Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
As I begin the final three years of my tenure as the Archbishop of Milwaukee, I envision that the major struggles will be in the area of religious freedom. Never did I think that religious freedom would be fundamentally questioned and challenged for the citizens of the United States of America. The Founding Fathers were prophetic in establishing the Bill of Rights because the very first freedom ensured by the constitution was religious freedom. This freedom establishes that there is a higher authority – higher even than the state – and that all citizens should acknowledge that. The understanding was clear: from this higher authority, all people derived their rights.
The Declaration of Independence states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Not all of the Founding Fathers were theists (believed in a personal God), but they probably were all deists (believed in a creator who was not personally involved in the lives of its beings). They understood it was this Creator who bestowed dignity upon all the citizens of this country.
We are a people who pride ourselves on the freedoms established by the Constitution. Today, many of the rights that our fathers and forefathers fought and died to defend are under attack. Some even wish to shift the democratic origins into a more socialistic governing model, removing decision-making from individuals and vesting them in the increasing power of the government. Look how the freedom of speech is limited and restricted to some voices. Of course, standing in the way of this massive governmental take-over is the Church and religion. The voice of religion and the teachings of the Church can never support governmental laws that disagree with our teaching that innocent lives may never be taken. Therefore, abortion has and will always be wrong.
Traditional families are the domestic church, so even though quasi-families might be established, they are not abiding by the Scriptures. “So God created mankind in his image, in the image of God He created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Families are the bedrock of society’s future. Gender identification is not a matter of choice but is rooted in the physiology of a person. Take a few moments and read Cardinal Dolan’s critique of the Equality Act, which is neither equal nor equitable. Gender identification is not a personal choice motivated by one’s decision to one day be a male and the next a female. Certain serious questions must be answered before one exercises physiological change. But the Church, in her infinite wisdom, maintains the dignity and respect of all human beings, which is rooted in the fact that God created all in His image.
All Catholics should understand the importance of the ability to present the Church’s teachings and live them out without the interference or manipulation of the government. I have long maintained that the government, which is under a constitutional mandate not to establish a religion (the establishment clause), has de facto established a religion, and that religion is secularism. Secularism upholds the dependency on man alone, certification of popular mores of any social movement, and a skepticism of any religious teachings, which is diminished by belief in a Supreme Being.
In the history of Christianity, this is not the first time the Church has been under attack because of what it represents, and this will not be the last time. But, in these United States of America, we should enjoy the freedom to profess and teach our faith and live Christ’s command to LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Note: This blog originally appeared as the March 23, 2021, "Love One Another" email sent to Catholics throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki. Register now to receive these weekly emails.