Below is the full text of Archbishop Lori's homily which opened the Fortnight for Freedom. This was great. You can follow the link at bottom to get the rest of the full text. I was tempted to give away the ending, but I would encourage you to just take 10-15 minutes and follow it through to the end.
The formatting may make it difficult to read here, so if you prefer, follow this link to the USCCB website to read it there.
Most Reverend William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption
June 21, 2012
Introduction: The Martyrs of Tyburn Hill
A few years ago, due to inclement weather that grounded many international flights, I found myself stranded in London during the week just before Christmas. Worse things than that can happen to a traveler but the unexpected pleasure of a week in London enabled me to visit places I hadn’t seen for many years – not Harrod’s or even Windsor Castle, but places such as Tyburn Hill, where many English martyrs laid down their lives in witness to the Faith, including St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher.
I was deeply moved to stand on the spot where, in 1535, Thomas More and John Fisher were beheaded because they refused to comply with the Act of Supremacy, a law which made King Henry VIII Head of the Church and which broke ties of communion with the Roman Pontiff. I also visited the Parish Church in the Tower of London, St. Peter in Chains, and prayed in the crypt where St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher are buried.
The Feast Day of Thomas More and John Fisher
Tonight we have gathered here in this historic national basilica, the first Roman Catholic Cathedral in the United States of America and a monument to religious freedom. We have gathered on the eve of the feast of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher, martyrs who laid down their lives rather than violate their consciences or their sacred principles. Their courageous witness of faith continues to stir the minds and hearts of people yearning for authentic freedom, and specifically, for religious freedom . . . . just as it inspired those who came to Maryland a century later in 1634,seeking not only to worship God freely but indeed to practice their faith publicly.
We do well to speak of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher in the same breath, because each in his own way symbolizes two aspects of religious freedom we are striving to protect and foster as we begin a two week period of prayer and reflection known as the Fortnight for Freedom.
St. Thomas More
What does St. Thomas More teach us about protecting religious liberty? Thomas More was a devout Catholic, a husband and a father, a learned and accomplished man, a lawyer by profession; his conscience was formed by principle and virtue at a time when both were routinely sacrificed for political expediency.
Thomas More was chosen to serve in Parliament and rose to become the Chancellor of England in the days of King Henry VIII. When called upon by the King to betray his principles and his conscience, however, More chose instead to put everything at risk, including his own life. Throughout, he defended his cause brilliantly, but to no avail. He staved off martyrdom as long as he could, but when it came, More accepted it courageously.
Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote that “…the life and martyrdom of St. Thomas More have been the source of a message which spans the centuries and which speaks to people everywhere of the inalienable dignity of the human conscience . . . .” He added: “. . . Whenever men or women heed the call of truth, their conscience then guides their actions reliably towards good.
Precisely because of the witness which he bore, even at the price of his life, to the primacy of truth over power, St. Thomas More is an imperishable example of moral integrity.” (Proclamation of Thomas More as Patron of Statesman, October 31, 2000, no. 1).
More’s witness enriches the Church’s teaching on the dignity of the human person. For as the Book of Genesis teaches, we are created in God’s image to be participants in his wisdom and love.
Because we are created in love and for love, we are endowed by the Creator with inherent rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Though only a few could claim St. Thomas More’s influence and integrity, this great saint stands for the individual believer and citizen who seeks, in the words of United States Bishops, “[to] connect worship on Sunday to work on Monday” . . .“[to] carry the values of our faith into family life, the market place, and the public square.” (U.S. Bishops, “Everyday Christianity: To Hunger and Thirst for Justice, Introduction, 1998)
St. Thomas More could be said to represent that conscientious private employer or employee who, seeks to avoid doing or facilitating moral evil in course of daily work while striving to live and work in accord with the demands of social justice. He stands for those who go about their daily work in accord with their faith (cf., DH, 13), and those who understand how dangerous it is to the common good to separate faith from life, the Gospel from culture (CL, 212).
Until now, it has been entirely possible under federal law for conscientious owners to conduct private businesses in accord with one’s conscience and the teachings of one’s faith. Until now, federal law has also accommodated businesses which are not church organizations but which are related to the mission of the Church. Examples include catholic publishing houses such as Our Sunday Visitor, Catholic insurers, Legatus, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,Catholic fraternal organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, just to name a few. The freedom of conscientious and like-minded individuals to conduct such businesses in accord with the teaching of the Church now hangs in the balance. On August 1st, less than six weeks from now, the Health and Human Services mandate will go into effect. This will force conscientious private employers to violate their consciences by funding and facilitating through their employee health insurance plans reproductive “services” that are morally objectionable.
As the United States Bishops recently indicated, the HHS mandate violates the personal civil rights of those, who “in their daily lives, strive constantly to act in accordance with their faith and values (United for Freedom, March 14, 2012).
St. John FisherSt. John Fisher may be less well-known than St. Thomas More, but his witness of faith was no less courageous. Like St. Thomas More, he possessed great learning and virtue and was an able defender of the faith. Both More and Fisher refused to sign the Act of Supremacy and both of them paid for their principled stand with their lives.
More, of course, was a layman and Fisher was a bishop. Ordained a priest in 1491, Fisher would become the Bishop of Rochester in Kent. In the House of Lords, he strongly opposed state interference in Church affairs. At the same time, he led the Church in reforming itself first and foremost by his own spirit of learning and holiness in communion with the Holy Father, the Successor of Peter.
At length, St. John Fisher found himself at odds with King Henry VIII and with laws passed by the British Parliament which required him to take an oath repudiating papal authority and acknowledging the King as Head of the Church. This pastor of souls and lover of the Church refused, saying: “I cannot in anywise possibly take [the oath], except I should make shipwreck of my conscience, and then were I fit to serve neither God nor man.”
In the wake of St. John Fisher’s martyrdom, churches, monasteries, and centers of learning were seized by royal power and were either destroyed or made to break their ties with the Roman Catholic Church. The government interfered in the internal life of the Church with a cruel thoroughness John Fisher could not have imagined even a few years earlier. He symbolizes for us our struggle to maintain religious freedom for church institutions and ministries such as our schools and charities.
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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!
- Diane M. Korzeniewski
it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!
- Diane M. Korzeniewski
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