Page 44

tinction between conscientious objecto the full measure of that freedom was Congress and is known as the architect tion and an unjust law. Conscientious the specific contribution Christians are of the First Amendment. objection permits some relief to those obliged to make. He rooted his legal and The chief justice wrote, “[In 1806] who object to a just law for reasons of constitutional arguments about justice John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop conscience—conscription being the in the long Christian tradition: “I would in the United States, solicited the Exmost well-known example. An unjust agree with Saint Augustine that A ‘ n unecutive’s opinion on who should be law is “no law at all.” It cannot be appointed to direct the affairs obeyed, and therefore one does of the Catholic Church in the not seek relief from it, but rather territory newly acquired by the its repeal. Louisiana Purchase. After consultThe Christian church does ing with President Jefferson, thennot ask for a special treatment, Secretary of State James Madison simply the rights of religious responded that the selection of freedom for all citizens. Rev. church ‘functionaries’ was an ‘enKing also explained that the tirely ecclesiastical’ matter left to church is neither the master nor the Church’s own judgment. The the servant of the state, but its ‘scrupulous policy of the Constituconscience, guide, and critic. tion in guarding against a political As Catholics, we know that interference with religious affairs,’ our history has shadows too in Madison explained, prevented the terms of religious liberty, when Government from rendering an Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. sits in a jail cell at the we did not extend to others opinion on the ‘selection of eccleJefferson County Courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama October the proper respect for this first siastical individuals.’” 1967 from where he wrote his famous letter in which he quoted freedom. But the teaching of the That is our American heritage, from Saint Augustine that ‘An unjust law is no law at all.’ Church is absolutely clear about our most cherished freedom. It is Photo: Bettman/Corbis religious liberty: “The human the first freedom because if we are person has a right to religious not free in our conscience and our freedom. This freedom means that all practice of religion, all other freedoms just law is no law at all.’ Now what is the men are to be immune from coercion are fragile. If citizens are not free in their difference between the two? How does on the part of individuals or of social own consciences, how can they be free one determine when a law is just or ungroups and of any human power, in such in relation to others, or to the state? If just? A just law is a man-made code that wise that in matters religious no one is our obligations and duties to God are squares with the moral law or the law of to be forced to act in a manner contrary impeded, or even worse, contradicted by God. An unjust law is a code that is out to his own beliefs…whether privately or the government, then we can no longer of harmony with the moral law. To put it publicly, whether alone or in association claim to be a land of the free, and a beain the terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, with others, within due limits…This right con of hope for the world. an unjust law is a human law that is not of the human person to religious freedom rooted in eternal law and natural law.” Our Christian Teaching is to be recognized in the constitutional It is a sobering thing to contemplate During the civil rights movement of law whereby society is governed. Thus it our government enacting an unjust law. the 1950s and 1960s, Americans shone is to become a civil right.” An unjust law cannot be obeyed. In the the light of the Gospel on a dark history As Catholics, we are obliged to defend face of an unjust law, an accommodation of slavery, segregation, and racial bigotry. the right to religious liberty for ourselves is not to be sought, especially by resortThe civil rights movement was an esand for others. We are happily joined in ing to equivocal words and deceptive sentially religious movement, a call to this by our fellow Christians and believpractices. If we face today the prospect of awaken consciences, not only an appeal ers of other faiths. unjust laws, then Catholics in America, in to the Constitution for America to honor A recent letter to President Obama solidarity with our fellow citizens, must its heritage of liberty. from some 60 religious leaders, includhave the courage not to obey them. No In his famous “Letter from Biring Christians of many denominations American desires this. No Catholic welmingham Jail” in 1963, Rev. Martin and Jews, argued that “it is emphatically comes it. But if it should fall upon us, we Luther King Jr. boldly said, “The goal not only Catholics who deeply object must discharge it as a duty of citizenship of America is freedom.” As a Christian to the requirement that health plans and an obligation of faith. pastor, he argued that to call America they purchase must provide coverage of It is essential to understand the dis-

44

SOUTH TEX AS CATHOLIC | JUNE 2012

www.SouthTexasCatholic.com

Profile for South Texas Catholic

South Texas Catholic - June 2012  

The South Texas Catholic is the official publication of the Diocese of Corpus Christi. Its mission is to carry out the Gospel message to eva...

South Texas Catholic - June 2012  

The South Texas Catholic is the official publication of the Diocese of Corpus Christi. Its mission is to carry out the Gospel message to eva...

Profile for diocesecc