A New Great Awakening

April 19, 2012

On April 19, sixteen Dominican friars and a number of Dominican sisters attended the 2012 National Catholic Prayer Breakfast (NCPB) in Washington DC.  The annual event was themed around Threats to Religious Liberty: At Home and Abroad.  The NCPB answers the summons of Pope John Paul II to embrace the “New Evangelization, new in ardor, methods and expression.” Gathering for worship and fellowship comprises the heart of the event.

One of the speakers at the NCPB, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, called his audience to reflect on a variety of historic events of the twentieth century. The events the Supreme Knight evoked demonstrate a decided effort on behalf of governments, American and otherwise, to erase the name of God from modern society.

Beginning with the recent controversy surrounding the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial (opened Fall 2011), Mr. Anderson poignantly remarked not one of the fourteen quotes etched into the site’s marble makes mention of God. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. derives the principles for his understanding of the natural law from the great Catholic intellectual tradition, which informs King’s entire conception of justice and civil rights.

Another example Mr. Anderson presented came from the US Supreme Court case Hosanna-Tabor versus EEOC. During these arguments, the administration sought unprecedented limits on the liberties of religious ministers and institutions. Mr. Anderson proceeded to say,

“The administration argued that if any ‘ministerial exception’ in employment exists it should be strictly ‘limited to those employees who perform exclusively religious functions.’  That caused Chief Justice John Roberts to ask during oral argument whether even the pope could meet the Administration’s definition of a religious minister.”

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously against this attempt to redefine the American understanding of the role of religious ministers. The move to impose strict definitions of religious exemption as regards the most recent decision of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Administration directly relates to the effort to promote a narrow understanding of religious minister in the Hosanna-Tabor case.

The heart of Mr. Anderson’s remarks lay in his belief that the protection of religious freedom transcends any partisan agenda, and is in fact a basic human right. He noted in particular the distressing rhetoric appealed to by HHS Director Kathleen Sabellius in her comments at a NARAL luncheon. Ms. Sabellius said, “We are in a war.” Mr. Anderson responded to those words today by saying,

I sincerely hope we can put away such partisan rhetoric.  We do not need a government that sees itself ‘at war’ with its own citizens.  We should counsel a different approach.”

Mr. Anderson’s rally cry commends Catholics to stand together. We have been successful in the past, and through creative and determined efforts, we will be able to keep the doors of religious liberty open for future generations. Mr. Anderson concluded,

So this is a time for choosing–choosing whether as Catholics we will stand together to keep open the doors of religious liberty.  If we do so, then we will make possible the next great awakening in America that will bring us closer to building that culture of life and that civilization of love about which John Paul II so often spoke.  May we, like Blessed John Paul II, be not afraid in our choosing.”

To view the complete transcript of Mr. Anderson’s speech, click HERE.
Dominican Province of St. Joseph post for NCPB.
More about the NCPB from Catholic Online.

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