By Tanya Connor
WESTBOROUGH – At a talk about voting, attendees were challenged to look inward for the enemy – and the solution.
Brian Burch, of CatholicVote.org, spoke Tuesday at the Knights of Columbus Hall.
Mr. Burch, a husband and father of six from the Chicago area, said that three weeks ago he took a 75 day leave from serving as president of CatholicVote.org to work with Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. So he cancelled all his speaking engagements – except this one, since he’s stationed in Boston.
“We have a fun banter between the Mormons and the Catholics,” he said of work at the campaign office. But he said Tuesday’s event was non-partisan and he was not there to represent Gov. Romney.
“Neither Mitt Romney nor Paul Ryan are going to get me to heaven,” he said of the Republican presidential and vice presidential candidates. For that, he focused on his Catholic faith – “if I choose to follow our Lord faithfully.”
Mr. Burch said he would use five points from “Repair My House,” a talk Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, OFM Cap., of Philadelphia, gave to Catholic media in Indianapolis in June.
“Liberty and happiness grow organically out of virtue,” the archbishop said in his first point. “And virtue needs grounding in religious faith.”
Archbishop Chaput’s second point was that freedom of religion is more than freedom of worship; it also demands preaching, teaching and service, and bears fruit in public witness. It is personal but not private.
Mr. Burch said there is a growing movement, including in the current administration, that seeks to redefine religious liberty as freedom to worship. If religious freedom is limited to that, it is only freedom to practice faith at church or home, where nobody hears religious people except those who agree with them, he said. But Scripture’s calling is to “Go and baptize all nations,” he noted.
“Catholicism is not a Sunday morning religion,” he said. “We are a Sunday through Saturday 24-7 Church.” That means participating in every aspect of public life.
Archbishop Chaput’s third point was that threats against religious freedom in the United States are immediate, serious, and real. The archbishop said he thought this hostility was linked to Catholic teaching about the dignity of life and human sexuality. Critics reduce these moral convictions to religious belief, which they say can’t be rationally defended, and therefore should be treated as prejudice.
When religious belief is redefined as private bias, then the religious identity of institutional ministries has no public value, the archbishop said. So, the reasoning goes, exempting Catholic adoption agencies from placing children with gay couples becomes a concession to private prejudice, which feeds bigotry and hurts the public.
The archbishop’s fourth point was: “Unless we work hard to keep our religious liberty, we’ll lose it. … That means fighting politically and through the courts.”
Mr. Burch said CatholicVote.org has been working over the past several years to build an army of political activists, evangelists, and prayer warriors. Those involved want to educate Catholics on the issues and the need to properly form their consciences, and to apply Church teachings to political situations and candidates.
This is being done through the courts, he said; Catholic groups filed lawsuits about the government’s attempt to force religious institutions to pay health insurance for things they oppose. And CatholicVote.org filed suit on behalf of a private business owner.
There is also the political struggle – the presidential and senatorial races – he said. He said CatholicVote.org sought to motivate Catholics through inspirational commercials for Internet and e-mail, and he showed one.
Then he returned to Archbishop Chaput’s talk, to the fifth point.
“Politics and the courts are important,” the archbishop said. “But our religious freedom ultimately depends on the vividness of our own Christian faith…[I]f people don’t believe in God, religious liberty isn’t a value. That’s … the reason Pope Benedict calls us to a Year of Faith this October. The worst enemies of religious freedom aren’t ‘out there’ among the … critics. … The worst enemies are in here, with us … when we live our faith with tepidness, routine, and hypocrisy.” To keep religious liberty, believing people must become worthy of it, by changing how they live as individuals and as the Church.
Mr. Burch also quoted from “How to Win the Culture War” by Boston College professor Peter Kreeft: “Our enemy is Satan. … We are not just fighting laws and politicians. This is why we pray daily to our Guardian Angel.”
“All sin is the devil’s work,” Mr. Burch said. “Sin means inviting the devil in – and we do it.” He said Professor Kreeft says the answer is saints.
“Can you imagine what 12 more Mother Teresas would do for the world?” the professor asks. “No, you can’t imagine it, any more than anyone could imagine how 12 nice Jewish boys could conquer the Roman Empire. You can’t imagine it, but you can do it. You can become a saint.”
The problem, Mr. Burch said, is that people don’t fully want to be saints. They fear paying the price – everything, including their plans about how to become a saint.
But Mr. Burch pointed to what the Blessed Mother’s complete submission to God did: “It brought down God and it saved the world.”