25-February-2013 -- EWTNews Feature |

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Cardinal Wuerl warns of religion's shrinking role in society

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington, D.C., cautioned that Catholics must confidently live their faith in a world that fails to respect the role of religion in achieving the common good.

Despite being faced with a "new and virulent secularism" in society, stressed Cardinal Wuerl, "conscience and religious freedom are not open to negotiation."

The cardinal prepared a speech for a conference on "Dignitatis Humanae and the Rediscovery of Religious Freedom" at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute in Washington, D.C.

However, due to travel complications, he was unable to attend the conference as planned, so his written speech was read aloud to those attending the conference on Feb. 22.

"Christians object to the notion of a naked public square stripped of religious arguments and beliefs," wrote Cardinal Wuerl, quoting the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, "but neither do we seek a sacred public square, which gives special benefits and privileges to religious citizens."

"Rather, we seek a civil public square, where all citizens can make a contribution to the common good."

The cardinal warned that societies and governments throughout the world and increasingly in the United States are seeking "to bleach out" religious freedom and expression, "hindering our ability to live our faith, and express it with others."

Historically, he explained, there has been a "ubiquitous" and widespread respect for religious freedom in America, and this respect for differing ideas has been essential to "the common good and promoting a just society."

Religious freedom was supported by the government, the cardinal explained, because "if religion was free from undue government burdens," then religion would be free to help serve the common good.

Today, however, "we face an aggressive and pervasive secularism that seeks to push out God," and to "marginalize religion, if not push religion out of the public sphere altogether."

Even among believers, Cardinal Wuerl wrote, modern-day "individualism encourages a 'pick and choose' approach to the faith," further limiting religion's role, and many people are attached to worldly matters "to the exclusion of the faith."

This shrinking respect for the role of religion in society has allowed the U.S. government to infringe on religious freedom, he continued, criticizing the controversial federal contraception mandate for deciding which religious ministries are worthy of a religious exemption.

The cardinal reminded the listeners that "our religious liberties are not created by or depend on the First Amendment."

Rather, he wrote, the "right to religious freedom has its very basis in the dignity of the human person," and so differing opinions in a pluralistic society "are not a threat to human society nor to the political process," but actually enhance the pursuit of the common good.

He warned that when society "marginalizes religious faith as mere personal preference or opinion," law is no longer based on the truth, but on the will of the majority, and it becomes "a matter of might."

"Legitimate separation of church and state does not mean that the church is not allowed a voice in the public conversation," he added. Instead, "both church and states are home to the same people," but in different manners.

"We cannot separate ethics from political life more than we can separate spiritual values from human values," he stressed.

Cardinal Wuerl also called on the faithful to contribute to the promotion and defense of the Catholic faith.

The Church must be free to "express and proclaim the faith," he wrote, but Christians must also do their part to explain the faith to a world inherently opposed to it.

"We need to proclaim the good news in ways that are new," he explained.

Read more: http://www.ewtnnews.com/catholic-news/US.php?id=7092#ixzz2Lwy2rY1X

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