Homily for the Fourth of July
St. Patrick Cathedral, Fort Worth
July 4, 2012
TWO VISIONS OF FREEDOM
For many cultural pundits, freedom is simply the ability to do what one wants, to enhance one's life as one sees fit. The only limitation is that one must not obstruct the rights of others to make the same choices. This very secular version of freedom is detached from the moral law – from what is true and good - and from God, the author and giver of freedom. It goes beyond saying that our fundamental freedoms are inscribed in our hearts by our Creator. Rather, the secular notion of freedom says that we create our own version of what is true and good and choose accordingly, so long as we do not violate another's right to choose similarly. In this view, freedom is not only highly individualistic but it is also relativistic, since it does not acknowledge a fundamental law protecting the good and the true by which all human beings are bound. When this notion of freedom prevails, it is the strong - those who have money, power and influence - who end up imposing their views on others.
According to the perspective of the administration and editorialists, the Church's freedom extends only to worship, preaching and teaching. It does not extend to putting its teachings into practice through its own institutions when they hire or serve people of other faiths. But when freedom is reduced to individuals choosing whatever they want, so long as it's a choice condoned by the government, religious liberty is severely limited. Any notion of freedom that links an individual's choices with a moral law is seen as "bogus" or "phony" because it is not consistent with the secular notion of freedom. And the Church's assertion that it is free to run its own institutions according to its own values, even when these are countercultural, is roundly rejected by pundits and power brokers.
Dominican Father Servais Pinkaers (1925-2008) made the distinction between "freedom of indifference" and "freedom for excellence." The former is the exercise of free will without regard for moral truth. Freedom for excellence, on the other hand, is the use of free will in a way that looks toward what is true and good; it is the freedom to choose what one ought to choose. If we want to preserve the Church's freedom to fulfill its God-given mission and our own freedom to choose what is true and good, then we must hold and convey to others a true notion of freedom.
St. Paul wrote: "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Phil 4:8). We do well to take this advice as we celebrate the birthday of our nation.
The Constitution of the United States
From Wikipedia, Public Domain