A hidden gem: Enduring truths on faithful citizenship found in 1987 letter
By Julie Filby
The U.S. Constitution is on the list of recommended reading. See the list below.
Twenty-five years ago in a pastoral letter titled “This Home of Freedom,” then Denver Archbishop, now-Cardinal J. Francis Stafford addressed the question: What does it mean to be Catholic and American?
This “hidden gem of the Archdiocese of Denver,” as described by Chancellor J.D. Flynn, is recommended reading for Catholics today on the subject of faithful citizenship.
“‘This Home of Freedom’ asks: How can we reconcile our Catholicism with our Americanism?” Flynn said. “(How do we reconcile) our Catholicism with our American way of life, our beliefs about democracy, our relationships with one another—and the social theory that emanates from that?”
In “This Home of Freedom,” Cardinal Stafford looks at how Catholicism informs Americans by relaying significant moments in American history, and by highlighting reflections of the U.S. bishops following the 1884 Third Plenary Council of Baltimore.
“We think we can claim to be acquainted with the laws, institutions and spirit of the Catholic Church,” Cardinal Stafford wrote, quoting the council, “and with the laws, institutions and spirit of our country. …
“We emphatically declare that there is no antagonism between them.”
U.S. history includes a legacy of people pursuing religious liberty, including Catholics.
“The early settlers of this country were, by and large, people who were pursuing an exercise of religion,” Flynn said. “In that sense, religious freedom isn’t some artifact we take off the shelf and dust off to pay tribute to from time to time.”
Religious identity helps Americans to define what they’re pursuing as a people, he said.
“It defines where we’re going, where we should go,” he said. “It helps us define and understand the common good. We can’t seem to access that concept in a meaningful way without having a clear understanding of our religious liberty and ‘This Home of Freedom’ makes all that really clear.”
In addition to the work of the U.S. bishops—who have been very vocal on the issue of religious liberty—it is the job of every Catholic to be an advocate for religious liberty, Flynn said.
“We’re facing the most tragic threat to our religious liberty that we’ve seen in quite some time,” he said. “(It) affects every (religion) because the government is redefining what it means to be a religious people and marginalizing the role of religious practice in America—and that is really dangerous.
“All of us need to stand up. … Our neighbors, friends and family members need to hear from us.”
Jenny Kraska, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, echoed this sentiment.
“In light of current events, in order to understand and appreciate more fully this first and most important foundational right and principle rooted in the dignity of every human person,” she said, “I would encourage every Catholic to take some time to read this important document.
“Cardinal Stafford’s letter is just as relevant today as it was 25 years ago,” she continued. “In fact, I think it holds even more significance today given the current battle the Church finds herself immersed in concerning the issue of religious liberty and the HHS (Health and Human Services) mandate.”
To read “This Home of Freedom,” visit www.archden.org. The accompanying box lists more recommended reading on the subject of faithful citizenship.
“This Home of Freedom,” May 28, 1987, pastoral letter by
“Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” booklet by U.S. bishops
“Render Unto Caesar” book by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
“Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae” (“Concerning New Opinions, Virtue, Nature and Grace, with Regard to Americanism”), Jan. 22, 1899, encyclical by Pope Leo XIII