Quick Lessons from the Catechism: The Freedom of Humanity and Religious Freedom

Since today is Independence Day, the Fourth of July, and the conclusion of this year’s Fortnight for Freedom here in the United States of America, I found it strikingly appealing to focus on what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches on Freedom. With the religious freedom decision handed down from the Supreme Court this week and other cases that are being found just as unjust as the Hobby Lobby case, this quick lesson will also cover religious freedom and the importance it plays for all of humanity.

Although the Supreme Court gave us a favorable ruling for religious freedom, we must continue to stay steadfast in prayer and conviction. This is not the first time the Catholic Church has found herself facing persecution. What her enemies don’t understand, nor they seem to realize, is that history has shown us one simple fact – the more you persecute the Church, the stronger we become. As Tertullian said, “The blood [of martyrs] is the seed of Christians.”

Remember: Don’t lose hope, because in the Big Picture of Salvation History, we have won. Stay focused on Jesus Christ and the Church and remain in constant prayer. Play an active role in civic duties, make your voices heard, and participate as a civil and patriotic citizen. Simply, be Catholics in the public square.

With this being said, let’s examine briefly the teachings of the Catechism on Freedom –

CCC 1743: “God willed that man should be left in the hand of his own counsel (cf. Sir 15:14), so that he might of his own accord seek his creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him (Gaudium et Spes 17 § 1).

CCC 1744: Freedom is the power to act or not to act, and so to perform deliberate acts of one’s own. Freedom attains perfection in its acts when directed toward God, the sovereign Good.

CCC 1745: Freedom characterizes properly acts. It makes the human being responsible for acts of which he is the voluntary agent. His deliberate acts properly belong to him.

CCC 1746: The imputability or responsibility for an action can be diminished or nullified by ignorance, duress, fear, and other psychological or social factors.

CCC 1747: The right to the exercise of freedom in religious and moral matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of man. But the exercise of freedom does not entail the putative right to say or do something. *See below for more detail*

CCC 1748: “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1).

For a more extensive explanation on Man’s Freedom, please read CCC 1730-1742.

Focusing specifically on Religious Freedom, the Catechism teaches…

CCC 2106: “Nobody may be forced to act against his convictions, nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience in religious matters in private or in public, alone or association with others, within due limits [italics added].” This right is based on the very nature of the human person, whose dignity enables him freely to assent to the divine truth which transcends the temporal order. For this reason it “continues to exist even in those who do not live up to their obligation of seeking the truth and adhering to it.”

CCC 2107: “If because of the circumstances of a particular people special civil recognition is given to one religious community in the constitutional organization of a state, the right of all citizens and religious communities to religious freedom must be recognized and respected as well.”

CCC 2108: The right to religious liberty is neither a moral license to adhere to error, nor a supposed right to error, but rather a natural light of the human person to civil liberty, i.e.; immunity, within just limits, from external constraint in religious matters by political authorities. This natural right ought to be acknowledged in the juridical order of society in such a way that it constraints a civil right [italics added].

CCC 2109: The right to religious liberty can of itself be neither unlimited nor limited only by a “public order” conceived in a positivist or naturalist manner. The “due limits” which are inherent in it must be determined for each social situation by political prudence, according to the requirements of the common good, and ratified by the civil authority in accordance with “legal principles which are in conformity with the objective moral order.”

Our freedom, and specifically our religious freedom, should always be focused on and acted towards the common good of society. Freedom helps us grow in virtue, responsibility, and integrity.

As we celebrate our Independence Day here in the USA, let us continue to understand and keep hold to the freedom that God Almighty has given to us through the Natural Law; let us also continue to stay focused and convicted through prayer that the freedoms we have been given in this country continue, especially the freedom of religion. We pray all of this through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

Reading and Knowing the Church Fathers

Lately, I have been reading the book, Church Fathers – From Clement of Rome to Augustine, written by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. It’s a collection of his Wednesday Audiences that teach us about Early Church Fathers. It’s a fantastic read, easy to understand, and every Catholic should buy it and read it. Knowing the minds of the Early Church Fathers is important for us as Catholics today because they give us pages of doctrinally sound theology obedient to the Magisterium of the Church.

The Second Vatican Council promulgated the importance of reading and studying the Sacred Scriptures with the Dogmatic Constitution on the Scriptures, Dei Verbum. Although there is not one specific document that teaches on the Church Fathers, their words are professed throughout each of the documents, which say to us, that their theological prowess should be studied and read in modern times.

As Catholics, we must read and study these great theologians and Saints. It is our duty at all times to learn more about our Catholic faith and to live it, but especially during this Second Fortnight for Freedom. Many of the Early Church Fathers (1st-4th centuries) taught when Christianity was illegal. Even after it was made legal, by Emperor Constantine with the Edict of Milan, many of these men still faced hostility from their enemies, within and outside of the Church.

Today and tomorrow in the church’s liturgical calendar in the West, we are given two powerhouse Church Fathers and Doctors of the Church. Today’s memorial is to honor the great theologian from the Alexandrian School of Theology – Saint Cyril of Alexandria. He is the “man of the hour” at the Council of Ephesus and his writings were countless and successful throughout the East and the West during his own time. This link – St. Cyril of Alexandria: Defender of the Incarnation and the Theotokos – will provide you will more information about him.

St. Cyril of Alexandria

In the aforementioned book by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, he says this about St. Cyril of Alexandria –

“The Christian faith is first and foremost the encounter with Jesus, “a Person, which gives life a new horizon” (Deus Caritas Est, no. 1). Saint Cyril of Alexandria was an unflagging, staunch witness of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, emphasizing above all his unity…[In a letter to Bishop Succensus he says], “Only one is the Son, only one the Lord Jesus Christ, both before the Incarnation and after the Incarnation. Indeed the Logos born of God the Father was not one Son and the one born of the Blessed Virgin another; but we believe that the very One who was born before all ages was also born according to the flesh and of a woman”” (pg. 111).

Tomorrow, we will honor, St. Irenaeus of Lyons. St. Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp who in turn was a disciple of St. John the Apostle. He was a staunch figure and theologian during a time when many Gnostic philosophies and religions claiming to be as true as Christianity were on the rise. This link – St. Irenaeus: The Gnostic Fighter – will provide more information about him.

saint_irenaeus_of lyons

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says about St. Irenaeus in the same book from above –

“Irenaeus was first and foremost a man of faith and a Pastor. Like a good Pastor, he had a good sense of proportion, a wealth of doctrine, and missionary enthusiasm. As a writer, he pursued a twofold aim: to defend true doctrine from the attacks of heretics and to explain the truth of faith clearly…In short, Irenaeus can be defined as the champion in the fight against heresies” (pg. 22).

As we endure social persecutions in today’s modern Culture of Death for believing the Truth of Jesus Christ and His Church, let us ask for the intercessory prayers of all the Early Church Fathers, but especially during this Fortnight for Freedom, let us ask St. Cyril of Alexandria and St. Irenaeus of Lyons to give us strength to learn, teach, and defend the teachings of Jesus Christ to a Neo-Pagan world that has rejected Him. Through the intercession of the Theotokos, Holy Mother Mary, pray for our endeavors and those we seek to reach. Amen.

Fortnight for Freedom 2013

As we enter the Fortnight For Freedom 2013, which will last from today till July 4, we need to remember the sacrifices of other Catholics who have laid down their lives in defiance of tyrannical kingdoms and governments. It is fitting, and obviously planned, by the United States Bishops to begin this fortnight in anticipation of the feast day of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas St. john fisherMore. From the early Christian martyrs to Sts. Fisher and More to the Mexican Martyrs (so eloquently shown in the film, For Greater Glory) to Sts. Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein to the Catholics and Orthodox that are being killed for their faith around the world today, it is fitting that it is now our time to Stand Up for the great injustice (HHS Mandate which is set to begin on August 1, 2013) that has been promulgated by the current presidential administration; an administration that has tyrannical, socialistic, and anti-Christian tendencies rooted in its very foundation. They are a great threat to this nation and people of good conscience.  At this time, we may not be called to shed our blood for the faith (red martyrs), but we are being called to stand up for our faith and face social persecution (white martyrdom).

Over the next couple of weeks, we will celebrate the lives of martyrs in the liturgical calendar. During this time, we must pray, study, catechize, and engage in public action (search religious freedom on this blog and you will find more posts). Religious Freedom is at the heart and center of not only the United States of America, but it’s also fundamental to every human being by means of the Natural Law. I urge you during this time to pray hard for the conversion of the hearts of those seek to destroy the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has faced many tyrants in her past and every time has been victorious for we have Jesus Christ and He has already conquered evil and death.

St. Thomas moreSt. Thomas More is the key figure for us when we think of one who stands up to tyranny and injustice. St. Thomas More was wrongfully committed of High Treason by the Kingdom of England for not agreeing to the marriage of King Henry VIII. Below are the last few lines of St. Thomas More from the play, A Man For All Seasons. I think we need to remember these words and try to live up to them for ourselves and fights we many have ahead. This is a play I first read in college and many of the lines have stuck with me over the years. It’s a beautiful depiction of St. Thomas More as servant to the king, but God’s servant first. As I have said in other posts –  We are Americans, but we are Catholic first!

Norfolk: Prisoner at the bar, you have been found guilty of High Treason. The sentence of the Court –

More: My Lord! My lord, when I was practicing the law, the manner was to ask the prisoner before pronouncing sentence, if he had anything to say.

Norfolk: Have you anything to say?

More: Yes. To avoid this I have taken every path my winding wits would find. Now that the Court has determined to condemn me, God knoweth how, I will discharge my mind…concerning my indictment and the King ‘s title. The indictment is grounded in an Act of Parliament which is directly repugnant to the Law of God. The King in Parliament cannot bestow the Supremacy of the Church because it is a Spiritual Supremacy! And more to this the immunity of the Church is promised both in Magna Carta and the King’s own Coronation Oath!

Cromwell: Now we plainly see that you are malicious!

More: Not so, Master Secretary! I am the King’s true subject, and pray for him and all the realm…I do none harm, I say none harm, I think none harm. And if this be not enough to keep a man alive, in good faith I long not to live…I have, since I came into prison, been several times in such a case that I thought to die within the hour, and I thank Our Lord I was never sorry for it, but rather sorry when it passed. And therefore, my poor body is at the King’s pleasure. Would God my death might do him some good…Nevertheless, it is not for the Supremacy that you have sought my blood – but because I would not bend to the marriage!

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More: My Master had easel and gall, not wine, given him to drink. Let me be going.

Margaret: Father! Father! Father, Father, Father, Father!

More: Have patience, Margaret, and trouble not thyself. Death comes for us all; even at our birth – even at our birth, death does not stand aside a little. And every day he looks towards us and muses somewhat to himself whether that day or the next he will draw nigh. It is the law of nature, and the will of God. You have long known the secrets of my heart.

The Death Scene from the film, A Man For All Seasons. 

TomPerna.org Gets A New Look, Part 2

After speaking with someone who knows me very well (Tara), I decided to change my theme again to Twenty Eleven for the simple fact that I now have a header picture. She reminded me that I am a Papist. I should have a picture that shouts Papacy on my blog. My blog header on the front page is now St. Peter’s Basilica and Square at night. It’s a very cool panoramic picture…and no, I did not take it.

You will notice my name is now bigger and my secondary title which is below my name has changed to The Education and Engagement of the Catholic Faithful in the New Evangelization by the JP2 Generation.

I added some pictures in the menu sections as well as completely redesigned my “Book Tom to Speak” page. Listed are the talks I can speak on currently. In the days ahead, I will give a small explanation of each of the talks. I also hope to add some more Book Reviews in that section.

I have capitalized Pages, Links, and Titles so that they STAND OUT MORE on the blog. The Font is also bigger than before which will be easier to read.

I changed the US Bishop’s Standing Against the HHS Mandate image to this upcoming summer’s – Fortnight for Freedom. If you click on that link, you will be taken to a page explaining the Fortnight for Freedom.

The colors are similar from the first change a couple of weeks ago with some slight variations. I have chosen white, a burgundy/red for the main title, light blue for the links, a grayish/blue background, and black lettering for titles and paragraphs.

Hope you enjoy the changes I have made. Please share the blog with your family and friends.

TomPerna.Org Gets a New Look

Well after nearly 16 months with the same blog theme, I chose to change my blog theme today and go with something completely different than before.

You will notice my name is now bigger and my secondary title which is above my name has changed to JP2 Generation & The New Evangelization. Honestly, this is a work in progress, but I do know it will still have the New Evangelization theme to it. Once I finish George Weigel’s – Evangelical Catholicism, I might have a better idea. I have increased the size of my picture to fit the space better as well.

I have capitalized Pages, Links, and Titles so that they STAND OUT MORE on the blog. The Font is also bigger than before which will be easier to read.

I changed the US Bishop’s Standing Against the HHS Mandate image to this upcoming summer’s – Fortnight for Freedom. If you click on that link, you will be taken to a page explaining the Fortnight for Freedom.

The colors are completely different. I have chosen white, a burgundy for the main title, light blue for the links, a gray background, and light black lettering.

I am going to add some more widgets on the right side soon as well as hopefully get my 2 radio interviews with Immaculate Heart Radio on the blog.

If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them. Just write them in the comment box below.

Thanks for following my blog. Please share it with your friends and family.

Fortnight for Freedom Closing Mass

Last Wednesday, July 4, 2012 – Independence Day for the United States of America, I was able to attend the Closing Mass for the Fortnight for Freedom at the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. I found it providential that I could attend because I have been writing about religious freedom ever since the HHS Mandate was promulgated by this current tyrannical administration in the White House. Truth be told, I was in the D.C/Northern Virginia area for a friend’s wedding that would occur on the following Friday, but since the closing Mass was to happen while I was there, I found myself blessed to be in the area.

I was sitting in the front row of the back section of the basilica on the right hand side. I could look up from my seat and see the mosaic dome that portrays Jesus’ Temptation in the Desert, his Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension. Sitting next to me was a nice married couple from Baltimore who I talked to briefly before Mass began. We talked about my blog a bit and the husband said that he knew people in Phoenix, Arizona. The husband has recently contacted me via email to assist me network with another gentleman in the Phoenix area for potential employment.

As the procession began with the altar servers, then the deacons, I noticed the vast amount of priests that showed up for this important Mass. There were so many priests present, even Cardinal Donald Wuerl mentioned it before Mass began as he thanked all the hierarchy and lay faithful in attendance. There were also quite a few Bishops present as well. It was so great to be at this closing mass! I truly felt blessed being in the presence of so many great and faithful Catholics. I would say the highlight of the Mass, not including when Jesus became present on the altar – which happens at every Mass, would be Archbishop Charles J. Chaput’s homily that can be read here. His homily was so inspiring! His passion for religious freedom is contagious. Everyone present was inspired to stand up for religious freedom for the months ahead. I would encourage you to read his homily located above.

In his homily, the one thing that really stood out for me was when he said that Caesar isn’t able to give or take away religious freedom. He may be able to interfere with it, but when he does he takes away from his own legitimacy. Read the homily and this will make more sense. Religious freedom, in accordance with the Natural Law, is rooted in the very foundation of our humanity. At the end of his homily, he received a loud ovation from all in attendance. There were even people waving small American flags in the basilica. 

As Mass ended and the procession exited the nave of the basilica, I found myself with tears in my eyes. I said two things to myself. First, “Man, I love being Catholic.” Second thing I said, “If being persecuted is what it’s going to take, then bring it!”

Even though the Fortnight for Freedom has concluded, we all need to be diligent and continue to fight for our religious freedom. We need to continue to pray, catechize, battle, and support each other during this trying time in our country’s history. I encourage you to read all that you can on religious freedom. Continue to follow my blog (many of my February posts are on conscience formation and religious freedom) and other Catholic bloggers who will continue to write on religious freedom, especially as we draw closer to this upcoming election. This election could define our country for generations to come. The current person that calls himself our president must be removed from the oval office for if he is not, the United States of America could cease to exist, as we know it.

**Note: I will be on a short hiatus over the next 5 days or so since I am moving back to Phoenix. Please continue to read my blog and check out older posts during my short absence. Also, please pray that my move is efficient and safe.**

Saints Peter and Paul – Apostles and Pillars of the Christian Church

Today is the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles and two great pillars of the Christian Church. In Acts of the Apostles, we read about these great saints of the Christian Church. The first twelve chapters of Acts focus on Peter and chapters 13-28 focus on Paul. Acts of the Apostles was written by St. Luke the Evangelist, as the second part of his great work written to Theophilus. His Gospel is part one.

Let ‘s take a look at these two pillars of the Church one by one and then we will examine how they are similar in their teachings and actions in Acts.

St. Peter was a Galilean fisherman with Sts. James and John on Lake Gennesaret (also known as the Sea of Galilee and Sea of Tiberius). The defining moment for Peter is in Matthew 16:16-20. Jesus asks, who do you say that I am? Peter responds, “You are the Christ.” Jesus then changes his name from Simon to Cephas, which translates into “rock” (Aramaic) and Petros (Greek).

There are three major themes in Matthew 16:18-19:

First, as rock, Peter is now the foundation of the Church. He is the rock on which the Church would be built upon and stands for centuries. Karl Adam in his book, The Spirit of Catholicism says, “Peter’s confession assures Him that Simon will be an imperishable “rock” for His Church. He is certain of the imperishableness of the Church. It will never perish, since it will always be a Church founded on a rock. There will always be a living Peter, whose faith will confirm his brethren. It lies at the basis of His words that His Church will never be without that strong foundation which He gave it at Caesarea Philipp, because its continuance depends upon this foundation.”

Second, he is given the keys to the kingdom of God. He is now the leader and Christ’s representative on earth. St. Peter is the New Prime Minister for the New Davidic Kingdom. In the Davidic Kingdom in the Old Testament, the king appointed one man from his viceroys to be the primary individual in charge of the others. Essentially, this man was the Prime Minister of the kingdom. When the king was not present in the kingdom, the Prime Minister would stand in for him. The Prime Minister would hold keys of the kingdom around his neck for protection. St. Peter now becomes the Vicar of Christ. This is still a term that we use to describe the Pope today. The vicar is one who stands “in the person of” and possesses the authority of the king. In the case of St. Peter and Jesus Christ, Peter is given the keys to the kingdom and now possesses the authority of Jesus Christ on earth.

Thirdly, St. Peter is given authority to make decisions for the Church – to bind and to loose. The Primacy of Peter is the authority of Christ given to St. Peter and his successors, the popes. The Pope that sits in the Chair of St. Peter has full, supreme, and universal authority over the entire Church. The Papacy is the Church’s highest moral and doctrinal authority. The Holy Father has final word on matters of faith and morals and speaks with infallibility on such matters. Pope Benedict XVI says, “Let us pray that the Primacy of Peter, entrusted to poor human beings, will always be exercised in this original sense as the Lord desired, and that its true meaning will therefore always be recognized by the brethren who are not yet in full communion with us” (The Apostles).

Saint Peter died a martyrs’ death by crucifixion in the year 64 A.D. under the Roman Emperor, Nero. He requested that he be flipped upside down on the cross since he did not think he was worthy to die the same way that Jesus died. His remains are buried under the main altar of the basilica that bears his name in Rome on the Vatican hill.

St. Paul, also known as Saul was born around 5 A.D. in the seaport of Tarsus, which is now in modern day Turkey. As did many men of the time, he had two names. Saul was his Jewish name and Paul was his Roman name. Many men of the time had two names for they would use their Roman name when doing business as merchants or fisherman in the Roman Empire and their Hebrew name when they were with family or in synagogue.

At first, St. Paul, as a Pharisee, was a persecutor of the Early Church Christians and was present at the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the Christian Church. On the road to Damascus, he saw a vision of Jesus asking him, “Why do you persecute me?” After recovering his sight, he was baptized as a Christian (Read Acts 9). Pope Benedict XVI says, “He realized that a new approach in his life was absolutely essential…Paul, therefore, no longer lives for himself, for his own justice. He lives for Christ and with Christ: in giving of himself, he is no longer seeking and building himself up” (The Apostles).

After his conversion, Paul was unique and qualified to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles. He is known as the “Apostle to the Gentiles.” As a child and young man in Tarsus, St. Paul received an excellent classical (Greek) education and in Jerusalem, under Rabbi Gamaliel, Paul received the best Jewish education. As a trade, he learned tent making. This helped him later on in life and supported his three missionary trips through Greece and Asia Minor.

When bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles, he was gifted first, because of his classical education; St. Paul had the great ability to speak to Romans and Greeks in ways they could understand. Second, he was well trained in philosophy and logic, which assisted in him in explaining the Christian doctrine more effectively. Third, his knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures was vast and this aided him when counter arguing points brought up by the Jewish leaders and elders. Lastly, his Roman citizenship, which he received at birth since his parents were freed under Mark Anthony, protected him from those who wanted to kill him.

Saint Paul died a martyrs’ death by being beheaded in the year 64 A.D. under the Roman Emperor, Nero. Since he was a Roman citizen, beheading was the main execution of death. Crucifixion was only for slaves and criminals that were not Roman citizens. He was beheaded along the Via Ostiense at Tre Fontane, outside the walls of Rome. It is believed that his remains are buried in the basilica that bears his name.

Some will argue that Saints Peter and Paul were at odds with one another and did not get along. However, if you carefully read Acts of the Apostles, you will find that’s hardly the case. Saints Peter and Paul preached the same Gospel message. St. Luke is saying that Peter and Paul are tight. Both of these men through the power of the Holy Spirit raised people from the dead. The apostles are not divided in their preaching. We see a clear continuity of doctrine between Saints Peter and Paul. The only thing that differs is the theme of redemptive suffering is different in Paul than in Peter. In Acts 14:22; St. Paul says that through tribulations we will enter the kingdom of God. The tribulations will be a means to our salvation. We walk in holiness through the cross.

As we continue in this Fortnight for Freedom, let us ask for the intercession of Saints Peter and Paul. These two great pillars whom so willingly offered their lives for Jesus Christ and his Church.

Saints Peter and Paul…Pray for Us!