In his Ad Limina Address, on January 19, 2012, to the American Bishops Pope Benedict XVI makes it clear that religious freedom in the United States is under attack. He reminds the bishops "to reflect on some of the spiritual and cultural challenges of the new evangelization." Today in America he says there are "powerful new cultural currents which are not only directly opposed to core moral teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but increasingly hostile to Christianity as such." Is this, also, not the sad state of what is currently happening in Canada?
Wake up call for all Christians
The Church at all times must preach the Gospel and its moral truths. The Pope then warns the Bishops of the societal consequences of not doing so: "To the extent that some current cultural trends contain elements that would curtail the proclamation of these truths, whether constricting it within the limits of a merely scientific rationality, or suppressing it in the name of political power or majority rule, they represent a threat not just to Christian faith, but also to humanity itself and to the deepest truth about our being and ultimate vocation, our relationship to God." He gives Christians in North America a wake up call by saying, "When a culture attempts to suppress the dimension of ultimate mystery, and to close the doors to transcendent truth, it inevitably becomes impoverished and falls prey, as the late Pope John Paul II so clearly saw, to reductionist and totalitarian readings of the human person and the nature of society."
Faith, reason and religious freedom
A just and free society need not fear religious and moral truths that are grounded on both faith and reason because they provide in the Pope's words a "'language' which enables us to understand ourselves and the truth of our being, and so to shape a more just and humane world. She (the Church) thus proposes her moral teaching as a message not of constraint but of liberation, and as the basis for building a secure future." These are insightful words from a spiritual leader who cares about his flock and has the courage to state the truth.
It's through the "language" of faith that we ultimately define who we are and can become: "The Church’s witness, then, is of its nature public: she seeks to convince by proposing rational arguments in the public square. The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation." Without a language of the Word, we remove our connection to the faith, to our religious freedom and to our very Creator.
Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity
The presence of the Church in the public square is being undermined by "radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres." The Pope cites freedom of conscience and religious liberty as two areas being attacked currently. He urges all Christians to be informed and become engaged in order to offer a counter-cultural response to the dominant societal forces advocating secularism and devaluing faith.
Pope Benedict sees a need for "The preparation of committed lay leaders and the presentation of a convincing articulation of the Christian vision of man and society remain a primary task of the Church in your country; as essential components of the new evangelization, these concerns must shape the vision and goals of catechetical programs at every level. ... There can be no doubt that a more consistent witness on the part of America’s Catholics to their deepest convictions would make a major contribution to the renewal of society as a whole."
This "radical secularism" is what we face in Canada in trying to live the Gospel. The new evangelization is at odds with the secular humanism afflicting Canadian culture. It's a battle for souls. Pope Benedict concludes by saying, "No one who looks at these issues realistically can ignore the genuine difficulties which the Church encounters at the present moment. Yet in faith we can take heart from the growing awareness of the need to preserve a civil order clearly rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, as well as from the promise offered by a new generation of Catholics whose experience and convictions will have a decisive role in renewing the Church’s presence and witness in American society."
In Ontario and the rest of Canada, this "reductionist and totalitarian" trend is to exclude religious beliefs from the important life issues such as abortion and euthanasia. It's also a call for the laity to fight policies like the "Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy." The moral dangers in the policy is that it over-sexaulizes children, redefines the human person and the family in a manner completely contrary to the Christian view. No Christian should be forced to behave in ways or accept political agendas that contradict the teaching of the Church. This would be tantamount to the state coercing its citizens to immoral and sinful acts.
The need for prayer
The responsibility for the new evangelization, for this spiritual battle, rests with all of us: "The hope which these “signs of the times” give us is itself a reason to renew our efforts to mobilize the intellectual and moral resources of the entire Catholic community in the service of the evangelization of American culture and the building of the civilization of love. With great affection I commend all of you, and the flock entrusted to your care, to the prayers of Mary, Mother of Hope, and cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of grace and peace in Jesus Christ our Lord."
We thank and pray for Pope Benedict XVI that God will continue to give him the courage and consolation to continue to speak His Word and His truth in guiding the faithful. Only the truth can help us re-build a culture of love and life.