiest idea that a quasi-Stalinist, violently anti-Catholic regime once existed on our southern borders. Those who don’t know how bad Mexico was in the late 1920s are about to learn, though: at least those who see For Greater Glory, a recently-released movie about the Cristero War, a passionate (and bloody) defense of Catholicism that’s remembered today, if at all, because of Graham Greene’s novel, The Power and the Glory.
One does wonder, sometimes, just what goes on at Catholic News Service (CNS), an agency that wouldn’t exist were it not for the U.S. bishops and the bishops’ conference. This past April 16, CNS distributed a lengthy interview with Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., giving her a platform to blast the 2013 federal budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and to badger Cardinal Timothy Dolan to pay as much attention to "the poor, the hungry, the middle class, the people who are going to be eviscerated by the Ryan budget" as Dolan and the bishops he leads are paying to the defense of religious freedom.
In December 1980, I spent several hours talking with Mike Hammer, a field representative in El Salvador of the American Institute for Free Labor Development. AIFLD, an overseas development affiliate of the AFL-CIO, was trying to bring some sense into the polarized politics of El Salvador, a country coming apart at the seams. A few weeks after we met, that violent polarization cost Mike Hammer his life.
In the flood of commentary surrounding the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I found but one reference to a related anniversary of considerable importance: the fifth anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s Regensburg Lecture. That lecture, given the day after the fifth anniversary of 9/11 at the pope’s old university in Germany, identified the two key challenges to 21st-century Islam, if that faith of over a billion people is going to live within today’s world in something other than a condition of war.
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I don't know how I'm going to handle it when I have to give this up. I do know that if I never do another thing in the active duty military, I will have done at least one significant piece of work and that's been with Marines and Sailors in this combat zone (Camp Korean Village).
--CDR Brian Simpson
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