Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

As we celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the Archdiocese, we look back… on July 22, 1960 when ground was broken for St. Philip Church, East Windsor.
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The so-called “Founding Virtues” of America are identified by social scientist Charles Murray in his explorative book, Coming Apart (Crown Forum, 2012). Granted, much of his research and conclusions can readily be questioned, debated or summarily rejected. But his chapters on the virtues espoused by our nation’s Fathers should give us pause, and, consequently, require serious study.

These “founding virtues” he describes as fundamentally four: industriousness, honesty, marriage and religion.

Honesty, Dr. Murray recalls, was viewed by Thomas Jefferson as “the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” George Washington also deemed honesty as a necessary virtue of the American people. Another way to state this is that, from the beginning, Americans were keenly interested in the truth; pretense was, and still is, abhorrent. A loss of integrity, John Adams once said, could only be an invitation for tyrants.

Industriousness, so characteristic of Americans down through the years, is understood by Dr. Murray as “a cluster of qualities that had motivated the Revolution in the first place … the bone-deep American assumption that life is to be spent getting ahead through hard work, making a better life for oneself and one’s children.” Surely, this attitude ranks as a major mark of what it means to “be an American.” Here the author reminds us of the old New England Yankee’s motto, “Never put aside business.” Even if vacations are defended, it seems, Americans can easily turn vacations into business enterprises.

But religion and marriage have always added to the definition of an American. “For God and country” is not merely a poetic chant; an American’s sense of his or her relationship to God, the Creator, is integral to his or her very being – at least for the majority of citizens. The “Faith of our Fathers” is no empty phrase, either; on the contrary, it is enshrined in memories of leaders like George Washington, John Adams and Abraham Lincoln. Atheists and agnostics seem to agitate the populace year after year. But the image of Washington’s praying while on his knees prevails. And the Bible continues to be read; the Ten Commandments continue to guide and heal.

Marriage is, of course, a critical link in America’s identity. Marriage, notes Dr. Murray, was taken for granted by our forefathers as “the bedrock institution of society.”

Marriage is, for Christians, the Rock upon which the family is built, as one of the Church’s finest moral theologians, William E. May, argues in what is probably one of the two or three best books on the subject, published in 1995. Professor May goes on to argue that marriage is in itself a “person-affirming, love-enabling, life-giving, and sanctifying reality.” As such, it is a divinely instituted phenomenon, and constitutes the most basic, natural-law unit of society within civilization. Pope John Paul II, in explaining marriage’s role as related to the family, and, hence, society, identified four principal responsibilities of the family: (1) to form a community of persons; (2) to serve life and enrich the culture of life; (3) to participate in the development and elevation of society; and (4) to share in the life and mission of the Church. (Familiaris Consortio, No. 17 sqq.)

Hence, any attempt to degrade marriage (which, again, is not merely an invention or a social contract), or to attack or dismiss marriage, goes right to the heart of civilization. To put this bluntly, a nation that fails to understand and assert what marriage is, and how marriage is perceived (even by dissident sociologists, philosophers, the courts, the media and, unfortunately, certain churches), that is not consonant with its divinely initiated raison d’etre, is crudely placing itself in jeopardy. Indeed, such action all but ensures a society’s “coming apart.”

Ignoring America’s “founding virtues” is a strategy lethal to life. Honesty, industriousness, religion and marriage do matter – essentially so.

alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.