Category Archives: Religious freedom

DC Professor on Leave after Signing Pro-Traditional Marriage Petition

Last month, Britain’s online Pink News reported on Archbishop Tomasi’s speech to the United Nations in Geneva that addressed a growing trend of discrimination against those who oppose gay marriage. This opposition to free speech and religious freedom became more than theoretical in the heart of America’s capital last week after a professor was removed from her position.

Headshot of Professor McCaskill who was placed on leave after signing a petition supporting pro-traditional marriage.

Gallaudet University placed Professor Angela McCaskill on leave after she signed a pro-traditional marriage petition at her church concerning a vote that will take place in Maryland next month. University officials asked her to apologize, and when she refused, she was placed on leave. A spokesman said that members of the community were concerned about how the expression of her views may affect her performance in the classroom (Washington Post).



60th Annual Red Mass for the US Supreme Court

Cardinal Wuerl can be seen on stage at the Red Mass brunch, sponsored by the John Carroll Society, congratulating this year’s recipients of various justice themed awards.

On the eve of the new Supreme Court session, Cardinal Wuerl warmly hosted 1,500 guests at the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Washington, including six of the nine Supreme Court Justices. Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Breyer, and Obama appointee Justice Elena Kagan who all voted in favor of the health care ruling were among the congregation. Other guests included many Ambassadors, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli of Virginia, former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, and Military Archdiocese Archbishop Timothy Broglio who delivered the homily.

The theme centered on our responsibility to seek justice. In the homily, Archbishop Broglio very eloquently warned that the undoing of morality and institutions which support society is dangerous,

“I am reminded of my first year as a seminarian in Rome. An important 19th Century Justice Department building was closed because it was unsafe. It seemed to be sinking into the ground. Yet the Colosseum, Pantheon, and the ruins of the Roman Forum were all still standing and could be visited. It was a good reminder that not everything contemporary is good and that stable foundations are essential. Our society must also rest on stable, clear foundations. Otherwise, we run the risk of sinking into the mire of one popular sound byte after another!”

After Mass, Cardinal Wuerl and Monsignor Vaghi(Chaplain of the John Caroll Society) spoke to the guests about the mission of the New Evangelization. “It is a simple formula”, said Cardinal Wuerl. First it begins with our own internal conversion, then truly coming to the conviction that our beliefs are true, and finally sharing it with others. Wuerl shared a short story about a local college chaplain who evangelized by dramatically telling his young congregation, “I am appointing you all Apostles! Go home today and next Sunday your assignment is to bring someone back with you.” Slowly, it worked. And the congregation has grown from less than 50 students to over 300. This formula is simple, but sharing the faith is the profound responsibility of each Christian. The Good News is too good to be kept a secret.



Voter Guide Part I: As Catholics, we have the biggest burden

A family member of a new Congressman awaits the swearing-in ceremony from her loved one’s still empty office. January 3, 2010

Sometimes being Catholic feels like having the weight of the whole world on your shoulders. It’s the burden of truth as revealed to us by Christ, and once we hear the beautiful word of God, there is no turning back. “Be doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deluding yourselves” – James 1:25

Stop trying to legislate morality! Sometimes that is what anti-Christian politicians say. Well the answer is that it is not possible for morality to be legislated. Morality is the measure of the “most good” that can be done in any particular situation. But if we have the chance to vote morally, how could we not want to vote for the most good?

Reason, don’t rationalize The decision of whom to vote for should not be taken lightly. Our Catholic obligations require us to use reason(intellect), but not to rationalize a choice so that our conscience matches our emotions. To absolve ourselves from these responsibilities, we often like to shutter away from a particular lens and pretend that means we are being objective. “I am voting based on her fiscal record and not her social positions because I do not want to subject others to my views.” 

What issues should we look at?

First and foremost, we have to look to the protection of human rights. Rights are fundamental normal conditions that are guaranteed to every human being by merit of being a part of nature – conditions in which no other man has the right to interfere or take away. We believe that nature was created by God; therefore, all rights ultimately derive from God.

  1. Right to Life. Without this right, no other right can exist. The right to labor is meaningless if another man can justifiably take away your life. As Catholics, we believe this is a non-negotiable issue. To vote for a candidate who supports: abortion, euthanasia, forced employer purchasing of contraception, or stem cell research is a serious private, but firm declaration that rejects the natural rights set by God. To consciously vote for someone (still) supporting those positions is a serious sin and requires absolution to be reunited with God’s grace. Remember that we are called to look at a politician’s stance and much less into his or her personal life. In the case that a pro-choice candidate has made a serious public declaration that he or she is now pro-life, within reason, it may be appropriate to accept the declaration as truth. There are many experiences, maturities, conversions that may lead to this change of heart.   **What if both candidates are pro-choice? What if both candidates are pro-life? Then continue to the next issue.
  2. Next, the Church looks to protect the sanctity of its Sacraments and society. Sacraments are outward signs that God has given us to signify a share in His life. One of these is marriage. Marriage is never a fight over “rights.” Sometimes the word “right” is used to signify something that we want, but that does not make it a “right.” Men and women can perform the natural functions of living independently, meaning they don’t need a relationship with one another in order to walk, think, or digest food. However, in nature, men and women are dependent upon one another in order to produce children. Marriage is a natural and sacramental institution that belongs to one man and one woman. This is unpopular and challenging for many Catholics. In no way does this position condone taunting or uncharitable behavior that would denigrate the dignity of any human being. This is also a non-negotiable issue(Priests For Life).
  3. The remaining issues that remain close to the hear of the Catholic Church focus on social justice. These are sometimes philosophically murky. These can be issues of education policy, illegal immigration, or health care. The ultimate goal of the church is to seek a greater common good. Voters and politicians have an unyielding responsibility to fiercely advocate for the dignity, protection, and advancement of our neighbors and constituents.



Washington Post opinion article on Chick-Fil-A fallout and Christian charity

Read this opinion piece published by the Washington Post: With Chick-fil-A fight, progressive mayors get their ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ moment

1-in-6 hospital patients are cared for by Catholic institutions and almost 2.3 million students in the US are instructed in a Catholic school each year. What would be the consequences if these institutions were no longer welcome?

Several progressive mayors in the United States are saying that Chick-Fil-A franchises are no longer welcome in their cities because of the corporations public opposition to homosexual marriage. This Washington Post opinion piece is correct when it says this is bad for freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the poor. The Catholic Church also openly opposes same-sex marriages but it is also the largest supporter of immigrants and disenfranchised people in poverty in the United States. Does that mean their aide for the poor may someday be unwelcome too?


When Conscience and Culture, Governments and Faith Clash

The Catholic Church in the United States has engaged in a rigorous debate this past year over religious freedom and just law. But this is not an unique struggle in the world. This past month marks the 477th anniversary of the execution of Cardinal St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More by King Henry VIII who demanded the clergy cut ties with Rome and declare the King the Supreme Head of the Church. Look to these two saints in these tough times and be inspired by their courage.

Cardinal Fisher and Sir Thomas More, martyrs for the faith

Flowered then Devoured Saint Thomas More saw the danger in allowing laws to change for the sake of reflecting culture’s demands. He used a parable about 1st century Roman Emperor  Tiberius to highlight what can happen when men try to compromise their conscience with culture. The emperor announced a law condemning any citizen to death for a certain offense unless the offender was a virgin. When the emperor came across a virgin, he was unsure what to do. So he had her violated in order that she may be put to death. “First let her be deflowered, and then after she may be deflowered”  (full text found here). He went on to assure them that he would not be deflowered, implying that those who do submit to the King’s will are subject to be devoured. Sir Thomas More was executed after being found guilty of treason; nevertheless, many of the King’s servants and advisers who had supported his supremacy over the Church later fell out of the king’s graces and were executed.

The following clip from The Tudors is of Saint Thomas More’s execution. Their interpretation of this particular moment in history is likely accurate.

Cardinal Saint John Fisher, in a similar way that St Thomas More did, questioned the authority of Parliament to declare Divine matters. As a bishop, he vigorously opposed corruption in the Catholic Church but declared that Martin Luther’s abandonment of the sacraments and break from the See of St. Peter was wrong. He was also Katherine of Aragon’s sole counselor when the Ecclesiastical Court investigated whether or not her marriage to King Henry VIII should be dissolved or not.  Like his patron, Saint John the Baptist, he was beheaded for challenging his ruler’s marriage to a taken woman. This similarity created a lot of attention in favor of Fisher. He is both a reformer of the Church and a martyr.

The brave and courageous actions of More and Fisher were certainly not in vain. Centuries later, there is a new Ordinariate (Similar to a Diocese) of the Catholic Church, allowing for Anglicans to return in full communion with the Catholic Church without forcing them to abandon many of their traditions. Over time, many faithful in England and elsewhere who adhere to the Anglican traditions have come to recognize that the break from the Rock in which Jesus built His Church is political and not Divine.


When in Rome, do as the Romans unless…

When we stray from the teachings of the Church or even reject one of them, we now subject ourselves to a faith by men instead of one for us by Christ.

St. Ambrose was Bishop of Milan in the 4th century and is hailed as one of the great doctors of the Church. He warned against the liturgy becoming so rigid that the people are no longer served by it, but he never advocated straying from the faith or the Mass as the first Christians celebrated it. He coined the phrase “When in Rome, do as the Romans.”

The official banner of the City of Milan which depicts the city’s patron saint, Ambrose. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milan still celebrates the “Ambrosian Rite” and its own liturgical schedule with the permission of the Vatican.

In this past week there has been a lot of attention in the media reflecting on Church teachings and public opinion. Many in the secular world expressed that they were deeply touched by the compassion the Anglican Church exhibited when they approved the new liturgy for same-sex marriage on July 9th.

In the Washington Post on July 12, a Catholic school teacher complained her conscience was violated  at St. Anne’s Parish by the Catholic Diocese of Arlington because she and her coworkers were asked to reaffirm their faith in an oath. After being asked to profess her faith, she resigned from her post and cited the male-only priesthood as one particular teaching she disagrees with.

Both stories are examples of people who really desire to see greater pastoral care which is charitable and compassionate but in this case it was misguided. Unfortunately, both stories are actually total abandonment of pastoral care. In the pastoral method of Saint Ambrose, the liturgy was prayed and preached in a way that the public could understand better. Saint Ambrose never modified the teachings of the faith or the necessary practices of the Mass in order to open the Church to greater numbers.

When we stray from the teachings of the Church or even reject one of them, we now subject ourselves to a faith by men instead of one for us by Christ.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16

We should be inspired by the early Christians who felt deeply unpopular and have confidence knowing that we are called to be the light in the world – even when the world seems so dark.


A Message from Cardinal Wuerl on Religious Freedom