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 20, 1971 when parishioners settled on a site for the new St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Oxford.
Catholic Transcript Reader Survey
Catholic Transcript Reader Survey

Two essential aspects of the concept of religion and religious freedom seem to be missing in recent public discourse and debate. Nor is the true meaning of “religion” widely understood.

“Religion,” a Latin derivative, describes a natural law relationship between man and God. Cicero, whose Latin can hardly be questioned, used the term to describe reverence for God; holiness, or the Sacred, in other words. “Religion” immediately suggests Transcendence; fundamentally it assumes that the Deity exists, rewards and judges. From the perspective of humankind, moreover, it assumes that humankind is indebted to God, from whom all life takes its beginnings. This indebtedness entails adoration in the sense of latria. (The Greeks had a precise word for this, since they literally wrestled with mystery; our magnificent English tongue has had no alternative but to borrow the Greek noun, which simply means that kind and degree of adoration reserved exclusively to the Deity.)

However, religion is not confined to adoration per se, nor to any other dimension of adoration; e.g., thanksgiving, expiation, contrition.

Surely it’s necessary today to emphasize that religion is not synonymous with worship. There are those who would equate the two concepts in an effort to insist that the First Amendment pertains only to services within a church or other religious building; we are aware, for example, of debaters on TV who describe religious freedom exclusively in terms of “liturgical” as part of an anti-religious agenda.

Too often ignored in our world is the truth that religion also embraces morality – ethics as read in Sacred Scripture or in reason illumined by Scripture. Thus, religion also means observing the Ten Commandments, which are discovered not only in Revelation (in the Tablets of the Law presented to Israel by Moses; see Deut. 4:13) but also in the natural moral law, which St. Paul affirmed is mysteriously written upon everyone’s heart. To affirm religion, therefore, is to accept and observe the Decalogue. (2 Cor. 3)

There is an ungodly trend today to separate morality or ethics from religion. In a sense it all began with Immanuel Kant. But it has been kept alive – indeed, intensified – by hedonistic self-absorption, cultivated with the absurdities of a thoroughly materialistic secular world. Abortion is an obvious example. Thoroughly evil, because it contradicts the natural law principle and Biblical norm that no one may directly take innocent human life, it can only find acceptance in a climate wherein neither reason nor Revelation can exist.

Again, we should beware of any discussion about religion that ignores or rejects what the natural moral law or the Bible teaches us. Morality and ethics cannot be divorced from true religion.

Finally, current “religious” discussions tend to neglect or deny principles relating to participation, technically known as cooperation or collaboration. For one who holds fast to reason and Revelation, sharing somehow in anothe's evil action is also contraindicated. Surely this is why respect for religion and freedom of religion must always be reverenced in laws or cultural mores. Isn’t this precisely what Mohandas Gandhi meant when he wrote: “The business of every God-fearing man is to dissociate himself from evil in total disregard for the consequences. He must have faith in a good deed producing only a good result….”

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.