It was a subtle change probably few even noticed, but it is the kind of thing that gets put in a footnote, or in a court brief, that seems harmless enough at the time to go unnoticed until a future date when it can be recalled or referenced to justify a position you would otherwise never support.
I’m talking about the recent change made by the USCCB to now refer to what was for years the Fortnight for Freedom, a time of dedication to prayer for the threatened state of religious freedom in this country. This year the leaders of the Church in the United States, in their great wisdom, have cut the period of prayer in half and renamed it the Week of Religious Liberty.
I don’t mind putting a fresh face on some things and I understand that it is some person’s job to come up with clever marketing ploys to get people’s attention. However, there is a big difference between freedom and liberty we should all pay close attention to.
God has not given us liberty but freedom, the free will to choose whether to obey or not to obey. But he did not give us the liberty to do whatever we want. Hopefully it is His will that we choose and not a will contrary to His commands.
Freedom to believe and act as God has
I attended a funeral recently of a person who belonged to our parish. He was a convert and his family was not Catholic. At the grave site, our pastor allowed his grieving brother to speak about his one and only sibling. The brother was clearly sorrowful and he wanted to say the nicest things about his brother he could think of. He said at one point, “If my brother could speak to us all right now he would say, “Do whatever makes you happy as long as it does not hurt anyone else.“
I cringed when I heard him say this because I know his brother would not have said any such thing. None of us is at liberty to do as we please, because even when no harm appears to be done to another, the worst kind of harm may be done to our soul because God who knows and sees all that we do.
When it comes to the phrase “religious liberty” I also cringe because we are not at liberty to choose just any religion, but only the one given to us by God himself. None other is acceptable and the idea that they are is the child of indifference which Pope Leo XIII so often warned us against.
When we pray for an end to the liberal bias against our religion, remember it is freedom to worship as God would have us do whereas liberty of religion is a dangerous concept.
A good litmus test for all organizations is the word
"International" It should be a red flag for all of us.
The mission statement on the webpage for the International Religious Liberty Association says this:
“The International Religious Liberty Association will disseminate the principles of religious liberty throughout the world; defend and safeguard the civil right of all people to worship or not to worship, to adopt a religion or belief of their choice, to manifest their religious convictions in observance, promulgation, and teaching, subject only to the respect for the equivalent rights of others; support the right of religious organizations to operate freely in every country by their establishing and owning charitable or educational institutions; and organize local, regional, and national chapters as well as seminars, and congresses.”
If that sounds harmless then imagine it applies equally to Catholics and Satanists, and to Scientology, a well known cult. Are we so sure we want to promote the liberty of every group that defines itself as a religion? How about the liberty to mutilate the genitals of little girls? How about the liberty to offer animal sacrifices?
I’m not sure why the USCCB decided to jump ship on the word freedom and opt for liberty, but I think it was short sighted to say the least.