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Liberty-and especially religious liberty-is a topic of increasing importance to people of faith from many different religious traditions. As the United States has witnessed increasing assaults on the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom during the past two years, the pressing importance of the topic has not been lost on people of faith. Whether we will continue to live in a country blessed with the freedom to practice our religion free of government interference, or whether constitutional liberties will be subordinated to the demands of the state, remains to be seen.
This ebook comprises three talks I gave between April and August 2012, on the ways in which Catholics-and all people of faith-ought to approach politics in order to live out their faith in public as well as in private, and to transform the divisiveness and hostility in politics we see today into a society in which every person is respected and valued-a society that Pope John Paul II has called a "Civilization of Love."
Many of these arguments appeal to Catholic social teaching, with its strong natural law component. But it should be noted that, especially under Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Catholic social teaching has become increasingly "Gospel centered." One need only think of John Paul II's encyclical letter on issues of life, entitled "The Gospel of Life," to see the direction of this sort of thinking. As a result, not only Catholics but also many Protestants-especially those with an Evangelical tradition-will find common cause with the ideas presented in this ebook.
Now making up one-fourth of the population of the United States, Catholics are uniquely suited to creating this transformation by bringing charity into public life, by following Catholic social teaching in their own lives, and by withholding our votes from candidates and propositions that oppose Church teaching on matters of intrinsic evil. This should be done in every case, in every race for political office, regardless of the party of the candidate. Though it is impossible to say which party might benefit most in the long run, if Catholics take such a stand, we could literally change the face of our country's political debates.
Matters of intrinsic evil have historically been at odds with the sanctity of life, and often also intertwined with issues of life in this country are matters of religious liberty. As we have seen with the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate imposing employer health-care coverage of abortion-causing drugs, restrictions on religious liberty in this regard have directly resulted in the federal government's compelling people of faith to become complicit in activities that they believe to be evil. Not only Catholics but also many people of other faiths have been alarmed at this mandate and the trend of government interference in the free exercise of religion.
If we would live out our faith in a way that is sustainable and will allow its transmission to future generations, then Catholics-and all people of faith-must insist that religious liberty be respected, not only as freedom of worship but also as the free exercise of religion in the public square, as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. And as the Catholic population of this country increases-driven in no small measure by Catholic immigration from Latin America-it is critical that these immigrants not feel that they must surrender their religious values at the border as the price of admission to the United States.
Such a vision of the future of the United States not only is consistent with Catholic social teaching, it is also in keeping with our country's founding principles-with the concept of "unalienable Rights" enshrined in the Declaration of Independence as "endowed by our Creator," and with the protection of religious liberty as the first freedom enumerated in our Bill of Rights, and with Thomas Jefferson's statement that "the God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time."
Such a vision is within our grasp if we think, act, and vote on core issues in a way that allows Christ's message of love to speak to our political process.
America's history has been shaped by the sacrifice and witness of millions who have exercised in extraordinary ways our nation's guarantee of religious freedom. Historians have referred to these periods as "Great Awakenings." It is the hope of this book that such awakenings are not only in America's past but are also in her future.