“This call to arms by the Catholic bishops implies, if need be, civil disobedience”

I understand there’s another major speech tonight by the President of the United States, making the best case he can why he should be reelected. Sisyphean task, that.

It will, however, be followed by what I’m most interested in: Cardinal Dolan’s closing prayer. THAT. could be the highlight of the conventions season if the Dems continue their anti-God, anti-Jerusalem, anti-life, anti-woman, anti-religious liberty ways.

But before you listen to Obama, or even after (if you bother), you owe it to your Catholic martial spirit to check out this homily by the normally reserved Most Reverend Gilbert Sheldon, bishop emeritus of Steubenville, delivered here at Franciscan University at the Mass in Finnegan Field House held at the beginning of this year’s new student orientation—the Mass at which new faculty and administrators took the Oath of Fidelity to the Magisterium.

His Excellency’s delivery was staid and straightforward as ever, but his content was, to put it mildly, stirring. You can watch it here, with the transcript below.

The text, as delivered, with my emphases:

A year ago I had the privilege of addressing this assembly and receiving the Oath of Fidelity on behalf of the Church. I thought it would be the last time that I would have the honor of doing this in this august event. However, due to the inscrutable processes of episcopal appointments, I stand before you again.

Last year I pointed out that we are in a culture war. A war that is reducible to, on the one hand, one between those who believe in a Supreme Being who created us, who has a definite plan for our well-being now and into eternity, and to whom we are responsible; and on the other hand, those who believe in themselves as supreme beings and architects of their own destiny, with responsibility only to themselves. In their view there is no such thing as right and wrong, there is only individual choice. One choice is as good as another, and if there is a conflict between choices the choice of the majority prevails. I call attention this time to the latest battle that has been joined in that culture war: the battle for religious freedom.

A call to arms has been issued on behalf of believers by the Catholic bishops of the United States. Our antagonists are the liberal secularists in government and elsewhere, who would erode away our religious freedom. They’ve just won the first skirmish in that battle—the acceptance by the U.S. Supreme Court as constitutional the comprehensive health plan offered by the present administration in Washington.

Pope Benedict said in his statement recently to American bishops, quote, “once more we see the need for an engaged, articulate, and well-informed laity, endowed with a strong critical sense, and with courage to counter a reductive secularism which would delegitimize the Church’s participation in public debate.” The Pope’s words are reflected in the battle plan that has been outlined by the U.S. bishops committee on religious liberty. It calls for study, catechesis, and prayer.

Prayer is the equipment of all believers. Study and education are further arms that we must furnish them—that is, you as faculty members, I and my colleagues from the pulpit. The high spots of the bishops’ call should be familiar to us all. It points out specific efforts in the federal and state level to curtail our religious freedom. And among them, for example, first of all would be the requirement we’ve already mentioned in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It requires that organizations offering health insurance to their employees must provide for contraception and, by implication, abortion, as so-called “reproductive health services,” or otherwise face substantial fines.

In the state of Alabama, for example, there was an effort to forbid services of any kind including spiritual services to undocumented immigrants. In effect it treats these people as worse than wartime enemies, to whom any aid and comfort is considered treasonous. It would forbid a priest from administering the Last Rights to an undocumented immigrant.

There was an effort in the state of Connecticut to intrude into the internal government of the Church by reintroducing the flawed practice of trusteeism.

And in some state universities there is an attempt to force religious organizations on campus to open their membership to all individuals, including those with contrary religious or moral convictions.

And finally there was a requirement by several states that Catholic social service agencies offer services contrary to their own stated religious and moral principles, for example in adoption and counseling services.

This secular liberal agenda would redefine the First Amendment to the Constitution so as to restrict Freedom of Religion to Freedom of Worship. And that distinction is crucial. The Bill of Rights reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Freedom of worship would restrict religious practice to worship services, presumably done in a house of worship or in private. However, the exercise of religion derives from religion itself and its own definition of its activities.

Christianity, and Catholicism in particular, includes a great many activities which are public. Not the least of which is bringing the Gospel to non-believers.

The secularist opposes any public religious display, whether public prayer or in the display of a religious symbol.

And of course we have a taste of this here in Steubenville as a proposed logo for the city is being attacked, incidentally by a group from another state, because it includes a well-known landmark—the chapel here at Franciscan University. The objection, supposedly, is that it is an involvement by the city government in religion. So how ridiculous can you get?

Our Founding Fathers were very much aware of the public dimension of religion. George Washington, in his famous farewell speech said, quote, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” He well understood that lending support to religious and moral principles must be made part of the public and political discourse. Something to which the liberal secularist is very allergic. Like many of the Founding Fathers, Washington was a deist, who derived his philosophy from John Locke. Locke, himself not a Christian, however, believed in natural law—a concept that’s firmly embedded in Catholic moral theology. The current liberal secularists would have us believe that human rights are conferred on its citizens by the State, much like welfare. But that’s not what the Declaration of Independence says. Quoting again, “we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that all are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. That among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The Constitution of the United States guarantees that statement in the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights which we heard before.

This call to arms by the Catholic bishops implies, if need be, civil disobedience. However, it is not saying, “if this be treason, let us make the most of it.” Civil disobedience is not disloyalty to one’s country. It is, and especially in this case, a form of patriotism, that calls upon the government to be true to the Constitution and to walk the narrow line that the Constitution lays out for it. Nor should the loyalty of Catholics in the United States ever be called into question. The blood that Catholics have shed through all the wars in past history speaks loud and clear. And admittedly there were only a handful of Catholics that fought in the American Revolution but by World War II fully a third—one out of three—men and women in uniform had “C” for “Catholic” on their identification tags—the so-called “dog tags.”

Civil disobedience is in fact a virtue when it opposes unjust law, as is the case here. Let me quote a well-known proponent of opposition to unjust law. He said, quote, “I would agree with St. Augustine that an unjust law is no law at all. Now what is the different between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in terms of St. Thomas Aquinas, ‘an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.'” You might be wondering what pope said that. It was no pope at all: it was Martin Luther King.

Coincidentally, or, perhaps, not so coincidentally, this battle will be contemporaneous with the Year of Faith that Pope Benedict announced; and the year of faith begins, also, marking the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Again: coincidence, or divine providence?

The year of faith and the Catechism give us the logistical support that our battle requires for the faithful and for us to use. The year of faith is a call to prayer; the Catechism is an ideal tool for presenting the Catholic position. All that is needed now is the will to use them to fight. May God bless us in our struggle.”



  • William Braudis

    I am an Evangelical Lutheran and I, along with many other Lutherans, will join hands with our Brothers and Sisters of the Catholic Religion and defend the Cross of Jesus against Satan and his followers. An attack upon the Catholic Religion by obama, is an attack against all Religions. Be it the will of the Trinity, we will overcome our mutual enemy.

  • Mike

    Be Bold. Be Catholic. We can not, and will not, comply with mandates that force us to take part in practices that go against our moral teachings. Moreover, we must not continue to fall for the same old lies of the government “helping the little” guy while trashing the Constitution that protects our rights-which are God-given, not from ANY government.

    It is not too surprising that the Democratic party has been trying to create a “right” to birth control and abortion. Not surprising because history shows us that is what Socialist governments do- promise things while gaining more control over the individual. What is totally disgusting is that children and grandchildren of the millions of immigrants that came here to escape socialist government oppression should know better.

    We are prepared to take this battle to every and any arena where those who place secular and political aspirations above religious freedom. For the people of all religions, in defense of our One Holy and Apostolic Church, and the Constitution of The United States of America, I say again, BE BOLD, BE CATHOLIC, BE AMERICAN!

  • annie

    I was a little late to the party but finally, after 50 years, I can proudly say that I’ve joined the counterculture. I am a Catholic and I will NOT comply.

    • Jason

      Welcome onto the Barque of Peter, Annie!

      I will not comply either. Never.

  • Matt

    Is that what the people during the Inquisition and the Crusades felt they were doing? Taking up their cross in martial spirit to kill some non-believers and witches (most of whom just wanted to live peacefully in their lands)?

    Then again, where was this same spirit of at war against the devil when, a couple years ago, the priest sex abuse case came into the limelight, both from the magisterium and the laity? Where was (and is) the call to arms against that? Is the dropping of God from a convention platform more important than these abused boys? From how you twitter on, it seems to be and that’s what disturbs me. Isn’t there something about removing the giant plank from your own eye before trying to take the splinter out of your neighbor’s?

    • KT1

      Matt, why don’t you work on cleaning up NAMBLA? Where is the gay lobby call to arms against THAT organization? What about those abused boys?

      • Rich

        It was not NAMBLA that abused the altar boys, but PRIEST who were protected by BISHOPS, including Bishop Finn who was Found Guilty of not reporting? He has acknowledged that he was at fault and has received mercy from the Court. It is sad that the Church was the perpetrator, but the secular government was the instrument of both Justice and Mercy. NAMBLA is not a part of the official Catholic Church nor the Government. I would hope that we are all working to clean up organizations like NAMBLA as well as the Church, and praying hard for those that are misguided in either institution to misuse the trust of a child.

    • Mike R

      Hey non-sequitur Matt Stawman! Since you show an interest in history, you might want to revisit Socialism’s history of murder, imprisonment, and darkness committed under the banner of “for the people”.

      The “logic”, tenor, and use of misdirection indicates the Socialist indoctrination of your college years still has a hold on you. And again, since you have such an interest in history, look up Rules for Radicals, by Saul David Alinsky. He would be proud of you.

      I would welcome your comments in a section regarding the regrettable chapters of our Church. For now, stop aiding and abetting the destruction of our Church.
      (Another Socialist trait, isn’t it.) If not, we will be on the look-out for anti-Catholic Socialists, ready, willing, and able to push back against attacks- in writing, in government, and in the streets.

      • John

        I love how socialism is just a bad word for you. Do you have any idea what socialism actually is? And how is a college education which people go into debt for for most of their lives socialist?

        Speaking of history, It’s not attacking the church to talk about the ACTUAL history of it. Maybe you need to look into some history of it yourself. The crusades, hundreds of years of oppression of Jews, and even the colonization of New World. Like I said, It’s not attacking the church to know about these things, in fact its a testament of the church’s lasting power that it was able to make it through it.

        You’re the one that suns like a radical here, partner.

  • WOW!

    Wow. You mention Martin Luther King, Jr. What next? A regular African American Catholic columnist? I don’t think so. BTW, what’s God gonna do if He decides you folks are maliciously raising false dichotomies? Y’know like pitting those who believe in God and the Democrats who are agents of Satan against each other in a “culture war”? Finally, how was Jesus an example of the Catholic “martial spirit”? What’s all this war stuff?

    • Antonio A. Badilla

      Wow, read it again. So far it is obvious you have no clue about the Church’s moral teaching. Who is maliciously raising false dichotomies, the bishop or you?

      • Rich

        I vote for the Bishops, as WOW made no malice in the posting, and did not suggest there is a dichotomy that is either true or false.

    • C. J.

      This war stuff is called taking up our CROSS and following Jesus. If you do not think we are at war with the devil and the fallen angels, then I don’t think you have read scripture as to why Jesus came in the first place.

      • Rich

        Jesus came out of Love, not a militaristic fight against the devil, remember he cast demons out, and did not have sword fights with them. We are not the Knights Templar marching into our crusades. We follow the Christ who took up the cross because he taught about forgiveness. “the Bruised Reed he will not Crush.” We are called to be more like Mother Theresa than George Patton, more like Francis than Bin Laden, more like Christ than the devil. “Put away your sword.” he said on the way to pick up the Cross, which lead to both death and resurrection. Our call to arms is to wrap our arms around those who hate us as well as those who love us. A much harder task than running someone through with a sword.



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