This year's Fortnight for Freedom in the Springfield diocese featured the June 28 presentation by First Amendment expert L. Martin Nussbaum, a Colorado Springs attorney and consultant to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee for Religious Freedom. In "Constantine, Canossa, Culpeper County, the Constitution, the Council, and 'Contraceptives,'" Nussbaum escorted his audience on an excursion through several centuries of the foundation of the church and state, and contemporary assaults on religious freedom.
After the Emperor Constantine's conversion, a new era in church-state relations began. Christianity flourished. He presided over the Nicene Council. Freedom for the church itself and favor from the state [under Constantine] is a wonderful thing.
In 1077, at the northern Italian city of Canossa, the Church learned from Pope Gregory VII that there are two spheres: church and state; each is sovereign over the matters proper to its respective sphere.
In 1773, a young James Madison visited Culpeper County, the next county over from his family's plantation where he experienced an epiphany when watching an imprisoned Baptist minister preaching from the barred window. The preacher was held for preaching without a license. As his thinking evolved and his service to Virginia increased as a member of the committee to prepare a state declaration of rights, the future founding father proposed "that religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity, towards each other." Truly a watershed moment in Western history.
The various references to religion in the Constitution and later specific recognition of religion in the First Amendment of 1791: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the people to assemble…"
The influence of Father John Courtney Murray on the thinking of bishops and cardinals. Shunned at first, by 1963, he was invited to the Second Vatican Council as an expert theologian and had profound influence. Dignitatis Humanae (The Declaration on Religious Freedom) shifted the universal Church's teaching to the belief that freedom of religious conscience from government coercion is grounded first in the dignity of the human person and second on the Biblical revelation that in Christ, there is no coercion.
Nussbaum shared his belief that the last 12 years represent the worst period in American liberty history, where our own failings as faith communities and the opportunity to exploit those failings taken by foes of religion, failure to protect the institution of traditional marriage, increasing secularism, and the expansion of individual sexual rights by hijacking the anti-discrimination narrative drawn from America's deplorable history of slavery.
“For two thousand years, faithful adherence to the liturgical norms in all their richness has sustained the faith life of all believers.”
This quote from Pope Benedict XVI establishes the theme of Bishop Thomas John Paprocki’s first pastoral letter to be delivered on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of his ordination as Bishop of Springfield in Illinois. Parishioners will have a copy of the bishop’s letter mailed to their home address prior to his homily at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on June 22, the Solemnity of Corpus Christi and the Feast Day of St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher.