Right to practice disobedience contrary to natural law of God
Talk part of diocese's celebration of the 'Fortnight of Freedom'
Dr. Michael Therrien said that while we do not have the right to do whatever we want in the name of religion, we do have the right to practice disobedience when we are asked to act contrary to the natural law of God.
"We don't have to start a revolution," he said. "We don't have to take up arms, but we have to say 'no.'"
Therrien, assistant professor of moral theology and assistant to the Pope Benedict XVI Chair of Biblical Theology and Liturgical Proclamation at St. Vincent Seminary in Latrobe, spoke on "Catholic Foundations for Religious Liberty" June 18 at St. Paul Seminary in Crafton.
The talk was part of the Diocese of Pittsburgh's celebration of the "Fortnight for Freedom."
Therrien said that the right to religious liberty is not based on individual expression, but on the truth of the common good.
"We have to act for what is good and what is just," he said.
The purpose of laws is to lead us to a common good, he noted, but they must show authority that originates in God.
"You can't respect religious liberty if you don't believe in God," he said.
Nonbelievers, he said, often see faithful as "crazy" fundamentalists, whose faith-based ideas hinder progress and are a threat to new ways of thinking.
Societies, however, will flourish, he noted, if they acknowledge God as the source of all blessings. Faith, he stated, has helped to preserve religious liberty.
In saying that the church has the right to be herself, Therrien pointed to Matthew 28 in which the disciples were instructed to go out and spread the word of Christ.
"The church has the right to do this, and no state has the right to prevent it from doing so," he said.
He added that the Preventive Services Mandate issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is a clear infringement on the rights of the church.
Therrien said that framers of the Constitution would not be able to imagine the religious indifference of state governments today because the influence of religion was widespread when the document was drafted.
The practical atheism of today, he noted, is a recipe for chaos in¬†society.
Religion is seen as being irrelevant and society adheres to the notion that peace and harmony can be found without God.
"Godless societies go south quick," he said.
Some 200 people attended the event, filling almost one-half of the auditorium. The audience erupted in applause when a participant expressed sentiment that the auditorium should have been packed.
Therrien said that the faithful must fight the apathy that pervades today.
"We have to stand up, people of faith," he said. "If we don't, the culture we hand over to our children will not be a very good one."
There will be no hope of stemming the tide of secularism, he added, if we don't make God the center of the commonwealth.