Sat. Sep 26th, 2020

Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI are among the great popes of the past 100 years. Both saw their native countries controlled by the fascists and then by the communists. Pope Benedict saw the fascists control his German homeland followed by the communists controlling much of Germany. John Paul saw 50 years of occupation of his native Poland first by fascists and then by communists.
As different as the fascists and communists were, these two political systems had this in common: both told the people that their basis dignity and rights came from the State. The fascists told the people that their dignity and rights came from the fact that they were members of the Third Reich. The communists told the people that their dignity and rights came from the fact that they were workers for the State.
As a priest and a bishop in Poland, Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, told the people that this was a lie. Instead he preached that our basic dignity and rights come from the fact that we are created by God. We are sons and daughters of God and it is God who gives us our self-worth, not the State.
Pope Benedict echoed this truth, reminding all of who we truly are. Our most fundamental value lies in the fact that we are fashioned in the image of God.
As we celebrate July 4, it is important for us to keep in mind that, after fascism was defeated and communism fell in Europe, these Popes began to direct this same teaching to the western secular democracies. These two great men reminded the secular counties that even though we value liberties, we were falling into the same errors as the totalitarian governments.
In secular democracies, the more we refuse to acknowledge God, speak of God, or even admit there is a God, the more we endanger our rights. If we remove God from our national fabric, and the natural law He has written on our hearts, then we forget where our fundamental dignity and rights come from.
If there is no God and no natural law that God has placed in our hearts, then our rights become whatever the government decides.
In 2010 Pope Benedict visited England and spoke before Parliament. He spoke in Westminster Hall, the very room in which St. Thomas More in 1535 had been sentenced to death because he would not acknowledge King Henry VIII as the head of the Church in England.
St. Thomas More knew there was a higher law that even kings had to respect. Everyone present realized the historic moment of the Pope speaking to Parliament in that hall. The Pope said to Parliament:
If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident — herein lies the real challenge for democracy.
This is the challenge of a secular democracy. If there is no higher law, then a democracy will lapse into the same fallacy, or more correctly lie, of totalitarian governments.
Our rights and dignity do not come from the State, but from God.
What the government can give, the government can take away. Our basic freedoms and dignity can never be legitimately taken from us for they are divinely given to us.
This was the truth which motivated the founders of this country when they wrote in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The founders of this country said to the King of England that our rights are not given to us by a head of state, a parliament, or a court, but by God Himself.
The Declaration of Independence states that people are endowed “by their Creator” with unalienable rights. A country which acknowledges God can also recognize and respect the true source of the dignity of its citizens.
Our fundamental rights are not ours because we are Americans. We are blessed that we live in this country where rights are respected and where many have labored to safeguard these rights, often at great sacrifice. But our rights and dignity come from God. The more a country forgets God, the more a country will forget this basic truth, and the more a country will fall into the lie of thinking our rights and dignity come from the State.
As we celebrate the birth of our country on July 4, let’s celebrate our liberties and be grateful for those who have and are safeguarding them. Let us also remember from whom these rights come. To forget this will imperil the very freedoms we wish to protect.
Happy Fourth of July! May God bless you and may God bless America.

By Editor

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