In Defense of Religious Freedom – Cardinal-Designate Wuerl Speaks

The  Knights of Malta  recently held a Defense of the Faith Forum at the Mayflower Hotel here in Washington DC. You can read an overall description of the Forum here: Defense of the Faith Forum.

At this event Cardinal-Designate Wuerl gave a very fine talk on the erosion of religious liberty in our country and the necessary solutions. I have heard him speak on this topic before in various priest-gatherings and am glad to hear this talk,  and that it is available on the Internet as a podcast or mp3 download. You can get the full talk here: DFF Forum Podcasts along with the other talks as well.

I would like to present a brief summary here along with a few short sound clips that will give you the flavor of what I think is a very fine talk and a most necessary topic for our consideration.

Cardinal-Designate Wuerl divides his twenty-four minute talk into three parts:

  1. The Nature of the Problem
  2. The Necessity of Witnessing to our Faith
  3. The Need to More Effectively Communicate our own Message

1. The Nature of the Problem is that we are experiencing a sea-change wherein it is increasingly asserted that the only place for religious expression in our culture is inside church buildings. Religious involvement of any sort in the public forum is often intentionally proscribed. Sometimes this is done overtly, sometimes more subtly. He recalls how religious liberty was suddenly ended in Maryland in the 17th Century and the doors of Catholic Churches we ordered locked. He then challenges our thought that such a thing could not happen today, and gives two examples of something quite similar happening recently. In addition, another threat to religious liberty is that common Catholic teachings are increasingly be labeled as “hate-speech.”  He addresses all this in this three minute excerpt from the talk:

Cardinal Designate Donald Wuerl on Religious Liberty – clip 1

2. The Necessity of Witnessing to our Faith – In such a climate it will become increasingly necessary for us to know our faith and witness to it. This will require courage and conviction that the truth will win out. But for the truth to win out it must first be heard! And that depends on us. Here is a 2.5 minute clip on this point:

Cardinal-Designate Donald Wuerl on Religious Liberty – clip 2

3. The Need to More Effectively Communicate our own Message– Most Catholics hear of their faith in a very filtered way through the media. When the secular media describes a Church teaching, or an event within the life of the Church, it  is often reduced and reported in a secular way. Important theological nuances and distinctions are often left out of the discussion. For example, in the discussion on stem-cell research, it is often reported that the Church merely opposes stem-cell research. This is not true. We oppose only embryonic stem cell research. Further, one is more likely to hear through the filter of the secular media, bad news about the Church or matters which cause controversy. Under-reported are the millions helped through Catholic Charities, the millions who find healing and peace in the Church,  and so forth. Here is a 3.5 minute clip wherein the Cardinal-Designate describes the nature of this problem

Cardinal Designate Donald Wuerl on Religious Liberty  – Clip 3

At the direction of the Archbishop, the Archdiocese of Washington is currently working on many new ways to get our message out directly to Catholics and all people. This blog is one of those ways. The ADW website is currently under re-design. Podcasting, Youtube videos, enhanced e-mail communications, Catholic Radio AM 1160,  and many other approaches are either underway or planned for the near future. We are serious about the need to communicate  in an increasingly effective and direct way.

The complete talk of Cardinal-Designate Wuerl is here: Complete Talk

In the end, Cardinal-Designate Wuerl is not content merely to describe or lament the problem. He is challenging the Archdiocesan Staff and every Catholic to be part of the solution. We must come to better know our faith, communicate it,  and personally witness to it. The steady erosion of Religious Liberty in this country cannot be allowed to continue. But to battle it will will require courage and a polite, non-violent, but firm  resistance to the increasing demand that we remain silent and aloof. In a word, Evangelize! You should be a witness.

17 Replies to “In Defense of Religious Freedom – Cardinal-Designate Wuerl Speaks”

  1. I have two questions:

    – Why is the Cardinal in white?

    – What devotions could best help us live more fully by Faith?

    1. THe picture I think is not from the talk, which was given not a the Church but at the reception. I suppose he is wearing white vestments due to the nature of the feast he was celebrating when that photo was taken.

      Devotions: how about scriptural rosary, renewing the vows of baptism, perhaps too the on-going practice of lectio divina (the prayerful reading of scripture).

  2. A look to the North may be the next step in supression of freedom of religion. Will it end? Yes. How? When? These are speculative questions.

    We will live reality.

    Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
    that never was it known
    that any one who fled to your protection,
    implored your help or sought your intercession,
    was left unaided.
    Inspired with this confidence,
    I fly unto you,
    O Virgin of virgins my Mother;
    to you do I come,
    before you I stand,
    sinful and sorrowful;
    O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
    despise not my petitions,
    but in your mercy hear and answer me.

    Less than 4 months ago: Pope Benedict pointed us to Mary.
    Pope Urges Giving Priority to Mary at

    Seven years ago, the late Pope John Paul II wrote a letter to the Men and Women Religious
    of the Montfort Families.

    Pope John Paul opened His letter
    with a reference to “Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin” written by St Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort at the beginning of the 1700s

    He directs our attention to:

    “I am all yours, and all that I have is yours, O most loving Jesus, through Mary, your most holy Mother” (Treatise on True Devotion, n. 233)

    IN THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST AND THE CHURCH, specifically nos 60, 62

    St. Louis de Montfort writes in “TREATISE ON TRUE DEVOTION TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN,”

    19. If we examine closely the remainder of the life of Jesus Christ, we see that he chose to begin his miracles through Mary. It was by her word that he sanctified Saint John the Baptist in the womb of his mother, Saint Elizabeth; no sooner had Mary spoken than John was sanctified. This was his first and greatest miracle of grace. At the wedding in Cana he changed water into wine at her humble prayer, and this was his first miracle in the order of nature. He began and continued his miracles through Mary and he will continue them through her until the end of time.

    “He began and continued his miracles through Mary and he will continue them through her until the end of time.”

    Ought we not to turn to Jesus through Mary, His Mother, the Mother of God at any time, especially when or faith, our life is subject to ridicule if not worse?

    Ought we not petition our Mother, His instrument though whom He “began and continued his miracles” and through whom “he will continue them through her until the end of time,” with the words of petition in the Memorare

    Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary,
    that never was it known
    that any one who fled to your protection,
    implored your help or sought your intercession,
    was left unaided.
    Inspired with this confidence,
    I fly unto you,
    O Virgin of virgins my Mother;
    to you do I come,
    before you I stand,
    sinful and sorrowful;
    O Mother of the Word Incarnate,
    despise not my petitions,
    but in your mercy hear and answer me.

    Let us pray.

  3. I’m unable to express the encouragement, comfort and joy this article and Cardinal-Designate Wuerl’s address provides for me. For the longest time I couldn’t understand why the Church has been so seemingly silent regarding the distortions of secular culture and media on religiion and especially our Church. Maybe I’ve been looking in the wrong places and missing it, but finally, the Princes of the Church speak.

    Cardinal-Designate Wuerl’s address has special meaning for me. My parents were married in Francis Xavier Catholic Church, Newtowne, MD. outside Leonardtown in Southern MD My God Parents, who sponsored their wedding and hosted the reception, lived nearby on Breton Bay outside Leonardtown. I was blessed growing up as much of my summers were spent at my God Parents on Breton Bay. The time spent there are some of the fondest memories of my life. We attended Francis Xavier Church every Sunday and I can remember the stories of persecution brought on by the The Protestant Rebellion of 1689, the Intolerant Act of 1704 which closed the doors of the Church and forced the parishioners underground to celebrate Mass in nearby cellars and basements. This made a big impression on me. As a child, I couldn’t fathom it and wondered what life must have like for Catholics back then, I can remember consciously thanking God those days were gone. God Bless Cardinal-Designate Wuerl and the Knights of Malta in the valiant fight to prevent their return!

  4. Msgr, I thank you and your archbishop for your program. I have learned so much here over the last few years. I am a new Catholic in the other Washington. I wonder how you manage to compose one of these teaching blogs every day, but God bless you. It means so much to me.

  5. “WHEREAS, It is an insult to all San Franciscans
    when a foreign country, like the
    Vatican, meddles with and attempts to negatively
    influence this great City’s existing
    and established customs and traditions such
    as the right of same-sex couples to adopt
    and care for children in need; and
    WHEREAS, The statements of Cardinal
    Levada and the Vatican that “Catholic
    agencies should not place children for
    adoption in homosexual households,” and
    “Allowing children to be adopted by persons
    living in such unions would actually
    mean doing violence to these children” are
    absolutely unacceptable to the citizenry of
    San Francisco; and
    WHEREAS, Such hateful and discriminatory
    rhetoric is both insulting and callous,
    and shows a level of
    insensitivity and ignorance
    which has seldom been encountered
    by this Board of Supervisors; and
    WHEREAS, Same-sex couples are
    just as
    qualified to be parents as are heterosexual
    couples; and
    WHEREAS, Cardinal Levada is a decidedly
    unqualified representative of his former
    home city, and of the people of San
    Francisco and the values they hold dear; and
    WHEREAS, The Board of Supervisors
    urges Archbishop Niederauer and the Catholic
    Charities of the Archdiocese of San
    Francisco to defy all discriminatory directives
    of Cardinal Levada; now, therefore, be it
    RESOLVED, That the Board of Supervisors
    urges Cardinal William Levada, in his
    capacity as head of the Congregation for
    the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican
    (formerly known as Holy Office of the
    Inquisition), to withdraw his
    and defamatory directive that Catholic
    Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco
    stop placing children in need of adoption
    with homosexual households.”

    Thus, a court of the United States Government
    officially pronounces catholic “teaching,”

    We have moved beyond your bronze age
    superstitions into the 21st Century.

    You are ignorant fools.


      1. The existence of God is provocative to atheists, and drives them to rage. That is why they have to shout in denial, never to speak softly and deliver their arguments calmly. The problem is, they have no arguments, and they are probably painfully aware of that.

        “Mr Hitchens” quotes extensively, so it is strange that he fails to be rigorous enough to supply the very opening of what is Resolution No. 168-06, by the Board of Supervisors. To help him out, this is what he manages to omit:

        >Resolution urging Cardinal William Levada, in his capacity as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican, to withdraw his discriminatory and defamatory directive that Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of San Francisco stop placing children in need of adoption with homosexual households.<

        The Board of Supervisors is no court; as its name suggests, it is a board, no less and no more. "Mr Hitchens" may have been somewhat confused, since the matter is now indeed subject to legal proceedings and likely to be dealt with by federal courts. I should hasten to add that the Board of Supervisors is not the plaintiff but the defendant, which roundly brings me to the topical conclusion that that is how things should be from now on.

        As far as ignorance is concerned, "Mr Hitchens" would do well to look up some datelines for the bronze age before making a link with Christianity. Just as with the real Christopher Hitchens, I believe he needs our prayers.

  6. I am so tired of being called names and accused of hate crimes for expressing an opinion. I feat that if it continues I will truly begin to hate these groups who are the ones who are truly the haters. I refuse to acknowledge it is OK to kill human life, and deny that life begins at conception. Anything that grows, obviously has life,and the moment life begins at conception, so does the growing process, one cell at a time.
    I also refuse to acknowledge that there can ever be a legitimate marriage between people of the same sex. they insist on confusing love with biology, and one need not have anything to do with the other. It is they who are the haters here, as those who feel as I do, will not acknowledge a lie by allowing this institution of marriage to be desecrated by demands that it should accommodate individuals who insist it is their right their right to be joined in this manner. It is not! They have the right to join as all do with a person of the opposite sex, and no one will deny this right to them. If they chose to deviate from what God has set in motion, they have no right to cry foul! Let them have civil ceremonies and call it anything they want except marriage… that name is already spoken for by those who have accepted the will of God over that of man. There is no choice here.
    People of this mentality seem to feel that equality demands equal rights to mean equal ability. Homosexual unions to not have the ability to biologically and naturally, create a child. It is like a person born with no legs to demand that all people have their legs removed to make us all equal.
    Anyone who has lived with a lifetime handicap knows that they are limited in their abilities to do different things. I know this from person experience with a sever hearing loss. There are some jobs I would like to have, but the reality of being able to be perform properly, make it impossible. Is this fair? Not really, but I can hardly see forcing deafness on everybody to equal the playing field. People with any kind of handicap, and I consider homosexual desires to be in that category, have to learn to live with whatever hand they are dealt, and that isn’t by inflicting adverse conditions on those fortunate enough not to be burdened with such.
    I feel compassion for homosexuals, but I don’t feel obliged to personally compensate for their lack of understanding as to how unfair they are acting towards the majority who do not share their desires, by giving up what is exclusively mine, the name and sacrament of marriage, to accommodate what is considered perversion and against the law of God.

  7. A much older tradition of this land of ours is the freedom of speech and the free marketplace of ideas. No court decision will ever take away human nature or basic biological facts. And, added to this statement is that fact that the Eternal law of God is immutable. That law holds Catholics responsible for our present crisis more than someone who is ignorant or not in communion with the Church. This is because “to whom much is given, much is expected”. Yes, the responsible party is us, the Catholic Church. We have to live the truth in charity as well as pray and fast. If we expect to argue our way to true peace and a better society, we will be utterly disappointed. I truly doubt that “Mr. Hitchens” is the Christopher Hitchens who is an infamous detractor of religion in general. I truly hope someone facing his situation would not waste his time in such a manner as the above poster who uses his name. Nevertheless, he (the real Hitchens) is helpful because he reminds us that we become fools who know the Truth (Jesus Christ) and don’t change our lives radically and productively in the service of His Church. All athiests and haters of the Church should always make us reevaluate how we live and force us to humble ourselves in our resolutions and conviction to following the Truth.

    1. Numbers 10:35 Arise, O Lord, and let thy enemies be scattered, and let them that hate thee, flee from before thy face.

  8. Grandpa I don’t know if you go back and read updaates oncomments but these latest ones are a doozy! Let me know what you think if you rget this.

  9. Hitchens is praised by Michael Schermer, editor of Skeptic: “The dialectical usefulness of clear logic, coupled to elegant prose (layered on top of the usual dollop of data), cannot be overstated and should be considered by scientists as another instrument of persuasion in the battle of ideas.” in an op-ed in Scientific American.
    Hitchens’ bigotry against the Catholic Church escaped Schermer’s attention. He does sound civilized on PBS.!

  10. Oop! Guess the phony Hitchens should refrain ifrom indulging in behavior that would embarrass the real deal. If you are trying to sound reasonable, bigoted rants from elected officialos, not legal decisions, may not be a plan.

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