Three years ago, in June 2015, the infamous Obergefell decision, which redefined marriage by allowing two of the same sex to marry, was handed down by the United States Supreme Court. Though Justice Anthony Kennedy was only one of the justices on the court, he was perceived by many to have been the deciding “swing” vote. However, before this vote even occurred, many saw the proverbial “handwriting on the wall” in his opinion on the Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision of 1992, a decision which affirmed “abortion rights.” In this decision, he wrote “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life…” If this opaque statement were true, what exactly wouldn’t be permitted? How will this affect those whose “concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” means obeying God’s laws in the hope of saving their souls?
By way of contrast, we might compare his words to those of Pope Leo XIII in 1888: “The true liberty of human society does not consist in every man doing as he pleases, for this would end in turmoil and confusion and bring on the overthrow of the state… likewise liberty does not consist in the power of those in authority to lay down unreasonable and capricious demands on their subjects, which would be equally criminal and would lead to the ruin of the commonwealth.” Similarly, Bishop Fulton Sheen wrote, “Freedom… means… the right to do whatever you ought… Freedom is responsibility, not license. Freedom divorced from moral responsibility--- that is, freedom divorced from God--- is anarchy.” (Communism and the Conscience of the West, pages 102 and 104 and Seven Pillars of Peace, p.90)
Fr. Tilmann Pesch, S.J. wrote this about freedom: “The freedom of rational man consists in the power to use the means for securing his true end. It is made up of three factors: knowledge of the last supernatural end, knowledge of the means thereto, (and) power to utilize those means.” (The Catholic’s Manual, p. 330) For both our own eternal benefit and that of society, it’s imperative that Catholics have a proper understanding of freedom and its purpose.
Over the last 50 or 60 years, many of those in leadership positions in the Church have concentrated on the “social gospel” and “social justice” issues to the neglect of catechesis. While it’s true that these are important--- we must care for the poor, homeless, the hungry, the ill--- the primary mission of the Church is the salvation of souls. Recently, our founder, Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J., wrote an article about the mission of the Church titled “Salvation of Souls,” for The Latin Mass magazine. Below are some highlights from that article:
“The absolutely most important thing in the life of each man and woman is the salvation of his or her own soul. The human soul is immortal, which means that after death it will live forever--- either happily in the presence of God, or miserably forever in hell… In order to save one’s soul it is necessary to die in the state of sanctifying grace as a friend of God and an heir of heaven; in order to do that one must have faith in God, keep the Ten Commandments, and obey the law and will of God… the salvation of souls is more important than economics, politics, education, and everything else that people do.
“The Church… was not established by Christ to change this world into an earthly paradise; her primary purpose is to save souls and help all men get to heaven. The synthesis of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to love God with all one’s heart and to love one’s neighbor. When people live a life of charity, a natural result of that is to help one’s neighbor; so the Church is concerned about a man’s temporal welfare, but that is secondary to the salvation of souls. Thus, where God is truly loved and Christianity is practiced, there is peace and harmony among free people and the poor are cared for by those who are prospering in the world.”
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